Is your chimney tilting or leaning?
Let’s start by first acknowledging the obvious fact that chimneys weigh a lot. On average, you can figure a chimney weighs at least a few thousand pounds. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that a leaning chimney poses major safety risks.
Whenever you discover that your chimney has suddenly started to tilt or lean, it’s time for immediate intervention. A quick reaction is necessary to prevent further property damage or even serious injuries.
Now, we here at Granite Foundation Repair have put together a list of the main tips and suggestions for dealing with a leaning chimney. We’ll list the main reasons for leaning chimneys, and what you can do to fix the issue.
What Are the Causes of a Leaning Chimney?
There are a few different underlying reasons for a chimney to start leaning or tilting. We’ll go over the most common culprits.
#1: Improper Drainage
Poor drainage around your house can easily lead to an excess build-up of moisture. The accumulated water will start to pressure your home’s foundation. After some time passes, this process can create cracks in the foundation.
These tiny cracks allow moisture inside your living quarters. An ongoing process of moisture penetration weakens your foundation. Sooner or later, your chimney’s weight becomes too much to handle for your weakened home structure.
A leaning chimney caused by improper water drainage won’t fix itself over time. In fact, you should take proactive steps immediately to get it repaired. Otherwise, the weak foundation may fail to support your chimney, which could lead to the structure crumbling.
#2: Small Footing
Your chimney’s footing is essential for its stability. When the footing is too small for the size of your chimney, it’s likely to have leaning problems.
The particular footing needed depends on your chimney’s parameters. However, the key is to have the footing stick out on all sides of your chimney by a minimum of six inches. The footing should be at least a foot thick to provide proper support.
#3: Sulfur Damage
Does your chimney lean from the top? You might be dealing with sulfur-damaged mortar if your chimney discharges gas from appliances that run on oil. Only the installation of a flue liner would protect the mortar from this type of damage.
The underlying chemistry here is simple: The condensation of water mixed with oil results in sulfuric acid. This corrosive acid damages the mortar, effectively causing swelling from the accumulated moisture.
#4: Shallow Footing
Is the ground shallow beneath your chimney’s footing? Fast cycles of expansion and contraction can cause the footing to tug. This process will lead to a steady displacement of your chimney above the supportive structure.
#5: Wear and Tear
You can’t always single out one particular cause for a leaning chimney. There could have just been general wear and tear of your home’s components that have taken a toll on the chimney over time. Owners of older homes may be dealing with natural deterioration.
#6: Soil Behavior
Certain types of soil are prone to frequently contracting and expanding. Even if your footing isn’t shallow, a particular type of soil could still start causing problems. Also, you should watch out for soil erosion. This process has the same detrimental effects.
Are There Any Other Warning Signs?
The most obvious red flag is the actual leaning. When this leaning is in its initial stage, you may spot only a slight tilt. Sometimes this tilt may go unnoticed without using a level.
Another sign is the formation of gaps between your chimney and the wall. Any gaps that have suddenly appeared require attention. Otherwise, your home is at a higher risk of moisture and mold issues.
Leaning chimneys are likely to cause roof damage. For instance, the shingles and gutters located close to your chimney can get damaged. In serious cases, the roof components may completely fall off the building.
Since the first signs may be subtle and a leaning chimney causes other problems, regular roof and chimney inspections are essential. Take extra care when you have an older home, because the risk of your chimney shifting is higher than average.
How Do You Fix A Leaning Chimney?
Tilting or leaning chimneys demand swift intervention. The long-term fix depends on the particular underlying cause. However, the first step is to make sure that the chimney won’t collapse.
This is usually done by installing helical piers that underpin the chimney. These piers are inserted deep into the ground for secure and lasting support.
Some chimneys are considerably heavier than others. These heavier chimneys may need further support from a micropile underpinning system. The same technology is used to stabilize bridges, towers, and even highways.
Is only the top of your chimney leaning? In this case, you may have the option of only conducting repairs on that portion of the chimney. The fix requires taking the upper portion apart and then reconstructing it in a manner that corrects the lean.
Note that sometimes a complete reconstruction may be the only viable option for moving forward. That’s because severe issues result in conditions that leave no room for safe partial repairs.
In a Nutshell: Are Leaning Chimneys A Cause for Concern?
Yes, a leaning chimney is definitely a cause for major concern. Since these structures weigh a lot, a sudden collapse could endanger lives and property. You should seek immediate repairs after discovering your chimney has started leaning.
There are a variety of possible causes behind a shifting chimney. Among other reasons, you may have to deal with sulfur damage, footing issues, and poor soil conditions.
The possible fixes include partial reconstruction, installation of support piers, and even complete reconstruction. The latter is the only option if your chimney is in severe condition.