You may be asking yourself, “If the chimney isn’t really a part of the house other than to redirect smoke from the fireplace, why does it matter if it’s leaning?” The answer is that a leaning or tilting chimney can be a signal that there are big problems with your foundation. It can be one of the first signals, other than cracks, that alert you to foundation trouble. Although it may not be the biggest part of the structure of your home, it can be dangerous if left like this. Bricks may fall off or it may entirely fall over onto your home or a neighbors. Leaning or tilting chimney problems may seem like nothing you need to worry about, but problems should really be addressed right away.
A few culprits may be behind your leaning or tilting chimney. Among these are: a footing that is too small for the chimney, improperly or loosely compacted soil beneath the footing, frost heave that has caused problems with the footing, or soil that is too dry and has pulled away from the footing. Which one and what solutions you have to choose from will be determined by a foundation specialist like those at Custom Concrete.
A footing that is too small for the chimney creates a problem. Imagine placing an entire tower on top of a pedestal that is slightly too small for it. You would just be waiting for it topple over! There’s no stability. In most cases, you want the footing to be at least several inches larger than the chimney itself and thick enough to support it. A footing of this size provides proper stability to the chimney and supports it to make sure it does not topple over at the slightest wind. When the footing is smaller than it should be, the chimney begins to tilt and lean.
Soil that isn’t compacted properly or is generally loose and shifting can cause unwanted settling and cracking in footings and the foundation of your home. A home, and a chimney, will settle a little bit over time. This is expected to happen, and the contractors who built your house knew this when they placed materials. However, when the soil was improperly compacted, or is a shifting material like sand, your footing can move out of place or be pushed up in one place and tilt downwards in another. Obviously, this is not an ideal situation for keeping things on the straight and level. When this happens, your chimney will begin to tilt and lean and you may have foundation problems as well due to that soil.
Loosely compacted soil also invites problems with water and with frost heave. Frost heave is when the loosely compacted soil takes on water and becomes dense and saturated. When the weather gets colder, this freezes and pushes against the foundation or underneath the footing. However, it does not evenly push. Cracks will begin to form or even cause the breakage of the footing and a leaning or tilting chimney will be the result. Soil can also get too dry with drought-like conditions and begin to pull away from the footing. Something like this can cause similar problems with tilting of the footing and in turn tilting or leaning of the chimney.
If you’re looking at your leaning or tilting chimney and thinking that it’ll be an easy fix that’ll take a few hours and a couple of bricks, it’s time to reconsider the D.I.Y. approach. Chimney repair of this caliber is not a Do-it-yourself job. Helical piers or steel push piers will most likely be the best option for your leaning or tilting chimney repair. However, if the footing for your chimney is too small, that will also need to be addressed to assure that these problems will not continue.
Push piers are pushed deep into the ground, past any loose soil or backfill and into stable ground. They are solid and able to hold heavy loads, and the install will not leave your yard looking like a mess. After they are secure, the load of the chimney will be transferred onto the piers and your chimney will regain stability. If needed, we can also fix any broken or crumbling bricks and any cracks at the same time.
Helical piers are much the same, but they have a screw component on the bottom. Instead of just being pushed into the ground (like push piers), they are screwed into the ground to add even more stability and security. They are usually used for lighter loads, and they’re perfect for a chimney. Helical piers are also screwed deep into the ground into compacted and stable soil. Then, brackets are placed which will hold up the footing. After this, the weight of the chimney will be transferred to the helical piers and leaning or tilting chimneys can be corrected and stabilized.
If your chimney is starting to look like it’s leaning, it’s time to give Custom Concrete a call. We can provide you with a free estimate and discuss what options that you have for repair. We’ll also let you know what we believe is the cause of the leaning or tilting chimney, and we can answer any questions that you may have about our process or about your chimney. Give us a call today for more information and to get started on this vital repair.