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Repointing – done!

Category: Barn Conversion Journal June 29th, 2011 by mbc

It is with a mixed sense of delight (at having no more pointing to do) and dismay (at having no more pointing to do) that I can report that I’ve completed repointing the barn.

There’s still work to be done on pointing the garden walls and the arches over the original windows and doors still need some attention, but the real time-consuming, day-after-day effort is over and done with.

I’ve already found plenty of other things to do, but after having spent over four years repointing the barn (although I stopped for a year or so around 2008/9) there’s a small part of me that with miss the sore hands and starring at a wall for hours on end…

…anyway, onwards and upwards…

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Category: Barn Conversion Journal June 15th, 2011 by mbc

One of my last major tasks during this phase of work on the barn is to box in the gap under the eaves. The eaves had been left open and were a haven to birds, who had nested in the roof, being able to easily hop in an out through the ‘porch’ formed by the open eaves.

From Barn Conversion 2011

I’ve used plywood to seal across the eaves, each length of ply being screwed up onto the existing weather board and small blocks of wood that I placed at the end of each length of plywood, these having been first secured in place with long screws driven in from the front of the weather board.

With the plywood painted and the gap back-filled with expanding foam (the stains of which have lived on my hands for weeks) I’ve then pointed the gap between the wall and the plywood with my usual mix of lime mortar.

The final job, (not yet done) will be the fill the odd gaps that I’ve had to leave – where the plywood changes levels for example, with a black sealant and the ends of the eaves with a metal mesh to allow some air flow.

I expect the mortar to shrink in places as it dries out over the summer, I’ll then either repoint or fill with a sealant, whichever seems most appropriate.

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Pointing with lime mortar ~ Part 3 = Technique

Category: Starter for 10 February 24th, 2011 by mbc

Lime Pointing Tips

Here’s my take on how to go about pointing with a lime based mortar – others may have differing guidelines – this is very much my take.

This post is this third in the series.

In the first instalment, I covered the tools of the (pointing) trade.

The second instalment was about lime mortar and how to go about making it.

Now in part three I’ll address – pointing technique


Firstly the old mortar joints will need cleaning out. If the old mortar is really rotten or dirty then a pressure washer can be used initially to clean down the masonry and blast out any really lose rotten mortar.

With a hand pick work back the mortar to give a repointable joint. When repointing over old mortar, a joint of around 25mm / 1 inch depth will allow a good packing in of fresh mortar that will be able to carbonate externally and remain stable over time. Too deep a treatment and the deepest mortar, deep in the joint and away from the air will remain too moist and too flexible and potentially be unstable. For deep joints point in ‘shifts’ of 25mm or so at a time, allow the mortar to go-off between applications. If you can’t get down to the ideal 25mm joint don’t worry too much, I’ve pointed plenty of shallower joints that are still sound after several years.

Some advisors on the subject talk about the need for a squared internal surface to point up against (in contrast to a rounded one). Whilst probably ideal, this is time consuming to achieve and so unless you’re lucky enough to have abundant time for your pointing project I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Square the corners if you can, but don’t fret about it if you can’t.

If the existing mortar is sound, then I leave it in place – if it ain’t broke

Before applying new mortar, damp down the wall before pointing. Use a bristled brush and a bucket of water. Personally, I favour a ‘flick’ technique – water in bucket – dip brush and flick! Get right into the joints that you’re repointing. The warmer the day the keener you’ll need to be. On a generally damp, cold, dismal day (not that we get many of those in Wales!) your damping down will likely be minimal.

It’s best to point a wall top-down – that way you can damp down the wall without damaging or washing out previously pointed joints lower down the wall.

So, to work…
Load your small pointing hawk with a trowel full of mortar, then using your trowel of choice (either a ‘normal’ pointing trowel or a smaller ‘trowel and square tool’ as I discussed in part 1) take up a sliver of mortar on the back-face of the trowel appropriate to the size and shape of the joint you are pointing and push the mortar into the joint. Use the trowel to work the mortar fully into the joint and tidy up any that doesn’t go where you want it to.

