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What is Tuckpointing?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2016
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Tuckpointing is a masonry technique that is sometimes used with the construction of brick walls and walkways. The strategy itself involves the use of two different colors of mortar, with one of those colors being identical to the hue of the bricks themselves. The overall effect of this approach helps to provide a very uniform look to the finished construction.

The origin of tuckpointing is generally traced to Great Britain during the latter part of the eighteenth century. Employed as a technique that would mimic the look of structures that were composed of rubbed bricks, the process would make use of unrubbed bricks that were laid in a mortar of the same color as the bricks. Rubbed bricks are traditionally made from a mixture of sand and clay, fired, then rubbed to shape the brick and achieve a smooth finish. The joints along the rough surface of the unrubbed bricks would be filled in with white mortar, leaving the impression of a smooth surface that was very similar to that of more expensive rubbed variety. By utilizing tuckpointing, the rough surfaces of the unrubbed bricks, which were often made with inferior grades of clay and other materials, could be effectively filled, making it possible to create the same look and texture to structure, but without the added expense associated with rubbed bricks.

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In order to perform this type of masonry construction, brick masons would use one basic tuckpointing tool that was made in several different sizes. Sometimes referred to as tuckpointing irons or joiners, the tools are normally made from hard steel and sport a flat base matched with a pointed front that is very sharp. A wooden handle is usually attached to the body of the device, making it much easier to position and control the tool.

The choice of tuckpointing iron or joiner often has to do with the precision required to fill in the joint and achieve the desired look. For the most part, tasks that involve spots that are hard to reach require a shorter joiner, allowing the mason to control the angle of the flat part of the tool with more precision. For larger jobs, tools that are longer allow the mason to move with greater speed, thus finishing the task quicker and allowing the mortar to begin setting.

While a very popular masonry technique in years past, tuckpointing is rarely utilized in new construction today. However, this strategy remains a popular approach when restoring various types of brick edifices that were constructed from the latter eighteenth century to the early years of the twentieth century. As interest in building new homes that capture the style of homes from the Victorian era and earlier has increased, the demand for tuckpointing has enjoyed a limited renaissance in some areas of the world. Even so, some homebuilders prefer to use more contemporary methods to capture the same Old World look.

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