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Tuckpointing Explained

Building exteriors regularly take a heavy beating from the elements. Snow, wind, rain, hail, and UV rays all cause wear that requires periodic maintenance. Whether you’re dealing with a school, office, apartment complex, or commercial building, tuckpointing is key to maintaining a building’s integrity—because ignoring crumbling mortar can lead to deterioration beyond repair.

Here’s what you need to know about tuckpointing and how it will save your building—and your budget—in the long run.

What is Tuckpointing?

Tuckpointing is the process of removing old, deteriorated, or cracked mortar between bricks and replacing it with new mortar. This practice plays a critical role in restoring and preserving the integrity of brickwork long-term, as the quality of the mortar between bricks plays a critical role in determining weight distribution across the building façade.

The practice also restores brickwork visually, to the extent that it may look brand new. While the main purpose of tuckpointing is to improve the structural integrity of the building façade, the improved building aesthetics present an added bonus.

When tuckpointing, your contractor should use the same type of mortar as the original application, or as close to a match as possible. This ensures optimal bonding and a cohesive visual appearance. They will also consider historic preservation, accessibility in tight spaces or high structures, and moisture control.

While the frequency of tuckpointing will depend on a building’s condition, age, and weather exposure, it’s a good idea to assess the structure every five years. You may only need work done every 15 years—but conducting maintenance at shorter intervals creates a consistent maintenance budget.

A contractor’s professional evaluation will help you determine the extent of the repairs needed. Costs will depend on the project size, the type of mortar, weather, height, accessibility, historic preservation, and the time of year.

The Benefits of Tuckpointing for Brickwork Restoration

While tuckpointing primarily addresses dangerous structural deterioration hazards, it also helps to manage water intrusion. Tuckpointing is critical to filling the spaces between bricks, stones, or blocks to prevent moisture infiltration.

When mortar is in poor condition, capillary action in the bricks pulls moisture into cracks. This eventually leads to mold growth on interior walls, rotting, and leaks. In most cases, you’ll only notice these issues once severe damage has already occurred.

Tuckpointing is a key defense against mold and water damage. It also significantly improves weather resistance, protecting your property for the long run.

As mentioned earlier, another benefit of tuckpointing is its restoration of the building’s original aesthetic appeal, contributing to higher property value. A lived-in, historic structure is always charming—but dilapidated, crumbling brickwork is an eyesore. With a keen eye for aesthetic considerations, tuckpointing prevents mortar erosion by returning a building to its former glory.

restored brickwork with tuckpointing

Signs That Your Brickwork Needs Tuckpointing

If you’re wondering whether it’s time for tuckpointing, there are a few telltale signs that flag an imminent need for brickwork maintenance. Common signs of damage and deterioration include:

  • Flaking or peeling mortar
  • Mortar separating from bricks
  • Cracks
  • Crumbling
  • A change in mortar color—this often happens as it deteriorates

While water infiltration and leaks are also clear signs that the mortar needs repair, at that point it may be too late for a simple fix. If rot and mold have already developed, you will need more than tuckpointing to repair the damage. Remember that if the mortar is not strong enough to hold itself together, it certainly cannot hold masonry in place and will quickly become a safety issue.

If it’s been a number of years since the last round of brickwork maintenance, there is a simple way to test the mortar on your building. Drag a key or other sharp object across the mortar joints; if it scratches up powdered material, you’re a candidate for maintenance work. Healthy masonry should not scratch at all.

The Tuckpointing Process

Before starting any work, a masonry contractor should always assess accessibility to the work area and any structural or external safety hazards. Once safety measures are in place, the team will begin surface preparation. Let’s review what to expect from your contractor’s tuckpointing practice.

Step 1: Brickwork Preparation

First, the masonry contractor team will prep the area for work. They’ll inspect and remove any loose, cracked, or deteriorated mortar; workers then use an angle grinder to cut the mortar to a depth of at least 6mm.

Once the cutting is complete, the joints are cleaned thoroughly with either a pressure cleaner or wire brush to remove dust and ensure a dirt-free surface. This is necessary for new mortar to bond correctly.

The area will be left to dry completely before performing any further work.

Step 2: Application

Once the targeted area is prepped for work, the masonry team spreads mortar mix into the joints, filling the depth completely with a trowel. It’s key to have this done by a skilled professional, since filling the joints too quickly or unevenly can lead to air pockets and weaken the repair.

Once the mortar is fully applied, the contractor will use a pointing tool to create a concave or flat surface matching the neighboring joints.

Step 3: Cure and Clean

The mortar needs to set for at least 24 hours before cleaning starts. Once fully dry, the team will start cleaning the area and removing excess residue. Sometimes, your contractor might apply lime putty or a sealant to further protect joints from weathering.

restored brick wall

Hire a Tuckpointing Professional Today

Tuckpointing is essential to maintaining the integrity and aesthetic value of your building. The job requires high-quality tools, adequate surface preparation, patience, precision, and adequate knowledge about the materials best for every unique building structure. That’s where Kent Companies comes in.

At Kent Companies, we pride ourselves as leaders in all things concrete. Serving West Michigan for over 65 years, we go beyond just surface-level reconditioning. We aim to retain the historical integrity of all structures while enhancing strength and building aesthetics.

Regardless of the size of your job, we’re here to enhance the safety and longevity of your structure—so get in touch with our experts for an assessment today.