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  • Home Shield Pro's Chimney Service

Is Your Chimney Falling Apart? Warning Signs You Need Chimney Repairs Now?

Updated: 22 hours ago

Chimneys are a crucial part of any home with a fireplace or wood-burning stove. Over time, normal wear and tear can cause chimney damage that requires repair. There are several common issues that indicate it's time to repair your chimney.


Chimney repairs are necessary for safety reasons. A damaged chimney risks letting dangerous gases like carbon monoxide into the home. Chimney fires are also a major concern when chimneys are in poor condition. Keeping your


cracked or damaged flue liners

chimney well-maintained through regular inspections and repairs as needed is essential.


Some of the most common chimney problems that require repair include crumbling mortar, cracked or damaged flue liners, blocked flues, leaning chimneys, and crown or cap damage. Mortar damage is one of the most frequently seen issues, as the mortar can deteriorate over many seasons of use. Cracks in the flue liner can allow flames, heat or gases to get through to the structure around the chimney. Blocked flues prevent proper ventilation. Leaning chimneys signal a structural problem. And chimney crowns/caps keep out water but often become damaged over time.


Repairing chimney issues promptly is the best way to avoid more significant safety issues and damage to your home. In this guide we’ll cover the signs your chimney needs repairs, what’s involved in the chimney repair process, associated costs, and how to maintain your chimney to prevent future problems.


Causes of Chimney Damage

Chimneys can become damaged for a variety of reasons over time. Some of the most common causes of chimney damage include:

  • Weather/Environment - Exposure to the elements can take a toll on chimneys. Things like rain, snow, wind, temperature fluctuations, and even air pollution can slowly deteriorate chimney materials like brick and mortar. Water getting into cracks and freezing can expand damage.

  • Poor Maintenance - Lack of proper chimney maintenance is a leading cause of chimney problems. Not cleaning the chimney regularly allows creosote buildup, which can corrode and deteriorate the chimney. Not re-pointing worn mortar joints also leads to further decay.

  • Normal Wear and Tear - Even with proper maintenance, chimneys deteriorate naturally over decades of use. The repeated heating and cooling, along with exposure to smoke and gases from fires, slowly wears down chimney materials.

  • Animals/Pests - Birds, raccoons, squirrels, and other animals sometimes nest in neglected chimneys. They can dislodge bricks and mortar. Insects like termites can eat away at wooden chimney components.

  • Improper Construction - Mistakes during original chimney construction, like weak mortar or insufficient flashing, can make chimneys prone to early damage. Using substandard materials that deteriorate quickly also leads to premature failures.

  • Signs You Need Chimney Repairs Chimneys can deteriorate over time from weather damage, age, poor maintenance, animals, and other factors. It's important to watch for signs of chimney damage so you can address issues before they become serious safety hazards or lead to expensive repairs. Here are some of the most common indicators that your chimney needs repairs:

Cracks in Mortar or Bricks Chimney Repairs

One of the most obvious signs is cracks in the chimney's brickwork or mortar joints. Small cracks may seem harmless at first but they can expand over time and allow water to seep in, especially during storms. This leads to further deterioration. Have a professional inspect cracks to determine if repointing the mortar or replacing bricks is needed.

Leaking Chimney

If you notice water stains on your chimney or attic ceiling below the chimney, it likely means the chimney is leaking. This is a serious issue that needs immediate attention. The source of the leak could be cracked bricks, loose mortar, a damaged chimney cap, or other problems. Leaks can cause mold, rotting framing, and interior damage.

Rust Stains

Rust colored streaks on the chimney exterior often indicate damaged flashing or deteriorating metal chimney components. Flashing seals joints vulnerable to leaks. Rust stains signal corrosion is occurring. A chimney pro can identify and replace worn flashing or other metal parts.

Draftiness

Feeling cold drafts from the chimney or fireplace flue is another red flag. This can mean the flue liner is damaged, letting air flow through openings. A damaged liner reduces the chimney's ability to vent smoke properly. Drafts also lower home heating efficiency.

Obstructions

If you notice reduced airflow, smoke backdrafting into the home, or clogged flues, it may be due to obstructions. Creosote buildup, collapsed flue tiles, bird nests, and other blockages are common problems. Obstructions are hazardous as they can cause improper venting of smoke and carbon monoxide.

Nesting Animals

Birds, raccoons, squirrels, and other critters that nest in the chimney can block the flue, cause fires, and create unsanitary conditions. Animal noises and droppings are clues. A chimney cap can deter wildlife intrusion. Inspecting and sealing openings may be required to fully remove animals and nesting materials.

