How to Repair Brick Stairs: The Complete DIY Guide

Are your brick stairs in need of repair? If so, then you have come to the right place. Below is a full guide explaining in detail what repairing brick stairs entails. By following the steps below, you will be able to repair your brick stairs without having to hire anyone!

To repair brick stairs, first, decide whether tuckpointing or repointing is necessary. After deciding, remove any loose or crumbling bricks. Next, remove old mortar and clean the joints between the bricks. Prepare new mortar and apply it to the joints.

Deciding whether you wish to have a long-term solution or a quick fix is essential before you begin repairing your stairs. If you want a durable, long-lasting fix then you will need to repoint your brick stairs. However, if you need a short-term convenience fix then you will need to tuckpoint your stairs.

Tuckpointing The Brick Stairs

If there are minor damages to your brick stairs, then only tuckpointing will be necessary. If there are small cracks and crumbles appearing in your stairs, then it may be time to tuckpoint.

Tuckpointing is often preferred because of its aesthetic appearance. Tuckpointing involves using two different colors of mortar to fill in the joints. Unless the brick is thoroughly examined, the differentiating colors of mortar appear the same as the brick. When done properly, it is difficult to tell the difference between the brick and the mortar.


Before tuckpointing your brick stairs, ensure you have the proper safety equipment. This includes eye protection and leather gloves to protect your hands from the equipment you may be using.

Remove Mortar

The first step to tuckpoint your brick stairs is to remove the pre-existing mortar from its joints. Chip the mortar out from between the bricks by use of a hammer or masonry chisel. When chipping away at the mortar, it is important to not chip away at the brick. Use careful and precise movements in order to avoid damaging the brick. If the brick is chipped away due to uncareful movements, then work that could have been avoided may be needed.

Remove the mortar to a depth of at least one-half of an inch. A larger depth is oftentimes suggested, although half an inch should do the trick.

After removing the mortar, the second step is to remove the dirt and debris. If the fresh mortar is being applied right away to the bricks, remove the dirt using a bristled brush or vacuum. However, if the mortar is not being replaced for over twenty-four hours, then water can be used.

Using water requires less work, is more efficient, and requires fewer materials. However, it does prolong the process. If you are in a rush to finish tuckpointing your stairs, then using a brush will do the trick. If time is not an issue, then using water may just be the perfect option for you.

Prepare New Mortar

After removing the pre-existing mortar, the next step is to prepare fresh mortar. In order to prepare new mortar, use one part masonry cement and four parts fine sand. Ideally, you will be able to use the same sand that was in the preexisting mortar.

When it comes to tuckpointing, matching the mortar to the brick is crucial. One way tuckpointing differs from repointing is because of their differentiating appearances. When tuckpointing your brick steps, the mortar should match the bricks as much as possible. This step requires patience as it usually takes multiple attempts. Experimentation may be necessary, and it is important to not give up until you are satisfied with the match.

In order to match the mortar, match the sand when mixing the mortar. Due to natural processes, the sand that is in the mortar will eventually be exposed. If the sand was not initially matched, then the mortar and the brick will not appear the same color.

Fill The Joints With New Mortar

The next step is filling the joints in between the bricks with fresh mortar. Start applying the mortar to the joints. If you intend on starting with the horizontal joints, finish all of them before moving onto the vertical ones. If you are starting with the vertical joints, do not begin working on the horizontal ones until the vertical joints are finished.

The mortar should not be more than 3/8 of an inch thick, as mortar that is applied too thick can start to ooze out onto the brick, which will make the cleanup more difficult.

Be careful to ensure the mortar does not go anywhere beyond the joints. Do not allow the mortar to go all over the bricks. One way to do this is to remove any excess mortar in between the application process of every brick.

When filling in the joints, apply the mortar smoothly in order to look flat. Do not use imprecise movements to create a bumpy, undesirable appearance.

Once the mortar has slightly hardened, use a tool to create straight lines in the middle of the joints. Next, apply lime putty to the straight lines.

Repointing The Brick Stairs

Repointing your brick stairs is necessary once the damage is severe. If there are multiple or severe damages, then repointing may be the best option. This will cause a more long-term solution and will prevent further damages from occurring.


Before repointing your brick stairs, ensure you have the proper safety equipment. This includes eye protection and leather gloves to protect your hands from the equipment and materials you may be using or touching.

Remove Bricks

If it is decided that repointing is necessary, then oftentimes there is serious damage to the bricks. If there are any bricks that are beyond repair, remove and replace them. It may be easier to completely replace the damaged brick than attempting to restore it.

Remove Mortar

Just as you must do when tuckpointing, to repoint brick stairs you must remove old mortar. When removing the old mortar, remember to remove it to a depth of at least 3/4 of an inch. In order to repoint your stairs properly, you must remove any crumbling, loose mortar. Do not hesitate to remove more than 3/4 of an inch of mortar if you have not yet reached the intact mortar.

When removing old mortar, you have multiple options of how to do so. Removing old mortar can be done in various ways:

  • Scratching out the old mortar (by use of a joint raker)
  • Cutting away the old mortar (by use of a brick and mortar saw)
  • Grinding away the old mortar (by use of an angle grinder
  • Hammering away the old mortar

Mix New Mortar

The third step to repoint your brick stairs is to mix new mortar. The new mortar should be thick enough that it is not dripping off the brick, but thin enough where it can be shaken off.

When mixing new mortar, ensure the consistency is correct. The thickness of the mortar is crucial to the overall result of your brick steps. Continue to add either more water or more water until you have achieved the best possible results.

After mixing the new mortar, you must clean the joints between the bricks. As mentioned above in the tuckpointing section, the dirt and debris can be removed through the use of a bristled brush, a hand-held vacuum, or water. If the fresh mortar is being applied immediately to the bricks, use a vacuum or bristled brush. However, if over twenty-four hours will be passing before the mortar is replaced, then water can be used.

Although water is recommended because it is simple, requires no extra materials, and is efficient, both the bristled brush and the vacuum will be successful in the removal of dust and debris.

Apply New Mortar

The last step in repointing your brick stairs is to apply the new mortar. The mortar can be applied through the use of a tuckpointing trowel. When applying the mortar to the brick joints, ensure the mortar is no more than 3/8 of an inch thick. The mortar should not be thicker in order to avoid excess mortar spilling out of the joints.

Decide whether you want to start first by applying the mortar to the horizontal or the vertical joints. Finish applying the mortar in whichever direction you decide to start with before moving onto the other direction. Apply the mortar in small segments rather than applying too much at once.

After applying the new mortar to the stairs, remove the excess mortar. Through the removal process, work carefully to avoid removing the newly packed mortar from the joints.

After repointing your brick stairs, wait about three days before a final clean. For the final clean, use water to remove any remaining excess mortar and any stains that may have appeared in the repointing process. This should be a more intensive clean than what was done immediately after the mortar application. It is important to wait at least three days in order to avoid rinsing away any of the mortar between the bricks.

Ricky Kesler

With all of the projects I've done over the years, you'd think that I work on my house full-time. But I actually enjoy other things like spending time outdoors and time with my family.

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