Is chimney repair necessary?
When many of us hear “Connecticut”, the Fall colors come to mind along with visions of a snow-covered land with trees in the Winter. Holiday-loving people picture beautiful Christmases with roaring fireplaces or old Saint Nick coming down with a bag of surprises. To be ready for those picturesque scenes though, homeowners need to get any chimney repairs necessary completed soon.
The chimney on your home isn’t just for decorative purposes around the holidays and it’s not just an entry for Ol’ Saint Nick. It also offers a level of fire hazard protection, which is why regular maintenance and inspections are necessary. Without these steps, you are putting your home at risk of fire, and that includes not getting any chimney repairs completed when they are needed.
Some chimney repairs you can do yourself, but by hiring a professional chimney sweep or technician, you get their professional training, and experience, along with assurance they have all the proper tools to do the job. A professional chimney sweep will also give you advice on the best way to prevent any danger while operating your fireplace, making sure you know the proper methods and procedures.
How much does it cost to repair a brick chimney?
The average cost of a chimney repair can start around $175 and go as much as $1,000, all depending on how many bricks are needed and the severity of the damage. With ten bricks or less needed for a chimney repair, the cost is typically less than $500. Anything with more than ten bricks can reach up to the $1,000 to $1,500.
If that sounds expensive, the cost to rebuild a chimney because chimney repairs weren’t done when needed is more expensive. A complete chimney rebuild can cost on average between $1,000 and $3,000. The bigger the chimney, the more it can cost, with a tall chimney costing up to $5,000.
For a partial stack rebuild, the cost of removing what is already there can cost up to $1,600. The factor that makes a total chimney rebuild so costly is the need for scaffolding. If the rebuild can be done from a ladder and the roof top, it won’t be as costly.
Regardless of the costs, it is important as a homeowner to remember your responsibility to have chimney repairs done as soon as you notice them. Those small cracks getting patched will save you more money in the future than what you’re spending at the present time. That’s not to mention the importance of keeping your family and home safe.
A small crack noticed in the summer will become a large crack by next spring. The larger cracks that are ignored in the outer brick will only get deeper, allowing ice, rain, snow, and water to penetrate the chimney and fireplace. From there, it works its way into the ceiling, flooring, and walls, causing more expensive damage. So if you’re thinking of other chimney repair options, like chimney repair vs rebuilding or simply ignoring the cracks, you need to be prepared to pay out even more money on more severe issues, including risking your family and home to fire.
How do you repair a chimney?
And can you repair a chimney yourself? If you don’t know who to call for chimney repairs, or there isn’t anyone available in your area, yes, you can do your own chimney repairs with some construction know-how. We offer the following steps, some of them which you may not need, for the DIY chimney repair process.
Repoint the Mortar
The mortar is what holds the bricks together and when you add new mortar, it is smooth and solid. The seasonal changes batter that smoothness, and over time, it crumbles. Mortar is softer than the brick it holds, which is one reason why it deteriorates faster and why it needs to be repointed or tuckpointed. Repointing or tuckpointing is the process of scraping out the old crumbly mortar and replacing it with new mortar.
This is done by using a joint raker. You want to remove the loose and weak mortar but leave any good mortar that is still present. You can use a hammer to tap out the more difficult, yet crumbly mortar, then cover over it all with a wire brush to sweep it clean.
Next, using your garden hose, spray down the brick and wait 30 minutes before taking the next step. You want to make sure the roof is dry and safe. Now, with a mortar mixture like peanut butter, use a pointing trowel and push the mortar into the joints, pressing it so that it matches the existing mortar. With the tuckpointing tool, smooth it down at the joints, leaving it slightly concaved and recessed from the brick surface
Caulk the Crown and Flue
The chimney flue and crown are major avenues for water entry, causing damage to the fireplace and your home. Over time, gaps form in these areas, continuing down the flue from the top. Using a wire brush, clean debris like loose mortar and moss, then caulk any gaps with a high-heat mortar.
Patch Large Crown Area Cracks
The chimney crown slopes to form the top section of the chimney and protect the masonry section by preventing water from pooling on top. Any cracks in the crown are problematic as much, or more than the vertical cracks because this is where ice and snow gather. Lingering moisture here is not good and immediate chimney repair cannot be stressed enough.
Any crack of 1/8” and up to 1” can be repaired with a pre-mixed cement or mortar patch by injecting the repair mix in the crack using a squeeze bottle. Force it in the crack using a putty knife and allow it to cure for up to 6 hours, and for no less than 4 hours.
Sealant Patch Hairline Cracks
Hairline cracks or spider cracks can be patched a little differently than the large cracks we’ve discussed. The mineral particles in the mortar or other patching methods are larger than the hairline crack and won’t be a good solution. Instead, use a high liquid masonry sealer that will penetrate into the hairline cracks. This type of material also seals up any porous spots in the crown and prevents any additional hairline cracks.
With the corner of your putty knife, scrape away the loose particles without enlarging the crack. Now apply the undiluted sealer with a brush. Typically one gallon is adequate, using two coats.
Cracked Bricks – Chimney Repair
For single chimney bricks with a couple of small cracks, use a caulk gun with high-heat mortar. Start by cleaning the crack of any old mortar using a putty knife or flat head screwdriver. Then sweep over it with a wire brush.
Now squeeze the high-heat mortar in the crack as deep as possible. If any extra mortar oozes out, wipe it off with a gloved finger then wipe the entire area with a rag. For hairline cracks, you can spread masonry sealer over them.
Replace Any Cracked Bricks
Bricks that are severely damaged need to be removed and replaced. Using a masonry chisel, be careful not to disturb the bricks around it, slowly chip away the mortar between the bricks. Then, using a drill and masonry bit, bore holes in the mortar to help you reach far back between the bricks.
With the brick loosened, pull it out and chisel away any residual mortar so the bricks are smooth. With a small trowel, “butter” the 4 sides of the new brick with mortar and push it into place, centered. Remove any extra mortar, and then smooth the joints using the tuckpointing tool.
Can chimney repair be done in winter?
It is not recommended. Fall and winter times are not the best weather conditions traditionally for chimney repairs because the mortar isn’t able to cure thoroughly. It is recommended to inspect your chimney in the early spring and early summer or have it professionally inspected, then schedule any chimney repairs before the weather gets too cool and wet.
Oh, the most frequently asked question about any home repair is the same with chimney repairs. Will insurance cover chimney repair? This should be something stated within your policy and if you’re not clear, confirm with your agent. Chimney repair needed due to sudden and/or unexpected damage or loss is generally going to be covered by homeowner’s insurance.
Damage and chimney repairs that are needed due to old age, or basic wear and tear, are not going to be covered. These are deemed as homeowner responsibility. A concern you may want to clarify with your insurance agent is wind damage. Some policies will not cover direct wind damage to a chimney, and repairs will be your responsibility. However, chimney repairs needed because the winds knocked a tree into your chimney will be covered. Call to confirm now before you need to know.