How to repoint a wall with a tuck pointer

     
     
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 Using a tuck pointer to fill a bed joint from a mortar hawk 

The main use of a tuck pointer is to press mortar into brick joints during repointing. Tuck pointers are useful for this because they are narrow enough to fit lengthways into most brick joints. 

 
     
 A wall with missing bricks - what happens if you do your repointing wrong! 

Repointing a wall needs to be done right, or brickwork can deteriorate into a very poor condition. It's more than just slapping on some mortar with a tuck pointer!

 
     
   Wonkee Donkee says that repointing needs to be done right 
     
   

Preparation

 
 A mortar hawk that could be used for repointing 

When repointing a wall, you will need: 

 
     
 A bag of cement for making mortar  
     
 An old brickwork house that might need lime mortar

 

It is very important to use the right mortar for the wall you're planning to repoint. In many older buildings, the brickwork must be repointed with traditional lime mortar rather than modern cement-based mortar. Older walls are more susceptible to damp and mould, and the lime mortar acts as a sponge, absorbing water and allowing it to evaporate. 

 
     
   

Preparing the wall

 
 Using a stiff brush to sweep out loose mortar 

Step 1 - Remove loose mortar

Before adding new mortar to a wall, it is important to remove some of the old mortar. Applying a thin layer of new mortar on top of damaged mortar will only make the wall more likely to fail. Use the brush to get rid of loose mortar, being careful not to sweep away chunks of mortar that are supporting loose bricks. 

 
     
 Using a hammer and chisel to remove old mortar 

Step 2 - Make room for the new joint

Once the loose material is gone, use a hammer and chisel to carefully knock the surface mortar from each brick joint, to a depth of roughly 6mm (1/4 of an inch). There needs to be enough space for the new mortar to gain a foothold, without removing too much of the mortar that's already in place, which would destabilise the wall. 

 
     
   Wonkee Donkee says that if any bricks come loose, you should replace them before you keep going 
     
 Using a hose to spray a mist of water over a wall before repointing the mortar 

Step 3 - Wet the wall

Before applying mortar, the wall must be wetted. Dry bricks and mortar will absorb the moisture out of the new mortar and stop it from setting properly. Use a water bottle or paint sprayer to dampen the bricks, and then dampen them again after the first coat of water has been absorbed by the bricks.

 
     
   

Mixing the mortar

 
     
 A wheel barrow, which you should wet before you mix mortar in it 

Step 1- Wet your tools

Before mixing your mortar, wet any tools and receptacles you'll be using. 

 
     
 A bag of cement, a bag of lime, and a pile of sand 

Step 2 - Mix your mortar

A batch of mortar should generally have a ratio of one part of dry cement or lime for every three parts of sand. You can measure out this mixture by simply adding one heaped trowel or spadeful of cement for every three heaped trowels or spadefuls of sand. 

 
     
 Unmixed sand and dry cement in a bowl, ready to be mixed 

Add the dry ingredients to the mixing receptacle and mix them thoroughly with your trowel before adding water. Be careful not to dump the ingredients from a height, which will lead to a lot of cement being lost as dust, which is dangerous if breathed in. 

 
     
 Mortar which has been mixed into a fine paste 

Add small amounts of water and keep mixing until the mix has the consistency of mashed potatoes. It's important for the mortar not to be too wet or too dry. You can test the consistency as you mix by scooping up a small amount of mortar on your trowel and letting it slide off. The consistency will be perfect when the mortar sticks to the trowel but slides off slowly when you turn the trowel on its side. If you use a mortar addative (recommended), make sure you follow the manufacturers instructions.

 
     
 Mortar which is too dry to be used 

Try not to make more mortar than you need. Once you have mixed a batch of mortar, you only have 30-40 minutes before it hardens, after which it cannot be used. Some builders add more water to their mortar later on to keep it workable, but this doesn't stop it from hardening at a chemical level. Any mortar that is more than 40 minutes old should not be used. It will crack very quickly after it has been applied, and more repointing will be necessary. 

 
     
 A stop watch, telling you to wait seven minutes for the mortar to slake 

Leave the mortar to 'slake' for seven minutes - this is the period that it takes for the chemical reactions to take place which will bond the mortar together.

 
   

Wonkee Donkee says that cement and mortar don't dry, they set at a chemical level. They must not be allowed to dry out before they have had a chance to set properly.

 
     
   

Applying the mortar

 
 A wide pointing trowel with a large dollop of mortar on it 

Once the old mortar has been removed, and your new mortar has slaked, you are ready to start applying the mortar. Use the pointing trowel to scoop mortar onto your mortar hawk. 

 
     
 A tuck pointer cutting off a "lift" from a pile of mortar 

Holding the mortar hawk in one hand and the tuck pointer in the other, use the tuck pointer to slice off a "lift" of mortar which is thick enough to fill a bed joint.

 
     
 Using the tuck pointer to compound a lift of mortar into a bed joint 

Step 1 - Bed Joints

Line up your mortar hawk directly with the bed joint and use the tuck pointer to push the lift into the joint, packing it in as much as possible to prevent any pockets of air being trapped behind it. Repeat this at a fast pace until you've finished a whole row of bed joints. 

 
     
 Turning the mortar hawk and tuck pointer to fill in vertical brick joints 

Step 2 - Head Joints 

After each row of bed joints, fill in the vertical joints in the same way. When repointing verticals it can be easier to scrape the mortar off a large pointing trowel rather than a mortar hawk.
 
     
 A brick wall with fresh joints of mortar 

Step 3 - Keep Going!

Continue this process until you've used up your mortar and a section of the wall is done. For large walls it's better to stagger your repointing over several sessions, to avoid weakening the wall or tiring yourself out. 

 
     
   

Tidying Up 

 
 Turning a tuck pointer on it's side and scraping it over the bricks to remove excess mortar 

Step 1 - Cleaning the brick face

Turn the tuck pointer on its side and use it to scrape off any large flakes or "feathers" of excess mortar. 

 
     
 Using a squeegee to remove feathers of mortar from the repointed wall Go over the wall with your squeegee to remove any mortar that has built up on the surface of your wall. It is important to use a squeegee for this step, as a tuck pointer could leave permanent and unsightly scratch-marks on the brick face.  
     
 Use a stiff brush to remove remaining mortar and dust from the surface of the brick 

Use a stiff brush to clean any remaining mortar off the brick faces. 

 
     
 A concave brick joint is a half-circular depression in the mortar joint, which helps the mortar to survive harsh weather 

Step 2 - Pointing

Now you have finally got to the 'pointing' stage of repointing. Pointing is the process of shaping a brick joint to make it more resistant to weather. A popular kind of pointing is a concave joint, but there are alternative styles. If you have a round-edged tuck pointer, you can run its base along the joints to depress the mortar into the right shape. For drier mortar it can be more effective to use other pointing tools such as a brick jointer. See Brick jointers and brick rakes for more information on brick joints and tools for brick jointing.

 
     
    Wonkee Donkee says that if you don't have a rounded tuck pointer, you can just use a length of hosepipe 
     
 Misting the wall with water again after you've finished repointing helps the chemical hardening process 

Step 3 - Final Wetting

Leave the new joints for several hours and then apply a mist of water over the bricks to keep the mortar wet and ensure the proper chemical hardening process. 

 
     
 A stiff brush that can be used for clearing mortar 

Step 4 - Clean your tools

Once you have finished repointing, it is important to clean your tools properly. See Tuck pointer maintenance and care for details of how to look after your tuck pointer. 

 
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