If you have a brick wall in your home that is mainly for decoration, and it is looking a bit grimy and aged, then you may be wondering how you can make it look fresh and new again. Work on structural brick should definitely be left to the pros, but if the wall is merely decorative, it's okay to do the work yourself. You'll want to follow these steps:
1. Get rid of any loose mortar.
You do not need to completely remove and replace all of the mortar. This would have to be done through a process called tuckpointing, but is too advanced for most DIY enthusiasts and is best left to a brick masonry service. What you do want to do, however, is ensure that any loose mortar is removed so it doesn't keep crumbling all over your floors. You can use a small chisel for this step. Feel for any loose mortar with your fingers, and then use the chisel to chip it away. Use a wire brush to remove any smaller remnants from the mortar.
2. Prepare and apply new mortar.
You can buy a bag of mortar mix at almost any home improvement store. Mix it according to the instructions on the package. Once your mortar is mixed, you can pack it between the bricks using a trowel. Put plenty into any areas where you chiseled away the old mortar. Put a thin coat over any remaining old mortar, too, so that all of the mortar appears to be the same color when you're done. It's often easiest to fill the vertical notches first, followed by the horizontal ones. You can use your fingers to smooth out the mortar if needed.
3. Clean up the bricks.
Mix about a cup of white vinegar into a pail of warm water. Use this mixture to wipe the faces of the bricks. This will remove any excess mortar remove any grime that has accumulated on the old bricks over the years. Make sure your towel is only moist instead of dripping with water.
4. Let it dry and apply a sealer.
Let the mortar and your wall in general dry for two to three days. A week is better if you can manage. Then, apply a brick sealer to the whole thing. This sealer should give the wall a matte finish. It will keep water from penetrating and make it easier to wipe the wall down and keep it clean over the years.
By following the steps above, you can make your decorative brick wall look new again.