I'm trying to find a good sand that matches the mortar that I have in our house right now. I live in Chicago.

The house is 30+ years old and as I look at the existing mortar, I see that it has large grains that are pretty diverse in color - whites, blues, reds, pinks, tans, etc. The grains in the mortar also seem to be fairly large.

In order to find an appropriate sand, I've gone to some construction material stores as well as some big box stores. The best sand I've found so far is a Quikrete masonry sand.

I spoke to a guy at the construction material store that seemed to know about concrete and mortar and according to him, the sample of mortar that I brought him seemed "washed out" which is why the large grain sand was showing up. Over time the smaller grained sand washed away exposing a large number of the larger grains that managed to hold on.

Should I be trying to match the large grain size sand? The Quikrete stuff seems pretty close however my "test" mixtures don't have that "washed out" quality. It's just nice, fresh mortar.

I also have this color powder that I add as I'm mixing the mortar. How long should I wait for it to harden in order to get a sample? Are 24 hours enough? Would a hairdryer be an appropriate way to speed this up?

  • 5
    A hairdryer is utterly inappropriate. Masonry (mortar, cement, etc.) CURES (it forms crystals) to harden. Water is required for this process. People incorrectly call this "drying" but if, in fact, the material is "dried" it will be very weak and fall apart...steam, on the other hand, works dandy.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jul 17, 2014 at 0:43
  • 1
    Good question. All I can say is I know exactly what you are talking about without seeing a picture - have seen it at least 5-6 times. And also thankful I have never had to duplicate it. But if I talk to my brick guy in the next few days will try to ask him.
    – DMoore
    Jul 17, 2014 at 13:28
  • 1
    Recommended approach for antique mortar is actually to take a sample and send it to a lab, since it's important to match the strength of the mortar with the strength of the brick. But I'm guessing that your place is new enough that this is standardized.
    – keshlam
    Jul 17, 2014 at 13:43


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