What Causes Chimneys to have Structural Damage?
Chimneys may appear to be solid architectural elements that will stand the test of time, but they are actually highly susceptible to structural damage without regular maintenance. Vulnerability can begin with construction, making it essential to have a chimney built by experienced experts familiar with proper chimney construction. Next, continuous exposure to the elements can result in moisture intrusion. If the damage caused by moisture isn’t repaired, the chimney structure could lean, buckle, or collapse. Ultimately, lack of maintenance can result in structural damage.
The chimney footing is an essential aspect of chimney construction. The footing is extremely important because masonry chimneys create a massively heavy load on the support structure and soil underneath. Footing problems can occur because:
- The soils underneath are eroded or weak.
- The quality of the concrete used in the construction of the footing could create instability.
- The size of the footing is too small and therefore doesn’t form a sufficient base to support the weight of the chimney, which causes it to break.
Other potential construction-related causes of structural damage include an excessive amount of stair-stepped brick work, called “corbelling,” and inadequate lateral support connecting the chimney to the home.
Chimneys are built with the goal of keeping moisture out. If various components serving that purpose fail, the moisture gets in and causes damage. The chimney crown, for instance, is considered the first line of defense against moisture. The crown is at the very top of the chimney, and it prevents rainwater and other sources of moisture from falling between the exterior of the chimney and the chimney flue. The chimney cap is an important accessory because it prevents water from pouring directly into the flue.
What types of damage does the moisture do to a chimney structure? Here are some examples:
- When moisture is inside masonry, it causes the masonry to expand and contract during freeze and thaw cycles in winter. Eventually, the brick face will begin to break, flake, and pop off. If not repaired, the chimney will begin to lean and could eventually collapse.
- When water gets inside the chimney flue, it can mix with toxic creosote that coats the walls. This accelerates deterioration of the flue lining. The water can also cause the damper and other chimney components to rust.
- If the roofline creates a situation where water inundates the chimney when it rains, the mortar that holds the masonry together and the metal flashing will deteriorate much quicker, resulting in structural chimney damage, if not repaired in a timely manner.
Lack of Maintenance
The best way to offset the potential high costs of repairing major structural damage is to keep your chimney properly maintained. Having your chimney waterproofed is a good idea, to provide an extra line of defense against moisture. Regular chimney inspections are highly recommended by fire safety organizations.
Inspections help to keep your family safer because they will alert you to any moisture intrusion and other potential damage that may have occurred. Potential dangers associated with a faulty chimney include a dangerous house fire and toxic gases being released into the home, due to obstruction in the flue.
Contact the licensed, certified chimney experts at Chimney Saver Solutions for chimney inspections and all types of chimney repair, including repair or rebuild due to structural damage. Call 804-440-5000 today.