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Chimney Repair – Do it Yourself Or Hire a Professional?

by Yasir Asif

Professional chimney repair companies and technicians have the hands-on experience to spot problems that DIY homeowners may miss. They are familiar with building codes that apply to masonry projects and know how to use specialized tools to work safely on the roof.

Chimneys require regular repairs to ensure safety, function and longevity. These repairs include fixing leaks, spalling brick, leaning structures and cracked mortar joints.

Do It Yourself

The chimney on your home isn’t just an entryway for Santa and a place to hang the stockings. It provides fire hazard protection for your home and needs regular maintenance to prevent serious damage and potential dangers.

Fortunately, you can perform some minor repairs yourself. Before you start, remember that working on a steep or high roof requires special safety equipment. You should wear a fall-arresting harness when performing chimney repair or any other work on the roof. These are available at home improvement and tool-rental centers.

One major avenue for water to enter your chimney and cause damage is the gap that forms between the flue and crown, which is the cement-sealed top of your chimney. Over time, moss and loose mortar can build up in this area. Use a wire brush to remove debris, then caulk the gap using high-heat chimney sealant.

Check for Leaks

If a leak isn’t repaired quickly, the water can damage wood framing in the attic or walls and even cause ceiling and wall mold. Besides a costly repair bill, this moisture can saturate insulation and cause other issues that would necessitate hiring a professional contractor.

Leaks usually occur around the flashing (the metal material that roofers put between shingles and the chimney) or where the chimney meets the attic. These areas are subject to constant expansion and contraction, and caulking or paint may crack and wear over time.

Chimney caps and flashing also need to be in good condition to prevent rain, animals, debris, and sleet from entering the chimney. If the cap or flashing are damaged, it’s time to call a chimney service expert.

Clean the Chimney

When wood burns, vapors and gases rise through the chimney flue. When the vapors encounter cooler outdoor air, they condense to form creosote, which clings to the inside surfaces of the chimney. Creosote can be a sticky, flaky substance or a hard, glassy glaze. Eventually, it can crack the chimney lining and allow smoke and poisonous gas to seep into combustible parts of your home.

To prevent a chimney fire, you should have your chimney cleaned once every year. Before you begin, make sure to put on protective eyewear, a dust mask, and a pair of ladder safety straps. Also, consider renting a sturdy ladder that can get you onto the roof. Once you are ready, remove the chimney cap and shine a flashlight up into the flue.

Check the Crown

The chimney crown slopes and forms the top section of the masonry that shelters the flue liner from water. Any cracks in the chimney crown need immediate repair. Moisture pooling in this area can degrade the masonry section and require costly chimney replacement.

Cracks in the chimney brick are another common problem. These can be fixed with a waterproofing sealant like caulk. The longer these problems go unrepaired, the more damage they will cause to the chimney and the home.

Chimney liners are made of clay tiles that can become damaged by the elements. Eventually, these will begin to break down, a process called spalling. These are typically the first to fail and should be replaced with a new lining system. The mortar joints also need to be repaired as they deteriorate over time.

Hire a Professional

When dealing with a structure as large and complicated as a chimney, it’s best to leave the work to a professional. Chimney repair professionals have hands-on experience and knowledge of building codes that can help them find and repair problems that you might not see.

Look for companies with positive reviews and a good reputation. Avoid hiring any company with lawsuits or complaints on file.

If the mortar on your chimney is cracked, crumbling or missing chunks, it’s time to hire a professional for tuckpointing or full masonry repairs. These jobs are more complex and require the use of specialized tools. In addition, a chimney is a structural component of the home and needs to be reinforced with a flashing that keeps moisture out.

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