Repairs and maintenance are unavoidable in any part of a home. Just like most structures and appliances, this is also true for chimneys. All fireplaces and chimneys will eventually have problems that necessitate repair or maintenance – it’s an inevitability regardless of age or design.
This blog post will discuss the basics of chimney masonry repair. We’ll cover the different materials that can make up a chimney, common problems with chimneys and how to repair them, and tips for keeping your chimney in good shape year-round!
Why Is Chimney Maintenance Important?
The most common causes of home fires include smoking, cooking, and electrical malfunction. While you can control some more frequent home fire causes, others like electrical malfunctions or faulty masonry chimneys are harder to pin down. Did you know:
- More than 61 chimney fires occur every day in the United States
- The #1 most common cause of chimney fires is a failure to have them regularly cleaned
- The 2nd most common cause of chimney fires is burning unseasoned wet wood
- Chimney fires cost homeowners an estimated $125 million in damages every year
Chimney fires are preventable. While it’s impossible to anticipate every disaster, you can take steps to minimize the risk of a chimney fire in your home.
Masonry Chimneys 101
Bricks and mortar, concrete, block, stone, flue tile, cast iron, and steel are just a few of the materials used to construct a masonry chimney. If not correctly installed or maintained, any of these materials can be vulnerable to rainwater and environmental elements. Mortar, the substance that bonds together the masonry components in their chimney, is water soluble. This is why keeping your structures dry and preventing water intrusion is so important!
While properly built and well-constructed masonry chimneys can endure a long time (consider the Roman Arches, which still exist today), this does not imply that all masonry chimneys are created equal. Inferior materials or craftsmanship can lead to chimney deterioration and, in some cases, a structurally unsound chimney. In cases like these, you will need reliable chimney masonry repair services.
Common Chimney Masonry Repair Problems
Don’t be intimidated by chimney masonry repair! The most common problems with masonry chimneys include:
- Chimney crown cracks
- Water penetration
- Leaning chimney
- Damaged or missing mortar joints
- Chimney deterioration
These problems can be caused by various factors, including water damage, excessive heat exposure, poor construction, and more. If left unaddressed, these problems can lead to even more significant issues like chimney fires or collapse.
Chimney Crown Cracks
A chimney crown is the cement cap that sits atop the chimney. Its job is to prevent moisture from seeping into the chimney’s masonry where it is most vulnerable to the elements: at the top.
However, chimney crowns can crack over time due to age, weathering, or settling. Cracks in the chimney crown can allow water to seep into the chimney structure, leading to further deterioration. In climates reaching freezing temperatures, water entering the chimney can freeze and expand, causing the crown to crack even further.
What to Do About Crown Cracks?
The best way to repair chimney crown cracks is to have a professional chimney sweep or mason take a look at them. They will be able to determine the extent of the damage and recommend the best course of action. In some cases, the chimney crown may need to be rebuilt entirely.
Another common problem with masonry chimneys is water penetration. Water can enter the chimney through cracks in the chimney crown, flue, or mortar joints. Once inside, the water can cause problems like rusting metal components and deteriorating masonry.
When water mixes with creosote – a tarlike substance that builds up on the chimney walls – it creates a corrosive acid that eats away at the chimney’s masonry. This can lead to even more severe problems like chimney collapse.
What to Do About Water Penetration?
Keep a regular chimney checkup schedule and ensure there is no place for water to seep into any section of the chimney or fireplace. If you find water leaks, have a professional chimney sweep or mason look at it as soon as possible. They will be able to determine the source of the leak and make recommendations for repairs.
A leaning chimney is a cause for concern. It can be caused by many factors, including foundation settling, water damage, or poor construction. A leaning chimney can put your entire home at risk of chimney collapse.
What to Do About a Leaning Chimney?
If your chimney is leaning, it is structurally unsafe. It’s essential to have a professional chimney sweep or mason look at it as soon as possible. They will be able to determine the cause of the problem and make recommendations for repairs. In some cases, the chimney may need to be rebuilt entirely.
Damaged or Missing Mortar Joints
Mortar joints are the spaces between bricks, stones or clay flue liners in a masonry chimney. They are filled with mortar, which acts as glue to hold the chimney together. Over time, the mortar can become cracked, crumbled, or missing. This can leave the chimney vulnerable to water damage and collapse.
What to Do About Damaged or Missing Mortar Joints?
One of the most common repairs needed for a chimney is mortar replacement, also called tuckpointing. Tuckpointing joints back in are usually not complicated. Occasionally, extensive damage demands more comprehensive repairs, which may include reconstructing part or all of the chimney, but tuckpointing is a satisfactory repair for minor damages. As for all major repairs, it’s best to have a licensed chimney professional take a look.
Like any other structure, a chimney will eventually show wear and tear. Flue liner and smoke chamber damage, loosened brickwork, water damage, and mold are all common symptoms of chimney deterioration.
What to Do About Chimney Deterioration?
The best way to prevent chimney deterioration is to opt for an annual inspection by a certified chimney professional. Their specialized tools and knowledge will help them spot any potential problems so they can be fixed before they cause further damage. You can avoid serious problems down the road by being proactive and getting annual chimney inspections.
Easy Chimney Health Tips
Maintaining a chimney is much preferable to fixing a broken chimney. Here are a few easy tips to help you keep your chimney in good shape:
- Have your chimney inspected and cleaned yearly by a certified chimney professional.
- Repair any cracks or damage as soon as possible.
- Make sure there is no place for water to seep into any section of the chimney.
- Keep trees and bushes trimmed away from the chimney.
- Never burn trash or wet wood in your fireplace.
These simple tips can help keep your chimney healthy and functioning correctly for years to come. If you have any concerns about your chimney, be sure to contact a professional chimney sweep or mason.
As you can see, you may need a variety of chimney masonry repair at some point. It’s essential to have a regular chimney checkup schedule to catch any problems early on. And if you do need repairs, it’s crucial to have a professional chimney sweep or mason take a look as soon as possible. With their help, you can keep your chimney healthy and functioning optimally for as long as possible!
Need Chimney Masonry Repair Help?
At The Irish Sweep, we always adhere to the highest safety standards. We are licensed and insured Bay Area chimney cleaners professionals who have been serving the area since 1982. If you need a chimney sweep, dryer vent cleaning, chimney masonry repair, or other home services, call us today! Schedule our chimney sweep services today to enjoy a safe fireplace and chimney all year long.