Chimneys are built to last for many years, but their intended function makes them prone to specific types of damage. Additionally, poor maintenance can significantly shorten the life of the chimney. Spalling is a big concern for chimneys and it is a relatively common issue in areas where they are exposed to severe weather patterns. Here along the Philadelphia Main Line, we have our fair share of severe weather at different times throughout the year.
Spalling occurs when the surface of chimney’s masonry starts to flake off. The severity of the problem can sometimes be worsened by poor chimney construction and maintenance, but this problem is mostly noticed in older chimneys. Other types of masonry surfaces such as pavements can also show signs of spalling.
What Causes Spalling?
Activity on both the inside and outside of the chimney can cause spalling. The main factor is the presence of moisture which is easily absorbed by the porous masonry surface. Over the years, as the chimney endures freeze/thaw cycles, the masonry bonds begin to weaken. The same effect takes place when rain gets inside an uncapped chimney. Water can also seep inside the structure through cracks on the outside. The buildup of flue gases is another contributory factor to this problem.
What to Look For
Even a basic inspection will reveal this type of chimney damage. If it occurs inside the structure, you will see pieces of masonry inside the fireplace. Usually the signs are more obvious on the outside. If you see masonry flakes on your roof, you should call to have your chimney checked right away. This is the beginning of the eventual breakdown of much of the structure. However, if repairs are quickly done, this will strengthen the structure, and lengthen its life.
Protecting Your Chimney
When it comes to protecting your chimney from spalling, you have a few options. Breathable sealants can keep rainwater from being absorbed into the brick, but still allow moisture to escape. This is important as moisture that gets trapped in the brick can accelerate the problem. If you are having a chimney constructed from scratch, request high grade bricks as these are better at keeping moisture out. It will take much longer for the surface to begin to deteriorate.
When you notice that your chimney’s masonry is flaking off, take action. Call Lou Curley’s Chimney Service for expert chimney repair services. Make sure to ask us about our monthly specials. This fall we will be offering discounts on chimney cleaning. Right now we are offering $20 off of a chimney cleaning, so book early and get everything taken care of before you light that first fire of the season. Regular inspection is the best way to notice the early signs of damage. This will mean cheaper repairs, and a chimney that lasts longer.