Understanding the maintenance that goes into masonry chimneys is a big deal. It needs to be one of the biggest factors in a homebuyer’s decision to purchase a place with a working fireplace and chimney.
If you don’t know how to properly care for a chimney, it can get damaged and hurt your ability to enjoy a fire, and it could also cause thousands of dollars in repairs.
In worst cases, neglected chimneys can lower the appeal of your home should you ever decide to sell it. The good news is that most chimney care isn’t overly complicated. Taking a few steps can prolong the lifespan of a masonry fireplace and chimney, leaving you comfortably soaking in warmth from beautiful fires for years.
How to Tuckpoint a Chimney
Today we’re going to cover a key aspect of chimney upkeep, tuckpointing.
Most chimneys will need tuckpointing at some point, and thankfully it’s relatively straightforward.
Mortar generally lasts about 25 years. That’s much longer than most people will own their homes, but much shorter than the average house lifespan. Over years, rain and wind slowly breakdown the mortar between bricks.
If it gets totally destroyed, or becomes too thin, it can result in bricks shifting and a weight imbalance in your chimney. So, at some point, one lucky homeowner is going to have to tuckpoint their chimney.
When tuckpointing will need to be done will depend on the roof layout, and how much contact a chimney has with water. Tuckpointing is the most affordable way for homeowners to protect their chimney mortar joints.
How Tuckpointing is Done
If you asked yourself how to tuckpoint a chimney. Well, on the most basic level, tuckpointing is the process whereby damaged mortar is removed and replaced with new mortar. The old mortar first needs to be routed out to make things look uniform.
There are mortar removal tools that are available at most neighborhood home improvement stores.
Here’s a list of some of the basic tools you’ll need to tuckpoint:
- Type N masonry cement- You’ll need to mix cement and sand together in a masonry tub to a good consistency. You’ll know it’s ready when the cement sticks to the trowel when it is held sideways. If it drips off or runs, then it’s too thin.
- Pastry Bag – Once you’ve got the right consistency, you can fill the pastry bag with the cement. The pastry bag opening should be no larger than 3/8 inches.
- Spray Water Bottle – The area where you’re applying mortar should be sprayed down with water prior to putting in the cement. The water will help bind it to the brick and existing mortar better.
- Trowel – The trowel is a small diamond-shaped masonry tool that’s used to apply mortar. Once the mortar is pushed into the grooves with the pastry bag, use the trowel to smooth it out into clean lines that look great.
With the tools, mortar needs to be ground out at a uniform depth. Then, new mortar needs to be applied into the routed grooves. Thin strips need to be cut down the middle of any red mortar to make grooves for mortar that’s matching in color.
Homeowners don’t want to fill mortar grooves with mismatched colors. Keeping color schemes the same makes the house look better and like new.
Things to Keep in Mind when Tuckpointing
Tuckpointing a chimney isn’t difficult, but there are certainly things that can go wrong if you don’t follow the plan. Here are a few things to keep in mind to make sure your tuckpoint job looks fantastic.
- Pay attention to groove depth: Use caution when routing old mortar joints. You want to make sure you keep things around the same depth when you take things out. You also want to keep an eye on depth when you are applying new mortar into joints. It will look sloppy if one brick has half an inch of mortar and another has a quarter inch.
- Practice with the Trowel: If this is your first DIY masonry project, it’s worth your while to practice smoothing cement before you do it on your chimney. It will take a few times until you’re comfortable with the trowel and can make your masonry look professional. The last thing you want to do is have your first go on your actual tuckpoint job. If the masonry is messy it will hurt the exterior appearance of your home.
- Don’t be afraid to call in the pros: Learn when to spot something that’s out of your scope. If your chimney has shifting bricks, or the mortar’s eroded to the point you don’t feel comfortable, then don’t hesitate to call in a professional mason. Messing with a chimney that’s shifted can be dangerous and costly.
How much does it cost to tuckpoint a chimney
Speaking in general terms, tuckpointing an area of 20 sq ft can cost you between $250 to $1,000, depending on the company and area of service.
Benefits of Tuckpointing
Tuckpointing is something every eager home DIYer should try. A good tuckpoint job can extend the lifespan of a chimney by years or even decades. It stops the corrosion that ever mortar joint experiences from rain and sun exposure.
Good mortar joints also stop water from leaking into a chimney and soaking into bricks that could lead to even more damage. If enough moisture gets into the house, then ceilings, wooden beams, and drywall can get water damaged.
Tuckpointing is the perfect way to keep an old chimney working and looking great. A total replace and rebuild is a very costly proposition. Tuckpointing also improves the exterior of a house which will improve its market value.
Every homeowner should want to keep his or her home in top condition. Tuckpointing is a simple, straightforward procedure that has cosmetic and functional benefits. Remember, it’s ok to stretch yourself and take on projects that you’ve never done before. Just do the homework prior to the job and make sure to practice on something that’s not critical like a chimney.
A few hours of cement work on some spare bricks, for instance, will go a long way.