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When Your Chimney Needs Masonry Repair

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The bricks and mortar of your chimney take a constant beating. The elements of wind, rain, heat, humidity and freezing temperatures take a huge toll. An inspection is all you need to tell you when your chimney needs masonry repair.

Brick chimneys, commonly called masonry chimneys, are very common. Bricks and mortar are the most traditional and sturdy materials for chimney construction. The mortar is a cement-like material that fills the joints between the bricks, binding them together.

Water is the worst enemy. Because the bricks and mortar are naturally porous materials, moisture can easily infiltrate the system. Freezing temperatures also pose a 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, can help block much of the water from entering the chimney.

Also, gases produced by fires are acidic and can break down the mortar and bricks inside the chimney. Chimney liners, which are made of stainless steel, clay or concrete, are placed inside the chimney to protect the bricks and mortar.

Homeowners should have their chimneys inspected at least once every year, experts advise. Trained chimney inspection companies can detect cracks, as well as chipped and broken bricks and deteriorated mortar that could lead to dangerous structural problems. Experts say broken mortar and cracked bricks should be repaired immediately, before the problem spreads. Sealers can be applied to brick chimneys to help weather-proof them.

Damaged mortar can very quickly lead to problems with the bricks, chimney professionals say. Mortar repair, also called “tuckpointing,’’ is the process where masons replace the bad mortar with fresh, new mortar. The new mortar not only strengthens the bonds between the bricks, it also improves the overall appearance of the chimney.

Homeowners who want to try tuckpointing on their own should understand it can be a tedious, dirty task. Allowed to fester, cracked bricks and damaged mortar could eventually require large portions of the brick chimney to be rebuilt. That type of chimney masonry repair definitely not a do-it-yourself job, but rather one that requires the expertise of a qualified mason.

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