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How To Make / Mix & Use Mortar For Repointing Brickwork / Ridge Tiles

Updated on July 13, 2017

Mortar mix

How to make mortar

Hello, this is a guide on how to mix sand and cement to make mortar. This is very useful for various DIY projects around the house, including roofing work like bedding or pointing of ridge tiles, replacing bricks and pointing stone or brickwork.

Although it is not particularly difficult to do, there are a couple of things to know. I've been making and using mortar for years so read on to find out how to do it right!

Sand and Cement

The simplest way to mix mortar is as follows. I use 1 part cement to 3 parts sand. Use builders sand. If you want the dry mortar to be dark, use red sand. If you want it to be light, use yellow sand. I mostly use red sand as it doesn't stand out so much as it is darker, so unless you have a specific reason to use yellow sand to match what you may already have on there, I'd recommend red.

If you're mixing by hand, then depending on how much you need you either need to use a bucket or a board.

If you only need a small amount of mortar then it can be alright to do it in a bucket. The easiest way is to put the sand and cement in with a trowel. You can count in 1 heaped trowel worth of cement, to 3 trowels worth of sand. Then repeat with more cement and then more sand as you fill the bucket. If you do it this way then it makes mixing it up easier as it's already pretty much mixed as you've put it in.

Don't fill the bucket more than just over halfway or it will make it too difficult to mix it all up correctly. Put the sand and cement in and mix it up thoroughly with your trowel before you put any water in. Once you put the water in it becomes more difficult to mix, it's a lot easier to do it dry.

Add this to stop cracking and make the mix smoother for pointing

Once you've mixed it all up thoroughly, then start to slowly add the water and also some plasticiser. The plasticiser is important as not only does it make the mortar easier to work, it stops it cracking when it dries.

Mix as you add the water slowly, until you get the right consistency. The easiest way to check the consistency is right, is to use the top of a clean trowel to lift the mortar from the bucket then hold the trowel on it's side. You want the mortar to stick to the trowel a bit, but not completely so it slides off slowly. This is about the right consistency. If it's too dry then it won't point properly and if it's too wet, then it will slide out.

You also need to check by smoothing it off in the bucket with the trowel. It should be a nice smooth finish with a small amount of foam bubbles visible. If you can see any cracking or a sandy texture, then add more cement. If it gets too sloppy, don't worry, just add a bit more sand. If you don't have enough cement then when it drys the mortar will crumble. If you stick to the 3 to 1 method, you should be fine, but now and again you'll need to add a touch more sand or cement. Ideally you should use the same proportion of sand and cement for all of the pointing you're doing, then it will all dry the same colour, but a trowel worth here or there of sand or cement more per bucket won't make a difference.

If you're mixing on a board, or in a wheelbarrow, the same thing applies on a larger scale. Mix dry, then add the water. If using a barrow, you can fit two bags of sand and 2/3rds of a bag of cement in there without overfilling. You still want to use the plasticiser and you will still need the trowel to check the consistency after you've mixed. If you're using barrow or board, then it's a good idea to put a tarpaulin down underneath, so any splashes are contained, rather than going all over the garden/driveway or wherever you're mixing.

If you're mixing in a cement mixer for a larger job, then the easiest way to add the water is to spray it in with a hose. Make sure that you add slowly and let the mixer do the hard work. If you put too much water in too quickly, it will start splashing out everywhere and it can fly quite a distance so be careful! It can be an idea to use goggles when you're mixing with a mixer as it is pretty painful if some does happen to splash into your eye. The important thing to remember with a mixer is to not let the mortar dry in there. After emptying it out, then put some water in there and some loose half bricks or pebbles, let it swill round then empty out. Then hose it out. If you do this while the mix has just been freshly made, it's a lot easier to clean out than if you let it dry..

This brick wall needs repointing. Don't go over the top of the old stuff, rake it out and do it properly!

Mortar pointing

Make sure when you start handling the mortar that you have gloves on. Cement can cause a reaction with your skin, it dries it out and cracks it and that can be painful. It doesn't take much to do that and if you're pointing for several hours without gloves, then you'll certainly feel it.

When you start pointing, depending on how and what you're pointing, then it can sometimes be beneficial to add the mortar in stages. If you have large gaps to fill, then put a layer of mortar in rough, then leave it to dry for a few hours. You can then go back and point it up with a bit more to finish. If it is a large gap, then if you try to do it all in one go, it can look great when you've first done it, but when you leave it, then it slowly slides out and leaves a gap at the top. You don't want this! If you're just doing brickwork or small gaps then you don't need to worry and can usually do it in one go.

If you're going to point properly, then you need to get as much of the old mortar out as possible using a grinder and then a handbrush, til there is no loose mortar left. If you just go on top of old stuff that's loose, then the new mortar you put in will just come out again, so if you're going to do it, then do it right.

If you're repointing or rebedding ridge tiles, then it's normally worth taking the old ones off and cleaning all the old mortar off, using either a brush, or sometimes a hammer and bolster (a mortar chisel) depending on how stiff the old mortar is. If you don't crack them, you can usually reuse ridge tiles. If you just go over the top of the old mortar, it's a lot quicker but what you put on will crack and fall off. What most roofers do is put the mortar line down, then use broken pieces of tile between the ridge tiles mixed in with the mortar to add some strength. This stops it from dropping down between the ridge tiles and allows you to build it up effectively.

