What Is Messy Mortar for a Brick Home and Why Is It So Popular?

A double front entry way with mahogany doors with glass inserts and copper gas lanterns on each side with red brick exterior and messy mortar and bluestone tile floor.

(Handcrafted collection Andersonville brick from Cherokee Brick with messy mortar style for a large Southern manor.)

If you aren’t in the construction business, you may not have ever thought much about mortar. It’s just the stuff between bricks that holds it all together. Seems pretty straightforward, right?

But there are quite a few different styles of mortar. And even different colors.

When you are planning your dream home, it’s something to consider. What type of mortar do you want to use if you are building a brick home?

In this post, we’ll explore the most common mortar styles: beaded/convex, concave, extruded/weeping, flush, grapevine, messy, raked, V/vee, and weathered/weather struck.

We especially want to focus on messy mortar and why it is gaining so much popularity for luxury homes.

Blue Slate Patio Leading To Front Porch Of Large Brick House 1

(Messy mortar style luxury home – view of the front porch and blue slate patio leading up to it.)

Some of the most popular brick mortar joint styles

Wondering which brick mortar styles you could have for your new home? Here are the main types along with their advantages and disadvantages.

Beaded Mortar Joints In A Brick Wall That Is Painted Red

(Brick wall with a beaded mortar joint/convex mortar joint with a coat of red paint.)

Beaded mortar joint/convex joint

A beaded mortar joint is slightly rounded out from the surface of the brick. So if you were to hold your hand flat and run it along the brick wall, you could feel the mortar. A beaded or convex joint can look very interesting and create dramatic shadows. It has a vintage or formal look but is best used for interior walls.

The mortar stands out a lot more than with a concave joint, like the cream frosting just beginning to bulge out in a homemade oatmeal cookie sandwich.

The disadvantages of beaded joints are that it requires a lot more time and experience to create this effect and they are not very water-resistant. Water tends to cling to the bottom ledge of the mortar, which could create increased weathering or deterioration for the lower brick and leads to weakened mortar, as well.

Red Brick Wall With Concave Mortar Joints

(A typical concave mortar joint between bricks.)

Concave mortar joint

This is the most common of all the mortar joint types — largely because it is the best at preventing water from accumulating and causing moisture problems for the brick or mortar in the wall. In other words, it is very durable.

A concave mortar joint is made by shaping the mortar with a rounded tool when it is still wet, creating a slightly curved surface that curves inward in the center of the mortar joint.

A concave joint looks like the ice cream in an ice cream sandwich on a summer day after you run your tongue through the ice cream part all the way around.

There really aren’t any disadvantages to this look, other than if you prefer a different aesthetic. It works great for interior or exterior walls.

Extruded mortar or weeping mortar on a fence outside of a popular restaurant in Myrtle Beach, SC.

(Extruded mortar joints or weeping joints on a red brick fence.)

Extruded mortar joint/weeping mortar

Weeping mortar brick involves applying a very large amount of mortar when laying the brick, but then not scraping or molding the mortar after it squishes out between the bricks. No tools are used.

The effect is a lot like when you squish a melting ice cream sandwich.

Homes with weeping mortar tend to look like they are from the English Tudor-style or Swiss cottages from the Old World.

Many times, when people are renovating an old brick building, they find walls that look like this that were not intended to be seen, so the mortar was never cleaned up. It was left looking “sloppy” or like it is “weeping.” Today, a lot of people intentionally choose the extruded look and like to leave it exposed or create it from scratch because of the interesting texture and appearance.

Weeping mortar can allow for moisture problems, though. So it is important to research this option carefully before committing to it. And only use an experienced mason who knows the best way to do this and maintain the durability of your home.

Brick wall with two sizes of bricks and flush mortar joint.

(A brick wall with flush mortar joints and different lengths of bricks.)

Flush mortar joint

With a flush mortar joint, the mortar is flat, in appearance, and even with the surface of the brick. It is perfectly fine to use this application for an interior wall.

The advantages of a flush mortar joint are that the mortar is a lot more prominent-looking when it is flush with the brick, if you prefer that look, and the wall is essentially flat.

However, a flush joint style only works well for exterior walls if the exterior wall will be plastered or painted. If the mortar remains exposed, the joint may be subject to water issues.

Grapevine mortar joint

A grapevine mortar joint almost looks like a flush joint except that a metal tool with a raised bead is used to create an indented line in the center of the mortar. The line is usually rather wavy, resembling a grapevine look.