After pointing a length of joint or a discrete area of wall then go back over your work, tidying and smoothing along the length of joints to get a consistent finish.

…and repeat…

Where you have wide and / or deep joints it’s important to use pinning stones to reduce the width / depth of the joints and so reduce the amount of mortar you need which in turn will reduce the time needed for setting and carbonation of the joint.

For very narrow or very shallow joints do what you can. Sometimes you’ll need to pack the mortar into a very narrow joint – place a blob of mortar on the joint and repeatedly press the mortar into the joint, hopefully filling it slowly. I’ve been known to build up very shallow joints to stand proud of the masonry surface, although this is more of a cosmetic affectation than a practical necessity.

Cleaning up
I must admit to being a bit lax when it comes to finishing the joints. Ideally, after around 24 hours you will tidy up your pointing. At this stage the surface of the mortar will be hard with softer mortar underneath. A brush with stiff bristles (but not too stiff as you’ll just end up ruining your good work of the day before) can be used to tidy up the joints, remove excess ‘tags’ of mortar and mortar that is misplaced on the masonary.

When to point
You can point for most of the year in the UK (except perhaps in the far north), I tend to ‘retire’ over the Winter – Novemberish to Marchish. Keep an eye on the five day forecast when pointing and have a tarpaulin or sacking ready to cover over any pointing should a sharp shower unexpectedly arrive. Don’t let rain anywhere near your freshly pointed joints. Beyond that, fill your pointing boots…

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Building Progress ~ November 2010

Category: Barn Conversion Journal December 15th, 2010 by mbc

At last I’ve broken the strangle-hold that pointing has had on me! I’ve also gone back to being late making my monthly updates to the website (this one for November being written on the 15th of December) – swings & roundabouts I guess…

I’ve retired from pointing for 2010, probably in truth falling just a little bit short of the finishing line in relation to my original goals for the year. I have about a square metre to point at the top of the back wall and the gable end (6 or 8 square metres) to finish. We had a major (for Carmarthenshire) deluge of snow on the day that I intended to finish the back wall and the cold weather has put me off ever since.

Beyond pointing I’ve been busy in the bathroom, finishing the floor, mosaic tiling and boxing-in. As previously reported, we started some work on landscaping the garden, first with a digger and I then started to level the patio area by hand with a pick & shovel and plan to lay flag stones on sand in the area shortly. I’ve also started to build a small ‘hut’ around the external tap that stands rather proudly at the front of the barn. My ‘tap hut’ is another victim of the weather as it’s been too cold to play work with my new concrete mixer to mix up the mortar and aggregate mix I need to finish the ‘hut’.

I’ve also got a satellite dish to install, but that’s a job for December and all those Christmas repeats on TV…

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Building Progress ~ October 2010

Category: Barn Conversion Journal November 3rd, 2010 by mbc

Seems like I’ve been repointing for ever and ever…

Back in August I said…

I’m not sure that I’ll hit my end of September goal, but if I need a few more days in October then so-be-it. It’ll be a lovely feeling to get it finished and move onto something else (the to-be back garden is top of the list if the weather holds).

I’ve not managed to complete all the repointing by the end of September, or even by the end of Octoberbut it will be done by the end of November

Whilst it is not ideal to be lime pointing at this time of year, it’s not yet turned too cold – it’s still usually 10C+ during the day and no real frosts at night. Anyway, I think damp weather is far more lime mortar friendly than dry, sunny weather – and I really need to get this done, so I’ll soldier on.

I just have the top of both the back wall and the gable end to finish. I’m using a ladder to reach the top of the walls which is fine, a bit hard on the feet but otherwise more comfortable that standing on top of a step ladder as I have been. I’ve switched work to the back wall, that I’ve estimated as 8 or so hours work. Hopefully I’ll get that done this weekend (if fireworks allow!). As I’ve already said – We’ll see…

Beyond pointing I’ve very little to report – the final small section of the concrete path has been finished, so once the pointing is done, I think we’re ready for completion. I’ve also tinkered around with the edging of the oak flooring on the landing; I need some more wood of the correct thickness to make a neat job of it.

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