Pointing, Re-pointing vs Tuckpointing: Are they the Same thing?

Yes & No. Here and There. It depends… What year is it and where are you?

Tuckpointing Semantics: Definitions & Confusions of the word.

There’s a lot of chaos around the word tuckpointing. Is it tuck-point or tuckpoint? I say tuckpointing, but see tuck-pointing written just as regularly. The hyphenated version of the word can easily be traced back to its roots, when tuck-pointing meant something different and the correct word, for what we do, was just “pointing”

Tuckpointing, our word & how we use it.

Mortar joint detail on tuckpointing  for st. louis and other parts of usa

Mortar joint Detail: Tuckpointing in the United states

Here in the US, for the last 100+ years, tuckpointing has been and still is a word used to describe replacing mortar joints in a brick, block, stone or other masonry wall/structure. Before we re-defined the word tuckpointing, this process was called repointing.(Read on, I’ll explain)

Removing bad, broken, cracked & deteriorated mortar from existing joints and replacing that with new mortar IS Tuckpointing, to you and me. And when done right, tuckpointing does add structural value and aesthetic appeal. Though, in other parts of the world It refers to something a bit different.

Tuck-pointing throughout the rest of the world.

Tuckpointing as defined by Europe, English British UK

Mortar Joint Detail: Tuckpointing throughout Europe (Notice the two contrasting colors. Brick pointed with color to match surface and a smaller detail added afterward: a raised contrasting joint to create an illusion of smaller neater joints. You may have to click to enlarge.

The origin of the word tuckpointing, is European, specifically, English. The word, as its original intended use, means to describe the process of adding joints to masonry units to create an appearance of smaller joints, more square, uniform sized brick or stone after the structure was built, for visual appeal only.

A Short History Lesson: Way back when, brick was made in a different process than today. The brick, often-times had to be hand cut or trimmed after being fired. This caused irregularities in sizes. The irregular sizes of brick would cause for uneven lines & some visually unappealing brickwork. To correct the situation, and make things pretty, after the wall or structure was built, another person would add the Tuckpointing. Essentially just an overlaid, raised mortar joint on the existing brick and mortar to create the appearance of straight, even joints. 100% Aesthetic, adding no structural value.

Pointing & Re-pointing

Synonymously used with each other, and rightfully so, they mean the same thing. The definition? The removal or repair of deteriorated mortar joints. Isn’t that just Tuckpointing(The American definition)? Yeah, it is, but pointing and repointing are the words used for the process throughout the rest of the world.

Where, When, & Why the confusion of the word tuckpointing happened.

The reference material, listed below, explains that all signs of the origin of misuse of the word tuckpointing lead to Chicago, Then St. Louis and spread from there in the early 1900s. It appears that there isn’t a definitive answer as to why the confusion of the word happened, so one could only speculate. My speculation: Tuckpointing sounds better and more specific than a general multi-meaning word like pointing or repointing. One person said it wrong and it caught on.

Examples of the confusion and cross contamination of the word tuckpointing are still around us today. The P-C-C Union or “Pointing, Caulking, Cleaning” union still carries the word pointing over tuckpoitning. Many friends and family in the field, myself included will sometimes casually refer their work as “pointing.”

The Bottom line joint:

The rest of the world says things differently and generally disagrees on the terminology of tuckpointing as we use it today. But things change and words evolve. My thoughts? Embrace changes and stay educated.


Tuckpointing History and Confusion.