Mortar in Hand

by Josh on June 27, 2008 · 4 comments

in Projects

After some play time in a nearby park, the boys and I stopped by the hardware store to get the supplies I’ll need to tuckpoint the wingwall for the old back steps.

The thing I love about a good local hardware store is that I know the people there well enough to trust their advice. When I walked into the store today, I trotted straight up to a clerk I recognized and said, “I have some bricks that need tuckpointing and I have never done this before. What do I need to do the job?”

Tuckpointing Tools The clerk probed a bit about the specifics of the situation and recommended a traditional sand and mortar mixture for filling the joints along with a trowel and tuckpointing tool. Hooray! New tools!

Rather than mix the mortar to a stiff consistency, the clerk suggested that I make the mortar mix more soupy so that it would be easier to force down into the deep cracks created by the stairs settling away from the house. This sounds like an excellent plan to me– in fact, I’m trying to think of some better ways to force the mortar deep into the gaps than just pressing it in with a piece of wood or a trowel. Some means of injection would really do the trick.

Whether I come up with any good ideas or not, I’ll try my hand at the tuckpointing during one of my toddler’s naps tomorrow.

UPDATE: Curse my insufficient research! I’m sure I that want to use a lime-based mortar because it will be more forgiving with the soft old bricks, but the materials I bought yesterday include portland cement. I’ll need to get back to the store to get some hydrated lime before attempting the repointing.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Jan June 27, 2008 at 8:04 am

Tom Silva on ‘Ask this Old House’ taped an epidsode on tuckpointing and repair old bricks. Maybe you can find that episode on their website.

I think he did get the bricks wet before he started so it wouldn’t wick the moisture out of the mortar too fast.


Josh June 27, 2008 at 10:02 am

Thanks for the tips, Jan. I’ve heard about wetting the bricks before mortaring but hadn’t thought to look at TOH. I didn’t find any video there, but I did find a nice article on repointing that had some helpful information. Thanks!


Jennifer June 27, 2008 at 10:30 am

Good luck with that! We thought about doing it ourselfs, but in the end hired it out as there were parts of walls to rebuild, too.

They are using just quicklime and sand to make the mortar…


fred July 5, 2008 at 3:25 pm

It’s always nice when you find a store that you can trust – and, in your case, with knowledgeable people. I fear that asking your question to anyone in my local HD would have garnered blank stairs.

Quite honestly, when I saw “tuckpoint the wingwall for the old back steps…” my first thought is that’s something I would make up to get out of a social event I didn’t want to attend 🙂 In fact … maybe I’ll use that next time.

I noticed Jennifer commented here too – her mason has done a great job getting their place looking good. Looking forward to hearing your DIY story on it. Good luck!


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