What Causes a Leaning Chimney?
A leaning chimney is a structural problem you should address as soon as possible. If you ignore the issue, loose bricks could fall on people below. Water and pests could infiltrate the gap between the chimney and the siding. Or combustible gases could leak from the chimney into your home when you use the fireplace. If you think your chimney is leaning, act now to protect your home and family from these hazards.
Signs Your Chimney Is Leaning
Chimneys should stand tall and straight, not pitch to one side. However, be aware that some builders design chimneys to “tilt” if the fireplace is not centered inside the house. Offset brick courses allow the chimney to exit at the roof ridge, giving the house a symmetrical appearance from the outside. As long as the horizontal mortar joints are level, you can rest assured that the chimney is tilting intentionally.
It’s not always easy to spot a leaning chimney. If you can’t tell just by looking, watch for these signs:
- Gaps between the house and the chimney: Look at the joint where the chimney meets the siding. If a crack has opened up, this is a sure sign that the chimney is leaning. Filling the gap with mortar, caulk, or insulation doesn’t resolve the problem or prevent it from getting worse; it only hides the issue temporarily.
- Dislodged flashing: Check the chimney where it meets the roof to see if strips of metal flashing have come loose. This indicates soil settling and may cause water damage in the attic.
- Off-center chimney: If the chimney runs through the interior, go to the attic and see if it’s centered in its frame. Are bricks pressing against one side of the opening or the other? If so, that means the structure is leaning.
- Deteriorated mortar and loose bricks: When the mortar begins crumbling and bricks start coming loose, the need for leaning chimney repair is dire.
If you notice these signs of a leaning chimney, please call Carolina Foundation Solutions at 1-(877) 770-7050 for a repair estimate today.
Reasons for a Leaning Chimney
Masonry chimneys weigh several tons, so they must be built on a stable concrete footing. Several foundational problems can cause a footing to fail and result in a leaning chimney. These include:
- Undersized or missing footing: Poor stability could occur if the footing is less than one-foot thick and doesn’t extend at least six inches beyond the chimney on all sides. In some cases, the footing is missing altogether, which is sure to cause a leaning chimney eventually.
- Shifting soil: If the earth moves beneath the footing, it can cause the concrete to crack or crumble. Everything from drought or heavy rain to erosion or decomposition can cause shifting soil.
- Poor soil quality: Backfill soil or soil that expands and contracts significantly is unable to bear the load of a chimney for long.
- Improper water drainage: If the ground doesn’t slope away from the house, rainwater won’t drain properly. The weight of water-laden soil pressing against the footing may cause it to crack.
- Poor footing construction: Shallow installation, low-quality concrete, or lack of reinforcement can make the footing more vulnerable to the freeze-thaw cycle, which weakens and deteriorates it.
No matter what is causing your leaning chimney, Carolina Foundation Solutions can repair it. Contact us to speak with our foundation experts today.
Repairing a Leaning Chimney
Thanks to today’s modern foundation repair methods, it may be possible to straighten your leaning chimney without the high cost and disruption of demolition. Installing underpinning helical piers is a proven way to repair a leaning chimney. The helical piers support and stabilize the chimney by transferring the structure’s weight from the footing to a layer of suitable load-bearing soil deeper underground.
Carolina Foundation Solutions specializes in leaning chimney repair. We use ICC-ES-certified helical pier products manufactured by CHANCE, the oldest and most trusted manufacturer of helical piers in the world. Our work is covered by a Life of the Structure warranty, along with a 30-Year Peace of Mind warranty from CHANCE.