What should you do with failing chimney bricks?

Chimneys might not be used as frequently as the other parts of the house because it can only be used during the colder months, but they also experience decay when kept untreated for a long time. When chimney bricks start chipping, loosening, or decaying, it is known as spalling. Not only is it a total eyesore to everyone seeing it, but a spalling chimney is also dangerous to have around the house.

This article will educate you on everything you must know about spalling, and what we can do about it.

What is spalling?

When moisture penetrates into a brick and then freezes and thaws, spalling happens. Water damage leads the spalling bricks to disintegrate, flake, and even pop out of the chimney altogether over time. Water damage can cause your chimney to be in misshapen in most instances, and it is also a known cause why chimneys collapse over time.

Why does spalling happen?

The main cause of brick spalling in a masonry chimney is the quality of the bricks and mortar. Bricks that are too porous can readily allow precipitation and humidity from fog or ice to seep in, and bricks that are poorly compressed mortar will not allow bricks to expand securely during the freeze/thaw process.

Both brick and mortar conditions are the entry points for brick spalling, however there are a few more things to keep an eye on that will speed up the process. With these other factors in play, you’ll almost certainly have to address this problem sooner or later.

Brick spalling is heavily influenced by the weather. If you reside in an area where there is a lot of rain, fog, or cold weather, you should inspect your bricks on a regular basis.

While pressure cleaning or sandblasting might make your chimney appear spotless, the microdamage can contribute to eventual spalling. Poorly constructed or rescued bricks will deteriorate far more quickly than high-quality bricks and workmanship.

What should we do to prevent spalling?

The consequences of leaving chimney spalling untreated can be dangerous, but it only takes easy solutions to fix this problem. However, you should treat spalling the moment you see it happen on your chimney. Otherwise, it can lead to more complicated procedures and the DIY tips you see on YouTube won’t even cut it.

A massive chimney repair can be prevented by conducting yearly inspections of the exterior of your chimney. Chimney brick repair often includes waterproofing with a sealant that’s breathable enough, tuckpointing chimney parts to replace missing areas with stronger and newer mortar, and chimney cap repair.

After taking a good look around the bricks of your chimney, it would give you an idea on which parts require repair and which parts require replacement. Keep in mind that you should only remove 3-4 bricks off a wall at a time. Otherwise, it might wreak havoc on your chimney.

Of course, you’ll want to double-check that the bricks you’re replacing are compatible with the ones you’re replacing. You should also utilize the same pointing style. Fixing the mortar connections between the bricks is what this method entails. It’s likely that the existing bricks will be weathered and discolored, making it difficult to match new ones. Do your best.

After you’ve scraped the mortar away from the brick, use a cold chisel and a club type hammer to pry it out. If it doesn’t work, a masonry bit can be used to drill holes in the brick. Then, using a hammer and a cold chisel, shatter the bricks so you can effectively remove them.

Because the mortar is most likely what caused the spalled bricks in the first place, make sure you apply the fresh mortar appropriately. You can use a regular cement-based mortar or a sand and lime mix, which you can get from the local home improvement store.

You’ll want to moisten the area you’re fixing with clean water after you’ve mixed the mortar and it’s ready to use. Spread the mortar to the sides and base horizontally with a sharp trowel.

The thickness of the coating should be around 10mm. Carefully place the brick into the hole. Continue doing so until it’s in line with the brickwork around it. To achieve a uniform look, just use the handle of the trowel to ensure the mortar joint work you’re mending looks as near to the original as possible.

What if I don’t know how to do it myself?

If you don’t have any idea how to start spalling or the damage was deemed too big to be handled by yourself, or you are plain clueless in the process of spalling, you can always call a professional to help you deal with your spalling problems. Professionals can be trusted with tuckpointing your chimney, chimney restoration, and whole chimney repair to make it look brand new. They can help you with the best services to ensure that your chimney would last even longer and serve its purpose come the winter months.

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