October 2, 2014

The Cost of Not Repairing Chimney Cracks, Leaning and Separation

As a familiar chill hits the air, we are reminded that winter will soon make an appearance. While we can’t predict whether it will snow, at least not with any degree of certainty, we can safely assume it will be cold. Very cold. This also marks the time of year when many of us attempt to clear out the fireplace—which, until this point, has served as a makeshift storage area—and get ready for some cozy nights indoors.

Oh, but wait. You forgot. There’s one little problem.

You have a leaning chimney. More specifically, a chimney that is separating from the rest of your house. And this “little” problem has rendered your fireplace temporarily out of order. 

No need to give up on the idea of chestnuts roasting by an open fire just yet. There are a few ways to fix chimney damage. Improper construction, undersized or shallow footing and poor soil may cause this common structural issue. Helical piers and push piers are recommended in most cases because they get the job done and introduce minimal disruption to your property. They also help you save on the costs associated with having to demolish and rebuild the entire structure. Unfortunately, many homeowners do not inquire about the potential cost to repair a chimney that is separating from their house out of fear the repairs will break the bank. Deciding not to fix a cracked or leaning chimney is asking for trouble.

Fixing Your Chimney Is Damage Control

Aside from being an eyesore, once your chimney starts pulling away, it could possibly collapse—leading to tons of cracked bricks and debris cascading down upon unassuming passersby or personal property. Based on the location of your chimney, it could also affect the roof and other components. No one wants to risk serious injury or structural damage, especially when such inconveniences can be prevented.

People are often instructed to caulk the gap between the chimney and their home. Wrong move. Applying caulk does not address the root of the problem, which more than likely stems from the foundation. Furthermore, caulk is not an adhesive, but rather a sealant used to prevent air, water or gas from entering certain spaces. Leveling your chimney is not a D-I-Y project; it requires a structural engineer or foundation contractor to determine the extent of the problem.

Photos of chimney damage:

leaning chimney
"This chimney is on the outs...literally."

large gap between house and chimney
"Ain't no caulk strong enough."

cracked bricks on chimney
"This makes me more nervous than playing Jenga."

chimney out of alignment
"Hard to believe these two were ever together."

gap forming between chimney and house
"The separation begins."

Not Blowing Smoke

Whether used as an alternate heating source or as a room's focal point, there is value in having a functional fireplace. According to the National Association of Realtors, 46 percent of home buyers are willing to pay more for this amenity, adding at least $1200 to a house's value per fireplace. If you plan on selling your home, real estate laws require you to disclose information about fireplace, chimney and foundation problems.

Chimney cracks, leaning and separation indicate it’s time to contact a professional who can perform a comprehensive inspection and provide an estimate as well as a reasonable time frame for having the repairs completed. 

Notice any signs of a tilting chimney or leaning chimney such as cracked bricks or separation at your home? Contact us for a free inspection and estimate. As a bonus, you will receive our full-color Homeowner's Guide to help you understand common repairs at no cost. 

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