Tuckpointing and brick repair on Chimney

mary_228June 19, 2006

Wow, I'm surprised at the $2800 estimate for repairs to my 15 yr old chimmey!

The estimator was practically apologetic, explaining they employ union workers, how it would take three to four visits, two men all day the first day, scaffolding, powerwashing, new 4" concrete chimney cap, waterproofing with Chemtrete BSM #40.

I am astounded. What looked like a few chunks of the bricks missing has led to this! Anyone else been down this road with advice to share?

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I did concrete repairs to our chimney 12 years ago, including a new section of liner, and the repairs have held up well since then. But, we did not have chunks of bricks missing.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2006 at 8:56PM
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Sounds like a cadillac tuck job to me- perhaps more than you really need, but the minimum he is in the habit of doing.

I can't imagine how bad a 15-year old chimney could be. If it's just those few loose bricks, you could probably get a mason who works on the side to fix it up for a small fraction of that. If appearance is critical and you want all the mortar to perfectly match, you will probably have to pay that much.

It's not rocket science, but it is time-consuming, sometimes tedious work especially if you have to grind out and re-point every grout line there. When you think about it, they will be re-doing all the grout that was put there originally, plus grinding and cleaning each one first.

I would find someone experienced who will do just what's needed, and hope they are able to match the grout reasonably close. Something unusual must've happened to loosen up those few bricks.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2006 at 1:15PM
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Thanks tryinbrian:

I plan to get another estimate. None of my neighbors (same builder) have these problems. Just my luck!

    Bookmark   June 21, 2006 at 6:14PM
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If your chimney needs extensive repair after 15 years, chances are there something was wrong with the mortar used when the chimney was constructed. Has the chimney been impacted by a tree branch, or high winds, as in tornado?

    Bookmark   June 22, 2006 at 10:05AM
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We are the original owners so I can confidently say that there has been no damage from the things you listed.

At a neighborhood party the other night, I mentioned this repair and one person said they had to have another cap made, but the repair was nowhere near this much money. Of course, they didn't have bricks replaced, etc. I think I'll send out an e-mail to all my friends here to see if they've had work done and can recommend someone.

My husband is wondering what would be the consequence of doing nothing. I told him the water would continue to get into the brick and make the chimney crumble. Of course, I made that up!

    Bookmark   June 22, 2006 at 10:18AM
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I had such a repair done to my almost 100 year old chimney for about $300. He tuckpointed and replaced bricks that had fallen off the top course or two. We had the fallen bricks for him to use. I would have done it myself, but I was afraid to climb to the top of our very steep roof.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2006 at 6:55PM
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My husband wonders what will happen if we do nothing. Any ideas on that front?

Just to give you an idea about the work to be done, another estimate came in at the same amt of money, detailing replacement of 25 spalled bricks, replacing with new bricks to be approved by homeowner. They will remove the top course of brickwork and cement wash on chimney, form and pour in place new concrete cap with overhang.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2006 at 8:33PM
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Well, mary 228, sounds like something serious going on there, having to replace "spalled" bricks. I'm not exactly sure what that means, but it sounds like some actual bricks are disintigrating, as opposed to just mortar problems. Sounds like water got into the bricks at the top somehow, and perhaps froze, which accelerated the deterioration. A cement cap is probably their way of preventing that from happening again.

I think if you do nothing, it will probably continue deteriorating. Water and frost are the enemy of masonry and will, given time, eventually reduce it to a pile of rubble.
I wish I could give you an idea on how to fix it cheaper, but I am not aware of anything that works as good as a concrete cap. (I like the overhang idea too - to make sure water doesn't seep in somewhere).

You might be able to get someone to tuck-point those top bricks and slather on some mortar to try and seal it off, but you'll never know how long it will last. Too bad the builder didn't invest in a nice solid concrete cap in the first place - your bricks would probably still be like new today.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2006 at 3:52PM
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I found some information today on the internet about the problem I'm having. It seems like I have no alternative but to undertake this $$ repair. I'll post a link for any others who might be researching this problem.

