Old House Tuck Pointing 101: Don’t be usin’ that new-fangled mortar on them old-timey bricks!

Having just begun to enjoy the fruits of our gardening labor, I couldn’t bring myself to totally junk up the courtyard for the summer with scaffolding, bags of mortar & lime, ladders, and tools. So we opted to work on the front of the house for now. I couldn’t completely avoid seeing the scaffolding and some supplies during the process, but my lovely neighbors bore the brunt of a full frontal view of carnage. Again.

In 1876 when our house was built, the bricks of the day were very soft, and the lime mortar used was also very soft. Using today’s typical construction mortar (Portland Cement), which expands and contracts with change of seasons much more that lime mortar, can damage the soft old brick facings.

For a deep dive into historic mortars and options for tuck pointing mortar “recipes” for use today, read “The Myth in the Mix” from BuildingConservation.com.

I’m a self-admitted recipe lover, but in this case, I’m left the mortar recipe to Ken and the tuck point team. They tested a sample area, and it looked a little darker than the original, but not by too much.

Mortar was removed from all brick joints (a very loud process…) and replaced with the new lime mortar mix. There were also a few damaged bricks that had to be removed and replaced with leftover old brick sourced for the kitchen remodel.

While we had the scaffolding up and a team at hand, we took the opportunity to have the metal cornices cleaned and painted. Trim color was Sherwin-Williams “Westhighland White.”

I think you’ll agree that the facelift project made a big difference in the appearance of the Fixer Upper, and no doubt stabilized the exterior as well. Take a look at the before and after comparison!

Lookin’ good in the neighborhood! Now, let’s take a break for a while and not work on the house!

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One thing that makes my journey unique is that all of my interests are driven by a joyful and genuine curiosity. I delight in finding less expensive ways to make something or creative ways to enjoy something longer. Finding and creating joy - and sharing it - is core to who I am.