What Is Messy Mortar for a Brick Home and Why Is It So Popular? (2023)

(Handcrafted collection Andersonville brick from Cherokee Brick with messy mortar style for a large Southern manor.)

If you aren’t in the construction business, you may not have ever thought much about mortar. It’s just the stuff between bricks that holds it all together. Seems pretty straightforward, right?

But there are quite a few different styles of mortar. And even different colors.

When you are planning your dream home, it’s something to consider. What type of mortar do you want to use if you are building a brick home?

In this post, we’ll explore the most common mortar styles: beaded/convex, concave, extruded/weeping, flush, grapevine, messy, raked, V/vee, and weathered/weather struck.

We especially want to focus on messy mortar and why it is gaining so much popularity for luxury homes.

What Is Messy Mortar for a Brick Home and Why Is It So Popular? (1)

(Messy mortar style luxury home - view of the front porch and blue slate patio leading up to it.)

Some of the most popular brick mortar joint styles

Wondering which brick mortar styles you could have for your new home? Here are the main types along with their advantages and disadvantages.

What Is Messy Mortar for a Brick Home and Why Is It So Popular? (2)

(Brick wall with a beaded mortar joint/convex mortar joint with a coat of red paint.)

Beaded mortar joint/convex joint

A beaded mortar joint is slightly rounded out from the surface of the brick. So if you were to hold your hand flat and run it along the brick wall, you could feel the mortar. A beaded or convex joint can look very interesting and create dramatic shadows. It has a vintage or formal look but is best used for interior walls.

The mortar stands out a lot more than with a concave joint, like the cream frosting just beginning to bulge out in a homemade oatmeal cookie sandwich.

The disadvantages of beaded joints are that it requires a lot more time and experience to create this effect and they are not very water-resistant. Water tends to cling to the bottom ledge of the mortar, which could create increased weathering or deterioration for the lower brick and leads to weakened mortar, as well.

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What Is Messy Mortar for a Brick Home and Why Is It So Popular? (3)

(A typical concave mortar joint between bricks.)

Concave mortar joint

This is the most common of all the mortar joint types — largely because it is the best at preventing water from accumulating and causing moisture problems for the brick or mortar in the wall. In other words, it is very durable.

A concave mortar joint is made by shaping the mortar with a rounded tool when it is still wet, creating a slightly curved surface that curves inward in the center of the mortar joint.

A concave joint looks like the ice cream in an ice cream sandwich on a summer day after you run your tongue through the ice cream part all the way around.

There really aren’t any disadvantages to this look, other than if you prefer a different aesthetic. It works great for interior or exterior walls.

What Is Messy Mortar for a Brick Home and Why Is It So Popular? (4)

(Extruded mortar joints or weeping joints on a red brick fence.)

Extruded mortar joint/weeping mortar

Weeping mortar brick involves applying a very large amount of mortar when laying the brick, but then not scraping or molding the mortar after it squishes out between the bricks. No tools are used.

The effect is a lot like when you squish a melting ice cream sandwich.

Homes with weeping mortar tend to look like they are from the English Tudor-style or Swiss cottages from the Old World.

Many times, when people are renovating an old brick building, they find walls that look like this that were not intended to be seen, so the mortar was never cleaned up. It was left looking “sloppy” or like it is “weeping.” Today, a lot of people intentionally choose the extruded look and like to leave it exposed or create it from scratch because of the interesting texture and appearance.

Weeping mortar can allow for moisture problems, though. So it is important to research this option carefully before committing to it. And only use an experienced mason who knows the best way to do this and maintain the durability of your home.

What Is Messy Mortar for a Brick Home and Why Is It So Popular? (5)

(A brick wall with flush mortar joints and different lengths of bricks.)

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Flush mortar joint

With a flush mortar joint, the mortar is flat, in appearance, and even with the surface of the brick. It is perfectly fine to use this application for an interior wall.

