Tuckpointing - History and Facts, Tuckpointing Tools, Techniques & FAQ's.
Tuckpointing was developed in early 18th century England where at the time bricks were handmade in individual wooden molds and baked in kilns. The art of brick making was not as refined as it is today, and the wooden molds varied due to age and crude method of manufacture which resulted in generally irregular shaped bricks.
In order to make more precise sized bricks, the bricks were made slightly oversize and then after being baked, were scraped or rubbed down by hand and these finished precise bricks were known as "gauged" bricks or "rubbers" for slang. These rubbed bricks were relatively more expensive to manufacture than un-rubbed or un-finished bricks or stones.
When these precisely made by hand bricks (rubbers) were laid with lime mortar (lime and fine sand), the end result was a neat finish of red brick contrasting with very fine white brick joint.
However to build a house with precisely made rubbed bricks was significantly more expensive. A more inexpensive method was required where a builder/ mason/ stone mason could use cheaper non-uniform shaped bricks and stones. And thus someone devised the tuckpointed method, whereby neat straight lines were raked out in the freshly laid mortar to create an "illusion" from a distance that the bricks were somewhat symetrical and to appear to be made more precisely that the brick or stone that they comprised of.
Thus, the term tuckpointing derives from this earlier yet simpler technique that was used with very uneven bricks with a thin line called a "tuck", which was drawn in the flush-faced mortar, but left unfilled, to give the impression of well-formed brickwork. So basically early stone masons and bricklayers just made straight horizontal and vertical grooves between the brickwork.
Tuckpointing was then refined to further create the illusion of more precise brick geometries by placing up to 1cm of lime putty of matching colour to the brick or stone itself, in order to firstly hide their irregularity, faults and any distinctions between the brick or stonework. Then to finish a fine fillet of lime putty (coloured white, red or black) was then pushed onto this base mortar joint to create a contrasting colour to the brick or stonework and to the underlying mortar between the joints. So tuckpointing results in a very strong distinction between the brickwork.
It is interesting to note that bricks of this era were largely red clay, kiln fired bricks with origins dating back to the Roman Empire when kiln fired bricks were developed for building colonies around the world. Brick buildings and houses also began to increase in popularity in the 18th century when brick facades came back into fashion due to popular ornate designs of the time.
Lime mortars are composed of lime and aggregate (sand, small stones rocks etc ) however in different ratios than in lime putty. Lime mortar has more sand with less lime. The aggregate or sand can be of a courser grade and does not have to be as fine as with tuckpointing purposes.
Lime has an adhesive property with bricks and stones so it is used as a binding material in masonry works.
Note: Originally only hydrated or wet lime was available to early builders, dry lime became available afterwards.
Experts in places such as Scotland belonging to Societies for the Protection of Ancient Buildings say that lime mortars ideally should have no cement added!!, as cement causes the mortar to become impermeable and does not breathe or move with humidity. Lime being a naturally occuring mineral is flexible and when sets is weaker than the surrounding stones or bricks and therefore will move or under worse situations crack inside the joints. When cement is added to mortars the cement sets by a chemical reaction which results in a hard impervious material which can damage soft stone or brickwork.
What is Tuckpointing?
Tuckpointing is the operation of finishing joints in brickwork after the bricklaying has been completed, and is a way of using two contrasting colours in the mortar joints of the brickwork with one colour to match the bricks themselves with a secondary pointed line pressed ontop as a means of contrast in both colour and in lined layout. It is a way to make individual bricks in the brickwork to stand out and to give a striking distinguished effect.
After the bricklaying has been completed, the joints are rough raked with a wall tie or raking tool to a depth of 10mm (1cm) during construction. A self coloured mortar (lime mortar) is then placed in the raked joints and flushed up. Following this, lime putty is pressed onto the mortar filling with a jointer / tuckpointing tool and then finally cut to a uniform size.
What is lime Putty?
Lime Putty is a mixture of hydrated lime plus fine sand (Botany sand/fine beach or river sand). The mixture is about 50:50 hydrated lime to fine sand. You can add more or less sand or water depending on final mix consistency or personal preference.
Cement should not be added to lime putty as it is unneccesary and leads to impervious material which cannot breathe or move and more prone to cracking. If cement or plastizers are added to lime putty then is no longer regarded as authentic lime putty. Plastisizers should be avoided as they are not breatheable and also form an impervious layer which damages the underlying mortar and does not lend iteself well to repointing years down the track. So please stick to the original authentic hydrated lime and sand and you cant go wrong.
