Yellow Bar Vs Pointing Sand And Some General Brick Pointing Questions - Masonry


For regular brick pointing (say 50 year old red brick )do you you use regular yellow bar sand for pointing or a pointing sand ? i am trying to get this pointing thing down, but different people keep telling me different things . What do you guys use?Think I found a good mix today you can tell me what you think.
3 yellow bar sand
1 portland cement (Keystone)
1/2 lime

What do you think of this mix ? Dont want to be a broken record but just trying to get this down once and for all so I dont have to look back and know my mix ahead of time. Some say no lime just 3 /1 sand to cement . Gets confusing. Keep in mind 99% of the brick that I would point would be from the 1950s to 80s, no old lime mortar.
Thanks alot

It depends upon what you are pointing. A couple of rules of thumb:
The mortar should always be softer than the units being tucked.
The mortar has to be at least as porous as the the mortar it is going over.
That is about it, really.

Iron clad light, dragon light, lafarge mortar ect.. 16 sands per bag. for a tanner mortar use tan sand and dragon. For greyer mortar use iron clad light and grey sand.
Thats about as complicated as I make it for regular mortars.

Lots of variables determine the mix, brick, limestone, marble and all other masonry materials can be severally harmed by using the wrong mix. about 30% of all our work is removal of harmful cementitious products.
There is a whole lot more to pointing then saying "yellow bar sand is perfect and its all I use"
Learning how to mix and what products to use is one of the first lessons taught to my new employees, not to offend but perhaps you should gain some experience with a knowledgeable mason with a restoration background before heading off on your own to do re-pointing projects

Well I live in Philia. and their are 9 billion of the same houses using the same brick (In and out of the Philly area). Just wanted to find the right mix. So yes, if yellow bar sand will work ,it will work for all the homes. Did 2 homes last year ,homeowner was happy ,jobs came out nice but to dark for me using Quickcrete portland. Did work with mason years ago and he used just 3/1 which I was told here was no good it needed Lime. bricks are those common 1960s hard red brick. I am a carpenter in my own bus. but the need for pointing in this area is growing and besides the money I find it fun and relaxing to do. After reading some posts I think Super seal is in my area.

If it is a good hard red brick over a 3-1 PC mortar (which it probably is in that time frame), then you should be fine with a Type N mortar, use (EDIT) 1-2-6 PC-L-whatever sand you like. 1-1/2-4or5 is probably a little too tight.

Dont use a portland mix at all, on anything, ever.

Actually, a 3-1 mix is fine for some things, but tuckpointing ain't one of them.

I agree with gov contractor 100%. And you are confused about what cement is. There is masonry cement and there is Portland cement. Portland cement is an ingredient in masonry cement which is an ingredient in mortar. there are thousands of variables and if you read some of the threads here about mortar (some are dozens of pages long) you will see that it is not as simple as you seem to think it is. Like carpentry is just nailing peices of wood together right?
By the way what kind of nails do you use? 2 1/2" or 3 1/2"? I just want to get this right

As I have been schooled upon, masonry cement can be one of 2 things:
It can be a portland/lime blend.
It can be a totally different type of cement with various additives to the clinker before it is ground.
In this area, we call masonry cement the latter, and call the former "masons mix". They are both by specification masonry cement.

Up here we have mortar and portland/concrete. If you want mortar and say masonry cement you might get the whatchutalkinbout look.

How about the original question about the bar sand vs pointing sand ?

Mortar has the sand in the bag. Masonry cement does not. Bar sand and pointing sand have no meaning to me. ASTM C-144 masonry sand is intelligible no matter where you are located.

Well , at my masonry supply house in Philia. They have concrete sand out in a pile and 2 colors of bar sand out in pile under roof and inside under cover they have 100lb clear see through bags of pointing sand which is much finer. Then they have in a paper sealed bag dont quote me if I am saying this right but "siliconez" sand . So obviously there is a meaning to it . the pointing sand is I think $6 dollars compared to the $8 dollars for 4 buckets of bar.They sell alot of the pointing sand so I would not discount it. My question was what do you guys use and why for the red brick.

