“My chimney is pulling away from my house!”

“My chimney is pulling away from my house!”

If you have a tilting chimney, then you have a serious problem that needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. If not, falling bricks could lead to severe injury. Not only that, but where the chimney has pulled away from your home, water and bugs could get in the gaps. It’s also possible that combustible gases could be leaked into your home if the chimney liner is cracked.

The good news in all this is that it is (most likely) possible to return your chimney to its original, upright position. Let’s take a look at some of the symptoms of tilting chimneys.

How do I know if my chimney is leaning?

If there is a gap between your house and an exterior chimney, then your chimney is leaning. Sometimes, previous homeowners will fill that space with mortar, caulk, or foam insulation. Other times, people will use metal straps to fasten the chimney back into place. But these “solutions” only mask the true problem.

In the event that your chimney comes through the interior of your house, we recommend looking in the attic to see if it is centered in its framed opening. If it’s putting more pressure on one side than another, then it is leaning.

Dislodged flashing causing leaks is another sign of a settled chimney. You might take a long level to check whether the chimney is vertical in two planes. Similarly, check the horizontal mortar joints to see if they are level as well.

All this being said, some chimneys are meant to “tilt.” When a builder encounters a fireplace that is not centered, they may chose to offset the brick so that the chimney could exit in a spot that makes the home look more symmetrical. This offset, however slight, might make it look like it’s tilting. But if your mortar joints are level, then your chimney was simply built that way.

What caused my chimney to tilt?

Chimneys are comprised of bricks that weigh tons, and that weight is concentrated in a tiny area. That’s why chimneys should be built on concrete footing (or a chimney pad) to keep it from sinking. Even if a chimney is attached to a home, the footing is supporting the structure.

But concrete footing can fail. Here are a few reasons why it might:

  • Footing that is too small – Footing needs to be at least 1 foot thick and should extend 6 inches past the chimney on all sides. Anything smaller is more likely to collapse.
  • Bad soil – Loose soil or soil that expands and contracts with water is not meant to bear the weight of a chimney. Similarly, if the ground below the footing freezes and expands, it can weaken the footing if it is too shallow.
  • Deterioration – Footings made of concrete may crack due to freeze-thaw cycles. If there is not reinforcement on the rebar (or if it’s improperly installed), footings can crack.

What do I do about my leaning chimney?

Contact a repair company do the work for you. There are ways of stabilizing and straightening leaning chimneys without dismantling them. Give CMO a call. We’ll be happy to come out and offer a free quote for the repair of your tilted chimney.