Do You Need a New Chimney? Here’s How to Tell.
Whether or not you need a new chimney is a question that doesn’t come up very often, but when it does come up, it’s a question you should pay attention to. If you’re seeing signs of chimney damage, particularly in the masonry work, you need to know exactly what’s happening as soon as possible.
Signs of chimney damage
1. Water damage
When water gets into the chimney system, it can lead to widespread damage that can destroy a chimney. Signs to watch for include water dripping in the firebox, white staining on the exterior masonry and damp sections of walls and the ceiling near the chimney/fireplace.
2. Crumbling mortar
The mortar that holds the chimney’s bricks together may begin to decay and show signs of crumbling. This can be caused by water infiltration, poor-quality mortar used in construction and various seismic and weather events. If this situation isn’t addressed, eventually the entire chimney may fall over.
3. Loose or cracked bricks
Bricks that are damaged by water, lightning strikes or other events compromise the integrity of the chimney structure. As with crumbling mortar, loose bricks – also called “spalling” – can lead to very serious (and expensive) problems with your chimney.
4. General structural cracks
If there are cracks in the bricks or mortar of your chimney, it may seem like a minor problem at the moment, but it won’t stay that way. Water can get into cracks and freeze and then expand, causing significant damage.
5. Leaning chimney
A leaning chimney must be addressed as soon as it’s noticed to prevent a major collapse and risk to people’s lives. Only an experienced chimney inspector can diagnose exactly what’s causing the leaning and recommend how to fix it.
6. Cracked chimney crown
The cement crown at the top of your chimney is there to protect the bricks beneath it and the interior spaces of the chimney. Cracks in a chimney crown can be caused by weather and seismic events as well as poor-quality cement. Left unaddressed, the entire crown can decay, leaving your chimney structure vulnerable to various types of damage.
7. Damaged chimney cap
Chimney caps sit atop chimneys to keep water out of the flue. Full-width chimney caps also protect the crown. Damaged chimney caps can lead to water infiltration, brick damage and drafting obstructions (debris) entering the flue.
How to address these issues
Just because your chimney is showing signs of damage doesn’t mean you need to have a new one built. Certified chimney repair technicians are able to repair many types of damage and prevent further problems down the line.
A process called tuckpointing replaces areas of damaged mortar. Waterproofing can keep water out of small cracks in the masonry and the chimney crown. Loose bricks often can be replaced to restore strength to the chimney.
When a chimney is severely damaged, it may need to be partially or completely rebuilt. A professional chimney inspection, which should be performed annually – whether or not there’s a known issue – is the only way to know the exact type of damage a chimney has sustained and the extent of the damage. Your inspector can then recommend the best way to remedy the situation.
If you notice any signs of damage to your chimney, Chimney Solutions of Alpharetta, GA, is standing by to help. We provide CSIA-certified chimney inspections, chimney repair, chimney rebuilding and chimney sweep services. Call us today at (770) 255-1300.