From heaters and furnaces to wood-burning fireplaces, most heating systems rely on efficient chimneys to channel smoke and combustion by-products up and out of the home, which in turn results in more efficient heating. However, through the years of channeling smoke, creosote, which is a highly flammable substance, can accumulate inside the chimney, thus making it a fire hazard. Therefore, people must have their chimneys thoroughly inspected and serviced regularly.

The Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES) in New York recommends homeowners conduct annual chimney inspections to safeguard its structural soundness and safe operation. Accordingly, proper maintenance can determine the early signs of trouble that could lead to dangerous house fires, severe property damage, or expensive repairs.

Besides removing accumulated creosote and other obstructions in the chimney, the regular inspection also allows homeowners to notice physical defects, like the tilting of the chimney. A leaning chimney is one of the common signs of serious structural problems that require immediate repair.

Multiple factors could be responsible for causing the chimney structure to lean or tilt.

 

  • Masonry Damage

Most chimneys are made with bricks as these are durable enough to withstand heat. However, bricks are made from porous materials, meaning they are solid but contain void spaces. Due to this, bricks are susceptible to water damage.

Weather elements, such as rain, sleet, and snow, can cause tiny cracks in the bricks’ hard outer surface and allow water to seep inside them. The freeze and thaw cycle, which can repeat for years, expands the breaks even further, resulting in the brick and mortar’s deterioration and erosion.

Cracked or missing sections of bricks and mortar can unbalance a chimney, causing it to tilt on one side or, in severe cases, collapse.

 

  • Worn Brackets and Clasps

Some chimneys have brackets and clasps installed to hold in place and support the structure’s upper segments. However, like other components, these are exposed to different weather elements; therefore, they can experience wear and become loose over time.

 

  • Improper Installation

Chimneys are built using materials such as stainless steel, concrete, pumice, clay or ceramic, and plastic. These structures are thick, heavy, and rigid to withstand the fireplace’s heat and flames and other harsh elements, such as weather conditions.

Poor craftsmanship of the chimney footing, the chimney component supporting the whole structure, can cause it to tilt over time and possibly suffer from other types of damage. Additionally, inferior bricks and mortar can also cause the chimney structure to suffer from cracks.

 

  • Insufficient or Inferior Footing

Chimneys are constructed with a concrete footing, or a chimney pad, as these are compact and heavy. The footing provides stability in the chimney structure and prevents it from leaning away from the house.

As the chimney footing plays a significant role in maintaining the structure’s stability, it must be sturdily constructed. The 2020 Building Code of New York State stipulates that a concrete footing for the chimney must be one foot thick and extend not less than six inches on each side.

When the chimney has insufficient footing or the chimney pad is too small to bear its weight, it can cause the structure to fail or lean over time. Consequently, chimney footings made with inferior materials can cause chimney movement. These are more prone to cracks, particularly when exposed to the same moisture and freeze-thaw cycles that can destroy the chimney masonry. Cracks can cause the chimney to angle and lean to one side.

 

  • Soil Issues

Chimneys can experience tilting problems when the structure has been built on poor supporting soils. When the soil supporting the chimney is not sufficient to hold its weight, the structure may begin to sink, crack, or crumble, causing it to separate from the rest of the home and lean inward or outward.

Soil foundations are composed of different ingredients, such as sandy soils, clay soils, and sandy loam soils. These ingredients have varying characteristics, behaving differently under wet and dry conditions.

Movement in a chimney’s footing and structure can result from the different characteristics of these ingredients. Certain soil types can significantly and indefinitely expand and contract, subjecting the foundation to settling or expansive stresses that often result in damage.

In cases where the soil is not adequate to support the weight of the chimney, footings might need to be dug deeper and wider to accommodate the load.

 

  • Improper Water Drainage

When a home has a poorly designed drainage system, the gutters and downspouts may release the water directly to the foundation instead of redirecting it away from the house. This causes the water to infiltrate expansive soil around the house, pressuring against the home and chimney’s foundation. It can cause cracking throughout the home’s foundation, including the chimney’s footing.

 

  • Normal House-Settling

The shifting or movement of a home’s foundation is a normal phenomenon. It can happen at any time, most notably when the water around and inside the foundation begins to expand as it freezes.

The foundation’s movement can cause the chimney’s footing to move, resulting in the structure to start leaning or tilting toward or away from the house.

 

Conclusion 

Proper chimney inspection and maintenance allows homeowners to look out for signs of structural deterioration. Although some damage may only be seen through a more in-depth chimney inspection, other damage, including a chimney leaning away from the house, can be spotted through visual inspection.

A leaning chimney is dangerous as it could fall and cause physical injuries to anyone in its path. Depending on the design of the home and chimney, a chimney falling away from the house could create a floor to ceiling hole in the exterior wall.  Additionally, the chimney’s tilting can also result in flashing issues and leaks in the structure’s interior. Therefore, it is crucial to immediately address the chimney’s tilting problem to minimize the house’s damage.

The chimney is considered to be the most complicated and heaviest among all the housing components. Thus, regardless of the cause of the chimney problem, a licensed chimney contractor should conduct the structure’s immediate repair or replacement. An experienced chimney and masonry professional can guarantee a quality solution to a homeowner’s chimney-related problem.

Long Island Roofing and Chimney is a reliable and trustworthy roofing and chimney contractor on Long Island. With over 15 years of high-quality professional services, they are among the best companies to take care of roofing, chimney, gutters, and other home maintenance and improvement projects.

Contact Long Island Roofing and Chimney today at 631-205-6177 (Suffolk County), 516-605-6108 (Nassau County), or click here to request a quote.