When It’s Time for a Chimney Masonry Makeover
When you notice your chimney from a distance, everything may seem to be perfectly fine. But upon closer inspection the tell tale signs of masonry and mortar damage become more evident and often indicate that its time for a chimney masonry makeover.
Cracked or spalling bricks
Chimneys are often constructed with brick masonry due to its longevity and durability. However, nothing lasts forever. And even the strength of brick masonry isn’t always enough to stand up against variable temperature swings, strong winds, freezing rain, hail and snow that pound against the chimney year after year. These types of environmental conditions can eat away at the masonry surface causing the bricks to spall or crack or worse. Even a relatively minor issue of a few cracked or spalled bricks can lead to more serious safety hazards if not repaired in a timely manner.
Mortar is the bonding material that holds the stone, bricks and other masonry work in place when building or repointing a chimney. A waterproof coating can be applied to the chimney to protect the mortar. If the coating is not periodically re-applied and loses its resistance, the mortar can soften from being exposed to water and humidity. You may notice gaps in places of mortar that not only allow water to penetrate, but can also cause bricks and masonry to loosen and fall.
Discolored or missing bricks
Once the mortar softens and the masonry begins to crack, bricks begin to fall off the chimney. Missing bricks will often allow water to penetrate and you may notice a puddle of water inside the flue and around the firebox after it rains. Missing bricks will not only render a chimney unsafe to use, it can negatively impact the structural integrity of the home if not repaired. Over time, you may notice the beautiful shiny red coloring of the bricks to seem as if it has been erased from the chimney. This unsightly discoloration often means the brick’s hard outer shell has deteriorated and is no longer protecting the porous material from water.
Water or soot damage
Water is the chimney’s vital enemy and damages to the chimney cap, crown and masonry surface can allow water to get inside the flue. Also, once the waterproof coating is no longer protecting the masonry surface, the bricks and mortar begin to soften from being exposed to water and the elements causing the chimney to decay until it eventually collapses. Chimney’s that have not been regularly swept can have soot build-up that damages the lining of the flue. The flue lining is a protective barrier that prevents the heat of the fireplace from causing a house fire.
If your chimney is beginning to resemble the leaning tower of Pisa, it most likely has extensive damage that will require a complete chimney masonry makeover to bring it back to life. For chimneys in serious condition time is of the essence to prevent further damage to the chimney and foundation. Once the masonry makeover is complete, the strength and beauty of your chimney will be admired with every puff of smoke from the fireplace for many years to come.