With today’s easy-to-manage materials, such as laminates, engineered wood, and engineered stone, brick can seem like a positively archaic material. In fact, as fewer brick fireplaces and chimneys are being built, working with brick can feel like a lost art, and efforts to cut brick or drill into it might feel intimidating. But working with brick does not have to be difficult. With determination and only a few basic tools, you can cut into installed brick with flawless results.
Excising a single brick while leaving surrounding brick intact and in good shape is often required when a single brick is damaged or stained, a fireplace needs to be refurbished, or a portion of a brick wall or the brick itself needs to be removed to install mechanicals, such a vent, an electrical outlet, or a plumbing pipe.
5 Methods of Cutting Bricks
There are several methods of cutting out a brick for removal. Each has pros and cons.
- A circular saw fitted with a masonry blade will cut both brick and mortar, producing clean lines, but with a great amount of debris.
- An angle grinder with a masonry wheel also will cut through both the brick and the mortar and allows for tighter angles. However, debris blow-back is significant.
- A reciprocating saw with a masonry cutting blade can cut relatively straight lines when the saw is held firmly. But while reciprocating saws allow for plunge cuts in materials like drywall, they don’t work so well for masonry walls.
- A high-quality multi-tool equipped with a masonry attachment does allow for plunge cuts and can be a good way to get the cut started.
- Cutting out the brick manually with a masonry chisel and a drill takes patience but offers finer control of the process.
Manually Cutting Installed Brick
The secret to removing a complete brick from a brick wall or brick fireplace is in cutting the surrounding mortar. Dried and set mortar is softer than brick and it cuts away in a predictable fashion. Once the mortar is removed, the entire brick extracts quite easily. However, if your goal is to remove only a portion of the brick, you must remove the mortar as well as sever the brick in a clean line, all without causing the brick to crumble into little pieces.
Make sure to use a genuine masonry chisel. Neither a wood chisel nor a cold chisel (designed for metal) is appropriate for this job. Using either runs the risk of shattering the tool and potentially sending metal fragments flying. A masonry chisel is typically a heavier chisel with a more blunt cutting edge designed for breaking mortar, stone, and brick.
When manually cutting out a brick or into a brick, take safety precautions by wearing safety glasses, hearing protection, and thick gloves. Drilling into brick produces a lot of dust, so also wear a dust mask. Be patient and go slow.
Source: The Spruce