$5000 chimney tuck-pointing job???

I inspected a house that had a chimney that was used for the fireplace and furnace, which had a chimney liner for the furnace. I observed a gap between the damper and the masonry that needs to be sealed, which I definitely will report but otherwise the masonry and ceramic liner of the fireplace chimney did not look bad at all.

There was another chimney used for the water heater that had no metal liner and a badly deteriorated ceramic liner, which I reported as in need of repair. Though I have no intention of making such a recommendation, the outer masonry looked good enough to me that a metal chimney liner should be sufficient to correct it, provided fallen material from the deteriorated ceramic liner can be cleared from the chimney to enable the liner to be run.

My clients had a chimney repair company look at the house, and they not only recommended rebuilding the top portion of the obviously deteriorated water heater chimney, but “tuck pointing all over” the fireplace chimney, including “…overgrinding out the old mortar joint with a diamond blade saw, preparing the surface with muriatic acid, then putting new mortar back. Acid washing is done again after setup (usually 2-3 days) to remove smudges and smears.”

I know the chimney specialists are supposed to be “the experts,” but they also have a real lot to gain here, whereas I have no such vested interest, which goes back to why people hire inspectors rather than contractors to inspect houses.

This first 4 pictures are of the fireplace chimney and the 5th is of the water heater chimney. Glare from the sun made the 2nd pic difficult to brighten properly from the vantage point I had

Does the fireplace chimney look so bad as to require such extensive repair “all over” amounting to about $3000 of a $5000 job? Or is this contractor trying to milk my clients?

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My Grandfather was a mason for 50yrs, so consider that I probably have a different perspective than most.
I won’t hire a mason who doesn’t know the difference between repointing and tuckpointing.
They are not the same.
That house has gotta be what, 50 or 60 yrs old? Do they have enough experience to know what mix of mortar was used originally? The repointing mortar should be made as close as possible to match the expansion and contraction rates of the old mortar.
If he needs to acid wash the brick when he’s done, then he’s not very neat in his work either.
Being a good bricklayer and being a good repointer are not always the same thing.

To answer your question, not only would I not pay them that amount, from the information you’ve provided here, I wouldn’t let them do it for free.
But, like I said, I’m probably just a brick snob.

Still, it’s hard to tell from your pics, but that doesn’t look like a $3k job to me, much less $5k. I don’t see that much wrong with the exterior of the water heater chimney. Besides having it lined, I wouldn’t mess with it. The other one needs some work, but I just don’t see that kinda money in it. That’s in the market where I live anyway, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the same where you are.

Appreciate the response, Andrew, thanks!

Howzabout 90 years old? My clients said it was built in 1922, and my first guess was 1928 before they told me.

It looked like the water heater chimney had also been used for a gravity furnace, possibly coal-fired, for the first several decades, as I saw another capped flue opening lower on the water heater chimney.

I thought the mortar on the fireplace chimney was in exceptional condition for its age. Not much deterioration for 90 years. Likewise, the ceramic liner of the fireplace/furnace chimney. The gap between the damper and masonry should definitely be sealed, though, as much to minimize heat loss in the Michigan winters as anything else.

Being that old, you really need a guy that knows what he’s doing.
I’m kinds surprised it’s lined at all.

Did you notice it was not done right Andrew?

As a GC I can tell you for fact that various trades prices are reflected by the insurance and liability they carry…example, I finished up a commercial project several month ago where the sprinkler system cost $25,000.00 of which the parts themselves did amount to $5000.00 yet by the time you figure labor (around 5k) and the amount of insurance they have to pay…their price was pretty much close to 3 other bids we received…house jacking and moving is the same way.

When injuries happen or things go wrong in certain trades they end up paying out the wazoooooo. A legit roofer pays 30 cents on every dollar of labor, house movers pay 50 cents, fire / safety 50 - 60 cents on every dollar.

Any high work such as roofing, masonry, drywall, framing can be costly…now figure for taxes and other expenses (overhead) plus a reasonable profit margin…I can see 3000 or more to screw around with a chimney to ensure that same is safe.

One of the biggest issues I deal with is explaining to customers why our estimates are more than Joe the handyman down the street…who has no insurance, does not pay taxes, does not understand the difference between overhead and profit and a whole host of other expenses.

When a client calls you up asking if a price sound high…it is advisable to not comment on the price but simply tell them to get at least 3 prices from licensed and insured companies that have been in business for a while.


Tell us more.

I wouldn’t assume they don’t know the difference. Just like I do my best to use plain English in my reports, a contractor might not want to get too technical. Likewise, regarding the mortar characteristics.

Yeah, those pic sizing limitations, not to mention the inevitable effects of the flash, etc… If I have a few minutes to spare I may post a higher resolution pic or 2. OK, thanks again, folks, back to work…

On a chimney that old it has probably been repointed a couple of times. If you grind out the joints the required depth, you will find the mortar pretty much disinagrated past this point due to age, weathering, and chemical reaction especially the top portion of the stack. The bricks will start to collapse. Never use acid on brick…there are other products that will work just as well and will do no harm.

that estimate looks like a fluff piece. Get at least three estimates.

