How to Tell if You Need a New Chimney
Regularly cleaning and maintaining your chimney and making timely repairs will prolong its useful life. However, environmental conditions, age, and normal wear and tear can cause the chimney to deteriorate – even if you are no longer using the fireplace or heating stove. Its deterioration can further escalate when routine chimney inspections, maintenance, or professional cleanings are missed. While most chimney damage is repairable, the following are four signs that you may need a new chimney.
One sign that you may need a new chimney is missing or damaged bricks and gaps in the mortar joints. Spalling bricks are often the result of water damage that occurs during the winter freeze-thaw cycle. The constant freezing and thawing cause the bricks to crack, splinter and crumble. Water damage can also cause the mortar joints to erode, resulting in gaps between the bricks. It can loosen the bricks causing them to separate from the chimney. Spalling bricks is a progressive issue and will continue to worsen until repairs are made. In minor cases that involve a few spalling bricks, repointing can repair the damage. However, when the brick damage is extensive, a partial or complete chimney rebuilding will be necessary to restore the chimney.
A leaning chimney is another sign that you may need a new chimney. There can be several reasons that cause a chimney to lean. It may be a foundation problem due to settling, soil conditions, or erosion. Extensive masonry damage due to spalling or missing bricks, fire damage, or water intrusion can also cause the chimney to lean to one side. Since a leaning chimney is in danger of collapsing, an immediate chimney inspection is necessary. While it may be possible to stabilize the structure temporarily, it will likely need to be torn down and replaced with a new chimney.
Chimney Crown Damage
Chimney crown damage is more likely to occur when a broken chimney cap is not replaced or is missing entirely. The chimney crown is the upper-most portion of the chimney. The cement surface protects the chimney and flue from water-related damage. However, years of rain, snow, and wind, combined with normal wear and tear, can result in hairline cracks in the chimney crown. These hairline cracks start small but are sufficient to allow moisture to seep inside. Without intervention, the cracks in the crown will grow larger, allowing even more water to intrude. The moisture can further damage and weaken the masonry chimney requiring a partial or complete replacement.
A chimney fire can cause extensive damage that requires a new chimney. A chimney that is not regularly cleaned is more likely to have excessive creosote. When creosote is not removed, it hardens into a tarry, crusty, and flammable substance. Although excessive creosote build-up is the primary cause of structure fires, most chimney fires go unnoticed. Also, once a fire occurs in the chimney, the likelihood of another fire increases. It can also spread to combustible building materials engulfing the house in flames. A chimney fire can cause extensive damage to the masonry that may require building a new chimney.