A chimney safely draws the smoke and hot flue gases from a fire up and out of the firebox of a fireplace and into the atmosphere. Chimneys can suffer from age, damage and structural issues, causing them to need repair. The safest and most prevalent type of residential chimneys in the United States are made of brick, and often require help from a professional mason when in need of repair. Chimney repair pros can work on any age or height of chimney, even those on the roofs of two- or three-storey houses. Taking care of small repairs and preventative maintenance, such as keeping a chimney crown in working order, can help homeowners avoid having to rebuild a badly damaged or neglected chimney down the road (a project that could cost thousands of dollars). Damaged chimneys are also dangerous because they could lead to a devastating chimney fire. Several factors affect the cost of a chimney repair.
Type of brick
The cost of bricks varies, depending on the design and material they are made of, says Omar Castro of Brothers Building Maintenance in Hanover Park, Illinois. For brickwork in his region, the cost per brick can range from 40 cents to a dollar. Firebricks, which are cooked at higher temperatures and are heat-resistant (but not fireproof forever), usually cost more per brick.
The chimney crown is an integral part of a chimney system. Different from the chimney cap— which is essentially a hat that blocks weather and leaves and other debris from entering the chimney—the crown is typically made of concrete and crowns the brick masonry of a flue, preventing water from damaging the bricks. Frank Winovich of FW Repairs in Westminster, Maryland, says that if a chimney’s crown has a structural crack, it will eventually lead to damage that can require a full chimney rebuild, which can cost thousands of dollars. Alternatively, homeowners can keep up with preventative maintenance and have a fireplace pro catch crown issues before they progress. Resealing or replacing the crown can protect the entire chimney. An average crown repair from FW Repairs costs $200–$300.
Tuck-pointing is the term used for removing and replacing the worn out mortar joints between bricks. Tuck-pointing prevents the eventual collapse of a brick fireplace by renewing its structural integrity. Tuck-pointing also protects the interior of a fireplace system by preventing leaks that result from gaps in the mortar. It also has aesthetic benefits, providing a more uniform front to the chimney. Brothers Building Maintenance charges approximately $600, including one day of labor, to remove ¼ to ½ inch of mortar joints on 150–200 bricks.
When a chimney has lost its structural integrity because of crumbling brick, deteriorated mortar joints or other damage, it may be time for a chimney rebuild. Chimney rebuilds are measured in terms of how many bricks are needed to complete the job. This is the most costly repair because the pros have to deconstruct the old chimney and rebuild it entirely. Roof height can affect the overall cost to rebuild a chimney. The higher the roof, the more labor required to remove the existing chimney. FW Repairs uses sledgehammers, jackhammers and other handheld tools to take the existing chimney apart. The crew then hauls the material down in buckets and trailers it off. The team constructs a new chimney using mortar and brick and makes the crown using concrete. The larger the chimney and the higher the roof, the greater the cost. Here are a couple cost examples for rebuilding a chimney:
Brothers Building Maintenance: $2,700
- 300-brick rebuild, with new chimney crown and cap
FW Repairs: $3,700
- 450-brick rebuild with new chimney crown and cap
The chimney lining inside the chimney flue protects the home from heat transfer, protects the masonry from deterioration from heat and smoke, keeps dangerous gases and smoke flowing up and out of the chimney, and helps prevent chimney fires. The cost to install a chimney lining varies, depending on the material used.
Replacing damaged and leaking chimney flashing is a crucial part of maintaining a fireplace. Flashing is the metal protective layers that stop up the small cracks and gaps where the chimney and roofline meet. These areas are then covered with waterproof caulking to further prevent water entry. If the flashing deteriorates or is damaged, water is able to leak into the chimney system and under the roof, causing mold, wood rot and other damage.