After examination, the next step is cutting away the old mortar. The old mortar is removed to a depth equal to or slightly more than the width of the joint, or to the point where sound mortar is reached. Removal of old mortar between joints is done carefully to avoid damage to masonry units. On buildings with soft materials, such as under-fired brick, lime mortar, or terra cotta, removal by hand is often the most effective to avoid damage. Hard Portland cement mortar is usually removed with a grinder or power circular masonry blade, taking care not to damage the masonry units. Vertical joints or thin joints are done by hand or with small power chisels.
There are different ways to lay the mortar close to the edge of the brick. Some contractors bring the mortar to the very edge, flush with the face of the brick. Others leave it recessed back to allow water to shed off the building. There are three types of recessed mortar: bucket handle, weather struck, and simply recessed. The bucket handle is when the mortar is in a curve shape away from the face of the brick. Weather struck is when the mortar starts close to the bottom brick and recesses back as it goes up towards the upper brick. The third, recessed, is when the mortar sits back from the face of the brick. At the end of the day it all depends on the preference of the client