Month: February 2023

Masonry Chimney Repair 101 (Everything You Need to Know)

How common is masonry chimney repair, and is it really needed? Let us tell you a story.

I (Josh, author of this post) will never forget the first (hopefully the only) home fire I saw. It was late one July 4th when a neighbor a few blocks away had improperly stored his discharged fireworks. Instead of leaving them in a bucket of water, he placed them in his garbage can. 

As if placing his fireworks in a sealed plastic garbage container wasn’t bad enough, he left the garbage can in his home’s garage. 

By the time the rescue squad arrived, it was too late – the house had been ravished on all three floors by a sweeping hot fire that even went through the roof. Luckily no one was injured by the heat or the blaze. 

In doing research, the most common cause of home fires is smoking, followed by cooking and electrical malfunction. While many common home fire causes are controllable, some, like electrical malfunctions or faulty masonry chimneys, aren’t as easily diagnosable. 

However, when diagnosed, a masonry chimney is nothing to wait around for, so we wrote everything you need to know about masonry chimney repairs in this article. 

But first, you might be asking: 

What exactly is a masonry chimney, and why would you need to have a chimney repaired anyways?

Masonry Chimney Repairs:

If you’re wondering what just precisely is a masonry chimney, don’t worry we got you covered. Chances are if you have a chimney at your home – it’s most likely a masonry chimney (unless it happens to be wrapped in siding). 

A masonry chimney can be constructed using a variety of masonry (think stone) and metal materials including: 

  • Brick, 
  • Mortar, 
  • Concrete, 
  • Concrete blocks such as cinder-block
  • Stone, 
  • Flue tile, and 
  • Steel or even cast iron.

There is a high probability that you have seen a masonry chimney just about every day of your life. While masonry chimneys might not be “The Standard” on all new construction homes, most home buyers still prefer the satisfaction of a beautiful brick or stone chimney. 

That being said, while masonry chimneys that are well built and adequately constructed can last for a very long time (think of the Roman Arches that still exist to this day), that doesn’t mean all masonry chimneys are alike. 

Some masonry materials can be susceptible to weather and rain, especially if improperly installed. Not only can your damaged masonry chimney look bad, it can also be extremely hazardous!

Some chimneys might have issues, which is why it’s good to know when and if a masonry chimney needs to be repaired!

Did you know: 

There are some 374,000 house fires in the United States annually, costing a staggering $8 billion dollars according to this article from 38 Companies Disasters Services. 

What are the most common masonry chimney repairs?

A problematic chimney can stem from many causes, and plenty of possible problems to go around. However, the most commonly seen masonry chimney repairs typically stem from: 

  1. Cracks
  2. Chimney Liner Issues
  3. Chimney Crown Failure & Cracks
  4. Water Issues
  5. Faulty Chimney Design

Let’s take a quick look at each! 

1. Chimney Cracks

A crack in a chimney can be very evident, like in the photo below: 

chimney crown cracks
Chimney Crown with cracks!

The purpose of your chimney is to properly vent the products of combustion (smoke) from your home. However, if the integrity of a chimney is compromised, say from a crack, this can be an issue.

If smoke and combustion materials are not vented away from your home, they can build up in said cracks, thus causing fire hazards. 

Cracks are one of the most common masonry chimney issues, just like garage floor cracks are common with concrete! If you don’t get them fixed, you might find yourself performing a chimney demolition and replacement, which is super expensive.

A commonplace where you might find cracks in your chimney is in the crown. The photo above is an example of a failed and cracked chimney crown, another common masonry chimney repair item! 

☑️ Did you know: 

The number one cause of a chimney fire is a failure to clean a chimney adequately or often enough! Be sure to have your masonry chimney swept routinely! 

2. Chimney Crown Issues

The very top of a chimney is referred to as the “Chimney Crown.” Think of a king with his crown, you would notice a few things if the king’s crown was:

  1. Cracked
  2. Lopsided or 
  3. Falling apart

If any of these are happening to a masonry chimney’s crown, it is vital to correct it immediately. 

For one, a Chimney crown can worsen the longer you take to correct it. Learn about a Chimney Crown here! 

3. Chimney Liner Issues

Your Chimney liner is a vital component of a chimney system. 

Depending on the chimney, a chimney liner repair can vary from centering and proper insulation to a smoother refinished liner. A smooth chimney liner is vital for a properly functioning chimney. 

A proper chimney liner should provide:

  • Maximum protection for your chimney and attic.
  • Maximum protection in the smoke chamber.
  • Increased performance of fireplace or appliance.
  • Be suitable for all fuels.
  • Significantly increases structural integrity.

It’s best to always have an expert check out the chimney liner to ensure water Learn about Firesafe Industries Guardian Chimney Liner products here! 

4. Water Penetration & Weather

According to Brick Restoration Inc., 

When water mixes with the creosote it becomes acidic which, in turn, causes premature rusting of the damper and speeds up the deterioration of the brick and mortar in your chimney & fireplace.

In other words, water penetration and outside weather factors are not good for your masonry chimney! Just like your home’s roof, a working chimney is vital for water protection.

Whether water enters from the crown or a crack in your chimney, or even around the chimney flashing, there are simple repairs. 

Waterproofing, water sealants, repaired flashing, and products like FireGuard are all solutions to a chimney impacted by water/weather! This leads to our last and final chimney repair issue – design! 

5. Faulty Chimney Design

An improperly designed chimney can cause anything from a funky-looking chimney to some extreme issues, such as fire hazards.  One time a roofing company called us while replacing a roof to tell us about a damaged chimney that was poorly designed.

Take for instance, the smoke chamber of a fireplace that is improperly designed or constructed. 

Similar to how a car must be designed to perform while simultaneously providing safety, a fireplace is very similar. The smoke chamber, liner, crown, flu and all aspects of a chimney work together and rely on one another! 

masonry chimney repair from design failure

Faulty Chimney Design

You may or may not be able to see the faults in a chimney design. However, if you suspect something is wrong because you see what looks like a: 

  • Lopsided chimney
  • Deteroiaring chimney
  • Cracked chimney, or
  • Black smoke

Then it doesn’t hurt to get a chimney expert’s opinion, just to be safe!

How much does the average chimney repair cost?

Last but not least – costs. 

How much does the repair for a masonry chimney cost is a very common question, the issue? The answer really depends. 

A simple inspection of a brick chimney might result in a $250 crack being corrected. However, chimney repair services can range from $250 to several thousand and up, depending on the extent of what needs to be repaired (very similar to most exterior services – prices vary).

According to a 2019 Home Advisor article, a masonry chimney repair can cost $1,000-$3,000 from the crown to the roof or over $10,000 if the entire masonry chimney must be rebuilt. 

In situations like this, it’s always best to contact a certified contractor to see what is needed. 

Final take on Masonry Chimney Repairs:

While I have only seen one fire in my life, the sheer harsh truth is this: 

There are some 374,000 house fires in the United States annually, costing a staggering $8 billion dollars according to this article from 38 Companies Disasters Services. 

So while in some cases, it might not seem like a big deal to find a little brick in your yard from your masonry chimney, it doesn’t hurt to do your due diligence. As we part, here are some final words if you’re a homeowner with a chimney:

  1. Get your chimney cleaned this year! Simply Google “Chimney Sweep Near Me” and find a good deal! 
  2. Ask the chimney sweep expert if they noticed anything. If they don’t great! If they do;
  3. Contact a local chimney repair company and have them inspect your Chimney

Hope this article helps! 

➡️ If you’re a contractor, contact the NECS team to inquire about our highly tested and nationally award-winning chimney repair products! 

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