The advantages of a flush mortar joint are that the mortar is a lot more prominent-looking when it is flush with the brick, if you prefer that look, and the wall is essentially flat.

However, a flush joint style only works well for exterior walls if the exterior wall will be plastered or painted. If the mortar remains exposed, the joint may be subject to water issues.

Grapevine mortar joint

A grapevine mortar joint almost looks like a flush joint except that a metal tool with a raised bead is used to create an indented line in the center of the mortar. The line is usually rather wavy, resembling a grapevine look.

This decorative look was popular during the Colonial period in the United States and people like to use it today for an antique aesthetic.

This joint type can be used for exterior walls but is not as water-resistant as a concave or V joint.

What Is Messy Mortar for a Brick Home and Why Is It So Popular? (6)

(Messy mortar brick fireplace on the back porch.)

Messy brick mortar joint/sloppy mortar joint

To create a messy mortar joint, the process involves adding a generous amount of wet mortar during the bricklaying process. Then some of the mortar is scraped off, but the brick is not wiped clean.

This creates more prominent mortar joints and sometimes some irregularity and smudges so that it doesn’t look perfectly neat and orderly.

The advantages of messy mortar are that it can be used for interior or exterior walls and doesn’t require any special maintenance. Many people adore the aesthetics of this look.

A disadvantage of messy mortar is that while some people love it, others prefer a more “finished” or "clean" look.

What Is Messy Mortar for a Brick Home and Why Is It So Popular? (7)

(A recessed joint on the facade of a commercial building.)

(Video) Bill's Construction Tip, Make your new bricks look old

Raked mortar joint/recessed joint

The mortar has a flat surface, but it is indented about 2mm deeper than the surface of the brick (for a raked joint) or 2-5mm deeper for a recessed joint so that the brick seems to stick out from the mortar work.

The effect is similar to the way that an Oreo cookie looks from the side if you imagine the cookies being the bricks and the frosting being the mortar, without the rounded appearance, of course.

The look accents the brick and the horizontal and vertical lines of the brickwork.

But be sure to consider the weathering issue whenever you choose a mortar joint with a ledge where water could pool and cause damage.

V joint/vee joint

V joint brick mortar is created with a tool that has a sharp point rather than a rounded tool, like we use to create a common concave joint. The effect looks beautiful and dramatic.

And, thankfully, V joint brickwork is almost as water-resistant as a concave joint. So there really isn’t a big disadvantage to this style.

Weathered joint/weather struck joint

A weathered mortar joint involves using a tool to scrape out the mortar during the bricklaying process a few millimeters under the top brick at a 45-degree angle until the mortar lines up flush at the bottom of the joint with the lower brick.

This effect can create interesting shadows and is considered to be very decorative. It’s best to use it on interior walls where water penetration won’t be a problem. This type of joint is not that water-resistant and the mortar is less compact, so it may require more maintenance and is not recommended, generally, for exterior walls.

What Is Messy Mortar for a Brick Home and Why Is It So Popular? (8)

(A view of the entire brick manor shows what messy mortar style looks like from a distance.)

Why do so many people want messy mortar in 2022?

Concave is the “normal” mortar style that most people will recognize as traditional over the past few decades. It looks clean, neat, and orderly. It has been immensely popular for generations.

So why would people choose messy mortar or sloppy mortar? It goes along with the desire many luxury homeowners have to add more character and charm to their homes. New homes are wonderful and most new homeowners want the latest and greatest in technology and materials for their homes.

But some people also desire a sense of weathering and history rather than everything being “sterile,” squeaky clean, and perfect. They want something uniquely theirs. Not a cookie cutter home.

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Often, homes with messy mortar will also have reclaimed wood ceiling beams, tumbled natural stone, distressed effects, and other touches that bring in a sense of rustic beauty. It’s perfect for a Craftsman-style home or Farmhouse decor. It also mixes well with an Industrial look and other types of architecture and decor where weathering is valued.

What Is Messy Mortar for a Brick Home and Why Is It So Popular? (9)

(Red brick with limewash on a Modern Craftsman home.)

