Quick And Easy Tuckpointing

Also known as pointing or repointing, tuckpointing is an essential part of maintenance for brick work.  Tuckpointing is the process of repairing mortar joints between bricks.  This is important because without a proper seal water will get into the space between the mortar and bricks causing cracking of brick or bricks to pop off the brick face (this is known as spalling). Without repair, this water damage will eventually lead to failure of the entire structure.

The term tuck pointing comes simply from the act of tucking mortar into the joint with a pointing trowel.  It is not a terribly difficult process but does require a certain amount of patience.  Matching the fresh mortar with the original mortar is often the hardest part.

Several tools are necessary:

  • Mortar Mix (and pigment if necessary)
  • Chisel
  • Heavy Hammer
  • Stiff Bristled Brush
  • Mortar Hawk (a brick trowel will work well, or you can make your own by fastening a 2x2 perpendicularly to an 8"x12" piece of plywood)
  • Joint Strike
  • Work Gloves
  • Eye Protection

The first step in repairing mortar is to clear out all loose mortar and a small bit of the adjacent mortar down to 3/4" or 1".  Begin by placing your chisel at the edge of the brick and work towards the center of the mortar joint.  Be very careful not to drive your chisel towards the brick or you may crack the brick face.

Second, the mortar must be mixed.  Older homes used mortar with a lower cement ratio than is present in modern ready-mix mortar.  For small repairs this is not important, but for larger projects you may wish to consult a masonry supply house to find the proper mixture.  Using a liquid latex binder will help to reduce cracking and shrinking.  Follow mixing instructions using clean water.  Mortar should be mixed to a frosting like consistency; you should be able to slice portions off using your trowel.

The third step is filling the joints with mortar and blending with the surrounding structure.  There are several steps involved:  

  • First, load your mortar hawk with fresh mortar.  Filling horizontal joints with mortar is best achieved by holding the hawk just under the joint to be filled and using the tip of a pointing trowel to pack the open joint.
    • It is important not to allow mortar to smudge the face of the brick, so use caution.
  • Scrape any extra mortar so it is flush with the face of the brick.
  • Vertical joints are a little more difficult.  For best results use a smaller amount of mortar at a time, again using the tip of the trowel to scoop and pack mortar into the joint.
  • Use a joint strike tool to strike the joints when the mortar begins to stiffen.  Start with the vertical joints first, then the horizontal joints.

The fourth and final step is very important.  The mortar must be kept damp in order to cure properly.  This can be achieved by misting the repair lightly with water for three days.  Covering with a plastic sheet will also help to retain moisture in dryer climates.

Proper maintenance will keep your brick work beautiful and strong for years to come. Talk to experts like Hart Restoration Group for more information.