before picture of a stone wall that needs repointing stone foundation that needs repointing

Why We Decided To Repoint Our Stone Walls Ourselves

On our long to-do list when we bought this Colonial Farmhouse fixer-upper was to repoint the stone walls in our basement.

To emphasize how important these stone walls are, they are not there for show. They are our foundation walls.

The foundation holds up the house. Taking care of it is not an option unless you want your house to fall down.

We decidedly do not want our house to fall down. That would be bad. (Understatement of the year.)

before photo of stone foundation wall that needs repointing Why We Decided To Repoint Our Stone Walls Ourselves

How did we know our stone walls needed to be repointed?

The little piles of sand at the bottom of the wall were our first clue.

We didn’t need any other clues after that.

Why do stone walls need to be repointed at all? 

All mortar deteriorates given enough time. There’s no escaping that fact.

The strength of the stone foundation does not come from the mortar. It comes from how the stones interlock, their combined weight, and gravity.

The mortar that is visible to your eye is the sacrificial layer. It protects the stone foundation from the 3 P’s: precipitation, pests, and plants.

How often do stone walls need to be repointed? 

It depends.

That’s such an unsatisfying answer, isn’t it?

It does depend though on whether we are talking interior or exterior walls, conditions the walls have been exposed to, how well the lime mortar was originally applied, etc.

Most articles I have read said you can probably get 50 years out of your lime mortar before it needs to be repointed, but, definitely, every 100 years it will need to be redone.

Based on the layers we’ve seen as we’ve removed old mortar, our best guess is it has been repointed once before. If that’s the case, then it’s not a stretch to think we are around the 100-year mark.

We’re just the lucky ducks here at the right time to tackle the job. Wrong time? Depends on your perspective. Ha!

before photo of stone foundation wall that needs repointing Why We Decided To Repoint Our Stone Walls Ourselves

What are stone walls repointed with? 

Lime mortar. It’s a combination of sand, crushed limestone, and water.

It’s important to use the right mortar so that you don’t damage your stone walls. If the mortar is harder than the stones or bricks, it can break the stones or bricks themselves. That’s why you shouldn’t use a Portland cement-based product.

Lime mortar also allows your stone foundation to breathe. This is important so that moisture can evaporate.

Why did we decide to repoint our stone walls ourselves?

First of all, we have the reckless confidence that comes from watching three and a half YouTube videos on any given subject. This can be a good or bad thing depending on the project.

Second, we are very good at underestimating exactly how long projects will take us to complete. Therefore, it’s easy to start something. We save the hard part for when we figure out how long it is actually going to take to finish.

Finally, this is one of those projects that isn’t technically hard. It is physically hard and time-consuming.

Repointing would be expensive for us to hire out given the size of the area that needs repointing and the sheer amount of time it takes to remove old mortar, clean the wall, and then apply the new mortar.

Since we are physically capable and can make the time to do this project (who needs hobbies anyway?), it seemed like a good way to save ourselves tens of thousands of dollars.

before photo of stone foundation wall that needs repointing Why We Decided To Repoint Our Stone Walls Ourselves

How long is it going to take us to finish? 

I’m not sure.

At the time I’m writing this, we’ve had 10 work sessions and we are still chipping away at the first wall.

Each work session lasts 2 -3 hours.

3 hours is the maximum amount of time we can handle thus far because, as it turns out, hammering at a wall to chip out mortar is tiring for two middle-aged people. Go figure.

Do we regret taking this project on ourselves? 

I find it’s best not to reflect too deeply on the shoulda, coulda, woulda’s in the middle of the project. I’ll wait until the end for that! Ha!

I will say, we aren’t afraid of hard work and this is something that needs to be done not just for the structural integrity of our house but so that we can fully use our basement.

We have a vision for the future and this is just one thing that needs to happen for that vision to be realized. Keeping our eyes on the prize instead of on the shoulder burn this project produces is helpful when we’re in the middle of this arduous project.

Have you ever taken on a big house project yourselves? Do you have a stone foundation too? I’d love to know and love chatting with you. You can always comment on this blog post, email us here, or reach out via Instagram or Facebook.

Happy DIYing!

P.S. You can follow along with our progress on Instagram. I have a “repointing” highlight saved. We appreciate your encouragement when we tackle these projects. It makes the time go by faster!

P.P.S. Please remember we are not experts on this topic. We are homeowners doing our best with the information we have, so be sure to do your research to know what is the best for your home on this topic.

Thank you for being here today. I am grateful for you. If you’d like another blog post to read, I have many, many more. Try one of these. 

All About Rim Locks (Vintage Door Hardware)

All About Our 240-Year-Old Pumpkin Pine Wood Floors

How To Fix Wifi Issues In A House With Stone Walls

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  • Sandy Smith

    This is quite a project. I admire your willingness to do it yourselves. It will save you tons of money and when you are finished you can enjoy the results of knowing you did it. I don’t have instagram or a smart phone. I get all your blogs on the computer. Anyway keep up the good work.

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