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What mortar blends are available?

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There are two blends of mortar commonly used in between the brick and stonework. The main difference is the type of binder they use. There are two blends of mortar commonly used in between brick and stonework. The main difference is the type of binder they use.

Lime-based mortar

Prior to 1925 the binder used in mortar mixes was lime. Most traditional buildings have a lime-based mortar. Lime based mortars are softer and easier to remove - they tend to crumble when scraped. Because lime mortar is so soft and crumbles so easily the process of mortar raking creates a lot of dust. As a result using a dust extraction unit will be a must when using a mortar rake on lime-based mortar. Prior to 1925, the binder used in mortar mixes was lime and most traditional buildings have a lime-based mortar.

Lime based mortars are softer and easier to remove as they tend to crumble when scraped.

Because lime mortar is so soft and crumbles so easily, the process of mortar raking creates a lot of dust. As a result, using a dust extraction unit is a must when using a mortar rake on lime-based mortar!

Portland cement-based mortar

After World War Two, mortar often contained Portland cement as its binding agent. Portland cement dries much quicker than lime-based mortar and does not let water in.

However, Portland cement is a hard mortar and will be much more labour intensive to remove.

If you are removing Portland cement based mortar, you may need to use a drill with a mortar / masonry bit first, in order to make a hole in the mortar into which you can place the mortar rake to start.

You can also buy mortar rakes with a hardened and pointed tip that are incredibly strong, and as a result can plunge straight into the mortar.

Is it lime-based or Portland mortar?

If you scrape some of the mortar away with a chisel you will be able to tell which type of binder was used in it: If the mortar crumbles easily it will be a lime-based mortar. Whereas if its difficult to remove it will have a Portland cement base. If you tap some of the mortar away with a chisel you will be able to tell which type of binder was used in it:

If the mortar crumbles easily, it will be a lime-based mortar, whereas if it’s difficult to remove it will have a Portland cement base.

Should I use a fluted or gritted mortar rake?

When to use a fluted or gritted mortar rake ? Many agree that the choice between using either a gritted or a fluted mortar rake comes down to personal preference.

However, due to the strength of Portland cement mortar it may prove beneficial to use a mortar rake that has a solid shank and cutting / grinding section. A solid shank will exert more force and may withstand greater pressure from the mortar.

Using a mortar rake with a solid tungsten carbide or carbide cutting / grinding area will be stronger than one that’s just coated in these materials.