Other brick effects

To find out about more dramatic effects you can create with brick houses, check out our post “What Is German Schmear for Brick VS Mortar Wash VS Limewash?” This post explores using mortar in even more prominent ways, limewash, and brick staining.

Or, look into painting brick with our post, “Should You Paint Your Brick House?

Looking for a SC Home Builder Who Can Do Messy Mortar?

We have skilled masonry professionals who can accomplish the messy mortar of your dreams. Or, if you prefer a simple concave mortar joint, we can certainly accommodate your wishes, as well.

Lee Blythe is a Certified Master Builder with over 100 luxury homes under his belt. If you are interested in building a new custom home or finding a spec home, in Lexington, SC or the Greater Columbia area, we hope you’ll look into our work.

Please contact us today to get started!

We build in areas like Lake Murray, Lexington, West Columbia, Pine Ridge, Lake Carolina, downtown Columbia, and more.


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What is messy mortar? ›

Messy brick mortar joint/sloppy mortar joint

To create a messy mortar joint, the process involves adding a generous amount of wet mortar during the bricklaying process. Then some of the mortar is scraped off, but the brick is not wiped clean.

When was weeping mortar popular? ›

From what I can tell, it seems to have been popular between the 1930s and 1950s – perhaps even slightly later – and it entailed allowing the mortar to ooze out of the masonry while the wall was being constructed.

How do you fix sloppy mortar? ›

A: The right way to repair deteriorating mortar joints is to repoint, a process that involves scraping out the front half-inch or so of the old mortar and replacing it with the same type of mortar, a lime-based mixture on old homes but probably one with Portland cement on yours.

Should mortar be flush with brick? ›

The mortar is generously applied and levelled in a smooth way so that the mortar is flush to the brickwork. This form of pointing is often used with colouring on colouring joint mortars. The even surface that is desired is emphasised this way.

What is the best mortar for old brick? ›

Recommended mortar: 1 part Portland cement, 1 part lime, 6–7 parts sand.

What are the 3 types of mortars? ›

Mortar for installing tiles comes in three basic types: Thin-set, mastic, and epoxy mortar.

What is the purpose of mortar between bricks? ›

Mortar is a workable paste which hardens to bind building blocks such as stones, bricks, and concrete masonry units, to fill and seal the irregular gaps between them, spread the weight of them evenly, and sometimes to add decorative colors or patterns to masonry walls.

When did builders stop using lime mortar? ›

During the 1930s and 1940s cement mortars gradually replaced lime ones. Lime was often added to the mix to improve its working and qualities and durability.

What do you put between bricks? ›

In masonry, mortar joints are the spaces between bricks, concrete blocks, or glass blocks, that are filled with mortar or grout.

Can you put new mortar over old mortar? ›

Applying fresh mortar on top of old mortar that is loose or falling out will do little or no good; enough of the old mortar must be removed to make room for a layer of new mortar that is at least half an inch thick, and even then it is important to make sure that what is left of the old mortar is still solid and ...

What causes mortar to turn to dust? ›

The deterioration of mortar is caused by any (or all) of the following factors: Excessive moisture entering a wall and freezing repeatedly. As frozen water expands, this leads to spalling of the mortar and brick.

How sloppy should mortar be? ›

For a standard mortar mix this normally on a ratio basis (usually around 3 or 4 parts building sand to 1 part cement) recommendations vary – but you don't want the mixture to be too wet or too dry.

Can water leak through brick mortar? ›

While the brick itself is very resistant to water passing through it, and to a degree the mortar between the brick, the interface where the mortar touches up against the brick provides a pathway for water to enter into a brick wall. You can't see this crack because it's often very small, but it exists.

Will vinegar clean mortar off bricks? ›

Vinegar is too weak to use on brick mortar. You'll have to step it up and use hydrochloric acid. Muriatic acid is the common name of this acid when you look for it at a hardware store, building-supply store or home center.