The best way to find out what type sand you need is to match the original. A simple Acid Digestion on a sample of mortar will break down the binder and leave you with some fines and a pile of sand.
Let the sand dry after the acid digestion and you can match any building with a very close match. You can not guess at what is in a mix from 50 years ago. You will be just setting yourself and the homeowner for disappointment

Like gov contractor said, use the same sand that came out of the joint. Also depends on the size of the joint. There are so many variables. Like I asked before. You're a carpenter. What kind of nails do you use

Most of the re-pointing work done on these so called 9 billion homes we have most likely were pointed with beach sand (pointing sand) and straight up PC. 9.5 out of 10 guys aren't saw cutting and matching ingredients through investigative techniques, but rather, using flat slickers on mostly shallow joints and the richer mixes with fine sands are desired.
I know practically everyone in the business around here and this is the go to mix even though members here most likely puke in their lap when they read it, the mixes are extremely rich and creamy, e.g. 1 1/2:1 or 2:1.
Truth be told, this is not what were taught in the text books,... T's advise is accurate in terms of matching hardness and porosity, it's just with all the hard red brick and Portland base mortar mixes here, most guys just don't worry about.
Put that same mix on a Olde City butter brick job and watch it explode,...same mix on a 1940's hard red job and you'd be amazed at the results.
Best job however, IMO, is 3/4" depth saw-cut followed by concave jointing to match the original hardness and color - problem is, nobody want's to fork over 15/20 grand on your average size single unless the historical society is breathing down throat or for commercial projects that may have specifications and/or requirements.
See, it's pretty simple math if you will somewhat technical, somewhat moral. You certainly can't hurt the hard reds using softer mortars, but you can destroy a piece of history if it's lime mortar based or old soft brick and you're using rich PC mortar.
Now you just gotta figure out which is which and what you're actually able with to get away within the richer mortar spectrum.
Here's a job I did 25 years ago for a neighborhood client and was recently back to work on his neighbors house. I took these pictures last year to show some of the members here when this was a topic before...that not all richly Portland cement mixes fail but rather, perform exceedingly well at times.
No signs of any cracks, missing or delaminated pointing mortar, no substrate or original mortar softening, no brick spalling or damage any kind ...sorta looks like I did it recently actually.
So in conclusion, for those of you smarter than me,...(majority, i'm sure) these are my early teachings from a bunch of old employers full of hand down mixes and techniques and from my own perspective of over 30 years wingin it on the wall.
Let the puking match begin
Last pic is the house next door I most recently worked on - same brick only never re-pointed.

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Strong mixes are OK for some of the harder bricks.
One thing about using hard, non porous bricks and strong mortar for solid walls on houses is that they often allow more damp inside than softer bricks with a weaker mortar.
This is due to slight cracks developing in the bed joints which allow water to run inside.
Known as the overcoat/raincoat effect.

Hey Stuart. I was having this conversation to a degree this winter with another old timer mason. I mentioned to him that I think cored brick last longer then solid bricks. I thought it was because the cored bricks allowed for better evaporation, but it could be that they are not prone to what you have mentioned above.

Superseal. I don't think anyone is disputing the fact that on occasion a portland mix might be acceptable (although I seem to remember you saying that you mixed it and let it sit for an hour or 2 then remixed which would seriously lessen the strength of the mix) but that is for someone with experience to decide. You have a few decades of masonry experience under your belt. You know when to use a mix and when not to and how to prepare it and what sand etc... A carpenter coming here and asking for us to expound on our knowledge so he can go out and make money is something different.
There have been quite a few guys who come here asking for advice so they can do the best job possible on their house. I have no problem with that, but someone who is unknowledgeable and could go out and do more damage than if they hadn't done anything, and to someone elses house, and charge for it and then to have no answers when the damage does occur, that I have a problem with.
Besides the fact that I'm with Tscar. What in heck is yellow bar sand?