Chimney Inspection

Regular chimney inspections are crucial for identifying issues before they become serious safety hazards or lead to costly repairs down the road. There are a few key reasons to get your chimney inspected annually:


Check for damage and deterioration -

An inspection allows a professional to thoroughly examine the entire chimney structure for any signs of damage, such as cracks, spalling bricks, crumbling mortar, or blockages. They can detect early problems and recommend repairs before the damage worsens.

Ensure proper drafting - The chimney needs to draw properly to vent smoke and gases as intended. An inspection checks for drafting issues that could allow dangerous carbon monoxide back into the home.

Identify necessary maintenance - An inspector may find areas in the flue or crown that need repointing, sealing, cleaning or other maintenance to prevent future problems.

Safety checks - Inspections look for fire hazards like creosote buildup, animals/pests blocking the flue, loose masonry, and more. These conditions can increase your risk of a dangerous chimney fire.

Peace of mind - A clean inspection report gives you confidence that your chimney is safe and structurally sound for ongoing use.

When examining the chimney, inspectors look at the visible portions inside the home as well as using special cameras and tools to assess the flue and crown outside. Some of the key things they check are:

  • Mortar damage

  • Brick/masonry cracks

  • Crown and cap condition

  • Creosote buildup

  • Animal or pest nests

  • Proper clearance from combustibles

  • Flashing integrity

  • Flue blockages

If an inspector discovers any serious safety issues or structural problems, they may recommend calling a professional chimney repair company immediately to take care of the issue. For minor maintenance needs, you may be able to perform repairs yourself or have a pro handle them. Either way, addressing problems early is key to preventing costlier chimney damage down the road.


The cost of chimney repairs can vary widely depending on the extent of the damage and type of repair needed. Some factors that can impact the cost include:

  • Type of repair - Simple fixes like repointing bricks or replacing the chimney cap may only cost $200-$500, while more extensive rebuild projects can cost $5,000 or more. Flue liner repairs tend to fall in the $1000-$3000 range.

  • Accessibility - If the chimney is difficult to reach, such as on a multi-story home, repair costs are higher due to equipment rentals and contractor fees. Easy access can reduce costs.

  • Materials - The materials used like brick, mortar, liner material also impact the bottom line. Using higher-end materials drives the project cost up.

  • Location - Repair costs are higher in areas with a higher cost of living due to labor, materials, and permitting.

  • Size of chimney - Larger chimneys take more time, effort, and materials to repair, increasing costs. A simple one-story residential chimney is cheaper than a large commercial building chimney.

  • DIY vs hiring a pro - Doing it yourself can save on labor costs, with a simple DIY repointing costing $75-$250. However, DIY repairs require technical expertise, and mistakes can be costly. Most homeowners opt to hire a professional chimney repair contractor to ensure quality work.

When getting estimates for chimney repairs, be sure to get an itemized breakdown of parts and labor to understand what is driving the cost. Get multiple quotes to find the best value. Consider both the repair cost and the long-term benefits of having a properly functioning chimney when making your decision.


Chimney repairs often involve several steps to fully restore the chimney to proper working order. Here are some of the most common chimney repair processes:


Inspection

The first step is a thorough inspection by a certified chimney professional. They will assess the full extent of the damage and determine what repairs are needed. The inspection should cover the entire chimney structure from roof to foundation.


Mortar Chimney Repairs

If the inspection reveals cracks, missing, or deteriorating mortar, repointing of the mortar joints will be required. This involves raking out old mortar to a depth of at least 1/2 inch and replacing it with new mortar that matches the original. Proper repointing technique and mortar mix is essential.


Rebrick Work

Damaged or crumbling bricks will need to be removed and replaced. This often happens with chimneys that are very old. The bricks must be matched to the existing bricks as closely as possible.


Relining

Relining involves installing a new chimney liner, either a clay tile or stainless steel liner. This is necessary if the original flue liner is damaged or deteriorated. Relining brings the chimney up to modern safety standards.


Crown Repair

Chimney crowns are prone to cracking and damage over time. Repairing or replacing the crown prevents water from getting into the chimney structure. The new crown must be installed using proper concrete mix and techniques.




Rebrick Work
Rebrick Work

Cleaning

After repairs are complete, a thorough chimney sweeping will remove all debris and soot. This is essential for proper chimney operation and fire safety. A certified chimney sweep uses the right tools to clean without damaging the chimney.

