3 Dangers of a Crumbling or Spalling Brick Chimney

3 Dangers of a Crumbling or Spalling Brick Chimney

Crumbling mortar or a spalling brick chimney? Issues such as these require immediate repairs to protect your home and those who live inside of it. If you notice bricks falling off your chimney, this issue is known as spalling. Prior to spalling, there is usually some weakening of mortar joints. You may notice joints are soft to the touch and may even crumble with the push of your finger. As soon as mortar joints lose their durability, they are no longer functional at supporting your brick chimney. As a result, the surrounding bricks take on excess pressure and eventually succumb to spalling. Moisture is a leading cause of these issues, although a variety of other factors may contribute as well.

Main Causes of a Crumbling or Spalling Brick Chimney:

  • As mentioned above, water damage is a common culprit. Water may come from leaking gutters, as well as leaks in windows or on the roof. It may also result from driving rain or a lack of proper drainage systems.
  • Living in a cold environment like Toronto, moisture becomes trapped inside of bricks where it freezes (expands) and then thaws (decreases in mass) over and over. This puts a lot of pressure on brickwork and mortar, eventually leading to cracks.
  • The use of salvaged bricks or improper building processes
  • Using a sandblaster or power washer to clean brickwork, which can result in removal of the waterproof sealant applied to bricks.

Why is Brick Spalling Dangerous?

There are a few reasons why a spalling brick chimney is dangerous if left untreated.

1. Chimney Fires are More Likely

The leading cause of chimney fires is a buildup of creosote, the black tar from smoke that sticks to the sides of your chimney flue. Without regular cleaning, creosote continues to build up in thick layers. If a spark from your fireplace hits this flammable substance it can spark a chimney fire.

Although, any discrepancies or weaknesses in your chimney can increase the risk for improper functioning, which can lead to a chimney fire. For instance, if the flue is impacted, it may not contain and funnel out heat and smoke as it should. Thus, allowing heat and possibly even sparks of fire to reach other parts of your home that are not able to withstand high temperatures like your chimney flue.

That’s why it’s important to check the bricks on the inside of your fireplace box as well as the outside. If these bricks are spalling, or if masonry joints are crumbling, sparks may reach the wooden parts of your home and cause a fire.

2. The Problem Will Only Get Worse

Ignoring crumbling mortar or bricks doesn’t do anyone any favors. In fact, it won’t even help you save money. Instead, it does just the opposite. That’s because it will not get better or even stay the same. Instead, it will progressively get worse. Cracks in mortar or brick allows moisture to enter at a quicker rate, and all of this trapped moisture will go through freeze and thaw cycles that put additional pressure on brickwork. As a result, you’ll notice additional spalling.

3. Your Entire Chimney Could Fall Down

Sure, it’ll take some time, but eventually if you don’t correct spalling brickwork, the entire chimney structure can become compromised. It’s always more affordable to fix spalling bricks or cracked mortar compared to rebuilding an entire chimney. That’s why we highly recommend taking care of issues right away, preferably before winter ever sets in.

Fix Your Chimney for a Safe & Warm Winter

Turnbull Masonry has the experience necessary to identify and solve existing chimney problems. It’s important to fix the damage, as well as to find the underlying cause of the damage so that it doesn’t happen all over again. We are here to help you every step of the way. Contact us today to set up a consultation. 

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