Stone Chimney vs Brick Chimney
A number of different factors should be considered before deciding on either a brick or stone chimney. First, ask yourself what kind of look you want to achieve with the chimney in relation to the rest of the home. Consider the cost and availability of materials as well as the installation. Both stone and brick chimneys are routinely constructed, so one type is not necessarily more difficult than the other. However, natural or manufactured differences in shape, size and texture occur in both stone and brick, so use of either material may necessitate a creative, non-uniform approach.
Purchase or Gathering of Materials
Budget will likely factor heavily into your decision to use either stone or brick for a chimney. There are, however, some alternative methods of gathering materials that could save you a lot of money. Red brick can often be had quite inexpensively at stores that specialize in recycled building materials. You may have to sort through huge piles to find bricks in the best condition, but it can lead to big savings. Or consider approaching the foreman of a demolition site. If there are any bricks in the building, you might be able to get them for nothing.
Depending on where you live, it may be possible to gather natural field stones for use on the chimney. While you'll need to purchase a permit and there may be limits to the haul, this is an inexpensive way to compile attractive stones for the project. This is fairly labor intensive, though, so be prepared for a workout if you want to gather the stones yourself.
Purchasing the materials new will cost more for stone than for brick. Cultured or manufactured stone is made to look natural. It is costlier than quarried stone. There are many different grades of brick at a variety of prices. Choosing standard modular brick is probably the least expensive material.
Uniformity and Design
Compared to natural or even cultured stone, brick of a like kind is far more uniform in terms of size and shape. It is true, however, that brick is prone to inconsistency. Subtle differences in dimensions, color and texture often occur. You'll spend more money purchasing high-end brick that is manufactured in a perfectly uniform manner. Stone, on the other hand, is known for its lack of uniformity. Gathered field or naturally-cultured stone chimneys are built freely, that is, each piece is positioned in a random way around the flue. More uniform stone slabs are available. These more closely resemble brick. Different sizes are often combined to build a chimney with an irregular look.
When using brick, it is most common to construct the chimney with the familiar overlapping seam pattern characteristic of a standard brick wall. However, combining different sizes of brick is another possibility to achieve a look of ordered irregularity such as with stone.
One final consideration to make is repair. With a little mortar, it's typically easier to make small repairs in brick chimneys than in stone ones. Replacing individual sections of brick is fairly routine, too, especially with bricks of uniform size. Stone presents a greater challenge, especially if the individual pieces were gathered naturally. In this case, a replacement section of the right size may not be easy to track down.