Make sure that you keep your trowel clean. This will make the whole process easier. As you point, you will need to repeatedly clean the trowel off on the side of the bucket or something similar to keep it clean and clear and of course, when you're done then give it a good scrub, ready for next time.

Well this is a pretty straightforward guide to mixing up sand and cement into mortar and then pointing. Just make sure you don't forget to use plasticiser, add the water slowly and take your time when putting it in/on and you'll be fine.

I hope you found this article useful, if you have any comments, please leave them below. Thanks!

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    • profile image

      peterlee 7 weeks ago

      very good article

    • profile image

      J keely 13 months ago

      Hi, great info, but can you tell me the mix and what to use for lime mortar for a very old chimney we need to re point.

      Thank you

    • Danny Vestra profile image

      Danielle 15 months ago from Toronto

      I really like this post. It's not often you find helpful tips on this sort of work.

    • profile image

      Clive Trott 16 months ago

      Looking at other articles, most suggest a 3-1 mix too strong and suggest 5-1, and the best mix is using lime

    • Rain Defence profile image
      Author

      Rain Defence 2 years ago from UK

      You're best to use red sand in my opinion. The mix is then dark. If you use yellow sand the mix ends up pretty light in my opinion and isn't as appealing.

    • profile image

      Randall Cornell 2 years ago

      Repointing the brick where mortar has fallen out, worn away, or is just too deep. This can be labor intensive depending on the age and condition of a brick wall, but well worth it. Your hub is very informative!

    • profile image

      mick 2 years ago

      I want just a plain grey mortar finish, best to use a yellow sand?

    • Rain Defence profile image
      Author

      Rain Defence 3 years ago from UK

      I'd just buy one bag for that. Cement is extremely cheap by the way so even if you bought 2 in case you messed up the mix it would cost you peanuts. Good luck!

    • profile image

      zia 3 years ago

      how much cement used in 1 Sqm or Sqft pointing work of boundary wall?

    • Rain Defence profile image
      Author

      Rain Defence 3 years ago from UK

      Thanks!

    • profile image

      The Councillor 3 years ago

      really ueful, cheers

    • Rain Defence profile image
      Author

      Rain Defence 3 years ago from UK

      You're welcome! Thanks for your comment.

    • profile image

      Dave S 3 years ago

      Thank you very straight forward giving the information as it is needed!

    • Rain Defence profile image
      Author

      Rain Defence 3 years ago from UK

      I always use a 1 to 3 mix. Just don't forget the plasticiser! The sand colour will affect the finished mortar colour.

    • profile image

      ashy 3 years ago

      hello, i want to use white mortar to repoint my walls of my house. do i use 1 part white cement to 3 parts sand. is it ok to use silver sand with the white cement as i believe that silver sands keeps the cement white. cheers

    • Rain Defence profile image
      Author

      Rain Defence 3 years ago from UK

      Thanks for your comment, just keep an eye on the forecast, we are due some sun at some point (I hope!).

    • profile image

      mikey 3 years ago

      HI thanks for the very straght forward instruction ,on how to mix the right mix quantity, and good tips on actually doing the pointing job , just waiting for good weather now,cheers,mikey.

    • Rain Defence profile image
      Author

      Rain Defence 4 years ago from UK

      You'll be fine, just take your time and don't forget the gloves!

    • profile image

      kev 4 years ago

      Thanks a lot i have been dreading doing it but now not so much so

    • profile image

      M/S Chrys. 4 years ago

      Just what I was looking for. Plain English and easy to follow. When I need help again I now know where to look . Many thanks.

    • Rain Defence profile image
      Author

      Rain Defence 4 years ago from UK

      Put some in. If its red, it's right!

    • Rain Defence profile image
      Author

      Rain Defence 4 years ago from UK

      I put a splash of plasticiser in. I don't measure it, but put in say 1/3rd of a cupful into a bucket for example.

    • profile image

      Jack Frost123 4 years ago

      just wondering, using the one part cement and 3 part sand method, how much oxide do i mix in to it?

    • profile image

      jack frost 4 years ago

      using the one cement and 3 sand formula for re capping rooftiles. to make it red how much oxide do I use?

    • Zubair Ahmed profile image

      Zubair Ahmed 4 years ago

      Hi,

      Very useful hub, something I really need to do this summer on my house. I noticed some of my exterior walls require repointing. Now I know how easy it can be i'll give it a try.

      Thank you for sharing

    • Rain Defence profile image
      Author

      Rain Defence 4 years ago from UK

      It's true! If a jobs worth doing, it's worth doing well.

    • profile image

      Masonry Mortar 4 years ago

      The durability of the wall is highly influenced by the quality of the mortar joints and interior cell grout. 

    • profile image

      mikew 5 years ago

      Really useful page. Cheers for the info

    • furniturez profile image

      furniturez 5 years ago from Washington

      Awesome stuff, I was looking around for something like this for a few weeks! Now it's time to get to work :)