Chimney Repair

We were contracted to repair a brick chimney on a Waterford, Wisconsin lake home which was originally constructed in the 1930s. The chimney was crumbling and leaking, and the home owners thought that tuck pointing the chimney would repair the damage. However, as is often the case, the project was more complex than what appeared to the naked eye.

The homeowners are the third generation of the family to live in the home and were concerned about the repairs matching the construction of the rest of the house, especially when we told them that in order to repair the chimney properly, the entire chimney had to be stripped down. We removed all of the brick and made several trips to local brick yards to match the brick as closely as possible. An exact match was not an option without having the bricks custom made. While color wasn’t an issue, the size was: the original bricks were 8-1/4 inches long, but modern bricks are only 7-3/4 inches. Since the homeowners did not want to incur the expense of custom bricks, they were content with the slightly different size. Considering it was on the chimney, away from anything else made of brick, the difference was not going to be very noticeable.

In addition to removing all of the brick, we also had to replace the flashing for the chimney. This turned out to be a messier issue than originally thought. Somewhere in the home’s history, an incorrect repair had been made to the flashing: the flashing was replace with fiberglass and tarred over. One does not simply ‘pull this up’. Because of the tar, which had spread beyond the flashing, many of the shingles on the roof also had to be replaced. Thankfully, matching shingles were easier to find than the bricks!

On a job like this, you have to deconstruct the chimney from the top down, and build it from the bottom up. You have to be very careful not to damage the interior structure of the chimney in the process. Once we had the chimney stripped down to the bare structure, we started replacing the brick. This is where the importance of weather comes in! One of the variables we encounter in construction – especially in Wisconsin – is weather. Not just rain or snow, but temperature. This project – which took the better part of a week rather than the couple of days it should have taken – was very temperature sensitive. You can only lay so much brick in a day: you have to wait for the mortar to set, and in order for it to set properly, the temperature has to be above freezing. In fact, at one point, we used a torch to help the mortar set faster.

In the end, we completely refreshed the chimney: new brick, new flues, new cap, and new flashing. And the homeowners were quite pleased with the outcome.

Typically, a project like this takes only a few days, but as we mentioned, you have to consider weather. Final cost for a project like this is in the neighborhood of $2500. Even though it may appear to be a small job, it is labor intensive: many small parts, lots of trips up and down ladders carrying brick and mortar to the top of the house, and attention to the smallest details so that there will be no water leaking around the chimney.

Our advice: If you have ‘small projects’ ask your contractor if there is a better time of year to do it. Obviously, sometimes, you simply can’t wait to have a repair completed and you just have to do it. But, if you have the option of waiting for more agreeable or predictable weather, it may benefit you to do so: you could cut down on the total construction time of a project (and the mess in your house) by waiting a few weeks.

Like the work that we do? Please contact us for a quote on your next project. We offer contract solutions from repairs and remodeling to whole house construction.