How to Tuckpoint?
BASIC TUCKPOINTING STEPS
Step 1. - Select the correct tuckpointing tool profile to match your existing tuckpointing lines.
Step 2. - Chisel away any old tuckpointing and underneath coloured stopping mortar between bricks to maximum 5 to 10mm deep.
Step 3. - With a Caulking Trowel or Small tool, re-apply or fill in the base coloured stopping mortar between the bricks - fill in any holes. Ready Mix Lime Putty can be used for all stopping mortar as well as the tuckpointing lines. To achieve the correct colour you need to mix in the appropriate coloured oxide to the Ready Mix Lime Putty. Use a separate container first to get the right ratio of oxide to lime putty so you don't ruin the entire mix.
Step 4. - After 1 hour approximately for stopping mortar to dry a little, you can then apply the white (or other coloured) tuckpointed lines using a tuckpointing tool over the stopping mix. You do not need to groove the stopping mortar first, just apply line over top. Applying tuckpointing over stopping mortar should be done within say 3 hours of applying stopping mortar, so both line and stopping mortar dries at the same rate to avoid cracking afterwards and to help bond both parts together properly. So you should do smaller sections of brickwork at a time with the stopping mortar and the tuckpointing lines. Don't do different operations on different days as layers will not bond properly.
Step 5. - Using a Frenchmen knife running along a hand held straight edge, cut away any excess lime putty watse from the top and bottom of the tuckpointed lines, so line is clean.
**Remember Tuckpointing is an art and it may take some time to develop skills. Goodluck!!
Avoid very hot (above 30 -35 degrees) or very cold days (below zero - rare in Australia) when tuckpointing.
Tools required for Tuckpointing
Examine your existing tuckpointing and match a Tuckpointing Tool to suit
Preparation of Walls
Dampen down the walls you are tuckpointing sufficiently prior to tuckpointing with lime putty (also read below)
(more content coming soon)
FAQ's, Tuckpointing Trade Tips
Can I use Lime based products in very cold weather?
Note: When using any lime based product such as when tuckpointing or when using lime mortars to lay bricks or stonework, or in repair or restoration do not proceed in very cold tempertures such as during frost season or when snowing or icy conditions as lime will not cure or set when in very cold climate, this is more of a problem in the northern hemisphere during very cool winter months. In the southern hemisphere this is not as much of a problem but something to be aware of.
How to use Ready-Mix Lime Putty?
Just open the lid and drain out the top sealant layer of water and then stir putty. Then use as required. No mess! Our Ready Mix Tuckpointing Lime Putty will save you alot time and effort. And you dont have to use all of it in one go. As long as you add a small amount of water afterwards to cover over the top of the lime putty to prevent it from drying out in the atmosphere and then reseal the lid tightly, it is possible to store the product for a long time and reuse when required. Our Ready-Mix Lime Putty can be used straight away. Some professionals prefer lime putty to sit for a number of weeks prior to use to allow better bonding and general infusion of the lime putty into the sand, so please note that aging of our Ready-Mix Lime Putty will not be a problem as long as the lime putty is kept covered in a sealant of water.
Ready-Mix Tuckpointing Lime Putty is available only in standard white natural lime colour. If you desire a particular colour to your lime putty in order to match an existing home, then you can add coloured oxides to the putty according to your requirement. We also supply colour oxides in red and black. It is best to remove a small portion of lime putty into a second container and then add and mix to this small portion a small amount of coloured oxide to first see how the colour comes out first, before doing the whole mix. Tuckpointed lines are commonly white but they can be various shades red, grey, browns, yellows and almond colour.
Ready-Mix Lime Putty ingredients are suitable for authentic heritage tuckpointing! Our Ready-Mix Lime Putty is a mixture of rocklime and fine sand dating back to how it was originally made in the rocklime furnaces of 18th century England. It is specifically made to a traditional heritage lime putty mixture dating back well over 100 plus years. No plastisizers are added that would ruin the longevity of the lime putty on the finished exposed brick and using a traditional mix will enable an existing heritage home or heritage building to be repointed properly many, many years down the track and most importantly keep its value well into the future.
Can Ready-Mix Lime Putty be used as a Mortar?
