Fixing Crumbling or Spalling Chimney Bricks

You’re out in your backyard throwing a Frisbee to your dog, and it lands at the base of your chimney. As your dog happily picks up the Frisbee, you notice a number of reddish flakes at the base of the chimney. A closer inspection reveals several bricks in the chimney are flaking and crumbling. You think that this can’t be good — and you’re right. Spalling brick can be a sign of bigger problems like moisture damage or structural issues. Taking care of your chimney with spalling brick repair can eliminate issues that can become bigger and more expensive in the future. Give Expert House Movers a call today for an inspection and professional recommendations on addressing crumbling or spalling bricks.

What Is Spalling Brick?

Spalling brick is the deterioration or decay of the bricks in a brick structure like a masonry chimney, a brick wall, or a retaining wall. It can show itself as flaking or crumbling of the bricks in the structure. You might also notice bits of the mortar around the bricks crumbling or missing.

If you see signs of spalling brick, it is an indication that there are issues with the brickwork. If this is the case, you need to find out why spalling is occurring.

What Are the Warning Signs of Spalling Brick?

The warning signs of spalling brick include brickwork that is flaking, chipping, or crumbling. You might also notice cracks developing in the structure or pieces of mortar crumbling from around the bricks. In some cases, the bricks may be popping out from the structure or appear to be uneven. The most severe signs are bricks that are falling off the structure or missing.

All of these are the signs of damaged bricks that need to be repaired quickly before things get worse. You need to protect the integrity of the structure and keep yourself and your family safe.

What Causes Spalling Brick?

Spalling occurs most typically as a result of moisture getting inside the brickwork. Bricks are made of clay, which is a porous material. When bricks get wet, they absorb the water. In colder climates, this can lead to big problems since homeowners are vulnerable to freeze-thaw cycles. When the water inside the brick freezes, it expands and pushes bits of brick out of the way. This creates tiny cracks in the brick.

When the temperature rises, the ice inside the brick thaws, and the water runs out of the brick. In time, water once again finds its way into the brick, but this time it settles in the crack that was made from the previous moisture. Then, during the next freeze cycle, the ice expands, making the existing crack even bigger. As this cycle continues, the brick is damaged further until, over time, it starts to fall apart.

Another cause of spalling brick is the quality of the brick and mortar used in construction. If the brick and mortar are of poor quality, they won’t allow the bricks to expand safely during the freeze-thaw process resulting in faster deterioration of the brick.

Other possible causes of spalling brick include weather, poor construction quality, and possible damage from cleaning attempts such as power washing or sandblasting.

How Do You Prevent Spalling Brick?

Prevention is always the best way to avoid expensive problems with your brick chimney. Here are some things you can do to prevent spalling brick:

  • Ensure water is not pooling around your foundation: Water damage is the number one enemy of your home, so waterproofing is extremely important. Always make sure water drains away from the home’s foundation and that the gutter downspouts are pointed away from your house. Pooling water could seep into the bricks at the bottom of your chimney leading to moisture damage.
  • Install a chimney cap: Chimney caps keep water, snow, and animals out of your chimney. You don’t want rainwater or melting snow to get to the bricks on the inside of your chimney, as the resulting moisture will damage the bricks.
  • Be careful when cleaning your brickwork: Everybody loves using a power washer, but your bricks might not. The high pressure can weaken the bricks and push out the mortar in the mortar joints leading to structural damage.
  • Inspect your chimney regularly: The first line of defense is the homeowner, so make sure you take a good look at the brickwork in your chimney at regular intervals. Look for cracks, flaking, or missing pieces of brick or mortar.
  • Get a professional inspection: It’s important for you to look out for signs of brick spalling, but you may miss things that only a professional can spot. Regular chimney inspections from a chimney sweep will help you save money on something that can cost you far more down the road.

Is Spalling Brick Dangerous?

In a word, yes. Spalling brick can be a sign of major structural problems that are not visible to the homeowner. The structural damage can lead to pieces of brick, mortar, or even an entire brick falling from the chimney. The falling debris could damage your roof or, worse, seriously injure someone below.

In a worst-case scenario, the structural damage could cause an entire collapse of the chimney. The resulting collapse could bring major damage to other parts of your house or serious injury to anyone nearby.

How Do You Repair Spalling Brick in a Chimney?

While your neighbor might tell you that all you need is to replace the missing mortar by repointing the brickwork, chimney repair is not a simple do-it-yourself home improvement project. It requires special tools and skills that the average homeowner doesn’t have. In addition, to repair bricks at the top of your chimney, you will have to get on the roof, putting yourself at risk for a fall.

The basic repair process is to remove the old brick using a drill or blade saw with a masonry bit attached. A chisel can be used to remove smaller pieces of mortar that still remain. Once the space is properly cleaned, a layer of new mortar is applied using a trowel. A new brick is placed on top of the mortar and any remaining gaps are carefully filled in with more mortar. Any excess mortar is then removed using a masonry joint raker.

The most important part of the repair process is finding the root cause of the spalling. If moisture is creating structural problems, you have to figure out how moisture is entering, or any repairs will make little difference. Finding how moisture is getting in is not easy, and professional help is the best course of action.

The Chimney Professionals at Expert House Movers

Expert House Movers offers complete chimney services to homeowners in Virginia Beach and North Carolina. Our professionals will inspect your chimney and fireplace for spalling brick, moisture damage, or any other issues that may exist and offer you the best options available. Call us at (844) 252-2211 or contact us online to discuss your spalling brick repair.

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