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This article describes chimney inspection procedures and critical chimney defects which can be observed from outdoors at ground level. We begin with the detection of chimney movement, its causes, its symptoms. These articles continue with other chimney defects that can be found by visual inspection from outdoors at ground level, then from an on-roof inspection, followed by indoor inspections and ending with chimney-flue interior inspections.
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After reviewing this "ground level chimney inspection guide" readers should then review Chimney Inspection Outdoors at Rooftop which describes chimney defects which may be difficult or impossible to detect from a ground-level inspection. Readers interested in the outdoor portion of chimney inspections should review Foundation Support for Masonry Chimneys (below in this article) followed by the next article: Chimney Leaning, Separation, Movement. Also see CHIMNEY COLLAPSE Risks, Repairs.
We describe these and other chimney defects in detail in the following sections of this article.
A chimney which has settled and moved away from the building is almost certainly a serious safety hazard risking fire and flue gas leaks into the structure, and it is likely to require costly repairs or complete reconstruction. Details of how to see and evaluate chimney movement and separation are provided here.
A summary of the chimney footing problem is just below.
What happens if a chimney footing is missing or inadequate? Masonry chimneys represent a heavy concentrated load on the soil or support structure. Therefore, proper footing support is critical and is generally separated from the building footings except possibly at the exterior wall.
Some masonry chimneys are constructed with an inadequate footing, or no supporting footing whatsoever. Future settlement, movement, tipping, or separation of the chimney from the building is certainly likely in such installations.
We continue below with an explanation of the causes of chimney movement, followed by a demonstration of how we spot evidence that chimney movement has been ongoing. Other articles in this series outline most other chimney defects that can be found outdoors or indoors on buildings.
At Chimney Movement Causes we explain the common causes of chimney cracking, separation, leaning, tipping, or collapse.
At Chimney Movement - Ongoing vs Static we continue this article with a case reporting evidence of ongoing chimney movement, repeated repairs, and the need to remove and rebuild a large masonry chimney.
Other Chimney Defects Visible by Outdoor Ground-Level Inspection
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Questions & answers or comments about how to inspect chimneys from outdoors at ground level.
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Technical Reviewers & References
Related Topics, found near the top of this page suggest articles closely related to this one.