DIY Masonry Chimney Repair: A Warning
The do-it-yourself movement has taken the world by storm. With the ability to bring up video walkthroughs for most tasks, hiring a specialist is often viewed as a last resort. The spread of information over the internet is an amazing and life changing phenomenon. Suddenly, replacing the belt in your vacuum is no big deal. Changing fuses in your car is a snap. Is your garbage disposal clogged? You can find countless walk-throughs to help clear that obstruction.
This prevalence of do-it-yourself walk-throughs, however, has left people attempting do-it-yourself projects that are sometimes best left to the professionals. While saving money in the short term is a great thing, it’s important to remember the long term too. Saving money right now hardly counts if it ends up costing you twice as much later.
Masonry is especially susceptible to the DIY problem. Countless articles exist online about repointing brickwork, filling splits or cracks, or even replacing spalled brick. As chimneys are often in need of some work, many look to these articles when contemplating how to fix their masonry chimneys. While these might seem like helpful resources, in the long run they can cost you more in time and money than your local masonry professional.
Most DIY masonry repair articles mention mortar only in passing. While they mention its use between layers of brick, they rarely emphasize that mortar isn’t just a slapdash mixture of sand and water. This omission can be costly and belies their disinterest in supplying a genuinely useful article as any trained mason knows that improperly mixed mortar can cause massive masonry damage.
Mortar exists as a cushion between bricks. As bricks swell and contract from temperature changes, a proper mortar absorbs these changes. Gradually, that causes the mortar to crumble. This mortar can then be replaced with relative ease by a professional, providing another 25 or more years of low-maintenance service.
If the mortar is mixed so that it is stronger than the surrounding brick, temperature changes actually cause the mortar to squeeze, and thus damage, the brick. This causes the bricks to spall. Spalled bricks cannot be repaired, and must be replaced before further damage accrues. If incorrect mortar mixture is the cause of the spalling, the mortar must also be replaced to prevent further damage.
Mortar that is too soft, on the other hand, quickly deteriorates and requires premature replacement or repair. If it deteriorates faster than surrounding mortar, this can create instability in the masonry, and if left unchecked can even cause collapse.
When so many masonry professionals offer free initial consultations, taking advice from strangers over the internet seems a poor choice. For those in Northern Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland, High’s Chimney offers free masonry estimates where we discuss problems with your masonry chimney and how we would fix them. Not just handy-men, our highly trained masons have years of experience, ensuring that your masonry chimney is safe.