Tuckpointing is a way of using two contrasting colours of mortar in brickwork, one colour matching the bricks themselves, to give an artificial impression that very fine joints have been made. In some parts of the United States and Canada, some confusion may result as the term is often used interchangeably with "pointing" (to correct defects or finish off joints in newly laid masonry) and "repointing" (to place wet mortar into cut or raked joints to repair weathered joints in old masonry).
The tuckpointing method was developed in England, in the late eighteenth century, to imitate brickwork constructed using rubbed bricks (also rubbers and gauged bricks), which were bricks of fine, red finish that were made slightly oversized, and, after firing, then were individually abraded or cut, often by hand, to a precise size. When laid with white lime mortar, a neat finish of red brick contrasting with very fine white joints was obtained. Tuckpointing was a way of achieving a similar effect using cheap, unrubbed bricks: these were laid in a mortar of a matching colour (initially red, but later, blue-black bricks and mortar were occasionally used) and a fine fillet of white material, usually pipeclay or putty, pushed into the joints before the mortar set. The term tuckpointing derives from an earlier, less sophisticated technique that was used with very uneven bricks: a thin line, called a tuck, was drawn in the flush-faced mortar, but left unfilled, to give the impression of well-formed brickwork.
Professional "tuckpointers" use tuckpointing tools, which depending on country and local trade terminology sometimes may be termed "jointers" or "tuckpointing irons" (primarily in London where the trade originated).
The tools themselves are made from a hardened quality tool steel and are shaped with a sharp-pointed front with a flat base. They have a wooden handle which is attached with a brass ferrule.
Thicknesses or widths of tuckpointing tools may be between 2 mm and 10 mm depending on the tuckpointers' personal preferences. Standard tuckpointing tools most commonly used in industry are usually 4 mm and 6 mm thick.
Lengths of tools also vary depending on personal preferences, but the most common lengths are usually between 75 and 125 mm. However professionals sometimes like a much shorter tool, for instance one 30 mm long which is flat on the front in order to get into hard to reach spots, for instance under window brick work and in corners.
Tools are sometimes "beaded". This means that a small rounded fillet is ground into the flat of the tuckpointing tool that comes into contact with the "perps" or "lines" in the brickwork. (In bricklaying terms, the "perps" are the gaps between the bricks in which mortar runs in the vertical direction, perpendicular to the ends. "Lines" run in the horizontal direction).
Tuckpointing is a fairly rare but not forgotten trade. Many historic homes with classic Italianate architecture like the Werribee Mansion at Werribee Park, in Victoria, Australia west of Melbourne, show good examples of recent tuckpointing which display the contrast between the tuckpointed white lines in the mortar between the bluestone architecture.
Tuckpointing in Australia, although originally considered to be part of the bricklaying trade, is now mainly performed by Tuckpointing specialists.
- Repointing (Tuckpointing) Brick Masonry Masonry Advisory Council, Park Ridge, IL, U.S.A. accessed 2007-10-17
- Conway, Hazel; Roenisch, Rowan (15 December 2004). Understanding architecture. London: Routledge. p. 119. ISBN 978-0-415-32058-0.
- Hunt, Roger; Suhr, Marianne (23 October 2008). The Old House Handbook. London: Frances Lincoln. p. 51. ISBN 978-0-7112-2772-9.
- Walls, repointing brickwork Ministry of Defence (Defence Estates), Sutton Coldfield, England, accessed 2007-10-17