A Look Inside Historical Tuckpointing

If you own a building that, in whatever way, is constructed out of brick and mortar then it’s likely that you know a little bit about tuckpointing. Tuckpointing is the process of enhancing aesthetics or the overall structural integrity of a brick structure. Regardless of if the entire building was made of bricks or bricks were only used in a few areas like the fireplace or a front porch, you’ll need tuckpointing.

Tuckpointing is essential to keeping the structure in good standing. It’s done by going in and scraping out any old or deteriorating mortar and replacing it with new mortar. During this process, bricks are also inspected to make sure they’re strong enough to withstand another bought of tuckpointing. If they’re not, this is the perfect time to replace them.

Once all the old mortar is scraped out and any bricks are replaced, the joints between the bricks are filled with new, fresh mortar. This is done using a mortar that closely matches the color of the surrounding bricks. If the property owner wants, a thin line of contrasting colored putty can be applied to create more narrow looking joints. It usually depends on the overall aesthetics of a building. Often times, when tuckpointing is done on residential homes, they go through this exact process over and over again with minimal differences between buildings. However, when working on historical buildings, tuckpointing can be a little bit trickier.

A Different Approach to Historical Tuckpointing

The main reason that tuckpointing should be approached differently on historical buildings is simply due to the age of the materials and the building itself. For instance, old historic bricks tend to be much softer than the bricks used today so the approach needs to be changed to avoid catastrophes. Otherwise, you could easily end up with cracked walls or bricks that spall—leading to a building that is actually worse off than when you started.

Instead of diving right in with grinders and trowels, historical tuckpointing needs a more delicate approach. It needs to occur slowly to minimize any damage and reduce the overall strain on the brick building or structure. Another key difference that should be addressed is regarding the mortar that was used. Prior to the 1920s, the mortar used was actually considered flexible and in some ways, self-healing. It more easily absorbed stress and shock. If your historical building was built pre-1920, it’s not a good idea to go in and spot tuckpoint a few areas with the new, much harder mortar used today. This could lead to strain in the wrong areas and a collapsed wall.

Instead, in historical tuckpointing renovations, there should be chemical tests done to understand the basic makeup of what kind of mortar was used during the initial build. Yes, these tests can be a bit expensive, but if you’re serious about your historical building, they’re worth it. They give you exactly what you need to know about the chemical makeup of your mortar, which means smooth sailing for tuckpointing. Once you determine the type of mortar needed in your historical renovation, you can usually find it available online or at a professional masonry company.

When it’s time to get to work, you can use many of the same tuckpointing tools in regular jobs except for one—a mason angle grinder. While it saves time, it leads to disaster on historical buildings.

In addition to the specific types of mortar and the avoidance of certain tools, the process for historical tuckpointing is more detail-oriented. Rather than risking your historical building, we always recommend finding a professional tuckpointing company to get the job done. Due to the age of the building, the process takes longer, has more intricate steps, and needs more precision than an untrained eye can give. If done wrong, it can lead to a total building collapse.

Finding a Historical Tuckpointing Professional

Rather than run the risk of saying goodbye to your historical buildings, take a proactive approach and call a professional masonry today. Just make sure you find a company with masons that are trained in historic tuckpointing, like those at Chicago Tuckpointing Inc. All of our professionals have the skill, patience, and precision that only come after years of tuckpointing. The professionals at Chicago Tuckpointing Inc. are fully trained and have over 20 years of experience to help bring your historical building back to life.

If you see any signs of damage, or need a professional inspection done, don’t hesitate to call us today. With tuckpointing, it’s always better to act fast. You can reach us at Chicago Tuckpointing Inc. by calling (708) 942-1951 or visiting our website chicagotuckpointinginc.com.