In late eighteenth-century Britain, the craft of tuckpointing was developed. It is a process by which the mortar between brick and stone on buildings is partially removed and new grout is then applied. It is a rare craft these days but remains a critical part of building maintenance and preservation. The process has not changed throughout the centuries although the tools and the science have. Eighteenth-century craftsmen used tools made of forged iron made by blacksmiths. Today, tools are made from hardened tool steel. Modern day tuckpointing professionals also use pneumatic and electrical tools for grinding mortar.
Much of America’s early architecture was inspired by the Europeans who first began building our cities. Many of these buildings are still standing in beautiful condition today because of proper maintenance. Stone and brick can last almost indefinitely; however, the mortar that holds them together is a different story. Grout can last between twenty-five and fifty years. Depending on when the building was constructed, the materials used for making grout can vary.
During the nineteenth century, materials were generally sourced locally. Limestone and clay were the most commonly used materials. Today, we have not only made advances in the variation of material but our means of transporting resources has also become virtually limitless. Many cement manufacturers now use waste products such as fly ash from other industries as a means of environmental responsibility. Other abundant sources include shells, slate, silica sand, and iron ore. Again, the process is essentially the same, with the exception of the scale of manufacture and a greater variation of filler materials.
The environment has the greatest effect on how long a building’s grout will last. A building in a city that has vast temperature variations throughout the seasons, along with moisture, will likely not last as long as one in a dry, temperate climate. Since water expands when it freezes, any crack or weakened places in the grout will begin to deteriorate more quickly. As grout ages, it becomes more porous and will absorb water, leading to erosion and eventually an unsafe situation.
There are a few ways to check the condition of your grout. First, a visual inspection is in order. If there are any visible cracks or signs of worn grout in the joints of stone or brick, it might be time to call a professional. Grout can also become discolored and be a sign that repairs are necessary. The condition of grout can also be checked by using a screwdriver. This can be done by scratching the grout. If the screwdriver leaves a scratch or produces any powder, it is likely going to be time for repairs.
If your home is in need of grout repair, it is important to call a professional tuckpointing craftsmen. This is a highly specialized craft and the integrity of the entire structure depends upon the work being done correctly. When the job is complete, the building should look like-new, and the work should last for many years to come.