masonry_inspectionYou don’t need to learn the hard way how these property management mistakes can quickly take a bite out of your budget. Avoid these mistakes from the beginning to reduce your costs and your headaches.

Forgetting routine inspections

Preventative maintenance is the surest way to keep building ownership costs down. Peeling paint leaves wood exposed leading to wood rot. You now need both a contractor and a painter.  A minor tuckpointing repair is neglected and turns into a complete chimney rebuild costing thousands of dollars. Now that our severe Chicago winter is over, it’s the perfect time to complete a routine inspection of your entire property from the foundation to the chimney to identify potential issues.

Looking for a new contractor with every repair

While no one wants to be taken advantage of, it takes time to get estimates and in the meantime you may have a real problem with tenants.  Instead of looking for a new contractor every time you need a repair, look to build a network of reliable, responsive contractors. A contractor with whom you have a relationship is always going to be your best bet when you have a repair that needs immediate attention.

Hiring non-insured or non-bonded workers

While it may be tempting to hire a laid off buddy to complete a repair at a reduced price, you are putting yourself and your association at risk by doing so.  If your buddy falls off a ladder while completing the job and ends up in the hospital, you or the association could be sued for workman’s compensation benefits as his “employer.” Ask contractors to show that they have liability insurance and workman’s compensation for all employees. Bonding offers property owners additional protection. If a contractor fails to complete a job, the bond can provide compensation.  These are two important reasons to hire insured and bonded contractors.

Protect your property investment. These property management mistakes are easily avoided and will save you time, money and needless hassle.

A+Rated_Chicago TuckpointingSometimes what sets you apart in business is not the work itself, but the little things you do to make a customer happy. It’s not just the tuckpointing work that  matters, but things like showing up a time, covering your landscaping, working hard, cleaning up, and a final bill that is what you expected.

This recent review from Angie’s list reminds me that when it comes to Chicago tuckpointing jobs, little things do matter. Since not everyone has access to access to Angie’s List, I thought I would share it:

“Quote was received within two days of phone call for an estimate. Agreed to job and scheduled time for work to be completed within a week. Workman arrived at 7:30 and began setting up. Four workers including the owner, Mr. Gallagher. They were courteous and proceeded to start working right away. Covered perennials. Worked at a consistent pace taking one break during the four hours they were at my home. Tuckpointing looks great so far. Very neat, filled in all cracks in mortar especially around the chimney.  Mr. Gallagher even tuckpointed areas on garage at no extra cost. Quote was almost 50% less than another company quoted for less work. Will be calling next year for additional work.”

Grade A.

Thank you to all of our customers who have shared our good work their friends and family. We really appreciate it.

Read more reviews.

QuestionYou may be surprised that the state of Illinois does not require masonry or tuckpointing contractors to have a license. Instead the decision to license or not is left up to individual municipalities.  This makes it even more important to do your due diligence when hiring a  contractor to tuckpoint your  buildings. A few strategic questions help you make an informed choice.

1) How long have you been in business?

Should you have a question or problem with your job six months or a year from now, you want a company that’s going to be around to answer your call. Hiring your nephew’s friend who has been laid off from his job may save a couple of bucks, but where will he be in a year?  It’s also easier to check the references and ratings of a long-standing business  vs. someone just picking up a side job.

2) Is your company insured and bonded?

A contractor with employees is required to have workman’s comp insurance  to provide coverage in case someone is hurt or injured on the job.  If a worker is injured while performing the work on your property and the contractor doesn’t have insurance, you could be financially liable to pay for injuries and rehabilitation.

A bond is an insurance policy that guarantees that the contractor will meet his obligations. If a contractor us unable to complete a job, or performs substandard work, the bonding company would provide payment. Most government agencies only work with bonded contractors. Some bonds are designed to protect you against substandard work that does not meet with local building codes.

3)Can you provide references?

It’s shocking how many people hire a contractor without ever checking references. A contractor should be able to produce a list of customers you can call to ask about the quality  of the work, timeliness, and other important factors. Online references or reviews maybe useful, but evaluate them in total rather than getting hung up on one negative review.

4)What is the company’s rating with the Better Business Bureau?

The Better Business Bureau is a well known organization that tracks complaints against businesses. The BBB accredited business designation is offered to companies that have demonstrated sound business practices and meet certain standards. The BBB assigns letter grades from the A+ (the highest) to F (lowest)  based on the BBB’s opinion of the business.  Factors that go into the rating include information such as the number of complaints, years in business, advertising or licensing issues known to the BBB.

5)Who will be on the job site?

It is important to know who is doing the work and what their experience level is. Will the job be subcontracted out to another firm? Who will supervise the job site?

6)What’s the timetable for completing the work?

Weather can sometimes play havoc on tuckpointing schedules, but it’s important to find out how long the job will take and when you can expect it to be completed. You want as little disruption as possible. If you need workers to come in off-peak hours to avoid inconvenience to customers, be sure to let the contractor informed.