Hey Dom, Maybe you should take the "charge for it" or "money" issue up with the OP instead of with me. The guy is from my area and I gave him a pretty full perspective of his Isn't it what this forum is all about?
Never told him to use anything specific, did I? Nor, did I tell him it's the only way to do it,... just mentioned time honored, local techniques so he could be aware of what others in his area do in these situations.
In reading my post again, I see T's accurate advise honorary mention ,hence, no need to pick sides.,,,I see the words explode and destroy,...I see my preferred method spelled out and I also see my puke comment. This alone, should make anyone doing their 3D's,... (DO your own DUE DILIGENCE), aware of the red flags and controversy these type questions and topic create.
Plus Dom, we need job security in this country...if he screws up a few in his process, maybe I'll get the call to come back and fix'em
In the meantime, I wish the OP well in his journey for knowledge and greatly respect his desire to learn new tricks and trades,...especially the paste over re-pointing market. It's not what most masons agree is relaxing and fun work. Most suck at it as well and the detrimental effect's of sloppy work can harm and devalue just as fast as mortar selection
Oh BTW...The term bar sand is just local general sieved course masonry sand for use in brick and block work, stucco, stonework, stone pointing, etc...anything you don't want pebbles in.
We got local whites, yellow/tans and brown . Yellow is the least expensive in that graduation and is most commonly used and sold.
The three types my guy sells most of would be white beach, yellow bar and yellow concrete sand.

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dom-mas I wasnt being vague about what I am doing . I was asking a specific question for a specific kind of brick and asking an opinion. I am not an idiot and am a little talented with my hands, not that I am a mason by any means but I do my own block foundations for small additions.So I know I can handle some pointing and do a decent far as your remark about the " yellow bar sand" sorry if you never heard about that before but it very common here in Philly, common sand for brick laying. It seems to be a problem with you because I am a carpenter you mentioned it 2 or 3 times whats the issue with it? dont get it. Is it against the law. the best stone mason i know is an top rate carpenter also. Superseal is from my area he knew what i was talking about and(obviously knowledgable mason) and threw a curve ball at you so in return you "thought ' you would de-mean me. WRONG. Simple question ,simple answer . Thank you Superseal.Is the forum to help people or to pound your chest of how good you are and how much the next doesnt know?

Pheasant, this is a worldwide forum. If you ask a question and reference local jargon, it is going to be hard for anyone to assist. That is why there is such a thing as ASTM in the first place. It allows a specification written by someone in Philly to be able to be met by someone in Austin.
Looking at those three sands, the first is what we locally call sugar sand, and is normally graded too fine to use for anything but glass block mortar (1/4" joints) or finish plaster. The middle one looks like C-144 masonry sand, ours is reddish tan locally. The third is concrete sand, bedding sand, torpedo sand, stucco sand, and a million other local names but anywhere in the world is ASTM C897, "Standard Specification for Aggregate for Job mixed Portland Cement based Plasters".
As to your specific question, Take Superseal's advice as he is local and a professional.

I have no problem with anything that you wrote Super. I do have a problem with the OP and his charging for work that he isn't knowledgeable about.
To the Op, You say you can lay block. What does that have to do with pointing? You asked what in my opinion is a silly question. What sand should I use. If I came to the carpentry section and asked "I'm framing a shed for a customer, should I use 3 1/2" nails or 2" nails." Would you just answer the question with no problem? You then mention using just portland as a cement cause that's what someone told you to do. So do you know what you are doing or are you just doing what someone told you to do? Every wall is different and if you can't look at the mortar and come up with a judgement of what mortar to use or what sand to use then I don't think you should be doing the work. Or do the work but call in someone who has knowledge and can tell you what mix to use
Pointing with the wrong materials has been damaging masonry walls for the last 50 years. Maybe it works in Philly, maybe not I have no idea. What I do know is that until 5 minutes ago I had no idea what yellow bar sand is, or pointing sand. And really it makes no difference to me because I would use whichever sand was appropriate for the situation.

I am from the same area near Philly. I tend to use 3/1/1 for pointing. I am under the assumption lime adds some waterproofing capabilities. I am in agreement with the job dictates what morter to use. I like pointing sand over bar, locally. Not every yard around carries pointing sand or tries to give you pool sand and say it's pointing sand.
Superseal, I have "house pointed" my fair share of South Philly row homes. It's funny because it's the only time you ever use such a cement rich mix. It's the law of the land around here. People scoff at you when you suggest cutting out and repointing. How much is that gonna cost? Ok then we'll point over it.
Anyway this site is a little judgemental, just a little. So mr. carpenter, inbox me, give me a call. I'd be happy to get my hawk and slickers out and get on the wall.

I just got home from work and read this and to tell you the truth I have to really just laugh. Not just winging it,if winging it I would have just went to Home Depot and bought bags of mortar mix. I am trying to put together different things and mixes that I have seen through the years that have been done locally. Sorry to tell you this dom-mas but the actual pointing part is the easy part for me. Sorry if that puts you over the edge that I can be a carpenter and also point also. Am I in the twilight zone.And YES also make money doing it (even from a referel). dom-mas you should really lose your attitude because its really not to cool , I sense frustration and jealousy . All this from me asking a question.