Find a tuckpointer who will repoint the joints and make sure the corbel and the crown of the chimney are caulked using a polyurethane caulk. (Vulkem) Monitor chimney this should get you a couple of years or longer before a complete teardown is necessary.

Kevin, I know this has been posted on other posts by others here on the MB, but I think it needs to be said again. If you want to be a contributor to the Board your responses should be something useful and tell us what it is you see that noone else sees. Frankly, the comments which are meant to mystify us are useless.

The chimney flues are in contact and the cap is straight. I don’t like to explain anything anymore on this ignorant MB.
I have no problem explaining in more detail but to get it correct everything always get twisted around and this does not do any good for the perception of the InterNachi site.

Pot calling the kettle black.:shock:

How many times have you been exposed for your lack of correct knowledge?

You can’t even tell the difference between a 2x4 and a 2x6 for for crying out loud.

Well first, lets get the repointing issue straight.


The terms pointing, repointing and tuckpointing are often used interchangeably, which has led to confusion within the masonry industry. For years, the Brick Industy Association has discussed what they termed “tuck-pointing” methods in Technical Notes 7F as one form of maintenance of brick masonry. However, the meaning of tuckpointing in one area of the country may be slightly different from that in another area, leading to conflicts regarding job specifications and expected repairs. Consequently, the following definitions of these terms have been developed.



  • Point - to place plastic mortar into joints to correct defects or to completely fill joints in newly laid masonry.
  • Repoint - to place plastic mortar into cut or raked joints to correct defective mortar joints in masonry.
  • Tuckpoint - (1) to point masonry with a flush mortar joint that approximates the color of the masonry units and a mortar of contrasting color that is shaped into a thin strip. (2) see repoint.

Typically, the repointing mortar will be a Type N, O or K mortar. The proportions of portland cement and lime for Types N and O mortars should be in accordance with ASTM C 270 Standard Specification for Mortar for Unit Masonry or BIA MI-88 (see Technical Notes 8A). Type K mortar proportions are no longer included in the body of ASTM C 270, but are given in an appendix on repointing. Mortar specifications permit a range of proportions of materials for each type of mortar. However, typical proportions by volume are the following: Type N -1 part portland cement, 1 part hydrated lime, and 6 parts sand; Type O -1 part portland cement, 2 parts hydrated lime, and 9 parts sand; Type K - 1 part portland cement, 4 parts hydrated lime and 15 parts sand.

One has to remember the cost of staging this chimney at the height it appears to be.

Material and labor here, for staging alone could be in the range of 1-1.5K alone.
As explained earlier, Liability Insurance, Workers Comp,. and unemployment adds up.

It is not an outrageous amount but a little high for up in my area.

The second thing is the liner


in the chimney is made of clay and not Ceramic.

The last photo, appears in good shape but would have been nice to see the cap overhang an 1" plus to provide a rain drip.
The Flue should extend above the chimney cap so a bed of sealant can seal the perimeter of the cap and provide expansion. The spark arrestor could then be re-installed.
The type of brick should be sealed for has a history of absorbing an excess amount of water and might damage the brick in a short time.

For the age of that chimney for the fire place, it is not in bad shape.

Tuck-pointing the joints is expensive and time consumming.
Here is a picture of the tool and one in use.
Usually tucks the joints by 1" or more.

Hope this helps.

I have been a mason for some time and doing exterior stone, clay and concrete brick façade work.

That quote is low in my opinion for my area.

A new crown and liners alone would represent 3 to 5 large to me.

When HI’S “factor pricing” into your reports you must understand trade, contract and pricing. Do not second guess.
IMO; If you do not know then say nothing to your client. You will look better saying I will try to help you BY INQUIRING.
Its not your job to second guess a contractor or trades man from an unseen contract you where not there to negotiate…
I have had clients ask me to preform illusionary repairs. They do not know pricing.
I never did that type of work.

When you can not understand the contract and where not there listening to the clients wishes being applied then shhhh!!.

By the foot and trades costs from providers like Carson Dunlop are unreal. They are low balling. Made for agents…

Shadow a tradesmen.

3 is low and 5 large is about correct depending upon many factors. One being the crown. It must be perfect.
I would be higher.
It depends on area. Depends upon the job, The owners wishes. Depends upon the practices. Depends upon the contract and on and on.

As for the chimney photos.
I see no heaving and the chimneys looks plumb “Vertical lines” looks OK.
I see no spalling, efflorescent staining, or any indication that the chimney needs to be rebuilt.

By the way, how much do you think it would cost to build a chimney from the ground up and pray the foundation footers is not effected.
A complete chimney rebuild from the including the shoulders can run 20 large.

It can take re-pointing from the photos I see.
Best of luck.