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Nifty Little Brick Repair Tip


mgbinspect
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Years ago I was given a priceless masonry repair tip by one of my brick salesmen. He was also a ceramics engineer who had managed a brick manufacturing plant in the past.

When the end brick of a stair tread is knocked off and all of the mortar joints remain perfectly in place, the best way to permanently reset it is to carefully clean both surfaces and let them thoroughly dry. Then glue the brick in place with good ole' original Elmer's Wood Glue - an aluminum silicate. He said it would never come off again and was a much better route than relaying it with the prospect of the mortars not matching and the brick remaining so easily knocked off again.

Similarly, on a few occasions we actually made repairs to old brickwork where the original brick was no longer made, by taking the aggregate facing from the surface of the original brick. We'd brush a solution of diluted Elmer's on the surface of the new brick to be installed and put that moist brick face down into the aggregate borrowed from the old brick much like battering chicken.

Both worked like a charm and were, just as he had claimed, quite permanent.

This is about thirty year old information, so no doubt there may be more appropriate adhesives now. The main idea is that it is extremely difficult to perform repairs to masonry without them sticking out like a sore thumb. I, therefore, always discourage my clients from thinking they will make repairs to the masonry on their home, unless it's altogether unavoidable. I assure them that they will most likely be sorely disappointed with the result.

So, this little brick tread repair is a great way to avoid an eyesore. Keep in mind that it only works nicely if the mortar joints are all still perfectly in place and the original brick is still available and undamaged.

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. . . When the end brick of a stair tread is knocked off and all of the mortar joints remain perfectly in place, the best way to permanently reset it is to carefully clean both surfaces and let them thoroughly dry. Then glue the brick in place with good ole' original Elmer's Wood Glue - an aluminum silicate. He said it would never come off again and was a much better route than relaying it with the prospect of the mortars not matching and the brick remaining so easily knocked off again.

Elmer's Glue contains aluminum silicate? I find that hard to believe.

It might work for this purpose, but it softens when it gets wet. I've found that joints made with it come apart when they get wet.

Similarly, on a few occasions we actually made repairs to old brickwork where the original brick was no longer made, by taking the aggregate facing from the surface of the original brick. We'd brush a solution of diluted Elmer's on the surface of the new brick to be installed and put that moist brick face down into the aggregate borrowed from the old brick much like battering chicken.

How did you get the aggregate from the old brick?

How did you make it a uniform consistency?

What if the old bricks had smooth faces, wouldn't the new bricks have a rough appearance?

What about textured bricks, is there a good way to match the texture?

If this is for real, I have dozens of clients who'd like to know about it.

There's no brick on my house, but I might have to go down to my neighbor's house and knock a few bricks loose to experiment.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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. . . When the end brick of a stair tread is knocked off and all of the mortar joints remain perfectly in place, the best way to permanently reset it is to carefully clean both surfaces and let them thoroughly dry. Then glue the brick in place with good ole' original Elmer's Wood Glue - an aluminum silicate. He said it would never come off again and was a much better route than relaying it with the prospect of the mortars not matching and the brick remaining so easily knocked off again.

Elmer's Glue contains aluminum silicate? I find that hard to believe.

Reply: Yep, you're right, Jim, about the composition of Elmer's. http://www.elmers.com/msds/me700_d.htm I remember it being the adhesive Mr. Barr recommended for the brick stair tread trick, but "aluminum silicates" and their characteristics stick in my head as coming from him, which causes me to question what adhesive we used for the brick face matching. As I wrote, this is a remedy written purely from memory (including the composition of Elmer's Wood Glue, which in 30 years may have changed), but, as you state, Elmer's wood glue was indeed water soluble before it sets, but Mr. Barr's claim was that once it sets, it is pretty much set for life. He warned not to let it set on your glasses, for instance, because you'd never get it off without damaging the lens (I believe that may have been his warning concerning an aluminum silicate adhesive). You may need to find, in this day and time, a different suitable adhesive, but the process works - no joke.

It might work for this purpose, but it softens when it gets wet. I've found that joints made with it come apart when they get wet.

Reply: I wonder if it was the glue or the surfaces it was bonding to?

Similarly, on a few occasions we actually made repairs to old brickwork where the original brick was no longer made, by taking the aggregate facing from the surface of the original brick. We'd brush a solution of diluted Elmer's on the surface of the new brick to be installed and put that moist brick face down into the aggregate borrowed from the old brick much like battering chicken.

How did you get the aggregate from the old brick?

Reply: We would simply lightly brush it off from a large area of wall, for general finish, or from a specific color, if what we were looking for was a particular color, and collect it at the bottom of the wall. It's rather like surgery and requires patience and attention to detail.

How did you make it a uniform consistency?

Reply: This was a method we used for small repairs - not large areas of wall, but we even applied the aggregate to "in place" bricks, by brushing on the solution and then applying the collected aggregate with a dry sponge. The aggregate was spread across the surface of a medium pored sponge and quickly pressed onto the surface of the still moist adhesive.

What if the old bricks had smooth faces, wouldn't the new bricks have a rough appearance?

Reply: It was a method that was only useful for bricks that had an aggregate facing. And it only worked because we would still find a brick that was as close as possible - only missing some of the original brick's range of color - possibly a flashed brick color. But, with this question in mind, Mr. Barr had even developed stains to address matching with smooth faces. He was a wealth of innovation and I am sorry that the information isn't more fresh and accurate and that he is no longer with us. But, I am confident that armed with the knowledge that these remedies are possible, you may be able to locate better up to date methods on the Internet.

