Many, many homes in Connecticut have brick and mortar chimneys. Many of these chimneys also have problems. A good portion of those problems are due to what has been going up the chimney. In Connecticut many homes use oil for heat. Before that coal. I still find old coal burning boilers in use that were converted to oil burners way back when.
Modern chimneys are built with clay flue liners. Before that, no liner, just the brick. An older home, a hundred years or more, will almost assuredly have an unlined chimney. Over those hundred plus years of burning coal and oil, the chimney takes a beating. The inside slowly but surely erodes from the corrosive gases mixing with rain water. The mortar becomes soft and loose, often falling from the joints like sand. I find it is important to probe the mortar, especially in the attic, as this seems to be the area where I find the most damage to the joints. There are times when the screw driver goes right through like a knife through butter.
Often there are soot stains from the combustion gases escaping from these porous, sandy joints.
It is obvious that when a chimney is in this condition repair is not just needed, but required because there are safety concerns. The not so readily obvious concern it often seems is this condition means that the structure is weakening and a failure is at some point immanent.
During a recent inspection on an older home I found that the chimney sticking through the roof was quite newer. It looked quite good. I've seen this before and knew what I might find inside.
The buyer's agent informed me that a previous inspection had turned up problems with the chimney and repairs were scheduled to be made. The chimney had a newer steel liner and was now on gas instead of oil. All good things for my client.
The repair was needed in where else, the attic. Originally the repair was to be repointing of the chimney, but had been changed to parging or stuccoing. Not so good for my client.
Repointing is tedious and time consuming ($$$), but is the right way to fix the chimney. Repointing involves systematically removing all the old soft mortar, then putting in new. This strengthens the weak structure, making it almost as good as original.
Parging involves slapping a thin coat of mortar over the chimney (¢), covering the brick and mortar. It's quick and easy, but does little to strengthen the chimney or address the problem. Good for the seller, not the buyer.
My advice to the client was to insist the chimney be repointed; the top half should match the bottom half and be structurally sound.
To find out more about our other high tech services we offer in Connecticut click on the links below:
|Learn more about our Infrared Thermal Imaging & Diagnostics services.||Learn more about our home energy audits, the Home Energy Tune uP®.|
Serving the Connecticut Counties of Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex, New Haven, Southern Litchfield and Western New London.