Tuckpointing Chicago Residential and Commercial Properties

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Before I lay out the entire procedure of tuckpointing Chicago properties (or rather re-pointing), I’d like to explain to you what this word, which we often improperly use, exactly means. I will give you definitions of 3 words that many of us interchangeably use under the impression that they describe the same thing: “tuckpointing” “pointing” and “re-pointing”.

  • Tuckpointing (or tuck pointing) is a process in which two different colors of mortar (usually contrasting / one matching the brick color) are used to create an illusion that a fine joint has been formed between the bricks. Basically, that brick color matching mortar fills the joint and the contrasting mortar (thinner line) is added on top. This is a technique requiring the most skilled tradesman.
  • Pointing refers to an external / visible part of a mortar joint; it is the mortar line you see between the bricks, stones, blocks, etc.
  • Re-pointing is a process of removing old, deteriorating mortar from between the bricks, stones, or blocks, and replacing it with new mortar mix.

Based on these 3 definitions, I can assure you that most of our tuckpointing Chicago area clients are asking for re-pointing, yet call it tuckpointing. With that settled, let’s proceed to explaining the common, masonry wall re-pointing process.

Tuckpointing in Chicago, old mortar removing with angle grinderThere are 3 major components of this procedure along with some smaller, still important, ones.

1. Tuckpointing Chicago – Old Mortar Removal

The cutting out of old and / or deteriorating joints in brick, block, and stone masonry wall can be executed using plugging or joint chisels, comb hammers, and dogging tools dedicated for this purpose.

They are designed in such a way that using them should prevent chipping the wall component edges and binding inside the joint.

Residential tuckpointing Chicago - power washing of masonry wallA much easier and faster method of raking out this old mortar is by using an angle grinder with a 5” / 6mm mortar raking blade. Although we use it with a vacuum to maximize dust control, there are neighborhoods where only hand (not power) tools can be utilized.

It is obvious on many of the tuckpointed Chicago buildings that this first, extremely important re-pointing step has been skipped entirely or the old mortar, instead of being removed, was only scratched to provide some grip for the new mortar.

If this was your choice and were aware of the consequences (like newly applied mortar failing sooner), you have actually wasted your investment, even if it initially saved you money.

Tuckpointing Chicago - brick wall repointing2. Tuckpointing Chicago – Cleanup

The next step is removing any remaining debris and dust from the masonry surfaces and wetting them to ensure maximum hold for the new mortar. All that can be easily achieved by power washing the surfaces with plain water.

3. Tuckpointing Chicago – New Mortar Application

The third step, applying new mortar, can be described as a slow, meticulous effort that requires special skills and a lot of patience. We always apply mortar manually using a few special hand tools: a pointing trowel, a tray, and a slasher, aka mortar jointer.

Typically the joints are filled flush with the wall surface and then, using the mortar joiner, slightly depressed and finally brushed clean.

There you go: a basic blueprint of the repointing procedure.

Give us a call with any questions concerning tuckpointing Chicagoland’s brick, stone or block masonry walls (or should I say re-pointing…).