Is it worth paying a mason 40% more to point a chimney?
April 4, 2014 9:42 AM   Subscribe

Shall I hire a chimney company for pointing or am I better off paying more to have a mason do the job?

Chimney guy comes to clean and (as they typically do) tells me that more work is needed. This time, however, I think their assessment is correct.

When I look at the chimney (2 stories up) I do not see white between the bricks. Chimney guy says that some of the bricks move to the touch, and that pointing is needed. (The house and chimney were constructed about 45 years ago.) He quoted $500 for the job.

I called a masonry contractor I trust and used before. He was unable to get on the roof that day because it was raining, but said assuming that pointing is all that's needed (as I understood him sometimes the deterioration is such that a chimney needs to be reconstructed) he could do the job for no less than $700. He knew that I had the quote for $500, but explained that his expenses are probably higher than the chimney company. He also said that his people are probably more experienced, specialists etc etc.

Is it worth $200 more to hire a specialist? Or is pointing an activity that the chimney folks can easily pull off?
posted by elf27 to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Masons are much more likely to point the mortar so that it matches the rest of the house. Ask to see photos of other jobs that the chimney company has done, but most cheap repointing jobs fill the joints completely with mortar so that it looks obviously repointed, especially if the work is done in one zone.

Masons are also more likely to match both the color and strength of the original mortar. If you go with the chimney company, insist that they do not use PCC for the mortar.
posted by hwyengr at 9:52 AM on April 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

I don't know the answer to your question, but I thought I'd add here that my chimney sweep recently quoted me $425 for this job (one story up, relatively non-scary roof pitch). So your chimney company's estimate seems to be in the right ballpark.
posted by bennett being thrown at 10:51 AM on April 4, 2014

If a good repair can get you another 25 years out of that chimney, then the difference between hiring a specialist (the mason) or a generalist (chimney sweep) averages out to about $8 per year... pretty minimal, really, when you stretch the cost over the estimated lifetime. And one would hope that the specialist would bring more experience and higher-quality materials to the repair, making it last longer and so reducing the cost difference even more.

When we got our foundation re-pointed, we went with the specialist. It cost more upfront, but we figured it's cheaper to do it more expensively once than more cheaply twice.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 11:37 AM on April 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't know about chimneys or mortar, but if by "expenses," he means that he is licensed, bonded, and insured and that the other person is not, I would absolutely go with the higher estimate.
posted by slidell at 10:06 PM on April 4, 2014

Also, speaking as someone who has been doing a lot of subcontracting lately, the difference between real experts and schlubs is worth so very much more than $200 on almost any job. (I mean, if you need a hole dug, it probably doesn't matter, but I can't imagine chimney repair is like shoveling.) Price isn't always the right way to tell the experts from the schlubs, and maybe your first chimney person is actually pretty good, but you know that the other party is a specialized masonry contractor, so it seems fairly likely to be worth the difference. (But I will stop commenting now and leave the discussion to the chimney experts.)
posted by slidell at 10:10 PM on April 4, 2014

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