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Homeowners who try to save money by tuck-pointing (patching new mortar over old without chiseling) are throwing their money away, Mario Machnicki says.

At best, tuck-pointing leaves a weak connection between old and new mortar layers; at worst, it makes joints wider and more susceptible to water infiltration.

It's easy to see why repointing by hand costs as much as a square foot.

Using an electric grinder with a diamond-tipped blade can cut the cost to per square foot, as long as the joints are more than ½-inch wide.

Before the 1870s, when portland cement became commercially available, most masonry structures—the Egyptian pyramids included—were built using only lime and sand.Whenever mortar has lost ¼ inch of its original depth, it's time to get out the chisel and go to work.Thoroughly rake out and clean joints to a depth twice the width of the joint.Then he scoops a glob of the sticky gray mix out of a bucket and onto his plasterer's hawk.Holding the hawk up to the wall, he scrapes fresh mortar into the joint with a narrow tuck-pointing trowel.

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