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Old 03-11-2008, 11:38 AM   #1
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Chimney repair: rebuild or repoint?


Hello,

I've got a 1927 bungalow that needs some chimney work, but I'm getting conflicting advice from different masonry contractors. The chimney mortar is badly eroded and you can see what looks like mortar from a previous repointing job popping out in places. In other places, you can't even see the mortar when looking up from the ground level because it is worn away so much. Fortunately, the chimney is fairly massive (it contains two flues) and I think that has given it enough bulk to stay straight despite failing mortar. But it needs attention somewhat urgently.

My problem is that one masonry contractor recommends rebuilding the chimney from the roofline up (same brick) and repointing below the roofline, whereas another contractor recommends repointing instead of rebuilding.

The contractor recommending a rebuild says that repointing is not a good idea because you have to grind away old mortar until you get to good mortar for the repointing to take well. They assert that you'd grind away all the old mortar without finding any that is solid enough to use as a base for repointing, so a rebuild is the way to go. They also pointed out that it has been repointed at least once already and you can see that mortar popping out from moisture getting behind it and freezing. They think all the mortar is just crumbly and has to go.

The contractor advocating a repoint says that if you grind away enough of the old mortar and replace with new, you'll have enough good mortar to hold the chimney up even if the mortar towards the inside of the chimney is not replaced. They say they'll be replacing a very high percentage of the mortar, so the chimney will be very solid and secure. They also said that the most important thing after repairing the chimney is to apply a sealant on the chimney to protect it, reapplying every few years.

Any masonry experts on here who can clear up the confusion? The bid to rebuild the chimney is a good deal more expensive than the bid to repoint, as you would guess. Will either route yield good results, or should I pay more for the rebuild to be on the safe side? I plan to stay in the house a long time, so doing the job right if not extravagantly is my goal. Also, any opinions on applying sealant to the chimney and how frequently it is merited? I did some research and even found some sources saying you shouldn't seal it all. So many opinions it is hard to decide!

Thanks!


Last edited by cloud9; 03-11-2008 at 11:40 AM. Reason: typo in posting title
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Old 03-11-2008, 01:48 PM   #2
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Chimney repair: rebuild or repoint?


got 2 either will work or neither has the experience to do the job considering you didn't call a back-of-the-truck jackleg mason,,, the only way i'd do it is to L O O K & that's impossible,,, when done, tho, have him coat the entire sys w/silicone siloxane to prevent wtr intrusion - either brush or spray after 30d - we use prosoco.

doubtful you've got old mortar/soft brick so the modern mortars should work well,,, there's NOTHING as good's hands-on eyeball inspections, tho,,, if its any consolation, we repoint'd a cathedral 4 yrs ago ( 2 yr job ) & used the same prosoco,,, yes, it should be done regularly,,, have to repoint my own & replace some slum flashing w/lead step flashing,,, i'll do the same here.

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Old 03-11-2008, 10:58 PM   #3
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Chimney repair: rebuild or repoint?


A 1927 house has seen alot of weather. You can repoint a chimney only so many times before you need to rebuild. The point at which you make the decision to do one or the other depends on the chimney's condition.
Post some shots of the chimney. Some closeup ,some a bit away.
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Old 03-18-2008, 01:13 AM   #4
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Chimney repair: rebuild or repoint?


Thanks Ron and elitecrete for your input. It is hard to judge from the ground level, but it looks like my mortar joints are eroded pretty badly. I've posted a few photos for reference. They were taken in 12/06, so presumably things look a bit worse now. The photos are about 1 MB each, but show a good amount of detail if you view them at full resolution:

From front of house - http://chott.com/house/chimney_front.jpg
From below chimney - http://chott.com/house/chimney_below.jpg
Brick below roofline - http://chott.com/house/chimney_lower.jpg

Do these photos make the repoint/rebuild decision obvious?
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Old 03-18-2008, 05:36 AM   #5
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Chimney repair: rebuild or repoint?


It has already been half-assed repointed. Part of the problem is that the joints were originally raked, not tooled. Re-point with tooled joints. The hard part is going to be grinding out the "repairs".
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Old 03-18-2008, 05:46 AM   #6
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Chimney repair: rebuild or repoint?


we use 4" grinders & diamond 1/4" tuckpoint blades for our work,,, if the brick's old ( soft ), be VERY careful you don't cut into it & cause damage,,, looks like the lime's washed from some jnts leaving only sand,,, still & all, from your pics, i'd repoint if it were my house.

