ALL ABOUT TUCKPOINTING (REPOINTING)
Just about every violations list for an older home includes the need for tuckpointing. Yet, few people who are told to do this repair seem to know just what tuckpointing is, much less how to do it.
Well, tuckpointing is just a fancy word for replacing the mortar that has fallen out from around your bricks.- usually in the foundation, chimney, or porch steps.
It’s important to get this repair finished before winter, when ice conspires to tear your bricks further apart or as soon as spring comes. Mortar the main ingredient in tuckpointing, is the cement-type product that is used between bricks to hold them together and keep the weather out.
Over the years, it becomes soft or “rotten.” It then starts to fall out, a little at a time.
- The first step is to determine which areas need repair. Walk around your house and look for places where the mortar is missing, powdering, or not level with the rest of the mortar between the bricks. These are the areas that need work.
- Next, take an old screwdriver or smaller chisel and scrape out the loose mortar. If the remaining mortar still seems to be crumbling, you can stabilize it by applying a solution of one part concrete bonding additive to one part warm water. Brush it on with a “cheap” paintbrush the night before you start the work.
Before you begin tuckpointing, thoroughly soak the areas you are going to be repairing with a hose. (If you don’t get the bricks really wet, the water in the new mortar you put in will be sucked into the surrounding brickwork, leaving the mortar without adequate moisture to set properly.)
- take a sample of the old mortar joint to a masonry materials store and they will be able to help you match the color as close as possible, you may have to mix the colored portland cement and sand in a ratio of 2:1 (2 portions of sand:1 of cement) You can mix it in any kind of container – a wheelbarrow, a pail, an old dishpan. (Just wash it out thoroughly when you’re done to remove the leftover mortar.)
- Add water to the mix with a mason’s trowel, hoe or shovel to an oatmeal-like consistency: creamy, but not drippy.
Don’t mix a lot at one time, especially when you’re first learning to tuckpoint. When the mortar starts getting too stiff to use, throw it out. Don’t add water to it to try making it thinner again – you’ll create an improper mix, and the mortar will lose some of its strength.The main tools you’ll be using are a hawk and a tuckpointing trowel. A hawk is a flat board,
about 12” square, with a handle attached to the bottom. It’s used to carry some of the mortar right to the spot to be tuckpointed. (You can easily make your own hawk out of some spare wood pieces.) A bricklayer’s trowel (with a triangular blade) can be helpful in transferring a small amount of mortar from the container in which you’ve mixed it to the hawk. A tuckpointing trowel (sometimes called a joint trowel) is a flat piece of metal, approximately 1/2” wide, bent to fit into the brick joints.
If you place the hawk tightly against the wall you are working on, and right at the bottom of the joint, you can slide the mortar into the joint with the tuckpointing trowel for a nice, neat job.
- Pack the mortar in as much as you can. After it sets up for about ten minutes, you can then go over it again with the trowel to smooth it over. (This process is called “tooling.”) Since the depth of the mortar between the bricks can vary from house to house, according to the bricklaying style used, you’ll want to make sure that the replacement mortar matches the “look” of the original mortar around it.
Probably the most common question about tuckpointing is how to remove mortar that gets on the front of the bricks. No matter how careful you are, some is bound to get where it shouldn’t. And, once it dries, it will be there forever. (You’ve probably seen a house with the foundation bricks slopped up with mortar – not attractive at all!) A simple cleaning with a medium-stiff brush and a solution of one part muriatic acid to two parts water will remove that slopped mortar before it hardens, and will help to blend the color of the new mortar with the original.
Although this solution is an acid, you don’t have to be afraid of it. Just use rubber gloves and take care to avoid breathing in the fumes.
This is the only cleaning solution that will work to clean up the excess mortar With a little care and this follow-up cleaning, your tuckpointing job can look as good as a professional’s. It’s a job that almost anyone can do – it doesn’t require much physical labor and it doesn’t all have to be done at one time – but it will go a long way in preserving the brickwork of your house.