Photograph of an abandoned chimney in an attic. Bracket Chimneys
collapse hazards in buildings?
     

  • BRACKET CHIMNEYS - CONTENTS: Definition of bracket chimney: what is a bracket chimney?
    • How are bracket chimneys and other incomplete or partially removed chimneys a collapse hazard in buildings?
    • How were bracket chimneys supported at the time of construction?
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about bracket chimneys: detection, inspection, hazards, removal or repair recommendations
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This article explains what a bracket chimney is, why they are found (usually in older homes), why they are unsafe, and what to do about abandoning, removing or supporting a bracket chimney. We include photographs of bracket chimneys as well as sketches to help you recognize when this unsafe type of chimney is found in a building.

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Bracket Chimney Collapse & Fire Risks

Photograph of an abandoned chimney in an attic. Photograph of an abandoned chimney in an attic.

[Click to enlarge any image]

What is a Bracket Chimney - see sketch below

Bracket supported chimney (C) Carson Dunlop Associates

Our photos above show two bracket chimneys in a pre-1900 home in New York.

[Click to enlarge any image]

A wooden framed "bracket" supports a masonry chimney on and in a building. Current building codes which require that a masonry chimney be self supporting expect that a masonry chimney will rest on a footing below ground level where it is sound and protected from frost, settlement, tipping, movement.

Wood bracket supports for masonry chimneys such as shown in our sketch (left) are often under-designed and lack sufficient strength to carry the weight of the chimney over time. Further, wood chimney supports may decay from leaks, rot, and insects.

As Carson Dunlop point out in this sketch, these chimneys are often inadequately supported and are a collapse hazard.

If the bracket-supported chimney is in use there are very often fire hazards as well.

Inspectors of older homes may find a bracket chimney in the building attic, with no masonry extending to the floors below. Instead, a wood stove or coal stove on lower floors used a metal chimney which passed up through the ceiling above and into the bracket chimney supported on a wood shelf in the attic. From outside the building it may appear that a normal masonry chimney is installed - possibly a false and unsafe assumption.

Repair alternatives for bracket chimneys and similar chimneys supported by wood framing include

  • Abandonment and removal of the chimney it its use is not necessary
  • Removal of the bracket chimney and replacement with a listed metal chimney which will almost certainly be of much lighter weight as well as meeting modern fire clearance and safety requirements.

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