If you own a home with a working fireplace, it’s critical that you take care of your chimney. If you ignore damage to your chimney or its components, you run the risk of moisture accumulation, house fires, carbon monoxide poisoning, chimney collapse, and the devaluation of your home and property—none of which you want to deal with as a homeowner!

In this article, we’ll discuss the top five signs of damage you should look out for—if you notice any of these signs, you need to schedule professional chimney masonry repair services as soon as possible.

1. Cracks

A close-up of one severely cracked brick in a chimney.

If you notice spacing between your chimney bricks and the mortar that is supposed to secure them in place, then your mortar is damaged. 

There are various reasons that the mortar joints in your chimney may be cracking, but the primary culprit is water or moisture entering small fissures and then expanding when it freezes, thaws, and refreezes. That expansion exerts pressure from within the mortar joint, intensifying and perpetuating the cracking over time.

Cracks in your chimney’s mortar joints also allow smoke and heat to escape where they’re not intended to, which decreases the efficiency of the entire chimney system. Without effective and prompt chimney mortar repair, the chimney will continue to degrade and eventually collapse.

2. Drafty Rooms

Chimneys are essentially wind tunnels. Even if the damper is closed, cold air can get sucked into your home through the opening of your fireplace. 

Different factors can cause this, including a poorly designed chimney flue, flue obstructions like animal nests or excessive creosote buildup, the chimney not being tall enough, an ineffective damper, and negative air pressure from within the structure. 

Qualified chimney repair specialists can assess the entire system, isolate what’s causing the drafting, and use various tools and techniques to restore its intended functionality.

3. Unusual Odors

The opening of a pipe from a chimney with a buildup of black soot around its perimeter.

You shouldn’t notice any funky odors coming from your fireplace. When or if you do, they may be caused by:

  • Soot (Powdery, Usually Black or Brown) Accumulation
  • Creosote (Black/Brown Tar-Like Substance) Buildup
  • Excessive Moisture Accumulation
  • Animal Dander & Debris

If you notice bad smells coming from your fireplace, it’s smart to assume you will need repairs. Always seek professional assistance early on to ensure the issue doesn’t worsen.

4. Deteriorating Mortar

While mortar and brick are known for long service lifespans, they do eventually break down due to aging, inclement weather, and chronic exposure to moisture. 

When mortar deteriorates, its appearance may become discolored, and it will eventually start to crumble. As time passes, the deterioration intensifies, and sooner or later, the mortar will become compromised to the point that it’s unsafe. It’s wise to routinely inspect your chimney’s mortar joints to catch issues like this. If you notice spots where the mortar has crumbled away and is leaving gaps, you should consult with a masonry expert.

A brick chimney isolated against the backdrop of a blue sky. The chimney has several spalling (crumbling/cracking) bricks

5. Spalling

Lastly, crumbling bricks are sometimes called spalling bricks

Chimney brick and mortar spalling are most commonly caused by repetitive exposure to moisture and the expansion it causes when frozen. Excessive moisture can come from heavy and extended rain, low-quality construction materials, high-pressure power washing, or ineffective chimney flashing. Regardless of its specific cause, mortar and brick spalling is never a welcome guest, and it’s important to address the issue as early as possible.

Preventing Chimney Damage

All chimneys will eventually degrade with time and exposure to the elements. While you can’t completely prevent your chimney from degrading, you can stay alert to its condition and ensure prompt and effective repair and maintenance service as needed.

The best way to maximize your chimney’s performance and service life is to have the entire system inspected and cleaned at least once annually. Your chimney masonry repair specialist will inspect and clean all related components, including the chimney’s cap, crown, liner, flashing, dampers, smoke shelf, and smoke chamber, and resolve any issues before they worsen.

Even if you think you’re handy, you should never attempt chimney masonry repairs yourself. Professional masonry repair specialists have the expert-level knowledge and experience, as well as the tools, cameras, chemical products, and specialty equipment needed to ensure safe and effective results.

Fix Chimney Damage Today

All Brick is a family-owned and -operated masonry company that offers comprehensive chimney repair, tuckpointing, and brick masonry services throughout Macomb County, MI. 

If you’ve noticed cracks in your brickwork, unusual drafts or odors, deteriorating mortar, or spalling, contact our team for prompt service. We’re here to help keep you and your family safe!

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