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What Causes Chimney Leaning?

What Causes Chimney Leaning?

Stroll through any typical American neighborhood, and you'll likely see more than a few chimneys. For some homeowners, the fireplace is merely decorative, while others rely on it regularly to keep them warm in winter. Chimneys are essential to a healthy fireplace, and when they're neglected or damaged, they can begin leaning and eventually topple over. This blog post examines why chimneys lean, what damage can happen, and how to prevent it.

Leaning chimney repairs in Camp Hill & New Cumberland, PA

What Causes Chimney Leaning?

Foundation Issues

The most common cause of a leaning chimney is problems with the foundation. Unlike the rest of the home, which might be built on a deep, well-constructed foundation, chimneys often rest on shallow footings. If these footings aren't adequately designed or properly constructed, or if the soil beneath them is unstable or compressible, the foundation may settle unevenly, causing the chimney to tilt.

Soil Shifting

Soil moving or shifting under the chimney can also cause it to lean. This can be due to soil erosion, inadequate drainage around the chimney's base, or the natural settling of soil over time. Seasonal freeze/thaw cycles can exacerbate this, as ice formation can push the chimney upward and outward.

Structural Deterioration

Over time, the materials used in chimney construction can deteriorate. Bricks and mortar exposed to constant heating and cooling cycles and weathering can crack and weaken. As the structural integrity of the chimney declines, it may start to lean under its weight.

Improper Construction

If a chimney isn't constructed according to proper building standards, including inadequate tying or bonding to the house's main structure, it may lack the stability it needs to remain upright. This issue can manifest years after the original construction.

Potential Damage from a Leaning Chimney

Leaning chimneys are serious problems that pose several risks, including:

Structural Damage

As the chimney leans, it can pull away from the house, causing damage to the roof, walls, and potentially the house's internal structure. This can lead to costly repairs and decrease property value.

Safety Hazards

A significantly leaning chimney could collapse, posing serious safety risks. Falling bricks and debris can be hazardous to occupants, passersby, and neighboring properties.

Water Infiltration

Gaps that form between the chimney and house structure can allow water to seep in, leading to moisture problems like mold, mildew, and water damage in the home.

How to Prevent Chimney Leaning

Now that you know how damaging a leaning chimney can be, here are a few things you can do to prevent it.

Regular Inspection and Maintenance

Hiring a professional chimney contractor to inspect your chimney at least once a year is crucial. Pros have the training to detect minor issues that could cause the chimney to lean and other damage, like damaged bricks and deteriorating mortar joints, and recommend repairs to prevent a catastrophe.

Ensure Proper Construction

If you're building a home with a fireplace, ensure the chimney construction is done by qualified professionals with a track record for solid construction. This includes proper footing depth and materials, correct bonding to the house, and using high-quality materials resistant to weathering.

Enhancing Drainage

Improving drainage around the chimney's base can prevent soil saturation and reduce the risk of soil movement. This involves installing proper gutters and downspouts, grading the land away from the chimney, and adding additional soil stabilization measures.

Chimney inspections and leaning chimney repair in Hershey & York, PA

Address Foundation Issues

If, during a chimney inspection, you detect foundation issues that could lead to your chimney leaning, it's crucial to fix them sooner rather than later. Depending on the issue, you may have to underpin the chimney's foundation with piers designed to reach stable soil or bedrock layers.

Since 1990, Anderson's Chimney has been South Central, PA's most trusted chimney and fireplace service company because we do it all. Whether you need chimney sweeping, chimney cap installation, chimney repairs, chimney rebuilding, flue liner installation, or anything else, you can count on our certified pros to do the job right the first time.

Book us today by calling (717)-975-3526.

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