Masonry chimneys are still used in old homes, and regularly built in new constructions. They’re still a favorite among homeowners because they are efficient, safe, and long-lasting when maintained properly. If you have a home with a masonry chimney, you may notice over time, or after a particularly harsh winter, some slight changes in your masonry. The damage that you see can be minor, but can become serious quickly if not repaired.
Spalling is a term used for cracking, crumbling, and falling masonry. When the mortar between bricks begins to loosen and fall away, this is spalling. It can be minor, with a crack here and there, or major, with bricks falling down onto the roof and into the yard. Because spalling masonry most often occurs high on the roof and out of sight, homeowners can miss it until it is a serious problem. This is why it’s so important to schedule regular inspections so that a chimney expert can assess your chimney system from top to bottom. You can schedule an inspection with Northwest Fireplace and Chimney and prevent spalling masonry before it starts.
Spalling masonry is repaired rather easily through a process called tuckpointing, or repointing. When tuck-pointing, the chimney sweep will remove the mortar from the affected area without damaging the bricks, then replace them with new mortar for a beautiful finish. This job should be done by an experienced professional due to the importance of continuity. The new mortar should match the existing mortar in strength, consistency, and color. If the mortar is not properly matched, the masonry will be weakened, and spalling will occur again. Matching the mortar in color preserves the look of your masonry when the job is finished.
Prevent Spalling Masonry
Spalling can occur if a chimney isn’t constructed using proper materials. Mortar that isn’t rated for high heat will be affected by your fire. Water also affects masonry, causing spalling. If a chimney crown doesn’t have an adequate overhang that drips the water away from the masonry, the water can cause spalling. When water penetrates the masonry, it is subject to a freeze/thaw cycle that can ruin the masonry from the inside out. First, the water penetrates the masonry, where it freezes and expands, further breaking apart the masonry. Then, as the chimney heats, the water melts, moving further into the damaged masonry, and repeating the process throughout winter. This type of winter damage is preventable when minor damage is repaired quickly. Without adequate repairs, minor damage can become a major hazard, and cost you dearly in repairs and damage later.
You can be proactive about protecting your masonry by scheduling waterproofing services. Northwest Fireplace and Chimney offers these services year-round, and we recommend waterproofing following any masonry or stone work. A technician applies an industrial sealant that protects the masonry from water, while still allowing gases to escape. This treatment can prevent spalling masonry before it starts.
Before attempting your own repair or hiring an amateur, call Northwest Fireplace and Chimney at (219) 413-2349 and ask an expert how we can restore your masonry.