Here is a link that might be useful: Chimney & the Heartbreak of Psoriasis

    Bookmark   July 5, 2006 at 4:59PM
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Tuck point, caulking and chimney work are expensive. We looked into replacing our chimney cap and it was $1,000 alone for the work. If you are replacing bricks as well, then you have a leak somewhere. Do you also see white splotches on your chimney after rain? This is another indication that rain has come inside and behind the brick. Remember also that brick and mortar are porous, not water resistant. Applying a water repelling coating on our house was very expensive as well. While I think your price sounds a little high, I would get another estimate. It doesn't sound out of the ballpark.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2006 at 3:30PM
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You may want to read this about spalled brick:
Spalling Bricks
House Detective : Episode HDT-601 -- More Projects »

Spalling is the deterioration of a brick's surface brought on by moisture. Brick is porous and when the water it absorbs expands due to freezing temperatures, it causes the brick to break apart, or spall. While our homeowners in Yonkers, New York, had spalling in their basement, it's most common in chimneys.

And here's the really bad news: spalled brick is almost impossible to repair. Damaged bricks have to be cut out and replaced. It's an expensive, slow and tedious process. But there are a few things you can do to help prevent spalling:

A masonry sealant can help prevent the problem as long as it allows the brick to breathe.

Keep moisture away from brick foundations by providing proper drainage away from the house.

And if spalling is confined to just a few bricks, leave them alone. They won't compromise the stability of a wall or a chimney.

If spalling is severe, consult a professional. It's necessary for the safety of your home. But be prepared to watch your check book balance crumble...along with the brick.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2006 at 3:32PM
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I'd like to revive this thread, if i may. Today i had the chimney sweep here, and he pointed out one spalled brick on my chimney, which he said was caused by water/ice, which sounds consistent w/the explanation above. He recommends replacing that brick and also re-laying the concrete crown b/c it's cracked and it doesn't cover the whole top of the chimney (doesn't go all the way to the edge). He also said we should use a water-based sealant to waterproof the chimney.

Prices: To re-lay the concrete crown - $450
to waterproof from the roofline up - $250
to spot-cut one brick - $149

Based on what's been said here, these prices seem reasonable.

Also, according to the report posted by dgmarie, it sounds like i may not need to worry about fixing one spalled brick. However, the sweep also pointed out that a few other bricks, including those on either side of this one, had been fixed at some point, b/c the bricks don't match... Does this argue for fixing or not fixing the spalling?

And i must admit i thought sealing the bricks was a rip-off (much like rustproofing cars...), but it sounds from what others have said that it's legitimate.

Can anyone advise me--should i do all three things, or not?


    Bookmark   October 26, 2006 at 1:48PM
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I am very pleased with the work that was done. Some of the new bricks are a bit off colorwise, but the chimney cap looks great and the waterproofing seems to have had an effect.

As far as your question, I'd do all of the recommended work and have them waterproof the whole chimney (why stop at the roofline?)

I've been noticing chimneys since I had to have that work done and I can't believe how much the owners let them deteriorate.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2006 at 3:09PM
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mary, thank you for sharing your experience--i'm glad it went well for you! I think their logic about the waterproofing was that, the part of the chimney below the roofline is more sheltered and therefore not subject to water and ice the way the part above the roof is, but i'll ask them. I'm going to get a second estimate, too, just so i can see if they say anything different.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2006 at 10:50PM
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I've had a request from a gardenweb member to update the forum on the condition of the chimney after this work was done in '06.

Upon my amateur inspection, there is no spalling, no efflouresence. The concrete cap looks great. Hope that helps. I think the breathable waterproofing was a good idea and will plan to have them reapply if recommended down the road.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2008 at 10:07AM
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I have more than 60 spalled bricks on my chimney - all below the roof line, caused by leaking eaves troughs! I had a mason give me an estimate - $500Can. The bricks cost less than $1 each, so it's all labour really. Yes a slow process but not so difficult, so decided to do it myself over time and I'm sure after the first few my work will be fine! I have done similar things before where the mortar was softer (lime) and it was quite easy. As for the waterproofing - I decided to do that as an interim measure to stop any further deterioration. I used the breathable waterproofing which I applied by brush in one evening for a cost of $30 - still have half left too for an additional coat. It is claimed to last for 10 years! So people I think you are all paying far too much for the "expert" services of these skilled workmen : although I guess they have to account for high insurance against injury or defect claims eh" LOL

    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 3:19AM
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The taking out and replacing the brick are the most costly, Cutting out and replacing the mortar would be next. The sealer my friend is the least expensive but probably the most important part. I would advise using the best clear sealer you can get and a "expert" could get a lot better product then you can get at a better price. I would go ahead and pay the .80 a sq ft or so, Its worth it.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 1:44AM
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The best term for your job would be repointing instead of tuckpointing although many people use the terms interchangeably, I guess because it sounds more difficult and true tuckpointing is a lost art. It would help for you to learn a bit more about repointing before taking bids for the work. (see link below)

You might also determine if the chimney is suitable or safe for its use. If it is for a heating system it might need to be relined or another method of venting should be considered. If it is for a fireplace it is highly likely that it needs to be relined.

Here is a link that might be useful: brick info

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 8:48AM
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Crikey, yet another thing I need to think about. Just the other day I noticed some cracking on an upper part of my chimney, a wider section at the top as it were (it's all cinderblock/cement block) but not a cap per se, just blockwork that sticks out a bit....not sure how to describe it.

I suppose being cinder block I can just repair it with mortar? When the weather improves, I'll go up and have a look and see what passes for a cap or not, makes sense to have one. Could aluminum or stainless steel flashing be used? My chimney is just for a downstairs gas fireplace, I don't know if some sort of provision was made for an actual future fireplace?

What sorts of remedial stuff is needed for cement block - does it need to be sealed?

    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 1:12AM
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Please don't hijack the thread.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 12:16PM
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A chimney question about cinderblock vs brick is hijacking? From what i understood about the above, it's a similar problem. The repair as I understand it would be similar too - how is that hijacking?

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 12:52PM
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From your description I have no idea what the issue is with your CMU chimney but if you mix aluminum with masonry you will be replacing it very soon.

Disrupting an on-going discussion with another discussion is considered hijacking on this forum and it is usually accompanied with an apology because it often puts a stop to the original discussion. Therefore, if you want people to respond to your question it is usually better to start your own thread.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 9:17AM
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I do apologise if I've caused you so much consternation, but I naively thought that they were pretty much the same issue. Brick, cinderblock - laid by same people, joined with same mortar.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 7:18PM
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It has nothing to do with your question; it is a matter of interrupting a discussion. Be polite and start your own thread.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2009 at 11:44AM
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I appreciate this thread as it tells me I am not aloneÂ

I added a 2nd floor to our 1954 house in 1986, extending the existing chimney another 10-12 feet up, using new bricks. Around 1995 we began to have problems with pieces of the new bricks coming down, (which I gather from this thread is called "spalling".) I was told it was due to water in the bricks freezing in our NE winters and expanding to break the bricks. I resealed the bricks myself in 1996 and 2002. (It got the sealant all over our vinyl siding - but that's another story.) In 2003, as the problem was worse than ever, I paid $2,400 for pros to come in and repair it "right" with staging: they replaced the top 6-7 rows, replaced broken 4-6 miscellaneous bricks below that, and resealed the whole chimney. (My original bricks from c. 1954 are all fine. The pros told me that there was a problem with the batch of bricks made in 1986 - they had seen it elsewhere. But I am dumfounded by that explanation.) I thought I was fixed, but now in 2009 I have about 5 broken bricks.

It looks like this chimney is just going to be my nemesis for life.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 8:51AM
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Ok, so today I called on an advertiser from Valpack to clean my chimney for $29.99 because it seemed like a good deal. I have a 100 year old house that I bought as a "fixer upper" 10 years ago in New Jersey, and I have NEVER had a single leak or problem with my chimney. I had my chimney cleaned last year, and nobody said I needed a new chimney....The guy cleaned my gutters (for $50), but said I needed to "knock down" my chimney and get a new one, which he could do for $2000. He told me I have a 120 brick chimney. Even at $2 per brick, that's $240, plus you figure $200 for mortar, and maybe an extra $60 for cememnt... That's about $500... Should it REALLY cost $2000? Is $1500 reasonable for the "work"? How many hours should it take to do this job properly? I mean, is this a "bait and switch"? Are they charging me more because I am a girl? In this economy, do I really need to do ANYTHING?? ANY help from ANY knowledgeable souce would be GREATLY appreciated!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2009 at 6:12PM
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I assume that jennythomas is just a spammer.

