Anyone who has ever lived through the experience of having a leaning chimney knows it’s a scary one. Looking up at your roof and seeing that the chimney is leaning in one direction instead of standing up straight can be extremely frightening. Because it is so overwhelming and seemingly hard to deal with, many people put off fixing their chimney until it’s too late. It is not uncommon for chimneys to crack and fall, landing on the roof or crashing down to the ground around the house. Fortunately, understanding the causes of a leaning chimney and knowing how to fix it can prevent this catastrophe from happening to you.
Causes of a Leaning Chimney
There are many factors that can contribute to a chimney slowly moving off-kilter.
- For one, chimneys are made from brick held together with mortar. Over time, brick and mortar is susceptible to cracking. Particularly if your chimney is near trees or in a spot where debris can hit it during a storm, it is likely that your chimney will chip or crack over time. Vines growing through the structure of the chimney can also separate the mortar, slowing causing cracks and pushing your chimney out of place.
- Additionally, many chimneys become crooked due to problems in their “footing”, or the concrete base that supports the chimney on the roof. Footing problems can take many forms. If the footing is too small to support the weight of the chimney, for example, or is not built with the proper steel reinforcements, it will eventually fail to hold the chimney up. Footing problems are one of the main causes of a leaning chimney and should be fixed as soon as possible.
- Interestingly enough, soil and debris are also one of the main culprits of chimney damage. Because certain types of soil expand over time, it can spread and work its way into the cracks of your chimney’s brick mortar and footing pad. Also, if the chimney is installed on loose fill material, it does not have the necessary support and will probably begin to lean over the years.
- Finally, you may find that your chimney is leaning due to strapping that is old or not properly installed. In many places around the country, attic strapping is used to give chimneys extra support in case of earthquakes and other natural disasters. While they do prevent many chimneys from tipping over during emergencies, they need to be checked regularly and replaced whenever necessary.
How to Fix a Leaning Chimney
Using a leaning chimney is a fire hazard and poses the risk of damaging your home, or worse, causing a catastrophic fire. Unless you are a professional, it is recommended that you hire an expert to diagnose your chimney. Many masons and fireplace specialists are familiar with the causes of a leaning chimney and will be able to determine what needs to happen in order to fix it.
Depending on your specific issue, an expert will either remove your chimney entirely in order to replace it or simply push your chimney back into place and patch up the spots necessary to keep it straight. If attic strapping is your problem, of course, they will be able to replace it in order to make sure your chimney doesn’t tip.
It is important, however, that you find someone for the job as soon as you realize your chimney is leaning. The last thing you want is for your chimney to crash through your house or fall to your lawn, potentially hurting a member of your family in the process. While it can be a pain to deal with at the time, you’ll be happy that you fixed your leaning chimney before it became a bigger problem.