Learn how to repair crumbling brick and mortar steps. Find out how to mix up a repair compound for cracking and deteriorating brick stairs and cracking mortar.
LESLIE: Dan in New York’s got some uneven steps . Tell us what’s going on.
DAN: I’ve got a 1926 house. Lot of arts and crafts detail and …
DAN: Yeah, it’s a nice house. The front steps are brick  and there are four steps into the house. They’re square. Either side of the steps there are – I don’t know what you’d call them. They’re like a knee wall but they’re brick. You know, they’re level with the – they’re about six inches higher than the top step.
DAN: And they’re topped with sandstone slab; those two side pieces. We’re getting a lot of erosion and crumbling of the mortar  …
DAN: … and about four years ago we hired a mason and he came out and he took out a bunch of the bricks and he scrubbed them good with a wire brush and he remortared them and put them back in and re-sat them down in their places. And four years later it looks worse than it did before we called him.
DAN: Lot of the mortar is kind of real sandy. We’ve got a little overhang over the front door so there’s some rain and ice runoff that I think is getting down into the steps.
TOM: Yeah, I was going to ask you – if this is strategically where you’re getting a lot of rain and ice buildup then that’s clearly going to deteriorate those mortar joints and if, in doing the repair, obviously the mason put good mortar  over the best that you had but still that material’s going to continue to deteriorate. So the fact that you did it four years ago and now it has to be redone does not surprise me in the least. I would consider that fairly normal. If you can’t keep the water from getting there it’s going to happen again.
DAN: So what do I do? We drove around the neighborhood; did a little research and looked at other similar houses and what we found is a lot of people have replaced their steps with poured concrete steps .
DAN: But they just don’t look as nice.
TOM: Well listen, I don’t think having to do this every few years is necessarily a bad thing. I mean that’s part of the maintenance of having that kind of a charm of a house.
DAN: Yeah. So how do I do it instead of paying a mason 400 bucks to come and do it?
TOM: Well, it’s not so hard to do. You can buy some mortar patching compound. You can make up some mortar yourself. Usually when you do repointing you put a bit of – if you mix it yourself, usually add some additional lime to it because it tends to make it stickier.
TOM: And the first thing you do is get rid of all of the loose stuff that’s there and then you mix up the mortar and you very carefully repoint the joints. There are special pointing trowels that are like the size of a mortar joint. That’s how it gets that nice curve to it that works really well. And you know, probably the first time you do it it might be a little sloppier than maybe what you’d like but you’ll get good at it. It’s not a bad job to do. It’s not a terribly difficult job to do and, you know, listen. Whatever it is, it’s yours. (chuckling) You know? You own it when it’s done.
DAN: Well, that’s true. That is true. Any tips on the time of the year up here? We’re heading into winter and another hundred inches of snow.
TOM: I would let this go til the spring because now you’re going to – this way you’ll have one more year of wear and tear behind you.
TOM: So I would definitely wait til the spring until you get the thaw and then you can attack it.
Hey Dan, I tell you what we’re going to do to help you out with these maintenance chores.
LESLIE: Ooh, you’re going to love this, Dan.
TOM: For calling in tonight we’re going to give you one of our Money Pit American Homeowners Association  memberships and that will give you access to a library of home improvement information. It will give you access to preapproved contractors, discounts on all sorts of home-related services from home improvement products to free shipping to …
LESLIE: Groceries, eyewear, everything.
DAN: Alright, alright. You know, I was a huge Leslie Segrete fan from her TV days.
LESLIE: Yay, thanks Dan.
TOM: Oh, you see? We gave it to you before we knew that. (chuckling)
DAN: Now I’m an even bigger fan and you too, Tom.
TOM: Alright, Dan, here’s what you have to do. We’re going to give your name to the folks at the membership center. The number is 866-Real-Home. 866-Real-Home. Call them. They’ll have your name and they’ll hook you up and if anyone else is interested in getting in on the Money Pit American Homeowners Association Membership we are giving a new Zircon laser level and stud finder to the first 1,000 members. So if you call 866-Real-Home you can get in on this and we’ll give you even the first 30 days of the membership for free.
Dan, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.