Stories From the Field

Stories From the Field

Post: Grinding & Tuckpointing

Friday July 14, 2017

Tuckpointing is a very general term to describe the application of new mortar over old mortar in the spaces between your bricks, stones, terra cotta or cinder blocks.

Andrew, an AAA-1 licensed mason, grinding a defective mortar joint

Tuckpointing aids in keeping your masonry building in good shape because new mortar, if applied correctly, works like glue to keep your building materials bonded together and prevents wet weather events like rain and snow from infiltrating the masonry walls and damaging the integrity of your building.

Over time, your building's mortar joints will erode and crack apart. It is inevitable. Chicago's wet weather and freeze/thaw cycles take a real toll on your mortar. (Dry weather and an absence of repeated hard freezes help to explain why so many 1000 year-old structures remain intact in places like India, Egypt and Greece.)

In our experience, tuckpointing alone rarely ensures an effective long-term fix; very often a long-term fix requires defective mortar joints be ground out first before applying any new mortar. So grinding and tuckpointing is the process we recommend to correct defective mortar joints. By deeply grinding out defective mortar first, we create the space needed to pack in a lot of new mortar and tool a nice joint profile. (Generally, the more mortar applied, the longer the repair will last.) Many masonry companies grind out defective mortar joints to a depth of only 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch. But this is not deep enough to ensure a long-lived project. All grinding work at AAA-1 Masonry & Tuckpointing calls for mortar joints to be ground out to a minimum depth of 3/4 inch. (This is also the minimum standard required by well established architecture/engineering firms like WJE, Klein & Hoffman, Waldman Engineering, Perry & Associates, KGH, etc.)

Typically grinding work is performed using hand-held machine grinders and vacuum attachments (used to mitigate the release of dust). In the photo, Andrew is grinding out multiple layers of defective mortar on a 100-year-old garage. As you can see, previous owners repeatedly applied new mortar right over defective old mortar to the point that the mortar overflows the space between the bricks. Not a nice look and definitely not the way to preserve the integrity of the brick structure.

Sometimes the integrity of a masonry structure is so compromised that grinding and tuckpointing won't do the trick. (This may be the case, for example, if cracks in the mortar joints run the full depth of the wall or the masonry is loose to the touch.) If your masonry walls are too deteriorated for grinding and tuckpointing, then they may need to be dismantled and rebuilt altogether. Our licensed estimators can recognize and explain the appropriate repair methods needed for your building.


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