Yes, our Ready-Mix Lime Putty can be used for tuckpointing lines, and also to repair holes in brick mortar in existing heritage brickwork. You do not have to add any ingredients apart from say coloured oxide when used as a mortar between the joints, as the Lime Putty by itself is sufficiently suitable to do this purpose, but you can add more sand or other aggregate if used as just mortar (not for tuckpointing, as fine sand and more lime ratio is required in tuckpointing).
However you can add a little bit of sand and cement if you choose when used as mortar if structural integrity is more critical for very worn or very deep joints or cracks below 10mm deep but not usually for surface application as Tuckpointed Joints using Lime Putty are usually 10mm deep. However as mentioned elsewhere cement being impermiable prevents buildings breathing and may end up in cracks through brick and stone instead of just through the joints as cement is harder or as hard as the material it bonds together.
Tips on applying Tuckpointing with Lime Putty
Please remember to dampen down the walls you are tuckpointing sufficiently prior to tuckpointing with lime putty to prevent flaking off when curing, as if lime putty is placed onto dry brick mortar /brick walls the moisture will be sucked out causing flaking. So it is important that you dampen the walls prior to tuckpointing preferably with a damp/wet towel or with a very light hose spray and then dampened down with a damp towel, depending on how dry the weather is and what surface area you are doing. The brick mortar should not be too wet as to cause the lime putty to run or dissolve but just damp enough to prevent the moisture from being sucked out of the lime putty prematurely.
When applying Lime Putty to a brick wall you can first apply a small amount ontop of a hawk tool or straight edge and then transfer using an appropriate Tuckpointing Tool.
A Tuckpointer's Straight Edge is then lined up with the tuckpointed line and using a Frenchmen knife, which is a knife with a small upturned sharp bent tip the excess Lime Putty is "cut" away from either side of the line, so a clean fine line is produced, without rough edges.
How much Ready-Mix Lime Putty do I require?
As a general estimate only, each 4L bucket of Ready-Mix Lime Putty should do a minimum of 20 square metres of wall. So therefore a 10L bucket of Ready-Mix Lime Putty should do 50 square metres of brick wall. This depends on how much you watse and other factors such as brick type, size and shape. But you can use ths as a rough estimate.
If you accidently spill or get lime putty on areas you do not want then you should clean up as soon as possible, if left to dry you can use a dilute acid to wash off if any other means is not an option.
How to removing Lime Putty from Bricks- What happens if I find some insoluble lime scum on my bricks? How do I remove this without bleaching the tuckpointed joints?
Sometimes no matter how good you are you may unknowingly or accidentally spill or drip lime putty onto un intentional areas.
The solution is to use hydrochloric acid and brush it onto the affected brickwork. But you must use a 10% concentration only - NOT MORE CONCENTRATED! If you use too strong an acid and it soaks too much into the brick it can "burn" the lime mortar and professional tuckpointers have told me that it actually can go green. And you may not see affects till as much as 3 weeks later. So please be careful with the amount of acid you use. Also it is harmful to hands and eyes so wear gloves and eye protection.
When applying an acid, scrub on the acid and leave for 5 minutes only.
Then wash off/scrub off twice with plain water. And wash down wall to remove an acid residue.
If this does not work, then use hydrated lime over the affected areas overnight and wait till the morning to remove with water
In both cases you will have to re-tuckpoint the affected areas.
If you are still having trouble getting rid of lime mortar from unwanted areas then another remedy may be to use Selley's sugar soap.
You may want to use masking tape to cover any surrounding tuckpointing from exposure to acid prior to acid application, but remember to peel off after washing the walls so it doesn't retain any acid and wash without tape.
Tuckpointing Trade Schools and Teachers
There are places where you can go to learn the unique art of tuckpointing.
In Australia you can do a 2 day or beginners and advanced courses at the Holmesglen Institute of TAFE, courses are limited so please phone to book.
Holmesglen's contact website is www.holmesglen.edu.au
A knowledgeable teacher in the UK is Dr Gerard Lynch.
Dr Gerard Lynch offers bespoke courses in his own workshop for selected and established craftspeople, dedicated to the acquisition of historical knowledge and traditional skills.
His subjects include: Historic forms of Jointing and Pointing, Limes, Lime Mortars, Gauged Brickwork, Tuck Pointing, Gauged Arch and Niche Construction, Carved and Cut and Rubbed Brickwork, Geometry.
Please visit Dr Gerard contact website: www.brickmaster.co.uk/courses.html for more information.
How Tuckpointing Helps in Restoration
Content Coming soon
Examples of Tuckpointing
Examples coming soon.
Currently updating with more content coming soon!