Nip and tuck

Once spring finally arrived in Chicago, it became clear the front parapet wall needed to be repaired before a city inspector looked up.


I already had a quote in hand from Stan Guzik for rebuilding the top part of the wall, full tuckpointing, and brick cleaning.  I hoped to have Marion Restoration out for an updated quote, but no call back from them.  I was very concerned how the brick itself would be treated throughout the process, since they don't make the same face brick anymore, and the joints are not your modern 1/4" joint, they are 'butter joints' which are about 1/8" thick.  The typical electric grinder used to remove the old mortar would surely destroy the brick.  I didn't get any verbal assurances from Stan that the brick would be untouched before the job, and i didn't press for any answers, either (more later).

*falling* stone facade (on misty morning),
you can also see open mortar joints below and around window sill,
and the common brick behind the facade

I decided to call Stan to do the job, I couldn't wait any longer.  He was out at our house within a few weeks, and went right to it.  I removed the mailboxes, window screens,  and exterior light fixtures before he and his crew arrived.  

beginning of work, before scaffolding setup
Stan's crew in full swing, rebuilding top of wall
The removed the facade and common brick on the first day.  Stan said the face brick above the band of facade brick came down with it, since the mortar had turned to sand.  The entire top of the wall needed to rebuilt from below the band on up.

When I returned home from work on the 2nd day, they were done with the wall rebuild, and had removed the mortar in preparation for tuckpointing from the entire wall.  I looked closely at the job they did on the mortar removal, and it became quickly obvious they removed it using a angle grinder (sample photo below).  This would have been fine if it were common brick or larger mortar joint, but it ended up cutting all the brick and making the joint larger.  I was pretty upset, i was under the assumption they were going to use a thin blade or other means to get the mortar out, but when you assume....

Anyway, after they tuckpointed and completed the job, everything looked good.  I no longer have 'historically significant' face brick, but it looks much better overall.  Only a masonry snob like myself or architect will be able to tell the difference.   In hindsight, if we were to really want to *restore* the brick to its original condition, we should have hired Marion Restoration.  Their crew would have removed the old mortar by hand, and not increased the size of the mortar joints.  But, in the end, since we don't have an infinite amount of cash to spend, Stan's work sufficed.

Stan's crew completed the work in 3 days, which is amazingly fast compared to all the other brickwork i see happening in the neighborhood.  I've seen scaffolding up for more than a month at other buildings, with not much going on from day to day.  The new face brick is not as plumb and level as the original below it, but you can't tell unless you look at it from a particular perspective.  It does make me appreciate the work of the German immigrant masons from 1895 even more.

finished job!

common brick behind facade replaced with new face brick


  1. Hi Jerry, I empathize with you. I just went with Marion and am now getting my parapet walls rebuilt on my Chicago two flat. The guys told me to start saving up for the front next. Glad I stumbled across your blog. I'll be back! - Adam

  2. Make sure you replace your roof with 'low shrinkage' material and/or proper installation. Most parapet walls have fallen due to high shrinkage material attached directly to them, without proper flashing, etc.

  3. Yup. Turns out that the roof shrinkage is exactly what did my old parapet walls in. Now that problem is solved... one rebuild and a couple of thousand dollars later.

  4. Did you finally have your front wall done yet Adam?

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