1 more suggestion - we'd caulk the jnt 'tween the house & chimney using backer rod & silicone.
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Old 03-18-2008, 07:47 AM   #7
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Chimney repair: rebuild or repoint?


That mortar is not missing, that is a raked joint, with a small amount of degradation.
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Old 03-18-2008, 09:18 AM   #8
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Chimney repair: rebuild or repoint?


couldn't tell from the photographs
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Old 03-23-2008, 09:41 PM   #9
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Chimney repair: rebuild or repoint?


It seems to me that the time has come to replace the brick from the roofline up. Have you asked a structural engineer who has expertise in chimneys and brickwork for an opinion? Might be more objective than the chimney company that will make money on it. Here's a good article I found on common chimney repairs. Good luck!
http://www.oldhouseweb.com/stories/Detailed/14852.shtml
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Old 03-23-2008, 10:27 PM   #10
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Chimney repair: rebuild or repoint?


The mortar is so recessed in the joints as to almost be absent. And it also looks that way below the roof line which is not good. If the mortar left in the joints is soft and crumbly I would rebuild the chimney as far down to the ground as needed. I can't see putting an inch or so of mortar in the joints as a solution that would give the chimney any structural integrity.
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Old 08-12-2008, 11:40 AM   #11
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Chimney repair: rebuild or repoint?


im from ireland and have been building houses for the past 22 years and it souds like your chimney has seen better days
and if your going to stay in the house for a very long time yourself then rebuild it
then you will not have to touch it for another hundred years
repointing you could be fixing it again in 5 to 10 years time
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Old 05-12-2009, 06:53 AM   #12
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Chimney repair: rebuild or repoint?


I also have a home that a chimney inspector said is unstable. He said that the chimney has deteriorating mortar joints from the inside out. The home was built in 1927. He didn't comment on how many times the chimney may have been repointed.

My question: Is repointing an option if the chimney mortar joints are deteriorating from the inside out vs just mortar deterioration on the outside.
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Old 05-12-2009, 08:03 AM   #13
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Chimney repair: rebuild or repoint?


Quote:
Originally Posted by frogme View Post
I also have a home that a chimney inspector said is unstable. He said that the chimney has deteriorating mortar joints from the inside out. The home was built in 1927. He didn't comment on how many times the chimney may have been repointed.

My question: Is repointing an option if the chimney mortar joints are deteriorating from the inside out vs just mortar deterioration on the outside.
If the chimney is deteriorating the way you described, you have structural issues that need to be adressed. You're getting moisture in where it shouldn't get. Possible the chimney cap, severely deteriorated mortar at the top of the structure or failed flashing. Or a combination of these. Replacing the outside mortar will not address this issue.
Getting a chimney specialist in there to inspect it would be the best way to determine what's needed.
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Old 05-12-2009, 09:18 AM   #14
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Chimney repair: rebuild or repoint?


We had it inspected by a chimney inspector who said there are deteriorating mortar joints from inside out. He suggested the cause being that the chimney does not have a cap for protection. The problem we are having is with the seller of the house. He is a contractor and is insisting it can be repointed. From what I've read repointing doesn't address issues inside the chimney. Is that correct?

The chimney inspector said that it is unsafe and needs to be rebuilt from the roof flashing up. The house inspector did not comment on specifics of the chimney since we had hired a chimney inspector. The house inspector said that the chimney "gave" when he pushed on it.

Base on this, does anyone think repointing is a viable option?
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Old 05-12-2009, 09:52 AM   #15
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Chimney repair: rebuild or repoint?


Quote:
Originally Posted by frogme View Post
We had it inspected by a chimney inspector who said there are deteriorating mortar joints from inside out. He suggested the cause being that the chimney does not have a cap for protection. The problem we are having is with the seller of the house. He is a contractor and is insisting it can be repointed. From what I've read repointing doesn't address issues inside the chimney. Is that correct?

The chimney inspector said that it is unsafe and needs to be rebuilt from the roof flashing up. The house inspector did not comment on specifics of the chimney since we had hired a chimney inspector. The house inspector said that the chimney "gave" when he pushed on it.

Base on this, does anyone think repointing is a viable option?
No way!
Where did the house inspector push in the chimney when it,"gave"? This issue could go all the way to the ground as the chimney is 82 years old, especially if it never had a cap.
It is fairly common in older houses that the chimney needs to be rebuilt above the roofline.
Does the chimney have a liner? What shape is it in? A masonary chimney with a damaged or missing liner is a liability.
How many flues does it have?
Ron

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