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I have about 500 bricks to cleanup so I can reuse them, the mortar is old and the bricks are soft clay.

What is the best way to remove the mortar and how much time should I allow?

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"very very carefully" ;) Hopefully it's proper mortar, so softer than the bricks. But do assume you will have a loss rate...a few of your bricks won't survive. –  DA01 Jan 13 '12 at 17:37
    
@DA01, I think most of the mortar is about 80 years old (this is not an old house so I don’t think it will be lime) and it seems reasonably soft. But it does not come of cleaner when hit, it may be a bit too soft to remove with ease. –  Walker Jan 15 '12 at 21:23
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2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

There's two ways off hand that I've used in the past -- knock it off with a chipping hammer, or grind it off using an angle grinder and disk. The chipping hammer is actually easiest because you don't spend time fighting the tool or securing the work piece. Have a stiff wire brush on hand to remove the final bits and pieces that the chipping hammer doesn't get.

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Although, as DA01 noted in the comments, it depends on how hard the bricks and the mortar are. I've had it come off pretty easily with one set of bricks, and not really at all for a different set. We chipped the mortar off. –  thursdaysgeek Jan 13 '12 at 22:21
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Get a small axe and using the thick end, hold the brick and just tap it. The mortar will come off in one go on that side. Hold the brick though, don't rest it on the ground. This way took me less than a hour to do all my old bricks.

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Why does holding the brick make a difference vs. putting it on the ground? –  Niall C. Apr 7 at 14:24
    
@NiallC. - so you can get man hands! –  DMoore Apr 9 at 16:22
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