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Brick Chimney Problems

A chimney is made of brick and masonry or metal and is attached to fireplaces, furnaces or stoves. The main purpose of the chimney is to safely vent ash and gases from the house. Irrespective of the material used to make a chimney, it is important that it be built correctly to prevent damage to the house. Chimneys develop deposits of creosote on their walls when wood is used as a fuel. These deposits are inflammable, could interfere with the airflow and cause fires if ignited in the chimney. Leakage of carbon monoxide into houses from loose chimney connections could be hazardous to residents. Brick chimneys are also prone to crumbling during earthquakes. Although new techniques have been developed in their construction, many old structures still lack these techniques as their masonry has not yet been restored or updated.

Read below where Experts have answered questions relating to brick chimney problems.

How to repair a brick fireplace which is crumbling?

In order to restore the brick work that is getting worse with time, the first thing would be to remove the bricks that are falling apart and unfastening and relay them into new mortar. Removing loose bricks from a crumbling wall requires the hands of a qualified mason as it is a risky proposition. Siding (covering) the bricks with wood, metal or masonry may not solve the problem unless the bricks are repaired first and then the siding is installed.

How to repair a leaking brick chimney?

Re-pointing (replacement) is the solution to mortar that is falling apart and cracking out of the joints. The weakened mortar joints if neglected would weaken the brick on account of contact with ice, water etc. The bricks would then break up into fragments and the only way out would be to slash the weak bricks with a masonry saw and have them replaced. The good bricks could be joined using mortar. Another method known as banding is not recommended as the chimney would continue to allow water to leak into the house. The pitched mortar on top of the chimney could be cracked or missing which needs to be attended to as it could cause water to enter behind the brick of the chimney. The metal flashing at the roof to chimney intersection also needs to be in place ensuring they are overlapping correctly.

What product could be used over the bricks to hold the chimney together?

Bricks chipping off along with the mortar are a clear indication that the chimney is falling apart on account of weather conditions. The situation could worsen if proper action is not taken to fix the issue. The first thing that weakens on account of age, cracks or fallout of the joint is the mortar. Repointing is the best method to replace the mortar and save the surrounding bricks while the full bricks could be mortared back into place.

How to brighten the dull red brick in the fireplace?

Fireplace bricks are porous and have tiny holes for soil to accumulate. To start the process to brighten the bricks, the floor around the fireplace should be covered with drop cloths. A solution of high-alkaline cleaner to one ounce of chlorine bleach per gallon of warm water needs to be used. This solution needs to be used to wet the surface of the fireplace. An old toothbrush could be used to scrub in the solution. Starting at the bottom and working up keeps the dirty water from running down the face and causing streaks. As the buildup comes off, the suds would get dirtier and would require use of a fresh solution. If needed, a phosphoric acid cleaner could be used to brighten them. After completion of the cleaning process, a sealer could be applied to brighten the bricks further and this would also ensure the next cleaning process to be a lot easier.

Would it be easier to replace bricks at the top of the chimney or break the chimney and go with a straight pipe?

It would be easier to replace bricks rather than take down the brick chimney and replacing it with a metal pipe. Replacing a few bricks would take a day or so while taking down the chimney to replace with a metal pipe would take weeks along with the cleanup and patchwork to replace the siding. It would also incur costs for the new materials in comparison to the bricks and mortar.

Chimneys were an important development in ancient times that helped aid in the removal of smoke from houses. Chimneys were constructed using simple material. Over the years new designs and materials were introduced in their construction. In today’s world, modern heating appliances have eliminated the requirement for a chimney. However, old structures still lack these modern techniques and need guidance on maintenance and safety. When questions arise turning to an Expert for help may prove to be useful.
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