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How to Find Problems in Your Chimney’s Masonry

by Grand Marketing Solutions on Jun 14, 2018

Masonry issues are common problems with chimneys, and experts repair these issues quite often. Fortunately, it does not take a professional to spot many common issues with bricks and mortar, and with a little bit of knowledge, you can discover them on your own. Here’s what you need to know about discovering problems with your chimney’s masonry and when you should call a professional for repairs.

Stains & Discoloration

Stains and discoloration are both quite common when it comes to brickwork. These stains might be white, green, red, black, or brown, and each one gives a different indicator of the cause. For example, creosote buildup can cause black stains, but red or brownish-red stains are indicative of rust. Green stains might indicate mold or mildew, and this is especially true on the shady side of the chimney that receives the least sunlight during the day. White stains are incredibly common, and they are the least worrisome of them all. These simply indicate the process of efflorescence, which occurs mainly in areas near bodies of saltwater. As saltwater evaporates from the masonry, it will leave deposits of salt behind, which is the reason for the white staining.

Foul or Strange Odors

Another way to find problems in your chimney’s masonry involves giving it a good sniff. Rather than lighting a candle or spraying some air freshener, try to figure out what it is you’re smelling. If your chimney smells excessively smoky, even if you have not used it in some time, there’s a good chance a potentially dangerous creosote buildup is to blame. On the other hand, if you smell something damp or musty, this usually indicates the growth of mold or mildew. Finally, if you smell something rotting, there could be an animal nesting or trapped inside your flue. These things can all create serious issues, so you should never ignore chimney odors. Contact a professional right away if you notice these.

Cracks, Breaks, and Chips

Perhaps the most obvious way to pinpoint masonry issues is to look for anything out of the ordinary. You may have to climb up on the roof to see these, though, and you should only do this if it is safe and you are comfortable. You might be able to find larger cracks or breaks from the ground by looking through binoculars. Cracks and splits in masonry – both bricks and mortar – typically result from the natural freeze and thaw processes in your local climate. Bricks can absorb water, and as that water freezes, it expands. This expansion causes the brick to expand, which may result in cracks. A professional mason can use a process called tuckpointing to repair this. Essentially, they will remove damaged bricks and mortar, replace them, and apply a waterproofing sealant to prevent future damage.

Though you might not think much about your chimney once winter is over, damaged masonry can present a serious problem all year round. It can allow for infestations and leaks, both of which could result in hundreds or even thousands of dollars in repairs.

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