Basement Refinishing 101Basement Refinishing 101

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Basement Refinishing 101

When it comes to expanding your home living space, one of the most effective ways to do it is to finish the basement. You can turn a full basement into an entire floor of extra living space. You may even be able to create bedrooms, install a kitchen, and add a bathroom. I created this site to share my experiences with basement renovations and construction. My hope is that sharing what I have learned will help others to see that it's easier than you think to finish the basement and create the space you have always envisioned in your home.

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Set In Stone: 5 Steps To Tuckpointing Irregular Rock Walls

Although tuckpointing a traditional brick layout is fairly straightforward, irregularly shaped rock faces can pose an additional challenge. For example, you cannot use a simple angle grinder to cut out the old mortar materials. Instead, you must resort to time-honored removal methods based around the use of chisels and trowels. Here's a rundown of the irregular rock wall tuckpointing process from start to finish.

Step 1: Grab Your Supplies

Gather all of your tools before you begin to avoid extra trips to the hardware store in the middle of the job. For this project, you'll need:

  • Dust mask
  • Gloves
  • Chisel set
  • Pointed trowel
  • Wire Brush
  • Mud pan
  • Hard hat
  • Piping bag
  • Sealant

In addition to the tools above, you'll also need to pick up the desired mortar color for the project. To perform the tuckpointing process properly, pick a color that perfectly matches the rock faces. You'll also need to grab a putty material in a contrasting color to create the uniform center fillet. A popular filler look for dark gray stones is a dark gray mortar and white or black fillets.

Step 2: Remove Old Mortar Joints

Since the spaces between the rock faces are not uniform, you'll need to take your time during the removal process. As you chip away at the mortar, dust and rock chips will saturate the air around you. In addition, removing the mortar could loosen the rock faces and send pieces cascading down the wall. Make sure to wear your protective gear, such as gloves, hardhat and dust mask, to stay safe and healthy throughout this process.

Begin by chipping away at the mortar using your chisel or pointed trowel end. You want to cleanly pull the mortar out of the cracks without disturbing the rock faces. Brush the dust and debris out of the crack at regular intervals to maintain a clear view of your work area. Take your time to make sure all of the old material comes out of the spaces between the rocks to create a secure mounting point for the new mortar.

Step 3: Mix New Materials

Start with the matching mortar color to fill in the cleft up to the rock face. Only mix two to three cups of mortar at a time to keep the material in a workable state. Mixing up too much mortar will allow it to set up before you can drive it into the gaps between the rocks.

Add water to the mudding pan before pouring in the mortar material. Carefully combine the mixture until it looks fully saturated. Let the mixture sit for several minutes to allow the grains to absorb the water and become a thick paste.

Step 4: Tuckpoint Away

Work quickly, but thoroughly, once you create the thick paste product. Push the mortar between the rock faces with your trowel. Make sure the mortar slides deep into the cavity to create a solid connection between the adjacent rock pieces. As the mortar dries, it will shrink up a bit, so it's best to fill up the gap until it lies level with the rock faces.  

Once you finish filling all of the gaps with the first color, load up your putty material into a piping bag. Use a steady hand to apply the thin layer of putty to the direct center of each gap.

Step 5: Cure and Seal

Allow the mortar and putty materials to dry for several days before coming back to inspect the project. If any areas shrank too much during the drying process, apply a new layer of mortar and pipe a quick fillet over the top.

Once everything has dried, apply a sealant product to the top of the mortar and fillet materials. The sealant will provide waterproof protection from the elements for years to come. If you're unhappy with the results, or just find the process too time consuming, consider hiring a professional to complete the job for you. Search sites like for professionals in your area.