Learn how to diagnose and repair cracks in a brick chimney, and how a professional home inspector could provide better advice than a contractor or chimney sweep. Find out why cracks in brick chimneys tend to appear toward the top of the chimney.
LESLIE: Bruce in Texas finds The Money Pit on KEEL. What’s going on at your money pit?
BRUCE: Was wondering about some cracks in my chimney . And I’m not sure how it’s made or put together or whatever. But (inaudible) last two or three years, I had some people come in and level my house up. And I don’t think it helped it at all.
LESLIE: Where are you seeing the cracks? Is it a brick chimney ? What is the chimney made out of?
BRUCE: Yes, ma’am, it’s brick.
LESLIE: Are you seeing the cracks in the mortar  or across the brick itself?
BRUCE: Well, mortar mostly but I have seen it across the brick.
TOM: And are you seeing these up near the top of the chimney or is it down near the bottom?
BRUCE: I’d say half the way down.
TOM: Well, that’s kind of unusual. It’s not unusual to have cracks up near the top. There seems to be a lot more movement of the chimney up there. But if you’ve got them halfway down like that, that could be a little unusual. You also mentioned that your house was out of level and you had some work done. Did you have a structural engineer involved in this project, Bruce, or did you just hire a contractor and let him go to it?
BRUCE: No, sir.
TOM: I suspected that. That probably wasn’t the best way for you to go about this because, you know, contractors can often have a little bit of knowledge and sometimes that can be a dangerous thing.
BRUCE: Yeah, you’re right.
TOM: What I would recommend is that you get an independent professional opinion on the structural condition of the house and the chimney; taking into account this repair work that was done and the present condition of the chimney. The least I would do – the actual least I would do – is hire a professional home inspector  that’s an independent inspector that can take a look and give you a sense as to whether or not these cracks are serious or not. If you are really concerned and you want to get a true expert opinion, you want to go to a licensed structural engineer. That’s going to cost you a lot more than a home inspector but that’s the way to find out what’s going on. I would not take a chance by speaking to contractors or anybody else that’s employed to do repair work. You want an independent professional opinion when you have serious structural issues like this.
Bruce, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.