Half Right

By
Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

Unlined chimneyMany, 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.

Rebuilt chimney topModern 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.The caulk on this chimney is a nice touch

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.

Soft mortar joinrts on this chimneyThe 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.

 

 

James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
2010 - 2011 SNEC-ASHI President
NRSB #8SS0022
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

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.

Posted by

James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
Former SNEC-ASHI President
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

 ASHI Certified Inspector

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.

Serving the Connecticut Counties of Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex, New Haven, Southern Litchfield and Western New London.

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Rainer
55,780
Peter Schattenfield
Turning Point Estate Services LLC - Wilton, CT
Estate Dissolution and Preparation (203)388-8092 CT.

James, The old, if you can't see it, then there is no problem trick. This is why a buyer needs to hire a good  thorough inspector. I know it can be hot up in the attic this time of year. There are some that will not go to deep in there because of this.

Jul 13, 2011 02:09 AM #1
Ambassador
1,154,605
Craig Rutman
Helping people in transition - Cary, NC
Raleigh, Cary, Apex area Realtor

Putting a band aid on a real problem is NOT the answer. Your advice to the buyer was spot on James.

Jul 13, 2011 02:36 AM #2
Rainer
246,325
Daniel H. Fisher
www.FisherHermanRealty.com (704) 617-3544 - Charlotte, NC
MCRP - Charlotte Real Estate, NC or SC

Interesting that the attic is where failed mortar is most frequently found. Repointing brick should be part of regular maintenance in older structures. Chimney inspections in Charlotte NC and SC are generally done by licensed chimney sweeps as a separate inspection - and not by the home inspector. 

Jul 13, 2011 03:43 AM #3
Rainmaker
1,843,015
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Good advice!  You might see a new product from Billy Jays soon, Mound Yer Mortar!  It'll be a classic!

Jul 13, 2011 09:19 AM #4
Rainmaker
490,607
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Jim,

Great post and such a good point on repairs. If I had it my way I would have my clients get a allowance from the sellers and then control the repairs themselves. This way it can be completely correctly.

It is only human nature to have a repairs done as quickly and cheaply on the selling end as possible. 

Jul 13, 2011 04:17 PM #5
Rainmaker
683,909
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Peter, It's not that pleasant in the heat, but neither is a dissatisfied client. Attics are part of the job.

Craig, Thanks, i was extra concerned because they have a very young boy.

Daniel, Interesting. Why wouldn't the home inspector look at the chimneys?

Jay, I could almost hear the pitch now...

Don, I so agree with you. You can't real;ly blame the seller either, they want ouit for as little pain as possible. After all they pay and get no real benefit. I have often advised clients that if they have the option, do the repairs later with someone they choose.

Jul 14, 2011 12:48 PM #6
Rainer
403,511
Jeremy Wrenn
Winslow Homes - Youngsville, NC
C.O.O., Winslow Homes

James, you're right that re-pointing can be expensive.  I absolutely cringe in thinking about repairing mortar in a brick chimney. 

Jul 18, 2011 03:33 AM #7
Rainmaker
683,909
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Jeremy, Yes it is pricey, but the right way to fix it.

Jul 20, 2011 03:13 AM #8
Rainer
403,511
Jeremy Wrenn
Winslow Homes - Youngsville, NC
C.O.O., Winslow Homes

Yep, I agree on both counts.

Jul 20, 2011 05:04 AM #9
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Rainmaker
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James Quarello

Connecticut Home Inspector
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