Proper chimney repair requires expertise, quality materials, and adherence to building codes. Hiring a certified chimney professional ensures the repairs are done correctly so the chimney remains functional and safe for years to come. Regular chimney maintenance can prevent expensive repairs.


When to Call a Professional

It's best to call a chimney pro for:

  • Structural damage like leaning, collapsing, or missing bricks.

  • Heavy creosote buildup.

  • Animals or birds in the flue.

  • Significant blockages.

  • Smoke backing up into the home.

  • Extensive repairs needed above the roofline.

Chimney repair is dangerous work and best left to trained technicians to ensure safety and proper repairs.



Licenses and Certifications

Make sure any chimney repair company you consider is properly licensed, bonded, and insured. They should have all required state and local licenses. Certifications like CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) show extensive training and expertise. Licensed pros have passed tests on chimney codes and safety standards.


Experience

Choose a company with many years or even decades of chimney repair experience. They should have repaired chimneys made of all types of materials like brick, stone, and metal. Experienced companies have seen every chimney issue and know how to diagnose and fix them.


Reviews and References

Read online reviews and ask for references to evaluate companies. Good chimney repair pros will have overwhelmingly positive reviews. Talk to references about their satisfaction, timeliness, pricing, and more. This helps ensure you'll have a smooth, quality repair experience.


Offered Services

Look for a full-service chimney repair company that provides chimney crowns, damper repair, tuckpointing, relining, cleaning, and all needed repairs. Some even handle full chimney reconstruction. Choose a company that can address chimney problems comprehensively and completely in one project.

Chimney Maintenance

Proper chimney maintenance is essential to prevent damage and ensure it functions safely and efficiently. This involves regular cleaning, inspections, and preventative repairs.


Cleaning Schedule

  • Clean the chimney annually before the start of the wood burning season. This removes creosote buildup, bird nests, leaves, and other debris.

  • For frequent use fireplaces, clean the chimney every few months during the wood burning season. This prevents excessive creosote accumulation.

  • Hire a certified chimney sweep to clean the chimney using specialized brushes. Avoid damaging the flue liner when cleaning.

  • For gas fireplaces, clean the chimney whenever there is any soot buildup visible.


Inspections

  • Have the chimney inspected by a professional chimney sweep annually. They will check for damage, obstructions, creosote buildup, and other issues.

  • If you notice any signs of damage, have the chimney inspected right away before using it again. Look for cracks, crumbling bricks or mortar, rust stains, and sagging.

  • When buying or selling a home, always get the chimney inspected as part of your home inspection. This identifies any hidden issues.


Preventative Repairs

  • Repoint mortar joints if the mortar is crumbling or missing. This prevents moisture damage.

  • Replace damaged or rusted flashing around the chimney exterior. Flashing prevents leaks.

  • Install a chimney cap if missing. Caps keep out rain, animals, leaves, and debris.

  • For wood burning chimneys, install a stainless steel liner if missing or damaged. Liners protect the masonry and improve draw.

  • Remove any vegetation growing on the chimney exterior. Plants can damage the brick and mortar.

  • Repair any loose or missing bricks in the chimney crown or stack. This prevents further deterioration.

Regular chimney maintenance and prompt repairs will extend its lifespan and prevent costly problems.

installing a new chimney liner,

Chimney repair and maintenance are crucial for home safety and efficiency.

Damaged chimneys can lead to dangerous issues like fire hazards, carbon

monoxide poisoning, smoke damage, and more. By staying on top of inspection and repairs, you can avoid catastrophic damage and expenses.

Some key points to remember include:

  • Inspect chimneys annually for damage like cracks, crumbling mortar, blockages, and more. Look for signs like draftiness, discoloration, spalling, odors.

  • Address minor issues quickly before they worsen. Repointing mortar, crown repairs, damper repairs, and chimney cap replacements are fairly affordable.

  • For major repairs like rebuilding the chimney crown or relining, hire a certified chimney professional. This requires expertise and the right tools.

  • Practice preventive maintenance by keeping the chimney and flue cleaned. Creosote buildup is a major fire hazard.

  • Educate yourself on proper chimney care. Learning to spot issues early and understanding repair options will protect your chimney's health.

Taking care of your chimney provides huge safety benefits for your household. Make chimney maintenance a priority to get the most out of your fireplace or heating system while avoiding catastrophic damage. With vigilance and care, your chimney can provide cozy warmth for years to come.

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