Pointing, Repointing, & Tuckpointing

Pointing, Repointing, and Tuckpointing are all interchangeable terms used to describe the maintenance of brick masonry. Unfortunately, these labels have brought confusion to the masonry industry as the meaning of each term slightly differs from region to region. One area of the country may define pointing, repointing, and tuckpointing in a certain regard while another area of the country views it in a totally different fashion. This perplexity has resulted in job specification conflicts and unexpected repair outcomes. Thus, the following definitions have been developed to avoid further complications:

- Pointing: the job of correcting joint defects or filling in newly laid joint masonry with plastic mortar.

- Repointing: the job of correcting defective cut or raked joint masonry with plastic mortar.

- Tuckpointing: the job of approximating the color of a masonry joint unit with flush mortar as well as approximating a contrasting mortar color that is shaped into a thin strip.

So, why Repoint? Pointing, Repointing, and Tuckpointing are all common methods utilized in the world of brick masonry as mortar joint maintenance/repair is in constant need. Mortar joint longevity greatly depends on the original mortar material quality and brick exposure conditions. The average lifespan of a quality made mortar joint is around twenty five years. Brick, on the other hand, has the potential to last well over one hundred years. However, the occasional brick repair of mortar joints should be expected. The most common reason for Repoint repair in brick masonry work is to improve water penetration resistance. When deteriorated mortar joints are Repointed, one can expect a major decrease in water entry as the debonded areas of the brickwork will now be sealed once again.

Where to Repoint? Spotting an area of wall in need of Repointing is a critical step in brick repair. Repointing should only be performed on defective joints as the process is extremely lengthy and labor-intensive. Mortar joints that have never been previously repaired will accept the process of Repointing more easily. There are four brick conditions that could possibly indicate the need of Repointing. Mortar erosion of over six millimeters is the first indicating condition. Crumbling mortar is the second indicating condition. Hairline cracks found within mortar is the third indicating condition and lastly, larger cracks found where the brick and mortar conjoin is the fourth indicating condition. Beyond visual observation, one can utilize a metal tool and lightly scrape where deterioration is detected to see if the wall crumbles, cracks, or spalls to determine if it is in need of repair. Older buildings may need to be cleaned with a moderate amount of water pressure in order to properly evaluate the condition of its mortar joints (this process is not to clean the building but simply remove enough dirt to view the mortar joints, no chemicals should be utilized).

How to find a quality Repointer? Perhaps the most important step of a successful Repointing process is finding a highly skilled Repointing craftsman, also known as a Repointer. Becoming a Repointer is quite the feat and not just any quality mason worker/bricklayer can do the job. We highly recommend sampling a Repointers work prior to hiring him or her for the job. You will want to consider the craftsman's cutting capabilities, proper depth/profile filling with minimal to no damage on the adjacent brick units, proper repointing preparation techniques, proper mortar placement/layering, and accurate color matching to the original mortar joints. Cleanliness is also a key factor when Repointing. You should not have to extensively clean a wall that has just been Repointed by a professional.

The Brick Institute of America recommends assessing masonry work regularly to see if any Repointing is required. Repointing, Pointing, and Tuckpointing are all necessary methods to keep brick structures in tact. Only a skilled craftsman should be trusted to judge these structures. When a structure is considered historical, architectural, cultural, or artistic - guidance from a preservation specialist is needed.