Chimney crushes car (C) Daniel Friedman Earthquake Damage & Collapse of Chimneys

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Assessment of earthquake damage & damage risk to chimneys:

This article describes chimney inspection procedures and provides examples of potentially fatal chimney collapse hazards in earthquake zones. We include description and photos of chimney collapses during earthquakes.

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Chimney Collapse Hazards from Earthquake or Storm

In addition to the chimney movement and collapse hazards we discussed above, owners and inspectors in earthquake-prone areas need to consider the safety of their chimney and its ability to resist collapse during a temblor or earthquake.

Un reinforced chimneys often collapse during an earthquake. It's luck which way the collapsing chimney falls. In some cases the chimney falls into the structure, possibly killing the occupants below. In our photo (below left) the chimney happily fell away from the home and into the yard.

Earthquake chimney collapse (C) Daniel Friedman Earthquake chimney collapse (C) Daniel Friedman

The photo of ten masonry chimneys all lined up in the street (above right) was taken by the author, D Friedman, in Northridge California after the Northridge Meadows earthquake in 1986.

Chimney falls thorugh house (C)  Daniel Friedman Chimney crushes car (C)  Daniel Friedman

The photos above show additional examples of earthquake damage to masonry chimneys. The chimney fell through the house at above left, luckily into the living room rather than a bedroom where people were sleeping, or it is possible that the occupants would have been crushed.

At above right an un reinforced stone chimney and stone house wall fell onto and crushed the automobile.

Other chimney collapse hazards can be frightening too, such as flues or chimneys collapsing trapping people working on them or simply someone who happened to be on a roof.

Chimney collapse and chimney damage from the Northridge California earthquake (C) Daniel Friedman Chimney collapse and chimney damage from the Northridge California earthquake (C) Daniel Friedman

At above left we see two different extents of chimney damage at the Northridge California 1994 quake. The chimney projecting through the ridge of the roof collapsed onto the roof while an exterior wall chimney fell into the yard below. At above right, another home inspected by the author [DF], the entire building was shifted abouit 14" over its foundation. You can see the collapsed chimney in the center of the photograph. A chimney that falls into the home or through its roof is more likely to cause injury to occupants.

See Chimney Collapse Hazards & Chimney Support & Bracing Requirements.

Also see our notes about Loose Wobbly Chimneys that need lateral support. A news report of a person who was trapped inside of a collapsing chimney is in our footnotes at Rooftop View Turns to Darkness.


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Or see MODULAR METAL ROOF SHINGLE SYSTEM - earthquake warning comments related to metal roof noise



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