This decorative look was popular during the Colonial period in the United States and people like to use it today for an antique aesthetic.

This joint type can be used for exterior walls but is not as water-resistant as a concave or V joint.

Messy Mortar Brick Fireplace And Wood Fire 1

(Messy mortar brick fireplace on the back porch.)

Messy brick mortar joint/sloppy mortar joint

To create a messy mortar joint, the process involves adding a generous amount of wet mortar during the bricklaying process. Then some of the mortar is scraped off, but the brick is not wiped clean.

This creates more prominent mortar joints and sometimes some irregularity and smudges so that it doesn’t look perfectly neat and orderly.

The advantages of messy mortar are that it can be used for interior or exterior walls and doesn’t require any special maintenance. Many people adore the aesthetics of this look.

A disadvantage of messy mortar is that while some people love it, others prefer a more “finished” or “clean” look.

Brown brick wall with recessed mortar joints.

(A recessed joint on the facade of a commercial building.)

Raked mortar joint/recessed joint

The mortar has a flat surface, but it is indented about 2mm deeper than the surface of the brick (for a raked joint) or 2-5mm deeper for a recessed joint so that the brick seems to stick out from the mortar work.

The effect is similar to the way that an Oreo cookie looks from the side if you imagine the cookies being the bricks and the frosting being the mortar, without the rounded appearance, of course.

The look accents the brick and the horizontal and vertical lines of the brickwork.

But be sure to consider the weathering issue whenever you choose a mortar joint with a ledge where water could pool and cause damage.

V joint/vee joint

V joint brick mortar is created with a tool that has a sharp point rather than a rounded tool, like we use to create a common concave joint. The effect looks beautiful and dramatic.

And, thankfully, V joint brickwork is almost as water-resistant as a concave joint. So there really isn’t a big disadvantage to this style.

Weathered joint/weather struck joint

A weathered mortar joint involves using a tool to scrape out the mortar during the bricklaying process a few millimeters under the top brick at a 45-degree angle until the mortar lines up flush at the bottom of the joint with the lower brick.

This effect can create interesting shadows and is considered to be very decorative. It’s best to use it on interior walls where water penetration won’t be a problem. This type of joint is not that water-resistant and the mortar is less compact, so it may require more maintenance and is not recommended, generally, for exterior walls.

Large Southern Manor All Brick Front Exterior View 1

(A view of the entire brick manor shows what messy mortar style looks like from a distance.)

Why do so many people want messy mortar in 2022?

Concave is the “normal” mortar style that most people will recognize as traditional over the past few decades. It looks clean, neat, and orderly. It has been immensely popular for generations.

So why would people choose messy mortar or sloppy mortar? It goes along with the desire many luxury homeowners have to add more character and charm to their homes. New homes are wonderful and most new homeowners want the latest and greatest in technology and materials for their homes.

But some people also desire a sense of weathering and history rather than everything being “sterile,” squeaky clean, and perfect. They want something uniquely theirs. Not a cookie cutter home.

Often, homes with messy mortar will also have reclaimed wood ceiling beams, tumbled natural stone, distressed effects, and other touches that bring in a sense of rustic beauty. It’s perfect for a Craftsman-style home or Farmhouse decor. It also mixes well with an Industrial look and other types of architecture and decor where weathering is valued.

Craftsman Home With Welcoming Front Door And Transom Window

(Red brick with limewash on a Modern Craftsman home.)

Other brick effects

To find out about more dramatic effects you can create with brick houses, check out our post “What Is German Schmear for Brick VS Mortar Wash VS Limewash?” This post explores using mortar in even more prominent ways, limewash, and brick staining.

Or, look into painting brick with our post, “Should You Paint Your Brick House?

Looking for a SC Home Builder Who Can Do Messy Mortar?

We have skilled masonry professionals who can accomplish the messy mortar of your dreams. Or, if you prefer a simple concave mortar joint, we can certainly accommodate your wishes, as well.

Lee Blythe is a Certified Master Builder with over 100 luxury homes under his belt. If you are interested in building a new custom home or finding a spec home, in Lexington, SC or the Greater Columbia area, we hope you’ll look into our work.

Please contact us today to get started!

We build in areas like Lake Murray, Lexington, West Columbia, Pine Ridge, Lake Carolina, downtown Columbia, and more.

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