How to Use a Brick Jointer

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The masonry construction process includes compacting the mortar between bricks to ensure proper drainage. Brick jointers are specialty handheld tools designed to do just that, while also shaping the mortar. To joint brick, you will need to choose an appropriate brick jointer and practice your technique.

What Is a Brick Jointer?

A brick jointer is a handheld, non-powered tool used in masonry construction to improve the aesthetics and integrity of a brick or stone structure.

Brick Jointer Uses

Unjointed bricks not only look messy but are also prone to mortar failure, usually due to excess moisture. Using a brick jointer ensures that your masonry construction stays structurally sound and visually appealing.

What Brick Jointer Should I Use?

There are many different shapes and sizes of brick jointer, each producing a different result or effect. Depending on the architectural style of the home, the preferences of the owner, or the direction of the architect, different types of brick jointers may be used.

Convex Brick Jointer

Convex brick jointers create concave joints that slope away from the surface of the brick. The jointer is cylindrical in shape, and when pressed into the mortar, it creates a rounded depression.

V Brick Jointer

A V jointer is shaped like the letter V. The point of the V is pressed into the mortar, creating a corresponding V-shaped depression. Sliding it along the joint makes a groove between the bricks.

If you need to touch up mortar and don’t have a brick jointer handy, a square, straight piece of wood will work in a pinch.

Grapevine Jointer

A grapevine jointer has a raised bead along the blade. Sliding the blade between the bricks compresses and flattens the mortar as the raised bead leaves behind a thin indented line.

Rake Out Jointer

Instead of compacting the mortar-like other jointers, a rake-out jointer removes some of the mortar from the outermost edge of the joint. A rake-out jointer consists of a handle and a spinning studded wheel. The studs are inserted into space between bricks.

As the handle is drawn along the joint, the wheel spins, extracting mortar at a specified depth.

Brick jointers are very different than traditional jointers used for woodworking.

How to Use a Brick Jointer

Follow these steps to achieve smooth, even joints with a brick jointer.

  1. Choose a shape and style of brick jointer. Most brick jointers improve drainage and appearance by smoothing and shaping the existing mortar. A rake-out jointer does this by removing some of the mortar. See the section below for more information about different kinds of brick jointers.
  2. Determine the correct size. Brick jointers come in various sizes, to match the gap between your bricks. Measure the gap and consult the section below to choose a brick jointer of an appropriate size. Make sure your brick is already cut to size.
  3. Practice your technique. You’ll want to master this before you start the jointing process, so build yourself a practice wall or find an inconspicuous area of your stone structure. When you’re ready to joint, place the back of the brick jointer (or the studs, if using a rake-out jointer) into the mortar-filled space between bricks. The sides of the jointer should touch the brick edges. Use even, continuous pressure to glide the jointer along the joint, smoothing and compacting the mortar (or raking it out).
  4. Joint vertically first. When you’ve got your technique down, you can start smoothing the vertical joints in your structure. Start at the top of the wall and move the jointer down toward the ground in a smooth, continuous motion.
  5. Move to the top of the wall. When smoothing horizontal joints (those that run parallel to the ground),  you must start from the top of the wall. Debris and dust will fall out of the joints as you work, so moving from top to bottom will keep your completed joints clean and clear.
  6. Alternate the direction of horizontal joints. Start jointing at a corner or edge of the wall, moving the brick jointer through the mortar in one consistent direction. On the next row, start from the other side and move the brick jointer in the opposite direction.

An alternating horizontal joint pattern helps excess water run off the bricks, preventing degradation of the mortar and brick.

  1. Take your time in the corners. Using a brick jointer to smooth corners presents a particular challenge. It is difficult to maintain the pressure and forward momentum needed to produce smooth, even results, while also navigating the tool around a 90-degree turn.

Move slowly but steadily toward the corner and focus on keeping the brick jointer in contact with the sides of the brick as you make the turn. You may have to make several passes to get everything just right.

  1. Clean up. Before the mortar dries, use a trowel to scrape and cut off any excess sticking to the bricks.

What Size Brick Jointer Do I Need?

The jointer you choose should be the same size as the gap between the bricks. Most brick jointers can handle gaps ranging from 3/8″ to 7/8″.

The jointer you choose should be the same size as the gap between the bricks.

Standard jointer sizes are:

  • 3/8 inch (10 millimeters)
  • 1/2 inch (13 millimeters)
  • 5/8 inch (16 millimeters)
  • 3/4 inch (19 millimeters)
  • 7/8 inch (22 millimeters)

An appropriately sized jointer will make contact with the brick on both sides of the joint. This allows the user to apply consistent and steady pressure, creating a smooth and evenly compacted joint.

A jointer that is too small will slip between the bricks. It is difficult to maintain consistent pressure with a jointer that is too small, creating an uneven pattern in the mortar.

Jointers that are too large will not be able to enter the space between bricks. The result is inadequately compacted mortar that might not perform its drainage functions as intended.

Conclusion

Brick jointers are used to smooth and compress mortar, improving the appearance of masonry constructions as well as improving their moisture resistance. There are several different kinds of brick jointers, including convex, v-shaped, grapevine, and rake-out jointers. The size and style of a brick jointer should match the size of the gap between the bricks and the style of the structure, as well as your drainage goals.

Ellenkate grew up on job sites run by her family’s construction company. She earned her theater degree from The Hartt School, a prestigious performing arts conservatory in Connecticut. Her design and DIY work from her Chicago loft was featured in the Chicago Reader and on Apartment Therapy.