With the garden complete and everything growing, I turned my attention back towards the cistern area of the yard. Some brick repointing was part of the overall plan for that space and I figured I might as well knock that out - it's messy work - before I got the cistern fully demo'd and buttoned up.
The brick that REALLY needed to be repointed was under the 2 bedroom windows, primarily due to water infiltration around the window sills and subsequent moisture in the wall. The area under the left window, which I redid a couple weeks ago, was mossy and the mortar was rotten, but the wall was otherwise still fairly solid.
The area under the right window had a bunch of stair step cracks, it had definitely been (poorly) repointed in spots previously, and if I tapped the wall with my fist, I could feel it vibrate a bit -- aside from the cracks, the lower section had delaminated.
The arched section bowed out of the plane of the rest of the wall by about 1/2" and I knew that once I started raking out mortar, the bricks would be pretty easy to pull right out of the wall.
Those areas where the mortar looks a little smoother and flatter than the rest of the mortar, that's where somebody repointed previously. Given the shallow depth of the repointing and incorrect mortar (way too hard), it wasn't a real surprise that the wall cracked and delaminated regardless.
As I suspected would happen, it didn't take long to pull the arch apart.Those arches are super strong when fully assembled and working as a unit, but once a single brick gets loose, the whole thing becomes a house of cards. Also, as suspected, the inner wythe's mortar was garbage as well.
I was surprised to discover that the wall is 3 bricks (wythes) thick; every other wall I've gotten into so far is only 2 bricks thick. Once I got about as many bricks pulled out of the wall as I could before things got sketchy, I started repointing the exposed part of the interior wythe and then resetting the exterior bricks.
Before I started resetting the arch bricks, I ran a little self-adhesive flashing over the top of the basement window. The bricks sit on that, and I'll replace the whole window before too long so it was kinda moot, but you really don't want bricks and mortar sitting right on top of the wood; the masonry has a way of wicking moisture and if it's in contact with wood, the wood will rot eventually. The flashing provides an impervious separation between the wood and the masonry.
I also used a little house wrap to do the same thing where I didn't have enough space to finagle the sticky flashing.
Once the arch was reset, the work went quick. Unfortunately, I kept finding bricks that came out of the wall way too easily and I wound up having to reset about a dozen bricks above the arch.
I eventually removed mortar from every joint in this little section of wall. Mortar removal is a lot like using a nail gun...fun to pull the trigger, but pretty easy to shoot 17 nails when only 3 or 4 are needed. Sometimes I get a little carried away with the mortar removal but...if I'm gonna do it, I'm gonna do it.
The repointing effort turned out pretty well. No more vibrating wall, no more cracked joints, no more delamination. I still need to reattach the coaxial internet cable, but that can wait for a minute.
The mortar is different colors due to one side having been curing several weeks longer than the other, but it'll even out in a few days. And the best part? Aside from this section of wall being super solid, I'll NEVER have to repoint it ever ever ever again.
Now I can get back to the cistern, finish 'er up, and then replace a little section of fence...