Repointing, or pointing, is the process of doing mortar repair to a brick or masonry surface where the mortar has deteriorated to the point of being bad. Bad mortar joints could allow water and other foreign materials in, which could eventually hurt the overall structural integrity of the building. Repointing should not be confused with tuckpointing, although the terms are often used in an interchangeable fashion, but there are technical differences. The process of pointing is not difficult, but it is labor intensive.
First, those wishing to commission a job for repointing should take time to familiarize themselves with the meaning of the words for their specific region. Tuckpointing may be used just as often, if not more often. Technically, tuckpointing is the process of putting a mortar of the same color, or similar color, as the masonry or brick. Once that mortar is put into place, and it hardens, the next step is carve out a thin line and put in a contrasting mortar color. This makes the mortar look much thinner than it actually is.
It is generally easy to determine if repointing needs done on a particular area. If it is needed, the mortar will likely be loose in many different spots, and could possibly be missing entirely. Over time, this could cause water intrusion leading to leaks, or cracks in the wall, especially in areas where freezing and thawing is common.
The process of repointing is relatively simple, but it may take a great deal of time depending on the size of the surface needing attention. The first step is to remove any lose mortar using a chisel or some similar tool. Then, brush away any other loose mortar or dust. New mortar should then be mixed and the cavity filled in.
Once that is completed, the worker must wait for the mortar to set, and then should fill in any final gaps. Once that mortar has set, a wire brush, or other type of stiff brush, can take excess mortar from the brick or stone surface. It is important not to mix more mortar than can be used in 30 minutes, or it will start to set.
While mortar can last decades, bricks and stones can last centuries. Therefore, repointing may be needed multiple times over the life of a brick or stone structure. In some cases, it must be done approximately every 20 years to ensure that things remain in good shape. The actual time frame between jobs will vary based on the quality of mortar, whether the surface is outside or inside, and local weather conditions.