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What You Can’t See May Hurt You

As a chimney sweep, I am constantly looking up at chimneys, even when I should be watching the road ahead of me. Often times, I can tell that there is an obvious problem with the masonry. You can see missing bricks, the chimney is leaning, or the mortar joints are in very bad condition.

Sometimes, however, the problems aren’t so obvious. I have gone to many homes where the homeowner told me that their “home inspector” said that the chimney was in good condition. Upon further inspection, that is the farthest thing from the truth. Even in the body of the chimney, many problems are very difficult to see from the ground.


When I take a look at a chimney from the outside, I typically am looking for a few basic things, such as:

  • Are there cracks in the chimney that may have been caused by a sudden occurrence like a lightning strike?
  • Is there mortar missing between the bricks, possibly caused by poor construction or erosion?
  • Are any of the bricks spalling? Spalling means that the face of the brick has come off, usually due to moisture getting into the brick and then freezing and popping the face of the brick off.
  • Are there cracks in the crown?
  • Was the new crown done with just a very thin layer of cement, which will crack very quickly, usually after just one cold winter season.
  • How do the flue tiles that come out of the top of the chimney look? Flue tiles are made to last a long time, but can deteriorate from the inside or the outside.
  • How does the flashing look?
  • Are there cracks in the tar?
  • Was the metal flashing installed properly?

Too often, these issues won’t be noticed until the homeowner has a problem, such as water finding its way into the interior wall of a bedroom, or finding pieces of flue tile in the firebox. By hiring a Certified Chimney Sweep, these types of things can usually be found and corrected before much damage has been done.

Some corrective measures include water proofing, repointing, building a new crown, installing new flashing or replacing the very top flue tile. I also usually recommend to the customer that a Level 2 Inspection be done, which will alert us to any other problem the chimney has that isn’t readily apparent to the naked eye.

Save yourself some sleepness nights and call a Certified Chimney Sweep today. It will be worth the effort.

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