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golem 11-11-2010 02:11 PM

Chimney bricks spalling. Req opinions on short & long term repairs.
I've posted this to another forum but additional input is always appreciated.

Have an unused chimney here that is in need of some short-term and long-term TLC. Looks like it has for some time been poorly capped in addition to the flashings caulking not being maintained. As can be seen the bricks above the roof-line are badly spalled while in the carport area the chimney bricks, along with abutted wood, show signs of water saturation.

Short-term -- I'd like to get opinions on what I might possibly be able to do simply to make it through the winter with no further damage occurring? I've already sealed the flashing, hoping this will be enough to cure (or minimize) the below-the-roof-line problems. I'm just not sure if anything as simple as caulking or skim-coating the cap will help to any extent with regards to halting additional spalling of the bricks. Here in Maryland we get our fair share of that in-between weather -- Rain, sleet and snow along with 4 months of constant freeze and thaw cycles. Is anything short of throwing a bag over it possible?

Long-term -- This coming spring the real masonry work will be tackled. I have to assume the damage is too wide-spread for any simple cosmetic fixes which I believe leaves me two choices. One would be have a mason come out and rebuild as required OR I could properly cap it then cover the brick with some sort of facing. With the mason route I would contract it to be rebuilt as original. The refacing route would allow me to do the job myself but require a determination of aesthetic appeal. I'm musing that some style of stone facing would be an option but remain unsure as to whether or not it would blend or clash. Yes, the facing would be extended to ground level. Would be great to get opinions on either going original (rebuild, likely at considerable cost) or recapping and refacing which can be accomplished by me? Would also be interested in hearing any additional option you feel may be available to remedy this problem.


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oldognewtrick 11-11-2010 02:39 PM

Go to the store and buy a big blue tarp, some rope and cover the chimney if none of the flue pipes are functional. It's too far gone for caulk or minor repair. A brick mason is going to be your new best friend and be careful about appling stone veneers to the chimney. You may create more problems than you have now.

...and welcome to House Repair Talk.

DrHicks 11-11-2010 05:15 PM

^ Right. There's no saving that chimney.

Question: When you say "unused" do you mean there is no fireplace anymore, or there is one and you just don't use it? If it's the former, I'd have a mason just remove the chimney, patch the roof, and be done with it.

Short Term: If it was my house, I'd cap those 3 flues immediately. Even something as simple as cutting 3 pieces of plywood to fit, and using PL-4000 to seal them on. Not perfect, but it'll get you through the winter. You might also want to consider 1 piece of plywood that would cover all 3 flues and the chimney flange. That'd get any rain to drip past the sides of the chimney.

I wouldn't worry too much about tuckpointing the mortar or anything. Very little, if any, rain is going in the sides.

Again, not perfect, but it should get you through the winter without much (if any) more damage.

golem 11-12-2010 07:52 AM

Thanks for the replies!

Grrrrrrrr! Haven't you guys any good news! :p Actually, it's pretty much what I was expecting. Looks like I'll just be covering/capping it at least down to the drip course of bricks and, as suggested, have the mason do it properly come spring.

As for removal of the chimney all together, can't consider that an option. All the homes in this region have fireplaces so I'm figuring the cost to repair outweighs the possible reduction in prospective buyers when the time comes to sell.

Btw, I'm assuming the spalled bricks will be considered non-reusable? If they could simply be turned around that would make matching a non-issue. Beyond that, what do you think is the opinion of most masons in regards to someone like myself demoing the structure and cleaning the reusable bricks in prep for them to just sweep in and do the construction portion? May sound funny but I'd actually find that interesting and enjoyable. ;)


oldognewtrick 11-12-2010 09:41 AM

The brick is probably not re-usable, check with the mason you hire to evaluate the condition of the brick prior to you signing a work order outlining the scope of the complete job and any contingencies that may be encountered. Get a couple quotes and ask if there are any variables. If you don't know of a good mason check at the local distribution center of commercial masonry products for someone they would refer.

Remember that the lowest bid is not the best value in construction, you simply get the cheapest repair that probably will be a future problem.

Don't pay for the job in full until the repair is complete. Remember the golden rule. HE WHO HAS THE GOLD, RULES.

golem 11-12-2010 12:14 PM

oldog/newtrick, much appreciate the info and suggestions!

I'm finding with this particular project/repair some things are best not being shortcut. Will be posting another thread shortly dealing with a brick veneer repair, hopefully a bit more non-pro friendly.


DrHicks 11-13-2010 07:17 AM

You make a good point about the resale value of the house. I asked about removing the chimney because you said it was "unused" leading me to wonder what had been done.

Old Dog makes great points - as always. Wise words about using a contractor who will actually do the job right, instead of just doing it.

Here's a thought... Since you almost certainly cannot reuse the old bricks, considering looking on Craigslist, or some local antique shop, for used bricks. It's a long-shot, but if you find some used bricks "with history" that could be a really rewarding deal.

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