FAQ Testimonials

Inappropriate Practices

The renewed interest and enthusiasm in the restoration of period properties over the past number of decades has been very welcome with, in particular, many formerly sub-divided properties being returned to use as single family homes.

Unfortunately, in the area of facade restoration, sometimes this enthusiasm has not been matched by the necessary skills and knowledge. In the interests of expediency short cuts have been taken with the use of inappropriate materials and sub-standard techniques which has resulted, in some cases, in irreversible damage to brickwork.

Below are our comments on some of the current practices which we feel are inappropriate or undesirable.

'Flush and Brush' Joint

While there are some references to a semi-skilled technique similar to this in the late 19th century this particular joint seems to be gaining credence as an acceptable traditional pointing technique for period properties in Ireland, with some planning applications even referring to it by name. It may be an attempt to imitate weathered 'Irish Wigging', however as an attempt to restore or conserve that highly skilled technique it is a poor effort and a 'lazy mans' approach. In many instances the joint is being brushed so harshly that the lime mortar is smeared over the brick face in a white haze. This harsh brushing, of what is usually a coarse aggregate mortar, also breaks the 'skin' of the joint and reduces its weatherproofing capabilities. Most unfortunate of all is the visual effect this joint has on period buildings. With the mortar being brushed in to every crevice in the arris of the brick the joint takes on a very wide and obtrusive appearance resulting in the pointing visually dominating the brickwork. It will be decades before sufficient weathering and pollution can disguise this poor workmanship. Elegant, symmetrical, period brick facades are being given a rustic appearance which is totally contrary to the visual and architectural objectives of their designers. Traditional pointers, who prided themselves on the high standard of their pointing finishes, would not have agreed with such poor technique and workmanship.

(This technique is not to be confused with a 'flush' or 'penny struck' joint which was carried out at the rear or side of many period buildings. Very often these joints would have had pigment added or techniques were used such as the 'penny strike', (brickwork in window heads may also have been 'wigged') to 'square off' the brickwork and reduce the visual impact of the joint.

Excessive Chemical Cleaning of Brickwork

Sadly now many lay and professional people believe that conservation/restoration of a brick facade routinely involves chemically cleaning the entire facade.

Excessive chemical cleaning can cause numerous problems. It can lead to the bleaching and 'washing out' of the original tones and colours of the brick. It can lead to efflorescence and can react with, and cause damage to, lime mortars. Chemically cleaned brickwork also appears to weathered unevenly over subsequent years with unnatural patterns of dampness occurring when wet. This may happen because of two reasons (i) where excessive cleaning has actually damaged the skin of the brick and (ii) in removing oils, grime and dirt built up over the years a natural weatherproofing quality that the brick has acquired is also removed.

Unfortunately the most detrimental result of excessive chemical cleaning is the effect on the visual appearance of a period property resulting in it looking as if it has been newly built. This now almost standard practice is not always warranted. Very often a sympathetic, well executed repointing job will be enough to lift the appearance of a facade and restore its former grandeur.

'Correct Techniques and Materials - Poor Workmanship'

The more widespread use of traditional materials and attempts to use traditional techniques in the area of repointing brickwork and stonework is to be welcomed. However at times not enough emphasis is placed on the skill of the practitioner carrying out the actual work. There are many instances where a project, although well intentioned and where the correct materials and technique have been specified, has been carried out by unskilled or inexperienced pointers. It is not enough to say in such instances that a 'lime mortar' or a 'traditional technique has been used'. This does not remedy the visual consequences and/or possible damage to brickwork of poor workmanship.

Repair Works - 'The Patchwork Effect'

Conservation or repair work to a period property is sometimes unnecessarily too visually distinguishable from original or earlier works. This can lead to a 'patchwork effect' for example, where isolated bricks are replaced or localised pointing repairs are carried out in an undisguised pure white lime mortar in a well weathered facade . (Many sympathetic and historically correct techniques can be used to blend recent work in with original, or earlier, work). These works may never sufficiently weather to properly blend into the facade again. If this practice were to be adhered to each and every time conservation/repair work was carried out a building might never again attain a uniformity of appearance.

Such a practice is not used, for example, in the restoration of paintings or furniture where the emphasis is always on blending the repairs in with the original subject. The expert eye, with close examination, will always be able to distinguish later works from original work.

Ready-mix Materials

Some of these products have very high compressive strengths and may contain cement. While chosen for their convenience and ease of use there is evidence that some of these products, used in recent years, have caused irreversible damage to brickwork. With the relatively small amounts of mortar required for even very large restoration projects every good pointer should be able to make up his own pointing mortar, including the addition of pigments where necessary, on site, according to the requirements of the job at hand.


Regrettably the continued use of this method for cleaning stonework and brickwork and the irreversible damage it causes is still evident today.

Inappropriate Pointing Techniques

There is evidence of pointers, familiar with only one or two pointing techniques, using these techniques inappropriately, e.g. the use of the so called 'flush and brush' joint as outlined above or the use of the 'English Tuck' joint on regular Victorian or Edwardian brickwork where a straightforward flush joint is more historically correct.

Poor Raking Out Techniques

Poor practices in relation to the raking out of mortar joints are a common problem. These include - not raking out deep enough to a square joint, raking out too deeply, damage to bricks by electric chisels and the incorrect use of angle grinders. Many of these poor practices are easily disguised once the brickwork is repointed however they may lead to problems in later years and of course damage to the brickwork itself by inexperienced operatives is irreversible.

The comments above are solely the opinions of Bacon Restorations Limited. They refer, in the main, to the restoration of brickwork facades and are based on our observations of some current practices and our own experience and knowledge of the trade.

Our Associations

Bacon Restoration Associate with Construction Industry FederationBacon Restoration Associate with The Building Limes ForumBacon Restoration Associate with Heritage Contractors