Masonry Tips


It is not uncommon for a masonry chimney in Michigan to be in need of repair.

If you have a masonry chimney, odds are likely it has been repaired or soon will need to be.

Some of the most common problems are cracked and deteriorated caps and crowns, spalling and shaling brick and recessed or missing mortar.

The key to a successful restoration is to correct the cause of the problem. Often times flues are installed incorrectly leading to spalling brick and deteriorated mortar. Other times crowns at the top of the chimney were poured incorrectly with the wrong material which will allow water to enter a chimney causing damage.

It is important that an actual mason is inspecting your brickwork and providing you a quote. A qualified restoration mason should be able to quickly diagnose your problem and provide a quote to restore your masonry so that it will last for year.

If you receive a repair estimate without a solution to prevent the deterioration from happening again, you are taking the chance that it probably will..


I still cringe when I see a lot of repairs. The excuse of “it’s a repair…that’s what it is suppose to look like” is unacceptable. Great care should be taken to match the brick and mortar as close as possible. Most people do not realize that mortar joints comprise almost 33% of a masonry wall. You could use the exact brick but without a good mortar match the repair will stand out detract from the value of your property. There are many mortars and aggregates available that when used will look much different than the other. The technique and timing of finishing a mortar joint has just as much effect on the final appearance of a mortar joint. Only an experienced restoration mason can ensure that a repair will look as close to the original as possible.


Tuck pointing is probably the most common repair done on masonry and it is the most misused solution for masonry damage. On top of tuck pointing for an inappropriate reason, it is also rarely done correctly.

Many people pay good money for tuck pointing when it has little chance of lasting. The two biggest factors of a tuck pointing job not lasting are: 1. when the job is not a candidate for tuck pointing and 2. using bad or sloppy tuck pointing techniques.

If a mortar joint has deteriorated from the outside in, it is a candidate for tuck pointing. The problem is that many masons are tuck pointing peoples Porches and Chimneys when the deterioration originated from the inside out. In other words, they are putting about a ½” of new mortar on the surface, when there is still 3 ½” of bad mortar behind it. If you prepare a joint for tuck pointing and never reach solid mortar, the repair has 0% chance of lasting. Another big factor of why tuck pointing does not last is improper or sloppy joint preparation. A mortar joints must be ground and chiseled out to approx. 1” deep. The prepared joint must be square with the bed joint (horizontal) and the head joint (vertical) being of equal depth. The joint also must be completely free of dust and debris. If dust or debris remains the tuck pointed joint will not last long. When tuck pointing is done correctly, it can save people a lot of money. Unfortunately, too often people are wasting money when more appropriate options are available.


 A course of brick: a course of brick is one row of bricks.

A Mortar Joint: a mortar joint is the space between the bricks where mortar is installed. The horizontal joint is called the bed joint and the vertical joint is called the head joint.

Spalling Brick: Spalling brick is when the front of the brick has popped off. Once this happens, the integrity of the brick has been broken. This will allow water to enter through that brick leading to other spalled brick.

Chimney Crown: A Crown – also known as a cement wash, or just a chimney cap – seals the chimney top opening around the flue and sheds rainwater / prevents moisture from deteriorating the chimney.


Its purpose is to: Protects the chimney walls from heat and moisture, which will lead to deterioration of the masonry.

Metal Flue Cap: Flue Cap: A flue cap sets over a flue tile like a shoe box lid.

Why do I need a chimney cap?


 1. It keeps out the rain. Rain can soak into the mortar joints, weaken them and, therefore, weaken the chimney. If you have a metal firebox, rain will cause rust. If you have a wood stove insert, rain will rust it rapidly.

2. A cap will keep out birds and other varmints. Bird droppings down the chimney can cause a bad smell and a breeding ground for mites.

3. Installing a chimney cap can prevent roof fires, as its spark arrestor will trap the hot embers.

4. A cap inhibits downdrafting. Backpuffing of smoke can result from several factors. One of these is downdrafting, blowing smoke back down into the room.

5. A cap keeps out leaves. Leaves can choke a flue and set off a chimney fire in a dirty flue.