How to inspect a chimney

Here’s what to look for when inspecting a chimney

Nearly 75% of the chimneys built before 1990 are in need of some kind of repair. That’s according to Randy Sloss, a mason for Mosby Building Arts

Randy also advises that nearly half of them should be torn down and rebuilt.

I was a little surprised; I would have put both numbers higher, based on my experience as a home inspector.

It should be no surprise that chimneys are often in disrepair, given that wind, rain, heat and cold are so prevalent at the top of a house. And a chimney is hard to see very well from the ground. Besides, How often do folks look at them, anyway?

The first things to look for are missing components, cracks and leaning.

There should always be a cap, something to keep animals out.

If a furnace or water heater uses the chimney, there should always be a metal liner.

The crown should be in good shape, without cracks or caulk.

The mortar between the bricks turns to sand after a few years and washes out. Replacing that mortar is called “tuck pointing”, and done by a real mason-not an uncle with a 6-pack of beer.

A chimney, like a fireplace, is a pass/fail item. If it needs work, don’t put it off. The cost of failure is extremely high.