Brick Sidewalk Repair
by Gary Kleier

One of the problems / advantages of brick sidewalks is that they can move. It is a problem because they can become a tripping hazard. It is an advantage because, unlike concrete, brick is easy to repair. Believe me, this is not rocket science. By the time you finish reading this short article, you will be ready to tackle your first repair job with confidence.

The first things are the tools. Figure 1 shows several basic things that will make life a little easier. From the left:

If you need to cut brick, and you probably will not, you may want to purchase a masonry blade for your circular saw. These are relatively expensive and I don't recommend it unless you really think you must have it. Like I said, you will probably not need it.

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3

Figure 3
   shows a section of sidewalk that has been pushed up by a tree root. The bricks are displaced about 1/2" upward and present a tripping hazard. The first step is the most difficult; get that first brick out. That is where the margin trowel or something similar is very handy. Work it into the head joint (the short joint) at one end of a brick and lift up. It will not come all the way. You will have to go to the other end of the brick and repeat the process until you work it out. Then it is relatively easy to remove the remainder of the brick.

Figure 4

Figure 4

Remove enough brick to completely expose the offending root and cut it off. If your problem is that there is a depression in the walkway, remove all of the brick within the depression. 

In the process of doing all of this, you have disturbed the sand or gravel bead on which the brick rest. The next thing to do is smooth out the sand (add more if you need it) and compact it tightly. Use the flat side of one of the bricks you removed and smack the sand to compact it. If you don't, the bricks will settle and you will be doing this all over again.

Figure 5

Figure 5

The next step sounds easy, but you might be surprised. Replace the bricks. Somehow, they just never want to go back the way the came out. Here are some tips:

Figure 6

Figure 6 

The last, but equally important step, is to fill the joints between the bricks with sand. If the area is relatively small, I like to begin by working the sand in by hand. This will usually get much more sand into the joints than just sweeping with a broom. Make sure you remove the loose sand from the sidewalk to keep people from slipping.

In a day or two the original sand will settle and it will be necessary to sweep more sand into the cracks. 

By the way, Jed Johnson, my volunteer for this exercise, completed the work from beginning to end in 20 minutes.

If. After reading this article you have the desire to install your own brick paving, I suggest you read my article on that subject here on the Old Louisville Web site. You can also find great information at the Brick Institute of America web site.


2000-2002 Gary Kleier,

Webmaster's note:
Gary Kleier is our resident Old Louisville Architectural Conservator.  He lives on Floral Terrace and is one of those folks who was instrumental in the landscaping and beautification of that little jewel of a walking court between Sixth and Seventh Streets.  Gary specializes in restoration architecture and architectural forensic services and has a wide range of  talents which are described on his own web site at  You can reach Gary by email at

Other articles in this series:

Brick Structures - Oh What Damage We Do Inflict "The most deadly enemy is man and what he does in the name of maintenance and rehabilitation."

The Vinyl Lie  "Every day unsuspecting owners of historic homes, believing they are actually making an investment in their home, succumb to the vicious lies of an unscrupulous industry....."

A True Story  "The next time you are thinking about doing something to your "old" house, think about this true story."

Brick Sidewalk Repair  A quick primer on repairing your brick walkways.

Brick or Concrete?  An illustrated discussion on the advantages of both brick and concrete sidewalks.  You decide.


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