A rough rule of thumb for repointing is to use almost the same mix as the existing, but a touch weaker.
This isn't always the case, as for example where the wrong mix was used in the build.
I worked on a property on the seafront where the joints had worn back an inch in less than 10 years. When the mortar was analysed it was found to be about 15-1 in places. Obviously in this case a much stronger mix would be needed for the repoint.
This chart is our guide for building mortars, but different climates will probably need something else.


You don't understand the point I've been trying to make. The pointing IS the easy part, anyone can do it, not everyone should do it. I don't care if you're a carpenter and want to do masonry. I just wish that you knew what you were doing before selling your services. I do some light carpentry work myself, so does Superseal, he does a lot of things and I have no problem with any of that. But it takes less than a paragraph of his writing to know that he knows what he's doing.
I've asked you a few times. What kind of nails do you use? You won't answer but I'm sure if you did it would be it depends. And if you don't know why it depends and when to use one and not the other then you shouldn't be doing the work. Frustration, yes. Frustrated that someone looks at pointing and how easy it is and thinks there is nothing to it. Get some cement and some sand and go at it. Looks good when i get my cheque right? Jealous? Not sure what of?
Use the sand that is appropriate for the job, how is that for an answer? it's the best one you can put in your book

So here's my question, what the hell is bar sand?

I always assumed the term bar, was from the term sand bar like you would find in the ocean.

I had never heard this term either, until I worked In philly. The project called for brown bar sand. Everybody had yellow but I had to search for brown. The brown is very course and more like the Northeast areas concrete sand then mortar sand

Number one maybe I didnt explain myself right. I have worked on probably over 100 plus homes brick pointing in my life since I was 15. My uncles were all bricklayers working for 2 major union outfits in the Philly area. And pointing was there (big weekend moonlighting work if not retaining walls all the brothers me and my cousin) which I would work with them every weekend but I liked carpentry better. I have also went partners with my last uncle on several pointing jobs before he stopped working all together at 78 a few years ago and also doing a few on my own. My question was the pointing sand which they did not use but I like better but mainly the mix. they always used 3-1 sand/portland so thats what i know . I am 48 and looking back at some houses done 30 years ago they are still in good shape. But recently everybody says that mix is no good too strong etc ,etc so I was just getting opinions. I have not a doubt in my mind my job is a professional job, quality and appearence. I also like to run the grinder over everything.Like I said only 1 type of pointing I am looking at , not stone ,historic brick etc.although I did work on that stuff too but would not feel confident or enjoy it. I am extremely busy with additions and kitchens . This is something I just like to do if it falls into place. Also from reading others post I wasn't wrong after the mix used around here after all. So again dom-mas I didnt say I was jumping into the masonry bus. just one aspect plus a little block work which I do which does get inspected by BI if your worried.

Sorry, didn't see the bar sand description.
Around here we have Mason Sand, I'm guessing it's 1/8" minus.
Then Concrete Sand /Manufactured Sand /Washed Sand. Has some pebbles I'm guessing are around 3/16".
What I thought Bar Sand was is something we would call Bank Run. Right out of the ground, not washed. I'm sure it's full of fines, but until they had screening plants it's all they used. Most still standing.

Look, sorry to have come down hard, it wasn't my intention. I just don't like it when people do work that they aren't familiar with, get paid to do it and don't have any answers for the HO when it goes bad down the road. I'm not saying this is you but the question asked mad it sound like you had no experience whatsoever and were just doing what you heard someone say to do. If your uncle has had success with something and can look back at work that he has done 50 years ago and the bricks are still in good shape, do what he did.
Masonry, is very peculiar to a geographic location. What works in Philly does NOT work here, I know that for sure. Even new brick pointed with a 3:1:12 which is a below grade structural type M mix, will blow apart in less than 10 years here, what sand you use will make no difference.
For the work you're doing I don't think the type of sand you use will have a huge effect on the overall outcome. The only rule I would go by is don't use a sand that you can't get at least 2 grains into a joint.

There are way too many burn marks on those joints from using normal jointer with white sand and cement....

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