Most property owners don’t even think about the wear and tear on their chimneys. Properly constructed, your chimney can endure exposure to the harshest weather conditions—frigid temperatures, horrendous winds, relentless sun, torrential downpours. Though your chimney is built to withstand year after year of exposure to unforgiving conditions, eventually your chimney masonry will need restoration and repair.
You may notice that some of the chimney bricks or stones have become loose. Sometimes, the bricks are “spalling”, meaning that the face of the brick has separated from the brick itself. The mortar may begin to look sandy or start to crack and crumble. Eventually, some of these pieces can fall off of the chimney structure. If neglected, water will infiltrate the structure causing further damage.
Chimney maintenance is really a job for a professional chimney mason. It is wise to have an experienced professional come and inspect your chimney to identify and make necessary repairs before they become complex and expensive.
Here are some of the things a chimney masonry expert will do:
Assess the Flue Liner
The chimney flue vents smoke and hot gases to the exterior from your fireplace. Some chimneys have multiple flues that vent multiple stoves or fireplaces through a single chimney. These need regular maintenance and inspection because over time, your flue will have a build-up of creosote and other byproducts of burning fires in the fireplace. This build-up creates a risk of chimney fires.
Additionally, a flue can break down over time and need to be repaired or replaced. Once the chimney flue liner is compromised, it allows excess heat and condensation to damage the chimney structure itself. Heat that comes into contact with the building’s framing or other surfaces can cause a house fire.
Identify and Repair Cracks
A masonry expert can detect cracks in the stone and mortar of the chimney and repair them before they become significant. The chimney crown is another part of the chimney that is prone to cracks over time. The chimney crown is the cement layer covering most of the flue opening at the top of the chimney. These cracks will allow moisture to infiltrate the cement. Once water gets into the cracks, it will freeze and expand, causing further damage. Often, the crown can be repaired with a coating of a waterproof sealant. However, if the chimney crown is too damaged to simply seal the cracks, a partial or complete rebuilding is required to protect the chimney structure. Replacing the crown every 20 years is appropriate.
Remove Crumbling Stone and Mortar and Repair
The first part of a chimney to deteriorate is the cement crown and the top two feet, because they receive the most exposure to weather conditions. The chimney mason will examine that part of the chimney for signs of deterioration. If the chimney stone and mortar are crumbling, the chimney mason will remove the crumbling debris and any loose stones or bricks, replace them and apply new mortar. If the stone is still sound but the mortar is crumbling, the mason will need to clear away the mortar debris and restore the mortar joints. That is a process called tuck pointing. Done correctly, tuck pointing will prolong the life of the chimney without having to rebuild it.
Clear Debris from the Chimney Cap
One source of problems is the collection of leaves and other debris in the chimney cap. If it becomes clogged, the flue cannot vent properly and it creates a fire hazard. It is important for any debris in the chimney cap to be regularly cleaned to prevent fires.
Recaulk the Flashing
The caulking around the flashing where the chimney meets the roof can wear away. The chimney mason should make sure that there is a watertight seal around the flashing and if necessary remove old caulking and recaulk the area.
Analyze Threat of Leaning
When a chimney is not properly constructed or it has separated from a supporting wall, the chimney can begin to lean. One common reason for a leaning chimney is a lack of wall ties used in the original construction. Many older buildings were built without using wall ties. Instead, the builders used large nails, with the end of the nail protruding into the mortar joint between the bricks in an effort to anchor the brick veneer to the structure. Those nails eventually rust, decompose and fail, thus causing the chimney to separate from the wall, lean and eventually fall over. In other cases, leaning can happen when the initial construction was poorly and improperly done.
A professional chimney mason can analyze whether your chimney is at risk of separating from the wall, or already has. In those cases, extensive repairs and rebuilding may be required to correct the unsafe condition.
Contact the Professionals at Waterproofing Caulking & Restoration LLC for more information
To keep your chimney in optimal condition, you will need regular maintenance. Have your chimney inspected by the experts at Waterproofing Caulking & Restoration. They can answer any of your questions about chimney masonry repair and help you avoid expensive repairs later on. Contact them to schedule an appointment.