Average Cost to Replace Lead to Walls and Chimney

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How much does it cost to replace leadwork to a chimney or a wall? How much is a fair price to pay and exactly how difficult is this work to complete?

Lead is used on many areas of the house; where a wall meets a roof tile, in a roof valley or gully or perhaps around a chimney base. Lead is one of the oldest building materials still in use today and if installed correctly it will outlast the property!

It is also expensive to purchase and needs to be installed by an experienced professional.

Unfortunately, there are some “issues” that often arise with leadwork, this is usually down to poor installation by the original contractor. The number one problem is leadwork coming loose from the wall, leaving a gap for rainwater to flow down. The second most common issue is it splitting.

Lead should never be installed in lengths greater than 1.5 metres, if thin lead is used then never more than 1 metre in length. If a long “run” is required then the lead should be overlapped. This allows for thermal expansion, if you install lead in longer lengths it will buckle and split after a few years.

Here are some photos, just so we know we are on the same wavelength:

Lead flashing stepped up to wall

Photo 1 – Lead Step Cover Flashing

Rolls of lead to purchase

Photo 2 – Rolls of Lead

Cost/Price Examples

Below are three examples of typical and common lead replacement jobs. If you are confused by any of the terminology, then check out the “more information” section near the bottom of the page!

Cost Example 1

Replace all the lead around a chimney, so that’s the apron, the step flashing and the back box. Includes scaffold to a chimney located near the edge of the roof. The scaffold will cost more if the chimney is located on the roof ridge!

LocationSmall Business /TraderLarge Business
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London Area£750.00£850.00
South, SW and Midlands£700.00£825.00
Outer Region and North£600.00£650.00

Cost Example 2

Rake out loose mortar to 15 metres of leadwork and re-point, replace any loose plugs as required. Price excludes any scaffold fee as it may not be required. (read our separate price guide for chimney cement work here)

LocationSmall Business /TraderLarge Business
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London Area£450.00£500.00
South, SW and Midlands£300.00£400.00
Outer Region and North£250.00£300.00

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More Information (a must read!)

Examples of different lead applications

Chimney Lead Examples

Lead is typically manufactured in 3 common thicknesses; 3mm, 4mm and 5mm. Known in the trade as code3, code4 and code 5. The thicker the lead the better – but also the more expensive! Lead can be shaped in two ways by burning/welding and by beating/moulding using wooden tools. If the lead is to be beaten then thick lead should be used, preferably code 5. For welding a code 4 can be used.

Lead is secured to the wall by lead “plugs” inserted every 500mm, these are small bits of lead that are wedged between the courses of bricks. This “pinches” the long lengths of lead into place, cement is then used to fill the gap and prevent water penetration.

Soakers are strips of lead, zinc or aluminium that are placed under the lead and prevent any water from entering the loft, they are overlapped and any water simply runs off into the tile below, or into a gutter.

The photo above shows three different types of leadwork, a lead apron, step cover flashing and a lead back box to the rear of the chimney.

Lead apron flashing is the easiest to install, it is simply plugged into the wall and “dressed” down the brickwork. Step flashing is more difficult as it needs to be cut in angles to match the pitch/slope of the roof. Replacing a back box can be difficult and costly as it often involves removing lots of tiles, some of which may be cemented in place.

The most expensive part of any lead replacement work is the lead itself and the access up to the roof, which will probably involve scaffold. On a plus note; if your chimney is shared with your neighbour you can also share the repair bill!

How Long Will the Lead Last?

Lead damaged by downpipe

Damaged Lead – water damage caused by rainwater downpipe discharge onto thin lead

A good question! Assuming the lead is cut to lengths no greater than 1.5 metres then it should last as long as the house, your children will be probably withdrawing their pension by the time it needs to be replaced…

…Unless your contractor used very thin lead to save money, in which case it may need to be replaced sooner (see photo to the right). Squirrels have also been observed to sharpen their teeth on lead so if you live near a wooded area and suffer from squirrel damage then you may want to look into lead alternatives.

In most cases lead doesn’t need to be fully replaced, it is usually the cement that has failed or the lead has simply come loose from the wall, in these circumstances a repair rather than replacement is required.

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