The Brick Work and Tuckpointing, Before and After

Well, I originally intended today’s post to be about those landscaping improvements I mentioned briefly at the end of the six month baby update… But as I was looking at the before and after photos, I realized just how big and obvious-looking a change had happened to the outside of our house, and yet had somehow never made it to the blog. So to get caught up, let’s turn the time machine back to last year, before we had the tuckpointing done.

Three views of worn, cracked and crumbling bricks in need of maintenance.

Views of the bricks on the front of the house (left), side of the house (upper right) and above the basement window (bottom right). Taken during the home inspection.

Our house has two different kinds of brick — the fancy red, which is on the front of the house, and the drab dull brown, which is on the sides and back of the house. (This seems to be pretty common among Chicago bungalows, which are typically placed close enough together that the sides aren’t easily visible from the street.) The photos above show what the brick on various parts of the house looked like before we moved in, complete with worn-out mortar, damaged bricks, and cracks so wide that the bricks looked like they would fall out. All in all, it wasn’t pretty.

Especially due to the cracks, we considered the brick work one of the top maintenance priorities when we bought the house. It wasn’t bad enough yet to be irreparable, or to cause any serious structural damage, but we knew that the longer we waited the worse it would get. (Granted, this was before the electrical problems came up, and in retrospect the wiring was probably a bigger priority, but you know what they say about hindsight.)

So we got started on the tuckpointing last fall. (And by “we,” I mean we brought in a contractor to do it — this sort of thing goes way too far beyond our skill level to be a DIY project.) And even though it seems like one of those “boring” things that wouldn’t make for very interesting before and after photos, in our case the result was pretty dramatic.

A view of a red brick house before and after repointing the brick.

Bricks on the front of our house before the tuckpointing (left) and after the tuckpointing (right).

The above photos show a section of the front of the house before and after the tuckpointing — not super different when looking at it from a distance, but definitely noticeable. They used the same red mortar that the house originally had, although it was deeper in the cracks and generally less obvious prior to the tuckpointing.

But moving on to the more serious issues, some of the bricks in the worst shape were in the arch above our basement window. The mortar was completely cracked around them, and the bricks were actually starting to come loose, although thankfully it hadn’t gotten so bad that it couldn’t be fixed:

The bricks above our basement window before repair (top) and after (bottom).

The end result is so smooth and seamless that it’s hard to tell anything was ever amiss, especially considering how crooked and scary-looking it had gotten.

But I think one of the most dramatic changes took place along the side of the house, where the chimney extends from the wall a little. When we bought the house, this section was in particularly bad shape, and it had gotten to the point that the bricks were actually starting to erode away in places. As the photos below demonstrate, some of the ones toward the top had to be replaced entirely:

The brick exterior of a house before and after repointing and repair work.

The chimney before the tuckpointing (left) and after (right).

The funny thing is, despite walking past this section of wall every day (it’s right by our front door) I don’t think I really noticed how big a change had happened here until I looked at these two photos side by side. Compared to the crumbling “before” shot, the wall in the “after” picture looks smooth and solid and practically as good as new.

So that’s the belated story of another big maintenance project we’ve tackled on the house, and hopefully the last one I’ll have occasion to write about on this blog for a while, especially considering that we just had the whole-house rewiring done. And I’ve gotta say, it’s a nice feeling knowing that the house (probably) won’t fall down or burn down anytime soon thanks to these two improvements!


  1. Wow!! That is a big difference! The contractors did a fantastic job! It looks like you are slowly but surely returning the house to its former glory both inside and out. It looks like a wonderful place to raise a family! Love to you all!

  2. Fabulous! And now I know what tuckpointing is; I’d have assumed some sort of gymnastics move if asked, LOL

    BTW, Happy Mother’s Day!

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