Choosing the right contractor doesn’t have to be a a time-consuming chore. If you have your questions organized it should be easy to get the information you need. Click here to learn more about Shamrock Tuckpointing.


Brick is GreenChicago is often cited as one of America’s greenest cities.  Buildings with lower operating costs and better indoor environmental quality are more attractive to a growing group of corporate, public and individual buyers. High performing building features will increasingly enter into tenants’ decisions about leasing space and into buyers’ decisions about purchasing properties and homes. Brick remains one of the most sustainable building materials in the world.  When looking at  sustainability, it is important to evaluate  a product’s life cycle from a number of perspectives.  Factors  might include energy efficiency, recyclability, fossil fuel depletion, habitat alteration, ozone depletion, water intake, human health and more.

With an average life of 100 years, brick has clear advantage over vinyl which last 50 years, or wood, which lasts 20-25 years. According to the Brick Institute of America, manufacturers have reduced the energy required to manufacturer brick to 1,239 BTU per pound from the approximately 4,000 BTU per pound required in the past.

Very little waste is produced in manufacturing and building because bricks are inherently recyclable.  Once water is extracted, a pound of clay material yields almost a pound of brick once water is extracted. During the manufacturing process, any materials that are left over after one run of bricks has been fired can simply be re-mixed into the next run. On the construction site, brick debris can be incorporated into the landscape or used for other projects.

The materials used to manufacture brick are abundant and readily available. The Brick Institute of America reports that most brick is manufactured from materials that are an average of 15 miles away from the plant.  There are two or more plants within 500 miles of 49 of the 50 largest metropolitan areas within the United States.

Brick walls are heavy and dense, so they absorb heat and slow down its transfer through the wall.  This moderates temperature changes, slowing down heat gain in summer, and storing heat in winter. This is called its ‘lag time’.

Tuckpointing Chicago Brick Buildings

Outside of tuck pointing once every 30 years or so, very little maintenance is required on brick buildings.  Shamrock Tuckpointing helps building owners  identify problem masonry joints so they can be tuckpointed to keep water from penetrating and deteriorating the brick. During the tuckpointing process, joints are cleaned and new mortar is put in place. This ensures you get a full 100-year-life out of your brick.

As a building owner, you can feel confident promoting the green nature of brick. Contact us for tuckpointing and brick repair on your Chicago-area buildings to ensure maximum sustainability.


saturated_masonry_wallNearly five inches of rain hit the Chicago area on Thursday. If you thought you might have a water leak in your building, you surely could confirm it this week. Before you replace or repair your roof, you should consider if masonry issues are the source of the problem. There are two kinds of leaks that stem from masonry-related problems, saturation leaks and void leaks.

Saturation Leaks

It may surprise you but masonry is not entirely waterproof. Brick does absorb water. When water passes through or absorbs entirely into the porous surface of a masonry wall to the extent that moisture finds its way into your living space it is called a saturation leak.

Saturation leaks don’t show up every time it rains. That’s because light rain won’t provide enough moisture for the masonry to become saturated and transfer completely through the wall.

Saturation leakage becomes a problem when the water shows up in some occupied or living environment, causing noticeable damage to ceilings, walls or floors.  Staining is more often the sign of a saturation leak, rather than water drips or puddles on a floor. Efflorescence or a powdery white substance also appears with saturation leaks. If under wallpaper, efflorescence will give a bumpy like appearance. Paints will eventually blister and crack if efflorescence is present on the wall.

A common area where saturation leaks are found is where the chimney passes through the roof. However, whenever water can run down or moisture is held against a masonry wall (snow) there is a possibility for saturation leaks. Look for failed gutters or downspouts that may be streaming water onto the masonry.

Problem masonry areas can be treated with a water-repellant sealant that reduces the porosity of the masonry. Consult a tuckpointing or masonry professional to determine the right sealant for your building.

Void Leaks

Leaks caused by stress cracks, holes, or missing mortar can sometimes look similar to a saturate leak. Exterior walls should be inspected for problems that could cause or contribute to a saturate leak. It is not uncommon for leaks to have multiple causes. Unlike a saturation leak, void leaks usually occur almost every time it rains. Water streams are visible running down a wall or spread out from a center point of origin. These leaks are usually isolated to a single area.

Leak diagnosis is no easy task, but experienced masonry professionals can help identify problems and find solutions. Shamrock Tuckpointing can keep your Chicago masonry buildings free from leaks.

Brick Maintenance and Repair Blog

Find useful information and tips for maintaining the value of your brick buildings.
About the Owner


John Gallagher

John Gallagher learned the craft of tuckpointing while in his late teens. His father, a first generation Irish immigrant and construction worker, encouraged his son’s entrepreneurial spirit. John earned a business degree from Loras College, and soon afterward he founded Shamrock Tuckpointing.

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