Dangerous chimney cracks and openings in an attic (C) Daniel Friedman Chimney cracks, gaps, movement indoors
How to Evaluate Indoor Evidence of Chimney Movement & Structural Damage
     

  • CHIMNEY MOVEMENT CLUES, INDOORS - CONTENTS: How to recognize masonry concerns with indoor chimney movement. Key places to look for brick chimney movement inside of buildings; How to identify the causes of chimney moment or separation by clues found indoors
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about diagnosing & repairing cracked, leaning, separating or moving chimneys - clues visible from inside the building
  • REFERENCES

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This article describes structural movement of chimneys that can be observed or predicted indoors in buildings. Our page to photo shows a leaning brick chimney in the attic of an older home. The lean may be excessive in this flue - making further detailed inspection of the chimney for gaps, cracks, leaks, fire or gas hazards important.

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Chimney Movement detected indoors

Photograph of a corbelled brick chimney, from the attic.

Chimney Movement detected indoors in masonry chimneys can cause damage to the flue liner or openings that might admit sparks (fire risk) or gases (carbon monoxide hazards) into the building structure or even into occupied spaces.

The photograph here shows a leaning, corbelled brick chimney in a pre-1900 home.

[Click to enlarge any image]

When inspecting an old chimney which was corbelled over at an angle to come out at the center of the building roof's ridge (done for aesthetic reasons) inspect the chimney carefully at the attic floor where the chimney changes from angled (corbelled) to vertical.

This floor-level inspection, that is, inspection at the point from which a leaning masonry chimney begins to deviate from its original vertical structure, is a critical space to look for hidden and possibly dangerous damage, especially if the chimney is small, possibly constructed of a single brick wythe in thickness.

If the corbelled chimney flue has sagged along with the roof, the chimney may be cracked and open at this point even though other cracks were not seen.

Dangerous chimney cracks and openings in an attic (C) Daniel Friedman

In the attic inspect the chimney thoroughly at all accessible surfaces, floor to roof.

Our photo at left shows severe movement and openings in this brick chimney in an attic close to the roof surface. The vertical mortar joints between the bricks show openings of about 3/4" in width - you can see that the mortar has fallen over on an angle in these openings.

This chimney is a fire hazard, a carbon monoxide hazard, and a collapse hazard. Further inspection would be needed to determine if the damage was only in this area and due to water and frost (no chimney cap or crown) or if the chimney was moving and settling - leading to a need for reconstruction.

This damage pattern is more likely to be found on single-wythe thick brick chimneys than on chimneys built with multiple wythes of bricks forming the chimney wall.

See Chimney Collapse Hazards & Chimney Support & Bracing Requirements.

 

 

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