Chimney Collapse: Causes, Signs And Fixes

Chimney collapse doesn’t sound pretty at all. This is the last thing a homeowner will want to happen to their chimney structure due to the many risks involved.

If you’re having a chimney structure that seems unstable, you’ll find this article an interesting read.

About Chimney Falling Down

If you’ve noticed your chimney structure sitting unusually, the first thing that comes to mind is to act fast before it collapses.

Chimney collapse is real and can occur suddenly after a defective structure has been ignored for a long. You don’t have to allow that to happen before seeking help.

  • Chimney Collapse and Your Home’s Structural Integrity are intertwined

Your home’s masonry and that of your chimney are more intertwined than you think. Chimney walls most times merge with adjoining walls within a structure. As such, a chimney collapse can turn out to be a major tragedy.

This can be avoided by ensuring a defective chimney structure is rebuilt as early as possible.

Causes of Chimney Collapse

Chimney’s collapse arises from a distortion of the structure.

This is mostly the case when strong winds, earthquakes, and hurricanes happen. There’s also steady exposure to the elements. The freeze-thaw cycle that occurs can cause a chimney to weaken and collapse when it’s not attended to early enough.

As a chimney continues to be exposed to the elements, cracks emerge and widen over time. These should normally be filled and minor issues rectified. However, when ignored, chimney cracks may result.

Mechanical damage is another cause of chimney collapse.

Although this doesn’t happen every time, a tree located close by is likely to fall onto a chimney when blown by high winds. Tree felling done wrongly can also cause such accidents.

Construction scaffolding may result in chimney collapse when it falls off. These problems are quite significant and should be addressed before they happen.

Warning Signs Of An Impending Chimney Collapse

Luckily there are several warning signs before a chimney gives way or collapses. You’re able to act fast before the situation worsens. Before anything else, you’ll need to know signs pointing to a possible chimney collapse.

Some of the most common warning signs include insufficient or missing lateral support and crumbling mortar

Other warning signs of an impending chimney collapse include visible separation or leaning from the building, brick misalignment, and large debris or blocks falling off the roof or into the chimney structure.

We’ll expand on each of these before moving to the next section.

  • Insufficient or Missing Lateral Support

Regions with significant seismic activity require additional structural support to keep chimneys in place. Steel straps are mostly used to hold chimneys in place.

Now, without sufficient lateral support or bracing, a chimney is likely to give way.

  • Crumbling Mortar

Crumbling mortar is one of the early signs of impending chimney collapse. Visual observations alone won’t reveal this situation. Instead, consider poking the mortar with a screwdriver to see if they crumble or not.

The mortar between bricks or stones should be focused on.

  • Visible Separation or Tilting from the Building

This is one of the easiest ways to know if a chimney is about to collapse or not. When you suspect an unnatural separation between your walls and chimney structure, quickly take measurements and check frequently.

When there’s an expansion of such cracks, it calls for urgent action.

At this point, it’s necessary to call a chimney service to have such crack checked and find out the problem. Having the problem addressed is one way to rectify the issue once and for all.

  • Brick Misalignment

When the brick misalignment is noticed, it’s a clear sign that all isn’t well with the chimney structure. This could be caused by a chimney footing defect such as a poor soil footing below or may be due to failing or crumbling mortar.

The earlier this situation is addressed the better.

Never consider repairing yourself. Remember, you’re dealing with a delicate structure that could impact your entire building’s structural integrity.

Therefore, a professional should be allowed to handle such a task.

  • Falling off of Large Debris or Bricks

This is another major sign of an impending chimney collapse.

When large debris or bricks begin to fall off your roof from the chimney top or into your chimney structure, then immediate remedial action must be taken.

It’s inevitable for masonry to deteriorate over time. However, the condition of such a structure must be frequently assessed. That way, urgent fixes are applied when a problem is observed.

Preventive Maintenance Against Chimney Collapse

Chimney collapse can be avoided by simply adopting basic maintenance strategies.

Such strategies involve calling for scheduled chimney inspections.

Yearly scheduled maintenance visits help keep a chimney in excellent working condition.

With preventive maintenance, you don’t need to wait until your chimney shows signs of collapse before calling for an inspection. Such inspections are done irrespective of whether the chimney is perceived to be in great condition or not.

  • Only a CSIA Certified Chimney Service Should be Used

One of the ways to protect yourself from scams is by using a certified chimney service for your inspection and repair tasks. The CSIA stands for the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

A client-focused service will readily show you their certification without the need to ask.

Possible Fixes For Chimney Collapse

Here is what to do if your chimney collapses.

There are lots of possible fixes targeted at addressing chimney collapse. The method used largely depends on the type and degree of damage. Also, some of the actions taken are aimed at enhancing safety.

They include relocating the play area for kids, plus instructing family members to keep away from chimneys during earthquakes. Protect your roof by placing barriers between it and falling masonry.

Weak areas of the chimney should be repaired. Severely damaged chimneys will have to be torn down and rebuilt.

  • Obtain Necessary Permits

When it comes to carrying out major fixes on a chimney, it’s best to seek the necessary permits allowing such to happen. Your local building department is a great place to begin.

If this seems like too much work to you, ask your chimney service to help you with that.

Chimney collapse has been the focus here. We’ve seen the causes, the warning signs as well as the fixes for such. As explained above, it’s best to avoid a preventive maintenance approach. This saves you a lot of stress.

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