DIY Disaster Doctor: Chia Pet Chimney


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Richard Matore of Pillar to Post Home Inspection in Newington, Connecticut (via The Money Pit). Courtesy of ASHI Reporter

Remember the Chia Pet, that early ’80s craze that revolutionized indoor gardening? Well, I’m pretty sure they never offered a Chia Chimney — yet we seem to be looking at one right now!

The green outgrowth signals a chimney in need of some minor DIY repair. Left as is, the homeowner faces some potentially serious side effects: the foliage can block the escape of smoke and carbon monoxide.

chimney diagramGetty Images

Brick chimneys like this one are constructed using a terracotta clay flue liner surrounded by brick. They’re topped off by a waterproofed cement crown that is sloped downward toward the outside edge of the brick (keeping water out of the chimney). But crowns crack over time and water leaks in, where it freezes and breaks the chimney apart. Those cracks are also a great place for wind-blown or bird-dropped seedlings to land, impeding the function of the chimney, and leading to the unsightly Chia Pet Chimney you see here.

Your chimney is a critical part of your home’s structure and mechanical functioning, so routine chimney inspections, repair and cleaning are all critical, especially before the winter heating season begins. That means getting up on the roof for some detailed inspection repair. If you’re not great with heights and the possible medical emergencies that come with them, enlist the help of a pro..

Start by carefully inspecting of the surface of the chimney crown for damage and possible plant habitats, and look down the chimney with a flashlight to confirm that there are no additional blockages, gaping holes or other air flow issues. If you find loose bricks, scrape away any loose mortar and then repoint with a fresh mix. Repair cracked chimney crowns with a silicone caulk — or if they are badly deteriorated, simply remove and replace the crown with new mortar. As a preventive measure, consider installing a chimney cap to help divert moisture and keep the chimney passage clear.

While you are up on the roof, check the chimney flashing, which seals the space between the roof shingles and the chimney. Loose flashing should be secured back to the brick.

Adopt this chimney maintenance routine periodically going forward, and you’ll keep rooftop greenery from taking root.

Can I Treat This Myself?
Yes, as long as you have a sturdy ladder and some good medical insurance — just in case!

Tom Kraeutler delivers home improvement tips and ideas each week as host of The Money Pit Home Improvement Show, a nationally syndicated radio program. He is also author of My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure. You can also subscribe to Tom’s latest home improvement podcast or free home improvement newsletter.

** Got a DIY disaster you’d like us to feature? Send a photo of the disaster to, and we just might publish it here on DIY Life. All submissions will remain anonymous. **

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