What happens if you dont repoint brick? ›

If you hold off on repointing your brickwork/stonework, you risk further damage caused by moisture leaking into your joints. This can erode your bricks and cause an even more expensive project down the road.

What is replacing mortar between bricks called? ›

Tuckpointing, sometimes referred to as repointing or brick pointing, is a process to finish or repair mortar joints between bricks or stones with a narrow ridge of lime putty or fine lime mortar.

How do you match a 100 year old mortar? ›

If your house is over 50 years old, the mortar probably had a higher lime content than the high-cement-ratio mortars used today. Add some lime to your mortar mix to more closely match your old mortar. You can buy bags of lime at your building supply outlet.

What is the lifespan of mortar? ›

Mortar is generally very durable and has a typical lifespan of between 20-30 years, after which repairs (or repointing) can be necessary to fill cracks or gaps that may begin to appear. Mortar may be provided in its component parts and mixed on site, or factory-mixed.

What type of mortar is the strongest? ›

Type M mortar is the strongest of the four, and has a compressive strength of 2500 PSI. Type M mortar should be used when the structure has to withstand high gravity and/or lateral loads. Type M mortar is also a good choice for hard stone projects where the compressive strength of the stone is greater than 2500 PSI.

What kind of mortar do you use on a brick wall? ›

The masonry mortar is often used in brick, concrete block and stone masonry construction; it is also used to produce stone plaster.

Do I need mortar between the bricks? ›

Mortar mix is traditionally used to fill the gaps between bricks and stone work when building. Often the type of mortar used for building was dictated by what was available locally so the local sand quarry would produce a particular colour and that's what the buildings in that area would use.

What is the purpose of a mortar? ›

Mortar is used to bind together the bricks or stones in brick or stone masonry. It is used to give a soft even bed between different layers of brick or stone masonry for equal distribution of pressure over the bed. It is used to fill up the spaces between bricks or stones for making walls tight.

What's the difference between concrete and brick mortar? ›

Cement, concrete, and mortar are three different materials. The basic difference is that cement is a fine binding powder (which is never used alone), mortar is composed of cement and sand, and concrete is composed of cement, sand, and gravel.

What happens if you don't use lime in mortar? ›

Brickwork mortars that are used without the addition of lime often present problems with water ingress in buildings. When you used a lime based building mortar mix water is better transmitted which allows moisture to dissipate.

Why is lime mortar no longer used? ›

With the introduction of Portland cement during the 19th century, the use of lime mortar in new constructions gradually declined. This was largely due to the ease of use of Portland cement, its quick setting, and high compressive strength.

Which is better lime mortar or cement mortar? ›

Lime mortar has better properties than straight concrete mortar. These qualities help structures withstand weathering and aging better than before. If your stonework has an ordinary concrete mortar between the stones, you will have probably noticed cracking, pitting and crumbling.

What to put between bricks to prevent weeds? ›

Polymeric sand can help prevent weeds with pavers.

Does sand between bricks stop weeds? ›

In simple terms, the process of sealing your block paving to stop weed growth is all about first de-weeding the area, then giving it a good clean, placing sand between the block paving and then you're ready to seal with a quality sealant.

What should I put between concrete and brick? ›

Brick caulk, also referred to as brick mortar caulk, acts as a seal that makes joints waterproof and weatherproof. Brick caulk seals joints and closes up any gaps between concrete and masonry.

What does dish soap do to mortar? ›

Liquid detergent acts as an air-entraining admixture. During mixing, the detergent forms tiny air bubbles that are distributed throughout the mortar. These air bubbles lubricate the mortar, making it workable for long periods, even as the water evaporates.

How much does a 50 lb bag of mortar cover? ›

Use one 50 lb. (22.68 kg) bag of mortar per 100 ft2 (9.3 m2).

What happens if you over mix mortar? ›

The mortar should be mixed a minimum of 3 minutes and a maximum of 5 minutes after the last water has been added to the mix. The standard states that overmixing can change the mortar's air content.

