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Chimney repairs at Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm

January 5, 2011

North Chimney
View of the north chimney at the Spencer-Peirce-Little farmhouse prior to repair work. Note the failing parging and mortar loss.

Historic New England recently completed repairs to the north chimney of the main house at the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm in Newbury, Massachusetts. The house is an unusual seventeenth-century masonry structure with a cruciform plan and multiple stone and brick chimneys. 

Work included the removal, by hand, of all loose parging from the top of the chimney to the “shoulder” where the stack flairs outward, a distance of about six feet. The original parging was scratched with chisels to provide a bond with the new parging. Mortar joints were re-pointed with a lime-based mortar, then the parging, also made with lime, was applied in two coats.

Completed Work
The north chimney of the Spencer-Peirce-Little farmhouse following the repair work.

Historic New England uses a traditional lime mortar, which exhibits the characteristics necessary to allow masonry to breathe and is soft enough to allow the surrounding masonry to expand and contract without damage to the bricks around it.

In addition to work at the top of the chimney, the stone base was also selectively re-pointed and repaired. Finally, the team installed a new chimney cap constructed of lead-coated copper. This new cap was placed directly on top of the old concrete cap and pitched to shed precipitation and prevent penetration of moisture into the chimney stack.

View photos of the various stages of this project in our slide show.

Funding for this project was received through the Preservation Maintenance Fund. Please consider a gift to help us preserve and maintain our thirty-six historic properties.


A construction technique used to finish a masonry surface, usually a wall or chimney, and can be applied over new or existing masonry. It is similar to stucco, but uses a masonry-based mortar rather than a traditional stucco mixture. Parging is also used as a noun to describe mortar mixture itself which provides a water resistant and protective coating to the masonry beneath. Though parging today often contains Portland cement, traditional parging was made of lime and sand.


Spencer-Peirce-Little Masonry

Posted by Patricia Robak on January 21, 2011
Who were the masons? They deserve credit!

Chimney Mason

Posted by Tim Walsh, Preservation Project Manager on January 28, 2011
You are absolutly correct, we should give credit to the masons that did such a fantastic job. The masons were David Webb and Mario DeBernardir. David is also a master carpenter and has worked at the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm for many years. David was instrumental in the restoration of the main house, tenant house, and barn. Mario is originally from Italy and has worked in this country for many years as a plasterer and mason restoring many buildings throughout New England. Mario is in his eighties now but still climbs the scaffolding each day continuing the traditions that were handed down to him from his father and grandfather. These two men brought just over ninety years of experience to this project, and the result is evident in their work.

Camosse Masonry Supply

Posted by Camosse Masonry Supply on August 20, 2012
Your masons did a beautiful job restoring this chimney. Thank you for sharing.


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Chimney repairs at Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm