Signs You Have a Damaged Chimney
Your chimney is not as indestructible as it may appear to be. Just like your home, it will need repairs from time to time. Environmental conditions, maintenance, and normal wear and tear can cause damage to one or more parts of the chimney. Here are four tell-tale signs of a damaged chimney.
Chipped or Cracked Bricks
One of the tell-tale signs of chimney damage is chipped or missing bricks. Since most of the chimney is exposed to the outside environment, years of wind, rain, ice, and even summer heat can cause the masonry to deteriorate. It is hardly noticeable in its early stages. But as it progresses, you may see chipped or cracked bricks in various places around the chimney structure.
You may even notice brick pieces on the ground just below the chimney. In severe cases, entire bricks may be chipped away, leaving gaping holes in the stack.
Gaps in Mortar Joints
In addition to chipped or cracked bricks, gaps in mortar joints is another severe sign of chimney damage. Mortar is the bonding material that keeps the bricks in place. And like bricks, it is a porous material. So, when you walk around the chimney and notice that the mortar is uneven in areas, it means it is decaying. The freeze-thaw cycle that causes bricks to chip and crack also causes the mortar to deteriorate. And when this happens, entire blocks become loose and eventually fall from the chimney. Chimney masons use tuckpointing to restore the mortar joints. But if it is ignored, the whole chimney will begin to lean and ultimately collapse, taking the attached portion of the roof down with it.
Cracked Chimney Crown
The surface on top of the chimney surrounding the flue is the chimney crown. This portion of the chimney takes the brunt of the weather conditions. It is comprised mainly of cement and is susceptible to cracking. The foundation settling can also cause cracks in the crown. Although cracks in the crown are relatively minor, it can lead to major repairs if not repaired quickly. That’s because water will fall through these cracks and eventually soften the interior masonry and cause metal components like the damper and smoke shelf to corrode. An inexpensive way to protect the chimney crown is to have your chimney professional install a chase cover.
Water leaks are another sign of potential chimney damage. While it could be an open or damaged damper, water stains are often the first indication of chimney problems. You may spot water collecting in the firebox, condensation on the flue liner or water stains on the ceiling or walls around the fireplace or heating stove. Since water can be so destructive to the safe and efficient use of your fireplace or heating stove, the best thing to do is hire a qualified chimney professional to inspect the chimney. The chimney technician will conduct an assessment to locate the source of the leak and recommend any necessary repairs.