The city has been sitting on the plans I submitted to get a permit to replace the little porch on the side of the house for 4 weeks. This is unfortunate, but not unexpected. To pass the time and get ready for the day when I may get the green light to demo the porch, I figured I'd start tackling some low-hanging fruit on either side of it.
There are 3 windows just north of the porch - the hexagonal-shaped bay at the rear of the house - that all have masonry issues. It's tough to say what's caused what, but the end result is stair step cracks both above and below the windows. Could be settling (doubtful), could be that somebody used to wrong mortar (likely), could be something where a very small crack went through enough freeze/thaw cycles that things were exacerbated to the they're at now. I'll need some scaffolding to deal with the area above the windows, but I can deal with the stuff below the windows with what I have on site.
After doing a little poking around, I was able to determine that somebody in the past did a little repointing. I don't think they covered the entire house but they repointed quite a bit, albeit with mortar that appears to be a little too hard and most of the repointing was relatively superficial in that the existing mortar wasn't raked out to any legit depth.
The original mortar is a lime-based product, not like modern mortars. It's almost white in appearance and, if exposed to water and weather over the course of 140+ years, it has a tendency to turn to dust if not periodically maintained. In the picture above, the little bits of exposed grey mortar, that's the stuff that was used to repoint the brick. I have to use an angle grinder to remove it but because everything's painted (I suspect the house was pointed to hide the multi-colored mortar) and the old school brick is sort of irregularly shaped, sometimes it's a little tricky to keep the grinder out of the brick. When I do hit brick, the dust cloud turns from white to red real, real fast, and that's when I know I need to back off and try a different location or angle. Unfortunately, the old brick is pretty soft so I only get things started with the grinder; I get in there with a little slag chipping hammer and a junky old flat blade screwdriver to dig out as much as I can by hand after the grinder has opened things up.
I'm not looking to reinvent any wheels or rebuild entire walls, and the original game plan was to just address the cracks and mortar joints near the cracks. One thing led to another...now it looks like I'm going to repoint the entire wall and deal with resetting a few bricks that were so loose on account of the mortar being dust that they more or less just fell out of the wall.
I didn't take a pic last night after I finished working, but the mortar joints between the main floor window and limestone foundation are now pretty well cleaned out. Also, another brick fell out of the wall, and there's probably a handful that I could sneeze on and they'd come tumbling out, but I'm doing my best to leave them where they are.
I think I'll restart repointing tomorrow, using type o mortar, and see how things go. I've never repointed brick so I'm sure I'll learn a few things relative to my experience with repointing the limestone. More pics to follow...