What about textured bricks, is there a good way to match the texture?

Reply: None that I'm aware of or fooled around with.

If this is for real, I have dozens of clients who'd like to know about it.

Reply: It is for real. We were a very reputable masonry company at that time performing a lot of T & M masonry in a pretty well-to-do area of Virginia, (Middleburg - Horsey Country) out in Robert Du Val's neck of the woods.

There's no brick on my house, but I might have to go down to my neighbor's house and knock a few bricks loose to experiment.

Reply: It's not a very practical solution for large areas, but it works beautifully when you have a small area that is a poor match and needs to be toned down. We did use it a couple of times with satisfactory results.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Hey Michael, I'm not doubting that the trick works. In fact, I can't wait to try it.

But I've got to point out that certain of your claims are factually incorrect. Elmers plain white glue (not their yellow carpenter's glue) is not even close to water proof after it's set. It wasn't 30 years ago and it isn't now. When the dried glue gets wet, it turns soft & putty like and it slips off of most things, including eyeglasses. The yellow glue is slightly more resistant to water, but it still doesn't perform well when soaking wet. Now, maybe there's something special that happens when you apply it to brick. Or maybe, it doesn't matter if it gets soft & putty like, because even in that state it can hold the brick together. I don't know.

I do know that I'm going to experiment with this, though. Sadly, in my area, we won't see rain again for at least another 2 or 3 months.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Hey Michael, I'm not doubting that the trick works. In fact, I can't wait to try it.

But I've got to point out that certain of your claims are factually incorrect. Elmers plain white glue (not their yellow carpenter's glue) is not even close to water proof after it's set. It wasn't 30 years ago and it isn't now. When the dried glue gets wet, it turns soft & putty like and it slips off of most things, including eyeglasses. The yellow glue is slightly more resistant to water, but it still doesn't perform well when soaking wet. Now, maybe there's something special that happens when you apply it to brick. Or maybe, it doesn't matter if it gets soft & putty like, because even in that state it can hold the brick together. I don't know.

I do know that I'm going to experiment with this, though. Sadly, in my area, we won't see rain again for at least another 2 or 3 months.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

Sorry about the adhessive side of all this. I wish my recall weren't so foggy regarding that side of the process, but I'm certain you can find one that works well. (You have me wondering what adhssive he was talking about when he warned about getting in on glasses... ) [:-headach

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When we restored the brick on my bungalow, we used some sort of high tech polymer, tinted to match the brick.

Why use Elmer's? It's crappy old glue that wasn't much good then, and it hasn't improved with age.

I'm willing to learn new things, but this smacks of the old saw of mixing sawdust and glue for a wood filler.

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When we restored the brick on my bungalow, we used some sort of high tech polymer, tinted to match the brick.

Why use Elmer's? It's crappy old glue that wasn't much good then, and it hasn't improved with age.

I'm willing to learn new things, but this smacks of the old saw of mixing sawdust and glue for a wood filler.

The Elmer's was originally suggested to me for the stair tread deal and actually worked just fine. Certainly there are better adhesives out there now, but the main idea was - don't chisel off the mortar joints and relay the brick because it will look like hell. [:-graduate

As far as resurfacing brick goes, I'm 100% with you. There are far better adhesives out there. Again, it was merely the presentation of options that most people don't realize exist, even when the brick surface has an aggregate finish.

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Why use Elmer's? It's crappy old glue that wasn't much good then, and it hasn't improved with age.

I once spent a college Thanksgiving break in Rochester because I lacked the funds to get home. I kept myself entertained by building a parts cabinet with 220 drawers, all out of cardboard from nearby stores and Elmer's White glue. That was 28 years ago.

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It's become sort of a hobby. This one organizes some inspection items in my truck.

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Marc

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Nice Marc!

One thing I observed during my years as a traveling vendor to home inspector seminars and conventions was that one of the the rarest statements ever heard in that arena is, "I honestly don't know."

I actually kinda like the use of that phrase on inspections and believe my clients respect me for admitting it. But, I usually follow it up with the phrase, "But, I'm happy to find out for you. I wouldn't mind knowing the answer to that question myself."

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Why use Elmer's? It's crappy old glue that wasn't much good then, and it hasn't improved with age.

I once spent a college Thanksgiving break in Rochester because I lacked the funds to get home. I kept myself entertained by building a parts cabinet with 220 drawers, all out of cardboard from nearby stores and Elmer's White glue. That was 28 years ago.

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tn_2010725141314_002.jpg

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It's become sort of a hobby. This one organizes some inspection items in my truck.

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tn_2010725141431_004.jpg

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Marc

Why 220, and not 200 or 250? I realize you're a pensive person, so I'm certain the 220 wasn't arrived upon arbitrarily. I'm also fairly certain the individual openings have variances of less than 1/16th".

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This bar was originally built from rough cut lumber in 1990. Nine years later, most of it somehow survived a fire (and the water that goes with a fire) that brought the building to where it had to be razed. It then sat uncovered in the owners driveway for two weeks before he called me to see if I could save what was left and reproduce what was lost.

These pics are from last year. He called again to see I could add another section to it.

I don't know about brick, but I just finished another set of cabinet doors with Elmers. It works alright for me.

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