Poor chimneys—neglected until Christmas or at least the colder months. Even then, the fireplace mantles and hearths get all the glory over exterior chimney brick and mortar. But maybe you’re the go-getter already putting up your Christmas lights, and you discover, just in time, that your chimney is pulling away from the house. This might be bad news for Santa. But there’s good news for you—a leaning chimney can be fixed!
A leaning chimney, or chimney out of plumb, reveals that there is more going on near the foundation of your home than at the top. There’s a tendency to look up. I mean, who wouldn’t? A leaning chimney can be dangerous and needs immediate attention! But there’s more good news—leaning chimneys have become a common, routine repair for reputable foundation repair companies who know how to fix a chimney pulling away from the house. So, let’s look further into the foundation of a chimney and how it affects the exterior chimney brick, and sometimes the interior walls near the fireplace.
How Do I Diagnose Chimney Foundation Problems?
A chimney that needs repair is fairly easy to diagnose. One or more of these symptoms may occur in a chimney in need of repair:
- Chimney is leaning
- Chimney has cracked bricks
- Bricks on chimney pull away from house
- Chimney rotates out from house
- Space between chimney bricks and house
- Chimney has settled
Sometimes, homeowners may notice interior wall cracks near the brick around the fireplace flue. This may be a sign of chimney movement and a reason to investigate more on the exterior side of the chimney wall. Once a chimney foundation expert locates a symptom, he or she will then consider the underlying cause before developing a repair plan.
Why Is My Chimney Leaning?
One thing that could cause your chimney to detach from the house or a reason that your chimney is leaning could be:
- Soil movement. The earth shifts. Dirt settles. This never-ending process causes settlement to foundations and chimney counterparts.
- Expansive soil. Soil beneath the chimney that expands when overly saturated by rains and snow, and shrinks when dry or in drought, leads to frequent soil movement.
- Poor construction. A chimney that is poorly designed or poorly installed could begin to lean and eventually detach itself from the house.
- Age of materials. Exposure to the elements over time can cause deterioration in chimney components including chimney brick.
Sometimes homeowners can address and help prevent recurring underlying issues with the foundation of their home and even the foundation of the chimney. Other times, we simply have to prepare our homes for the inevitable, like soil settlement near the chimney. Many foundation repair companies make the chimney repair process easy and affordable.
How to Repair a Leaning Chimney?
An experienced foundation repair company will probably view your leaning chimney as a routine repair. However, this does not mean chimney repairs are easy. The type of foundation your home has, whether or not there is a basement near the chimney, and the accessibility of areas surrounding the chimney determines what tools, and other machinery like an excavator, can or cannot be utilized to complete a leaning chimney repair. But this repair should be able to be completed within the same day as long as there are no unforeseen circumstances. (You never know what you will find when you start digging!)
How Do I Know if My Chimney Needs to Be Repaired or Replaced?
If a leaning chimney concerns you, and your chimney brick and fireplace are otherwise intact and in good working order, you likely do not need to replace your entire chimney. A few cracked bricks can easily be repaired and touched up by a chimney maintenance specialist.
If your chimney is settling due to aged, disintegrating, crumbling bricks, you may need to hire a mason to replace the brick. Not only do these weakened bricks make for a dangerous side of the home, but also the height and weight of a detached chimney create the need for immediate attention by a professional. A mason or a foundation repair company can help you determine whether or not you need chimney replacement.
What About Cracks in Brick Near the Chimney?
If you find cracked bricks beyond the chimney, continuing along the walls of the structure, for example, the same foundation repair company you call to fix a leaning chimney will be able to assess the remaining foundation of your home. In fact, a professional should never simply look at one portion of the foundation, even if your only concern is a chimney. A thorough evaluation of the entire perimeter and foundation should be included in any inspection to ensure you have no other significant issues that could not only be distressing your chimney, but that could also be affecting other parts of your home.
If the soil beneath your home is causing chimney settlement, there is a very good chance your home may also be experiencing additional foundation settlement nearby. Signs to look for in brick walls near your chimney include:
- Stair step cracks in brick
- Horizontal cracks in brick
- Vertical cracks in brick
- Windows pulling away from brick
- Sinking foundation, cracks in concrete block
If the foundation near the chimney needs repair, combining these repairs with a leaning chimney repair proves most effective.
How Do You Repair a Leaning Chimney?
A settling chimney repair is similar to other small foundation repairs offered by local push pier contractors. The most common solution for leaning chimneys utilizes steel foundation push piers. Push piers driven deep into the soil by a foundation repair company will stabilize, or lift back into place when conditions are right, a chimney that is leaning or disconnecting from the house. Warranties vary on chimney repairs, but most foundation repairs come with a lifetime warranty which should make Santa very happy.
Ultimately, now is the time to get repaired any chimney pulling away from the house. If your leaning chimney is in Middle Tennessee, Southwestern Kentucky, or Northern Tennessee, call USS—the chimney maintenance and repair specialists. We’ll get things straight and secure in no time!