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What is Brick Cement?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Brick cement is a construction material which is used to bond bricks together. It is also known as brick mortar or masonry cement, and it comes in a variety of styles for different applications. Home supply stores usually sell this material, and can order special formulas by request from customers. People can also create their own, which may be done when someone wants to create a custom blend for finicky repairs.

This product is made with a blend of fine-grain sand, a cementitious material such as Portland cement or polymer cement, and water. When the brick cement is wet, it can be spread and manipulated like a thick paste. As it dries, it hardens and sets, turning into a firm glue which will hold bricks together. This type of cement can be used in new construction, and also in re-pointing, in which old cement is carefully removed and replaced to enact repairs.

Brick cement is very similar to concrete, except that the aggregate materials used are much finer. The sand grains are fine and even, so that the cement will spread smoothly and evenly. It can also be stained with various colors to blend in with or stand out from a background. Premixed brick cement comes in dry bags with cement and sand in controlled proportions, while people who wish to mix their own blend dry cement and sand in the desired proportions before adding water.

Historically, cement was made with lime. Lime cements were much softer and weaker than modern cements made with Portland cement. However, this could actually be beneficial; the cement was slightly more flexible, and it was self-healing. If cracks appear in lime masonry, the lime will heal itself, to a certain extent. Once cracks start to appear in Portland cement, they will only grow larger, admitting water and creating a risk to the stability of the building over time.

Masonry cement for bricks is waterproof, to keep water from getting inside the joints. Cements vary from strong to weak versions, and can be used for everything from brick patios to brick walls. As brick cement ages and wears, the sand will become visible, as the Portland cement will slowly flake and wear away. When the sand becomes visible or the brick cement starts to look crumbly, it is time for re-pointing to preserve the integrity of the joints This can be done by a professional mason or a skilled do it yourselfer.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a About Mechanics researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By nextcorrea — On Jul 02, 2011

The article is correct to emphasize the importance of re pointing. A brick wall always looks solid, but as the cement begins to wear out its structural integrity is reduced significantly. I once saw a person lean against a brick wall and wall straight through to the other side. It is imperative that anyone dealing with older brick structures have it inspected by a trained professional and if necessary put in the time and money to re point it.

By backdraft — On Jun 30, 2011

My home is brick and I just love to run my fingers through the masonry in between and feel the fine cement on the tips of my fingers. There is something that is both sandy and silky about it at the same time. It is one of those small pleasure but you have to indulge those, right? If I lived in a house with vinyl siding I would probably never touch it at all

By jonrss — On Jun 28, 2011

I have worked as a brick mason in the past and it is a lot harder than it looks. It took me at least a year to figure out how to cement bricks. After a few years I was a pro, but during that first year I was just terrible at it. I would not be surprised if some of those brick walls I cemented up have fallen over by now.

By summing — On Jun 25, 2011

I was really fascinated by the small detail in the article about self healing cement. I had no idea such a thing is possible. Is the idea that when cracks from water will get into them and wet the cement enough for the cracks to seal back up? If so, this is an incredible idea. I understand why they switched materials, but sometimes things that are old and obsolete have benefits that newer and better products can't replicate

By whiteplane — On Jun 24, 2011

@zsazsa56-I live in St. Louis and when I first moved here I asked myself that same question. Where did all these bricks come from? I didn't give it too much though but one day I met someone who knew a lot about local history.

According to him, St. Louis has so many bricks not because they are in great supply in the area. The reason there are so many brick buildings is that the city use to have a very strong brick layers union. In the early part of the 20th century when the city was booming and whole neighborhoods were sprouting up overnight, the brick layers were able to use their influence to ensure that most new construction used bricks.

Its kind of weird to think that the city looks that way because they were essentially strong armed into building it like that but I don't think anybody regrets it. As you and other have pointed out, it really is beautiful and it sets us apart from other cities.

By ZsaZsa56 — On Jun 23, 2011

@chivebasil - I have been to St. Louis and I was immediately struck by how many brick buildings there were. There were times when we were driving around that it seemed like these were the only kinds of buildings you saw. Does anybody know how the city ended up this was? Is there some huge source of bricks nearby?

By chivebasil — On Jun 21, 2011

I live in St. Louis which is world famous for its blocks upon blocks of brick houses. Anybody who has not seen them should look up a picture because they really are spectacular. I have been to other places that employed a lot of bricks in their construction, but I have never been any place that has as many brick structures as St. Louis

I bring this up only because it is kind of strange to think that brick cement is almost literally what is holding my fair city together. Without it we would just have a big pile of bricks, something out of the three little pigs. I feel like we should find some way to pay tribute to the substance that keeps our city standing.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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