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All of us have surely heard the children’s story of the three little pigs. The third little pig built his house with brick and mortar, which kept his brothers and him safe from the huffing and puffing wolf. Considering brick cladding looks really great as well, it is no wonder that a lot of people prefer that finish for interior and exterior walls, fireplaces as well as chimneys.
However, while bricks may last a long time, the same cannot be said about the mortar used to fill the joints. When mortar deteriorates, the process of cosmetically improving the appearance of masonry is called tuckpointing.
How does tuckpointing work?
With time, mortar tends to wear out and deteriorate. When this happens, a portion of the mortar is removed and a fresh layer of mortar similar in color to the bricks is applied. Then, a thin line of putty of a contrasting color is applied down the center of the joint, creating the illusion of well-maintained and narrow joints.
Tuckpointing works especially well on buildings such as historical brick homes. This allows homeowners to retain the original look and feel of thin joints.
What causes mortar damage?
While bricks may outlast us, mortar has a lifespan of around 25 to 30 years. A lot of factors contribute to why mortar breaks down after a while. One such factor is pressure due to the weight of the bricks above it. Poor craftsmanship at the time of installation is another probable cause, as is constant exposure to extreme weather conditions.
Irrespective of the reason, it is prudent for homeowners to address the situation before the mortar completely deteriorates, because that could lead to damaging the integrity of the brick masonry structure itself, eventually causing it to collapse.
Tuckpointing and repointing
A lot of people use repointing and tuckpointing as synonyms. However, there are aesthetical differences between the two.
The space between bricks on a brick structure is called joints. Filling up this space with mortar on a new structure is what construction professionals call pointing.
The similarity between the two is that both involve replacing old and damaged mortar with a fresh layer of mortar. However, with repointing, you do not apply lime mortar putty to the mortar joints of brickwork.
These contrasting color lime putty lines along mortar joints are also known as fillets.
Since tuck pointing considers aspects like matching brick color and creating the illusion of straight lines thanks to the putty lines, a lot of homeowners prefer it in comparison to repointing.
Is it a DIY activity?
One of the easiest ways for homeowners to save money on home renovations is to make DIY projects out of as many things as possible. In our opinion, tuckpointing a brick wall is a very labor-intensive job best left to professionals with the skills and experience to do a neat job. A professional tuckpointing project will cost you between $9 and $15 per square foot.
However, if you do want to still try and do it yourself, the cost of mortar and lime putty is around $1 per square foot, and you ought to be able to rent out all the tools you need for under $45.
Here’s a quick look at the process tuckpointing involves.
- Use an angle grinder to remove around an inch of old mortar. Alternatively, you could also do this using a hammer and a chisel. Be sure to use a respirator mask so you do not breathe in the dust generated by the grinding.
- Use a high-pressure nozzle or a masonry brush to remove debris and dust from the joints.
- Mix the new mortar to match the existing brick color.
- Starting off with the horizontal joints, fill in the ground-out joints with the new mortar.
- Depending on the look you want, smoothen the wet mortar to resemble a flat surface or a slightly indented curve.
- Scrape a straight line in the center of the newly filled joints. You can use a tuckpointing tool and a straightedge once the mortar starts hardening but is still a little pliable.
- Apply lime putty to these masonry lines to form contrasting fillets. Finally, use a putty knife and straightedge to cut away the excess to form uniform contrasting lines.