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When a Brick Chimney Needs Repair

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Brick chimney repair is usually not an issue on newer homes, but it all depends on how well-built the chimney is and how well it has been maintained. Bricks are the most traditional material used for chimney construction. Brick chimneys are strong and last a long time but they do require periodic inspection and maintenance to avoid repair.

The bricks and mortar of a chimney are under constant assault from Mother Nature. Wind, rain, heat and humidity take their toll. And because the bricks and mortar are naturally porous materials, there’s always the potential for moisture to infiltrate the system. Freezing temperatures also pose a great threat because the water trapped inside the brick chimney can freeze and expand, causing even more damage to the bricks and mortar. Experts say chimney caps, which fit over the top of the chimney and prevent water from flowing into it, are a great first line of defense.

Meanwhile, from the inside, a chimney’s bricks and mortar also take a beating from the smoke and gases produced by the fires. The acidic gases react with the mortar to break it down over time. Chimney liners provide terrific protection for the inside a chimney and can help you avoid costly brick chimney repair.

Experts advise homeowners to have their chimneys inspected at least once a year. It is also advisable to seek an inspection if you are purchasing a home with a chimney. Trained, professional inspectors can detect cracks, chipped and broken bricks and deteriorated mortar that could lead to structural problems. These problems are always easier to deal with if caught early. Left too long, even small problems can become very big – and expensive – headaches for homeowners.

Damaged mortar can very quickly lead to problems with the bricks, chimney professionals say. Mortar repair is also known as “tuckpointing.’’ During this process, technicians inspect the mortar joints between the bricks, checking for spots where the mortar – a concrete-like material that bonds the bricks together – is breaking away. The technician will scrape away the old, damaged mortar and replace it with fresh mortar. The new mortar not only strengthens the bonds – making a more water-tight seal – it will also make the chimney look better and newer.

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