Why is the mortar between my bricks crumbling? ›

This can happen in a number of ways including: exposure to the elements, reticulation or pool water spraying on the brickwork, incorrect mixing of mortar at the time of the build.

Does weather affect mortar? ›

Mortar – Ideal temperatures for the placement and curing of masonry mortar is the range of 70°F + 10°F. In cold weather (40 degrees Fahrenheit and below) mortar materials need to be heated, otherwise the mortar is likely to exhibit slower setting times and lower early strengths.

How do you know if brick mortar is bad? ›

If the mortar is loose, crumbling, or falls out easily with digging, it is in need of repair or restoration. Visually inspect the walls for a crumbling or flaking of the surface of their brickwork. This form of deterioration, known as spalling, usually results from some source of water damage.

Will rain mess up mortar? ›

Mortar should be kept moist for 36 hours to allow it to fully cure. However, a heavy rain may wash the lime out of the mortar, weakening the bond between the bricks and the mortar. If the weather is warm, dry and windy, the mortar may dry too rapidly, pulling away from the bricks and crumbling.

What consistency should mortar be for bricks? ›

Properly mixed mortar ready for use should have a consistency comparable to thick peanut butter. Test its thickness by seeing how it adheres to the trowel or mixing paddle. Scoop some of the mortar onto the tool and tip the tool 90 degrees. If it falls off immediately, the mix is too thin.

What are the 5 types of mortar? ›

Types of Mortar
  • Cement Mortar.
  • Lime Mortar.
  • Surki Mortar.
  • Gauged Mortar.
  • Mud Mortar.

What are the four basic mortar types? ›

There are four main types of mortar mix: N, O, S, and M. Each type is mixed with a different ratio of cement, lime, and sand to produce specific performance characteristics such as flexibility, bonding properties, and compressive strength.

Should I use type N or Type S mortar? ›

Type N mortar is a general-purpose mortar that provides good workability and serviceability. It is commonly used in interior walls, above-grade exterior walls under normal loading conditions, and in veneers. Type S mortar is used in structural load-bearing applications and for exterior applications at or below grade.

What is the most common mortar? ›

Type N mortar is the most common type, and is usually recommended on exterior, above-grade walls. This general-purpose mortar has good bonding capabilities.

What kind of mortar was used 100 years ago? ›

The mortar of old, that used on just about every project in the 1800s and early 1900s here in the United States, was made with just hydrated lime and sand. Modern mortars tend to have a Portland-cement component and not so much hydrated lime.

Does water leak through mortar? ›

Water can find its way right through the mortar, and end up running down the walls and pooling in your basement. If you have puddles underneath wet bricks, then you have a bad leak that is probably related to the mortar joint.

What is the difference between concrete and cement mortar? ›

Cement, concrete, and mortar are three different materials. The basic difference is that cement is a fine binding powder (which is never used alone), mortar is composed of cement and sand, and concrete is composed of cement, sand, and gravel.

What is the normal mortar gap between bricks? ›

3/8″ or 10 mm is one standard for the “head and bed” joints below and at the end of the brick. Too wide can make a bad joint. Bricks and blocks (CMU) are designed to have a 3/8″ mortar bed between units.

How thick should brick mortar be? ›

Minimum thickness of mortar or grout between brick and reinforcement: 1/4 in. (6.4 mm), except: a. 1/4 - in. (6.4 mm) bars may be laid in 1/2-in.

What kind of mortar do you use for thin brick? ›

Use of Polymer Modified Mortar that meets the ANSI A 118.4 both for installing the thin brick and for filling the joints between the brick. This mortar is easily mixed in a pail with a drill and paddle.

What is the strongest mortar mix? ›

Type M mortar is the highest strength mortar (minimum 2500 psi) and should only be used where significant compressive strength is required. This type of mortar is generally used with hard stone. Since it closely mimics the strength of stone, it will not fail before the stone itself fails.


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