What Is The Difference Between Repointing and Tuckpointing

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What Is The Difference Between Repointing and Tuckpointing

The Difference Between Repointing and Tuckpointing 

Brick masonry can stand the test of time and is some of the most solid construction material you can find. However, you still need to maintain and care for it.  A sturdy brick wall can last for one hundred years without any repairs; however, mortar joints cab begins to show signs of wear after 20 to 30 years. If mortar joints are crumbly or showing signs of disrepair, they must be repaired right away to prolong the strength of the masonry structure.

Although they don’t mean the same thing, the words tuckpointing and repointing are typically used interchangeably in the masonry industry. Obviously, this can lead to some confusion. It is important to understand the difference between the two terms and what they mean for both professionals in the industry and their clients.

The methods have subtle differences, even though repointing and tuckpointing both involve adding new mortar joints to a brick structure.  As a homeowner, if you find your chimney or wall has some mortar damage and needs repair, you need to determine whether tuckpointing or repointing work is needed to address the problem.  Or even better, call in a professional to help you assess the issue!

Repointing is the process of removing damaged mortar joints and renewing them. Tuckpointing is quite similar but is not always completed for damage control. Tuckpointing by definition is a style that uses two different colors of mortar to alter the appearance of mortar joints, this is an important distinction. 

What Is Repointing?

Repointing involves actually repairing joints on brickwork that have crumbled or been damaged. Mortar joints are very important because they are required to support the structure. When mortar joints are damaged, it is easy for water and moisture to seep into the brickwork. Over time any exposed areas will erode away. To prevent further harm, repointing is used to reseal mortar joints. To ensure you prevent any further damage, repointing is performed to reseal mortar joints.

What Is Tuckpointing?

Exposure to moisture, along with repeated freezing and thawing causes mortar joints between bricks to crack thus making your home susceptible to hazardous water damage. Aside from halting mortar joint corrosion and restoring structural stability, tuckpointing also helps protect your home’s brick structures from damaging moisture. When the mortar is damaged, water seeps into the brick surface and can cause a significant amount of damage, such as mildew, rotting wood, and mold.

Tuckpointing uses two different colors of mortar to fill in mortar joints of brickwork. One of the two colors used is made to match the actual bricks. This makes it blend in and create a seamless appearance. The second color used is contrasting and is used for the actual appearance of mortar joints. By inserting the alternate color between the first brick-colored mortars it makes mortar joints appear very fine as opposed to thick.

Tuckpointing was invented in England near the late eighteenth century. The method was created in order to imitate the appearance of rubbed brick, which was a more expensive building material that quickly gained popularity during this time. Homeowners looking to copy the appearance of these high-end rubbed bricks turned to tuckpointing to get the fancy look without spending so much money. The true definition of tuckpointing is not used as often today, but it is not completely forgotten and remains interconnected with the modern-day method of repointing.

So, When and Why Does Masonry Mortar Break Down?

Stone and brick masonry are proven to stand up to the test of time, but this does not make them maintenance free. A brick wall can last 100 years without any repairs, but the mortar joints may start to show signs of wear and tear within 20-30 years. 

Usually, only certain parts of a structure require repointing. This is a good thing because original mortar joints are greatly preferred to repointed joints. Since only a portion of the mortar is repointed, the new mortar that is used must closely match your original mortar joints. Otherwise, you end up with a mismatched look that will be noticeable right away.

Using the correct type of mortar goes beyond just getting the color right. Although it seems counterintuitive, if the new mortar is too strong it can impact the stability of the masonry structure, and potentially even damage it further. The mortar selected for the job needs to be of the same strength, or even slightly weaker, than the original mortar. As with many structural home repair jobs, this is best left to a professional, who will be able to identify and compare the material structure of the original mortar.

Signs Your Mortar Needs Repairs

As mentioned, mortar joints on your masonry structure can start to show signs of damage within as little as 20 to 30 years. Look for the signs that your mortar joints require attention including, 

  • You see mortar erosion that is greater than 6mm
  • You see areas or whole sections of crumbling mortar
  • You can spot hairline cracks in the mortar
  • You can find cracks or gaps between the actual bricks and the start of mortar

Tuckpointing and repointing are considered quite labor-intensive projects and are not always the first recommendation to repair masonry damage.  If the damage is too severe it doesn’t do any good to repoint a structure. One sign that damage is too extensive for this method is if whole bricks are coming loose or appear damaged; pointing will only work if the damage is limited to mortar joints. This is why acting quickly at the first sign of damage is such a big deal and calling a professional in to assess your structure as soon as you notice any issues is recommended. Without immediate attention, mortar joint issues will continue to worsen until an entire rebuild is necessary to fix the problem. 

Exposure to moisture, along with repeated freezing and thawing causes mortar joints between bricks to crack thus making your home susceptible to hazardous water damage. Aside from halting mortar joint corrosion and restoring structural stability, tuckpointing also helps protect your home’s brick structures from damaging moisture. When the mortar is damaged, water seeps into the brick surface and can cause a significant amount of damage, such as mildew, rotting wood, and mold.

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