Cracked Bricks in Fireplace Support – Fix or Rebuild?
LESLIE: Jim in Washington is on the line with a fireplace question. What can we help you with, Jim?
JIM: It’s a brick fireplace and this is on the outside. I don’t know if this will be the right term but it seems to me there are buttresses on each side where the firebox, if you will, would be surrounded by this brick. And then it goes up to the chimney going to the roof.
And right at the edge of the buttress, a brick within, about half of the bricks are cracked. And so a fourth of the way down from the top of this buttress and a fourth of the way up from the bottom, they have not cracked but the rest have almost a perfect line of a crack going down them. The house is about 25 years old.
I’ve never seen a crack on there before now but I don’t know – is this something to worry about? Is this something that I should take care of? Or is this something that I really need some pro to come out and take care of?
LESLIE: And you’ve never noticed this sort of vertical line – this crack – going through all of it?
JIM: Correct. It just happened.
LESLIE: Hmm. I’m kind of sort of prone to believe that it was there but maybe you just didn’t notice it. But we did all have such an extreme winter that it’s possible this could have been that maybe you were getting some water in from somewhere. And then through a freeze and a thaw, it sort of expanded and cracked that brick.
JIM: Yeah. We’ve had a mild winter out west here and probably not more than a couple, three days below freezing, so I don’t think that was it. And I also have flowers planted around there that I replant each year, so I’m sure I would have noticed it.
LESLIE: I mean generally, with a crack in a brick, what you’re going to want to do is – if it’s a big crack, you might have to repoint or replace that brick itself. But if it’s something thin, QUIKRETE has a ton of different solutions for filling in a crack in either masonry or brick and it can be tinted to match. And this way it’s almost even like – I think they have something that’s almost like a flowable urethane that’s almost in a caulk gun that you’d be able to sort of fill in that crack line on the brick. Because you don’t want water to get in there and then you’ll have problems with the internal firebox or the chimney going up.
So you want to make sure that you do seal those cracks in the brick. And I might start with that approach and just keep an eye on it through the summer season and see how you’re doing in the winter. And see if there’s any more changes or if it expands above or below what’s currently there. And if that’s the case, then we’d rethink the whole situation.
TOM: You also want to take a look at the drainage around the base of the chimney. Because if you happen to be trapping a lot of water on that side of the house, that could force the foundation to perhaps settle a bit. So if you try to keep the downspouts drained away from that side of the house, if the soil slopes away, that can make the foundation for the fireplace chimney.
But Leslie is right: just a bit of caulk in those cracks to seal out the water. Because if the water does get in, it’ll freeze and expand and that could make it worse.
JIM: Right. Very good. I’ll start with that. I’ve already noted how long the cracks are and where they start from the top and bottom, so I’ll be able to keep an eye on it.
TOM: Good idea. Jim, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.