Slow Blow

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

FusesSome fuses are quick, some are slow. When I say fuses, I am referring to the electrical type, not the wick on dynamite, all though the same can apply. Whether slow or quick, either type of fuse would be considered comparatively fast to our human point of time reference. From a geological time perspective, a human lifetime is an imperceptible blip, a nano of a nanosecond. Or even much less.

As with nearly all things subjective, slow or fast all depends on ones perspective.

Spalling bricks on a chimney in ConnecticutI came to ponder the perception of time after discovering this brick chimney in what looks to be a state of slow explosion. Often the issues found during a home inspection have taken years, perhaps even decades to get where they are at that particular moment in time. This chimney is no exception.

The bricks are literally slowly blowing apart. This condition is known as spalling. What is occurring may best be described as flaking. The bricks are slowly, relatively speaking, falling apart in layers.

What causes spalling is thought to be inferior bricks, not properly fired or reclaimed brick. The brick is too porous, thus able to retain a greater amount of moisture. Through the freeze thaw cycle, the surface areas begin to crack and fall away.

Close up of spalling bricksThis chimney is one of the most extreme case I have even happened upon. Amazingly the mortar joints are still intact, while the brick has long crumbled away. Unfortunately repair will be almost assuredly be large. Quite possibly the entire chimney or at the very least a good portion of it, will need to be rebuilt.

Spalling is progressive, it heeds no clock nor calendar. It will continue unabated until time has completed the process. 

 

 

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:

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

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Andrea Swiedler
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties - New Milford, CT
Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT

Jim, wow, the brick went before the mortar... does that mean the chicken can come before the egg? 

Very informative post about bricks. And yes, it looks like a very expensive fix to me. 

Aug 12, 2013 09:56 PM #1
Rainmaker
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Clint Mckie
Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections - Carlsbad, NM
Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586

Hi James,

Those old RED bricks are known to chip like shale when freezing and warming over the years. I hate to see them. There is always some that have fallen apart. Not the fun begins on rebuilding the chimney.

Have a great day in Connecticut.

Best, Clint McKie

Aug 12, 2013 10:28 PM #2
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Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group
Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001 - Gaithersburg, MD
301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA

That chimmey had its days. .is ready to come down. .

Aug 12, 2013 10:37 PM #3
Rainmaker
647,093
Kathy Sheehan
Bay Equity, LLC 770-634-4021 - Atlanta, GA
Senior Loan Officer

Wow, I didn't know that bricks would do that if not properly fired.

Aug 12, 2013 10:42 PM #4
Rainer
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Steven Cook
No Longer Processing Mortgages. - Tacoma, WA

James -- thanks for the explanation and pictures of how/why bricks do this.  Another item where quality will show through over the years.

Aug 13, 2013 03:19 AM #5
Rainmaker
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Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Jim, what does not help is the crowns are not properly designed either which helps with the moisture/brick issue.

Aug 13, 2013 03:40 AM #6
Rainmaker
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Fred Hernden, CMI
Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area - Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque area Master Inspector

Were there pennies behind those fuses? :-)

Aug 13, 2013 10:09 PM #7
Rainmaker
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James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Andrea, Yep, don't think this one is going to be a cheap fix.

Clint, We have thousands of chimneys here in CT just like this one (red brick).

Fernando, It is and will.

Kathy, Yep, might be other forces at work, but looks like bad brick.

Steven, Quality will always stand up better to time.

Don, surprisingly the crown here looked pretty good.

Fred, Didn't look :)

Aug 14, 2013 12:12 AM #8
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Dagny Eason
Dagny's Real Estate - Wilton, CT
Fairfield County CT, CDPE Homes For Sale and Condo

Jim - Crazy chimneys - I have seen some like that, but did not know that was what was going on ...

Thanks!

Aug 23, 2013 09:39 PM #9
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James Quarello

Connecticut Home Inspector
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