During winter, many homeowners enjoy a toasty fire in their fireplace. After all, a fire offers warmth, charm, and fun on cold days. But for safety’s sake, it’s important to have your chimney inspected before using it, especially if it is tilting, leaning, or separating from your home exterior. Winter foundational problems like a tilting chimney are common, and it pays to examine your fireplace every year and address issues that could cause safety problems.
By bringing in a professional to do a simple chimney inspection, homeowners can help keep their families safe and protect their home investment. At Edens Structural Solutions, we include chimneys as part of our overall foundation inspections to ensure your home is structurally sound in every area. We get a lot of questions about what could be causing a tilting chimney, so here are some answers to help you understand what might be happening and how to address it.
Why Chimney Problems Occur
Over time, a number of things can undermine a chimney’s structural integrity. When these issues arise, tilting in your chimney occurs, making it unsafe to you, your loved ones, and even your neighbors.
To ensure stability, the footing at the base of your chimney should be at least one foot thick and extend at least six inches on all sides. If the manufacturer of the house didn’t properly build an adequate base, the chimney will eventually become too unstable to remain straight. Undersized footing and poorly designed foundations are one of the biggest causes of a tilted chimney.
Another problem that can cause a chimney to lean is when its only support is poor soil that cannot adequately bear the load of such weight. Over time, this causes the chimney to sink, which puts your home at risk. Natural erosion that happens over time or tree roots extending under the footing may also weaken the support your chimney needs.
The concrete of your chimney’s footing may crack if water has seeped into the soil around it. The annual freeze-thaw cycles will cause the soil to expand and contract, eventually putting too much pressure on the footing, creating cracks. As these cracks get larger, the chimney will shift enough to cause it to lean, making it unsafe. And cracked concrete can also signal foundation damage is occurring.
Common Signs of Chimney Problems
Signs of a leaning or tilted chimney should not go unattended. It may not be today, but at some point, a weakened chimney can either crumble inward to damage your home or collapse outward, causing the danger of falling bricks that could possibly hit you or your guests. Besides that, these warning signs may indicate you have foundation problems.
Look for Gaps
Take a look at the joint between the siding and the outside of your chimney. If you see gaps, your chimney has probably started leaning. Through the years, those gaps may have been filled with mortar, caulk, or another kind of insulation, but that only hides a more serious problem. Previous owners of the house may have applied metal straps to fasten the chimney in place. That is also a band-aid of sorts that does nothing to fix an issue that will only get worse if not addressed.
Check the Attic
A lot of chimneys run through the inside of the house. If yours does, and you have access to the attic, take a look to see if the chimney is centered in its frame as it comes up into the attic. If the chimney is closer to one side or another, or even pressing against the frame, that’s a sign it is leaning.
Pay Attention to Flashing
Dislodged flashing next to the chimney is a problem, not only because it leads to roof leaks, but because it is also a sign that a chimney is leaning and no longer properly aligned.
How to Repair Tilting Chimneys
What an unsafe, tilting chimney needs is additional support installed by experts. With a proper installation of helical piers, your chimney will stabilize, straighten, and be ready for your family’s enjoyment for years to come. A good, reliable foundation repair company can complete the installation in a pain-free manner, without dismantling your chimney or disrupting the ground around your property.
Helical piers are essentially giant screws that are driven deep into the ground by high-powered, specialized equipment. Using hydraulic rotary drive equipment, the heavy-duty helical piers are drilled quite a distance below your chimney, until they find solid rock or strong soil under the surface that can adequately hold the supports. Industry approved foundation brackets are then put in place on the piers and positioned under the chimney footing.
After this has been completed, powerful hydraulic jacks gradually bolster the chimney back to its original position, where the brackets will remain. With the brackets in their proper place, they are securely attached to the pier, and the jacks are removed. The simple process of using helical piers to support a chimney requires no excavation, leaving no additional messy rock or soil sediment in your yard to clean up.
Restore Your Chimney and Your Foundation to Top Performance
If you notice your chimney is leaning, tilting, or appears to be separating from your home exterior, don’t ignore the issue. Call on the experts to inspect it and make repairs. Our team at Edens Structural Solutions offers reliable, long-lasting repairs for winter foundational problems to ensure chimney safety and protect the value of your Tulsa area home. We’ll give you a clear plan that helps you enjoy your chimney and gives you confidence in your home’s foundation. Contact us today for a free estimate.