What to Include in Your Repointing Contract

In last month's issue, the Insider explained how to identify when the brick façade on your building needs repointing work. Repointing work is the chiseling out of old, worn mortar between bricks and having it replaced with fresh mortar.

In last month's issue, the Insider explained how to identify when the brick façade on your building needs repointing work. Repointing work is the chiseling out of old, worn mortar between bricks and having it replaced with fresh mortar.

Once you've decided that a building at your site needs repointing work, doing nothing is not a financially sound or viable option. Some owners may decide to hide the problem by painting the façade. But this will only seal in moisture already in the wall as it keeps the wall from “breathing.” The masonry may look better for the short term, but the interior will continue to disintegrate.

In theory, repointing is one of the most common and straightforward jobs that general and waterproofing contractors have to do. But there are many ways in which a contractor can cut corners and take advantage of you. One common way is to just place new mortar over the old without chiseling out the bad.

If it is a straightforward job and you have confidence in your contractor, it will draw up a repointing contract for you to sign. This is a good option for owners because they can avoid the added cost of consulting a structural engineer or architect.

However, if you need extensive repointing work, you should definitely have specifications, or “specs,” drawn up by a professional engineer or a registered architect. Running from 10 to 100 pages, depending on the size of the job, specs explain to a contractor exactly what areas need to be fixed, and what kinds of materials should be used and in what quantities. After reviewing the specs, you can then let various contractors bid on the information contained in the specs.

In either situation, whether you need straightforward or extensive repointing work, you'll need a solid contract to minimize liability, lessen disturbances to residents, and ensure quality workmanship and materials. With the help of building restoration expert Melissa Alleman and architect Richard Madigan, we've compiled the following checklist to help you ensure that all the bases are covered in your repointing contract.

General Terms

[ ] Changes. The contract should state that you must agree in writing to any changes to the contract or those changes won't be effective.

[ ] Nontransferable. You should always include a “nontransfer” clause in the agreement. That way, the contractor can't sign the contract, and then subcontract the job out to someone else. The clause in your contract should read something like this: “None of the work described herein shall be subcontracted to another contractor without express written approval from the owner.”

[ ] Insurance. The contractor must have public liability and property damage coverage as well as workers compensation insurance. The contractor's public liability and property damage insurance must co-insure you and your engineer.

[ ] Permits. All required permits must be obtained and paid for by the contractor. All local codes and ordinances must be complied with.

[ ] Safety. The contractor must provide all the work-protection equipment required—such as barriers, scaffolding, and bridges—for the protection of the workers, building occupants, and the general public during the job.

Time Frame

[ ] Completion. The contractor must assure that the work will be completed as expeditiously as possible.

[ ] Date. The date of the contract should be filled in, or it will not be valid.

[ ] Begin/end. Make sure the contract clearly states when your job will begin and the estimated date of completion.

[ ] Terrace. Where terrace access is required by a contractor, require that it gives you at least 48 hours' notice.

[ ] Progress. Make sure that the contractor will continuously advise the site manager on the progress of work.

[ ] Schedule, delays. The agreement should note that within a week of being hired for the job, the contractor must submit a schedule of when each part of the job will be done. The schedule should include a 20 percent allowance for time lost due to bad weather. The work should be conducted in a continuous manner during the normal work days, however. Failure to follow these rules will be considered a “breach of contract.”

[ ] Penalty. Some owners may want to put in a penalty clause covering work that's not completed on time. However, this clause, known as a “Liquidated Damage Clause,” is very tough to prove because you have to show in court that the contractor's delay directly caused you to lose money.

Scope of the Work

[ ] Materials. State that the contractor, not you, shall furnish and install all materials, labor services, guarantees, and permits required for the job specified in your specs or the contractor's proposal.

[ ] Substitutions. State that only products equal to those in your specs or the contractor's proposal may be substituted. Make sure the contract states that a sample of these materials must be given to you for your approval in advance.

[ ] Name brands. Specific brand names, quantities, and how they're going to be used must be laid out in detail. If your engineer's specs give the contractor this information, make sure he agrees to abide by it before work begins.

[ ] Precautions. For safety reasons, the contractor should be required to use only equipment that's in sound operating condition. All procedures and work should include the highest safety considerations for those involved in the work. The contractor must observe all OSHA and local regulations.

Terms of Payment

[ ] Approved expenses. If the contractor submits a monthly bill, your engineer—if you hire one—should be the one to check out the expenses on the bill and approve them.

[ ] Final payment. State that work shall be completed to the satisfaction of the owner or owner's representative before final payment is made. If you're having an engineer periodically check out the work being done, get him to approve the job before you hand over the final payment.


[ ] Workers. Get a rough estimate of how many workers you can expect on your site on any given day, what their hours will be, and what days you can expect them.

[ ] Skill. The agreement should state that all work shall be performed by skilled workers who are regularly engaged in, and specialize in, the work they need to perform. You must make sure that the workers on the scaffold, who are doing the actual repointing, are skilled and experienced in repointing.

Job Site Debris

[ ] Carting. Require the contractor to have all debris carted away daily from the site.

[ ] Protection. The agreement should require the contractor to properly protect all areas of the interior and exterior from damage and dirt.

[ ] Storage. Limit storage of materials in the building to an area designated by the superintendent or manager.

[ ] Cleanup. Stipulate that the contractor must leave his work and the building clean and in good condition. Splatters on windows, sills, terraces, and other areas must be removed by the contractor before the job is finished.

[ ] Workmanlike. Make sure that all work shall be left in a neat, clean, and workmanlike condition. Add that work shall be carefully trimmed, stains shall be removed, and all removed material shall be swept, collected, and disposed of by the contractor.

[ ] Dust, dirt. Include that all work shall be done in a way that precludes the creation of dust that may be a nuisance to building occupants, neighbors, and pedestrians.


[ ] Workmanship, materials. Guarantees for repointing work are usually one to two years in duration and cover both workmanship by the contractor and materials by the supplier. Make sure that you don't sign the contract until the contractor agrees in writing to the guarantee. Here's an example of what your contract should say about guarantees:

Model Language

The Contractor must guarantee all work under this contract for a period of two (2) years after completion of all the work. Cracking, peeling, separation, or significant discoloration of materials installed under this contract shall be repaired by the Contractor at no additional cost to the Owner, within the guarantee period. Upon notification of problems, the Contractor shall promptly make the required repairs.


EDITOR'S NOTE: Once you have considered your options and have made sure that you're hiring a good contractor, keep in mind that you need to complete your repointing work before winter begins. Frozen mortar is obviously difficult to work with; but if the temperature falls below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, you can expect the mortar not to settle well into the joints. Some contractors may add antifreeze into the mortar, but this will always weaken it, according to our experts. Also, repointing should be avoided in midsummer in most of the country because in temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the mortar will dry out too quickly to bind well.

Insider Sources

Melissa Alleman: Marketing Director, Culbertson Restoration Ltd., 590 Snyder Ave., West Chester, PA 13982; www.culbertsonrestoration.com.

Richard Madigan: The Building Inspection Group/Christopher Compton Architects, 4000 W. Riverside Dr., Burbank, CA 91505; www.christophercompton.com.