Chimney Repair: Best Way to Fix Cracked Brick
LESLIE: Cathy in Massachusetts is on the line with a chimney repair question. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.
CATHY: Our house was sold about 1802. That’s the earliest records that we have. And the chimneys are literally turning to dust in the basement. The bricks themselves. They’re not just crumbling; they are – they have become dust. And I need to know, is there anything we can do to salvage them? Or if we take them down, does it compromise the stability of the whole building?
TOM: Well, it definitely would not compromise the stability of the building because chimneys are not part of the structure. They just hold themselves up. Now, are these active chimneys or inactive chimneys? Are they being used for a fireplace or for the heating system?
CATHY: No. We are afraid to use them for fireplaces.
TOM: OK. No, that’s wise. Well, how is your heating system being vented, Cathy, if it’s not through the chimney?
CATHY: There’s two fireplaces in the building that extend up to the second floor, to the roof. And we have a gas boiler that is vented through one of them but we can actually vent it to the outside.
TOM: Is the chimney that’s deteriorating the one that the gas boiler is in?
CATHY: Both of them are. One of them was a cooking oven back in the 1800s. They used it for a school for young girls and taught them the fine arts of cooking. And it – that’s the large, walk-in fireplace and it’s just totally crumbled. The bricks are falling out and a lot of it is just dust. The other one is a little better shape but it’s still turning to dust.
TOM: Alright. Well, first of all, it would be highly unlikely that either of them are safe to use, because they’re not lined.
Now, the process of lining – there’s a number of ways to do that but one process of lining is where they drop a tube down the middle of the chimney itself and they pour a concrete kind of slurry mix around the outside of the tube and then deflate the tube and pull it out. That process can actually make the chimney stronger. If that’s something you’re interested in, you could explore that. It’s probably costly.
If you want to just get rid of the chimneys and the fireplaces, then that’s totally fine. And what you’ll do is essentially disassemble them from the top down and the roof over the openings. As long as you’re not going to use them and you have no plans for it, I see no reason to keep them if you didn’t want to go through a chimney repair.
CATHY: Alright. Sounds like a good plan for us.
TOM: Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.