Common Problems with Chimneys in Historic Homes

A chimney that receives regular maintenance should give many years of safe and efficient service. But once a chimney passes into “old age,” i.e., 50 or 75 or more years old, certain problems should be expected. Still, with proper chimney repairs and some alterations, chimneys in historic homes can work as well as their much younger counterparts.

old chimney repairs, manchester nh The chimney structure

The bricks and mortar that make up historic chimneys are old, leading to cracking and decay in parts of the masonry or throughout the system.

Loose, deteriorated bricks (called “spalling”) can eventually cause an older chimney to begin leaning to one side and possibly collapse. So can decayed mortar that holds the bricks together.

Get ahead of masonry damage with a professional chimney inspection where you may find damaged that needs to be addressed through brick repair, tuckpointing or a full rebuild.

Issues in the flue

Chimneys in homes built in the 1800s and early 1900s did not have chimney liners or flue liners. Commonly made of clay tile, stainless steel or a cast-in-place compound, chimney liners protect the interior masonry from mold-causing moisture and damage from heat and acidic compounds such as creosote, a byproduct of wood combustion.

With no chimney liner, toxic flue gases may seep into parts of the home where people and pets can breathe them. Of particular concern is carbon monoxide, which is invisible and odorless – and known to be potentially fatal when inhaled.

If your historic chimney has no liner or one that’s been in place for many years, a certified chimney services technician can perform installations and repairs of all types of liners.

Chimney damage from house-settling

Houses settle periodically, and homes in the “historic” age bracket have done a lot of settling over the years. This seemingly subtle movement can cause cracking within a chimney’s masonry, leading the way to water infiltration.

When moisture moves into gaps in bricks and mortar, freezing temperatures will make it expand and cause larger cracks and greater decomposition. The freeze-thaw cycles common in southern New Hampshire and other cold-weather regions ensure that damage continues until the chimney is at risk of collapse.

Problems with the chimney footing also can cause shifting of the structure – an issue often uncovered when
servicing historic chimneys.

Obstructions and creosote buildup

Chimneys of all ages can harbor dangerous drafting obstructions and excess creosote, but older chimneys are particularly problematic in this area.

Without a sturdy chimney cap, debris from nearby trees as well as the nesting material of small animals and the animals themselves when they die in the chimney can block the smooth drafting of smoke.

Creosote, which forms every time a wood fire is burned, is highly flammable and responsible for most chimney fires in the U.S. each year. Creosote also can build up to the point that it causes venting problems.

Professional chimney sweep services performed annually will significantly reduce the amount of creosote in your historic chimney’s flue. Having a quality chimney cap installed will keep debris out.

chimney inspection, keene nhHistoric chimney inspections

If it’s been more than a year (and certainly if it’s been decades) since your historic chimney was last inspected, now is the time to arrange this service. Your inspector will evaluate the entire system and its components and let you know what repairs are needed to restore safety and top performance.

Black Moose Chimney of Antrim, NH, provides CSIA-certified chimney sweeping, chimney inspections and historic chimney restorations and repairs. Get the right solutions by calling New Hampshire’s fireplace and chimney experts at (603) 525-7905.


First Thing

John RantaJohn Ranta
17:01 22 Mar 24
They arrived on time, worked quickly and showed me the results. Prfessional throughout. jr
william greenwilliam green
23:21 14 Mar 24
Really helped me out can't say enough good things highly recommend!!!! The young man that came to my home was very knowledgeable and friendly great attitude all around answered all my questions and left me stress free best of all left no mess.🤙🏻🤙🏻
Michael Dell'OrtoMichael Dell'Orto
18:39 14 Mar 24
Jaime ConleyJaime Conley
17:13 14 Mar 24
Sarah GilliattSarah Gilliatt
01:46 13 Mar 24
A very thorough and careful job done! Thank you.
Larry CookLarry Cook
15:11 07 Mar 24
I wanted to give 5 stars but they are very busy which meant I had a good wait for both the inspection/cleaning, then for a quote on repairs and then for the repairs. Their prices seemed a little high to me but I have nothing to compare with as they were highly recommended by someone I trust and other companies had plenty of negatives reviews which kept me from getting additional quotes. I am happy with the work and they promptly returned to fix a mistake that had been made. Chris the inspector, Jennifer in the office, and Alex and his repair crew were all pleasant and took the time to answer all of my questions. Alex and his crew even took their shoes off (it was winter) before entering my house without even being asked! So if you are not in a rush and want to ensure you chimney is as safe as possible then I think you'll be happy with Black Moose.
Rebecca DeFuscoRebecca DeFusco
22:35 21 Feb 24
After a recent sweep of our chimney, it was discovered that our flue tiles were cracked. Black Moose techs were hard working, detail oriented and professional! Nice jobs guys! See you next year for my cleaning!
Karen CKaren C
14:52 14 Feb 24
Excellent I highly recommend Black Moose Chimney and Stove; Kelly and Liam are awesome, they did a great job. Extremely professional, arrived early, went through everything with a fine tooth comb ensuring pellet stove was thoroughly cleaned. They also were respectful of my home, conscientious and cleaned up after themselves. Made sure stove worked prior to leaving and told me to call promptly if anything came up afterward. Will definitely use them again.
Denise ClarkDenise Clark
16:32 31 Jan 24
We've had Black Moose clean our chimney for a number of years.But recently, we had an emergency situation at our home involving our chimney & oil furnace flue, which was caked full of soot from a malfunctioning furnace. They came & cleaned out both flues in no time, even going up on the roof with snow on it! They cleaned up after their work in the interior rooms where the oil furnace and the woodstove are located. Great work. Reasonable prices. Very nice people. You can't go wrong with Black Moose.
Joe GJoe G
18:30 24 Jan 24
Goods: The technicians know their business, very efficient in cleaning/inspection along with cleaning up after the 'dirty work'.Others: Communications could be more effective. Despite early coordination about scope of work (multiple flues within same chimney) the estimate provided did not reflect this and the final invoice was significantly more than the estimate provided.Quote for follow-on chimney relining was significantly more than that offered by other companies in the area (and far more than neighbors experienced for similar work accomplished by other companies)