Common Reasons for Structural Damage to Chimneys
Chimneys are built to last a long time, even with the ravages of outside weather and the intense heat they endure year after year. But no chimney will last forever – and some chimneys won’t last long at all if they fall prey to structural damage.
Many things can lead to chimney damage, but the main culprits tend to be erosion from water leaks, problems with the chimney footing and faulty construction.
Rainwater and melting snow
Even the smallest cracks in the masonry of a chimney can allow water to seep in. When this happens, the natural freeze/thaw cycles in the atmosphere cause a constant expansion and contraction within the masonry. Deterioration has begun, and it can continue until a chimney literally starts falling apart.
If the initial damage is minor, a special waterproof coating can be applied to the outside of the chimney to prevent further intrusion of water. However, the extent of damage can only be assessed by a professional chimney services technician. Therefore, if you believe your chimney is leaking to any degree, call in a professional right away.
Anything that causes a chimney to move, even slightly, can lead to damage. In some parts of the country, earthquakes are responsible for significant damage to chimneys. In other areas, gale-force winds can cause a chimney to shift. And in any part of the country where the chimney is not footed correctly, movement and damage can occur.
A key element of chimney construction is the footing at the base of the structure. Ideally, footings should be built from stone or concrete laid deep enough to provide a solid base for decades. Unfortunately, not all footings are constructed this way.
If the footing is not solid (or if there’s no real footing at all), a variety of events including normal ground settling can cause the entire chimney structure to shift. Solid brick and mortar do not fare well when moved, because rather than the whole structure moving as a single unit, breaks often happen somewhere within the building materials.
When you purchase a home with an existing fireplace, your first professional inspection should include a focus on the footing and the chimney structure itself. This way, any repairs or rebuilding that are necessary can be accomplished before you begin using the appliance.
A final reason for chimney damage is poor construction. A chimney may look like a fairly simple structure, but much know-how is needed to complete the construction in a way that’s both safe and durable. More chimneys than you might expect are built with less-than-sound practices, and your chimney services technician will be able to spot problems in this area fairly quickly.
If you suspect your chimney might be damaged, or if you have a new home with a fireplace you’ve yet to use, Northeastern Chimney of West Hartford, Connecticut, can perform the necessary inspection, cleaning and repair work to make sure your appliance is safe and efficient. Give us a call to arrange an appointment or to get your questions answered at (860) 233-5770.