Unlike some home repair issues, the gradual decline of a chimney often goes unnoticed for years. During this period of modest disrepair, a wide range of structural problems and fire risks can arise. Even small gaps between brick layers create an opening for unwelcome pests. Here are three telltale signs your chimney may require repair.
Inspect the exterior of your chimney on a reasonably sunny day. If you see spaces where the mortar has fallen away, chances are at least minor repairs are required. Even if everything appears visually sound, run a screwdriver over the pointing and check for loose and crumbling mortar. The mortar between a chimney's bricks typically requires tuckpointing every 10-15 years. But severe weather and other factors can speed up the decline.
High winds and hard impacts sometimes eliminate chimney caps altogether. Houses with damaged caps often remain in place even though they don't necessarily deter water penetrations or pests.
Checking your cap status doesn't require taking a risky hike up a steep ladder. Homeowners can stand at a safe distance and see whether it's still there and evaluate its condition.
Ranked as the most unnoticed telltale sign that a chimney needs immediate repairs involves efflorescence or "White Staining." The exterior usually has spots of white that may run along with the mortar or jump across a few layers of bricks.
White staining often gets disregarded as normal aging by many homeowners. However, it's a damaging sign that natural salts in the mortar are being forced to the surface. The culprit is moisture getting deep into the chimney and reducing its strength. If you have white staining, consider scheduling a chimney inspection.
A well-constructed and maintained chimney can last for more than a century. By recognizing the telltale signsthat repairs are needed, homeowners can avoid peripheral damage, pest infestations, fire and the high cost of a replacement.