Tuckpointing is the use of mortar to provide planned contrast between mortar and bricks. It involves the thorough application of mortar with an intentionally different color than the bricks it holds together. It is the labor-intensive meticulous detail that produces the ‘perfect cake-layer effect’ of mortar between bricks.
Pointing is putting correctly composed mortar between bricks to hold them together and create a watertight seal for your masonry. It can also provide mortar of contrasting color, but its ‘icing’ drips out between bricks, keeping water out of the rest of it. Pointing can also produce a decorative effect, but it is not ‘the perfect tucking’ of that contrasting mortar between the bricks of a masonry ‘bed’.
Language being what it is, and tuckpointing being the norm in certain regions, “tuckpointing” has understandably also come to mean “repointing”. While the technical term may be different dependent upon the area where the work is being performed, the important part of all pointing is the watertight bonding together of bricks with mortar that properly bears their weight. However, clarify the actual language before approving any work to be done so everyone is on the same page.
As long as you and your chimney professional agree to call it the same thing, what makes repointing “perfect” is mortar of the right composition. The proportions of its components and the carefulness of its application are what matter, not what anyone calls it. It goes without saying, however, that as we mentioned above, that everyone is clear about the type of work being performed.
Take some time to ask questions about what your chimney actually needs, and what you want done to it. A simple repair may do the job, but you might like an aesthetic upgrade too!