For carriedaway why do you think you need a new chimney? How tall is it? Internal or on the outside of the house? How many flues?

$2000 seems cheap for a whole new chimney. "120 bricks" sounds only a few feet of chimney. For that $2000 seems high.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 2:27PM
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I have an old house in southern Vermont with a chimney that is worse for wear after this past winter. The two plus story chimney is made of brick on the lower half and cement block for the remainder. The entire chimney has been coated with thin cement product (guess) and/or Thoroseal. Over the winter a large section of the lower half (brick) lost this cement/paint coating. There is a a 2x2 section of brick that is badly deteriorated. The mason that installed a new cap 4 years ago gave me two options: 1. Rebuild chimney (costly-- no thanks) or 2. Repatch and hope, no promises made as to how long. Question: Would it make any sense to add another "layer" of bricks (encasing 3 exterior sides of chimney)on the lower half of the chimney? This approach might slow down further deterioration of the chimney. Thoughts? (I have photos but the site does not accommodate.)

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 6:14PM
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When a post is 2 years old one should assume that the issue has been resolved.

If you have a new question you should start a new thread so the members here don't have to read all of the old posts to find the new one.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 9:03AM
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Wow...we're in upstate NY (Fingerlakes) and we had our 56 yr old chimney taken down (before it did it by itself) and replaced for 2800, and they did it all in 1 day, yesterday. Your amount for a refurb seems a bit steep.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2011 at 4:28PM
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Renovator8 (My Page) on Mon, May 23, 11-"When a post is 2 years old one should assume that the issue has been resolved.

If you have a new question you should start a new thread so the members here don't have to read all of the old posts to find the new one."

Renovator8, I noticed you signed up for GW less than a year ago. Apparently this issue has not been resolved, otherwise people wouldn't be bothering to add to the thread.

Are you aware that the forum moderators post "FAQ's" for some threads because certain questions have been asked so many times?

They do this to avoid too many duplicate threads for the same subject.

I've been a member since 2003 and found the info in this particular thread helpful.

I really don't want to have to sift through 100 new 'chimney repair' threads in order to glean pertinent information that can still be found in the older threads.

If you have any new info about chimney repairs that could be added to THIS thread, I'd be interested in reading it. Thanks.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 10:50AM
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I am an architect who has contributed to building detailing questions here for almost as long as you have although I don't remember seeing you in the building forums. This thread has been hijacked by people with unrelated questions several times and spammed twice over almost 5 years. Adding to the thread forces anyone who is interested in the subject to read through many unrelated posts to find the new one, if in fact it is legitimate.

Anyone seeking more information on the subject of brick pointing, repointing, etc. would be better served by searching for those key words on the GardenWeb rather than reading a rambling disjointed thread hijacked multiple times over 5 years.

Yes, I could add to the subject but I stopped responding to hijacked threads long ago. If someone wants my advice I don't think it is too much to ask that they start a new thread. As for creating a general resource for others to find, I suggest that you would be better off searching on Google for professional sites than relying on the GardenWeb.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 10:19AM
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"I am an architect who has contributed to building detailing questions here for almost as long as you have although I don't remember seeing you in the building forums. Yes, I could add to the subject but I stopped responding to hijacked threads long ago."

Have you been posting under another name because your member page says you signed up last year.

I wasn't aware that architects were experts about chimneys.

Like I said before, I found the info here to be helpful. Isn't that what this forum is all about?

If you have anything else to offer about chimneys, I'd be interested to see what you have to say.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 4:19PM
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Do you have a picture you can upload? I own a reputable chimney company and would be have to give you some honest insight. I will tell you this however...the labor rates for a chimney technician are extremely expensive, with just cause. If you a licensed and insured company who holds the proper credentials it is expensive to keep that business running because of the high risk category we fall in. On the other hand there are a lot of crooks out there. You should get at least 3 estimates, do some research on your own and then pick which company to go with. Send me a couple of pictures and I will help you the best I can. - Scott

Here is a link that might be useful: The Chimney Chap Website

    Bookmark   May 20, 2013 at 12:28PM
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