A fireplace can be one of the primary centerpieces of a home. Whether it is used in your kitchen, a bedroom, or living area, the warmth and light that it exudes draws people near it for fellowship. If you’ve spent the money to install/maintain a fireplace in your home, then you know that it should work as well as it looks.
The hidden yet primary worker of a fireplace is a chimney. When a fire is lit, it goes overtime to ensure that the smoke is funneled outside rather than filling your home. Without a properly working chimney, your fireplace will either be purely decorative or a nightmare when you strike a match in the firebox.
When you set out to repair or restore your chimney, it’s best to get an idea of how much it is going to cost, how it can be done, and what sorts of repairs you might need. Here’s an overview of some basic knowledge that will help you make the right decisions for your home, family, and beautiful fireplace.
How Much Do Chimney Repairs Cost?
Costs will vary depending on what feature of your chimney needs repairs, but the average cost would be around $576. Your price will depend on the material your chimney is made from, the size, the kind of issues you are dealing with, etc.
A basic brick-and-mortar repair could cost anywhere between $253-$2,532, and the price point will fluctuate depending on what type of material your chimney is built from. Brick repair will be a cheaper option, whereas stucco can easily go from $1,266-$5,064 if your repair needs are more extensive. Individual features (cracks, wood rot, etc.) can be as low as a few hundred dollars to repair if there isn’t much, but issues like spalling (broken or missing bricks and stones), repointing, or tuckpointing (replacing mortar, sometimes aesthetically) can cost much more.
One of the most costly issues you could encounter is waiting too long to fix an issue (especially in the crowning) which could result in the need for a full replacement of the chimney. In that case, you could be paying well into the thousands instead of hundreds, so be sure to jump on repairs in a timely manner!
And if you notice damage to your chimney, hold off using the fireplace until you can get it fixed! Working with a damaged chimney can cause even more damage and be dangerous.
Are Chimney Repairs Covered by Insurance?
Homeowners’ insurance tends to cover unexpected or unprecedented events (also known as “Acts of God”) such as natural disasters. If your chimney is damaged by a violent flood, earthquake, tornado, etc. then you have a good chance that your insurance will cover the repairs.
However, if your repair needs stem from something a little less catastrophic – like old, worn-out materials or your contractor doing a bad job building it – then you might have a little more trouble filing a claim. Insurance companies need to see proof that the damage didn’t come from your own lack of routine maintenance or ill-chosen craftsman.
The best thing to do is to check your fireplace and chimney regularly for issues and get people that you can trust to install anything that it needs. Then, know what your insurance plan covers and keep yourself up to date on what it offers. Do your best to find the plan that is best for your family! “Insurance is an investment,” says Pete Karageorgos, the director of consumer and industry relations at the Insurance Bureau of Canada “so you want to take the time and do it right.”
Can a Roofer Repair a Chimney?
Whether or not a roofer is the best choice to repair your chimney depends on what exactly the repair is!
If your issue has to do with a leak, there are a couple of things to look into before hiring anyone. Water coming down your chimney can be an issue that stems from a broken cap or crown (what covers the chimney up at the top), or from cracks and broken bits in the chimney itself with the brick or stones. If these are the cases, then you should consider calling a chimney specialist rather than a roofer. Roofers won’t have the experience or knowledge to handle the problem the same way that someone whose expertise lies in chimneys will.
A third option, though, is that your chimney might be leaking from the flashing. Flashing is a thin piece of metal that attaches the chimney to the rest of the roof around it. When it becomes warped or out of place (or maybe even attacked by wild animals seeking your chimney for a new home), water can come through what was once airtight. In these cases, a roofer is actually a good person to call because the process of replacing the flashing will require the removal of the roof around the chimney, and the ability to put it back together afterwards. Be sure to find an experienced roofer for this and one who will offer you proper materials for your flashing!
Other issues with a chimney may require other specialists. Brick masons will be able to rebuild major aspects of your chimney, or even replace it completely if it came to that. And chimney sweeps do more than sing and dance through London: they play an important role in cleaning and maintaining your chimney, as well as fixing moderate damages in the brick and mortar. So while a roofer is great for flashing or other areas of your roof, in these other areas you will get the best quality work with someone who knows exactly how to deal with a chimney.
What Are the Most Common Types of Chimney Repairs?
Like any part of a house, chimneys need a lot of maintenance and routine checks to make sure that they are functioning properly. And because they deal with fire and gas, neglecting to do these things can be quite hazardous for you and your family. Knowing what some of the most commonly needed chimney repairs are can inform and inspire you to take a look at your own chimney and determine whether or not it might be time to get someone out there to fix it up.
Blockage is anything that is plugging up the chimney and keeping it from releasing the smoke and gases properly. It might be anything from a bird’s nest to just a buildup of waste and debris, but either way, it is imperative to keep blockage out of your chimney! Unaddressed blockage can result in house fires.
One of the most dangerous forms of blockage is creosote. As you burn wood in your firebox, both soot and black tar (creosote) will float up the chimney and get deposited in the lining of the flue. Creosote is flammable and is the cause of many chimney fires in homes. Like other blockages, creosote can also impede the escape of carbon monoxide out of the chimney. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, and colorless gas that is deadly to humans and frequently found in homes that have malfunctioning chimneys. When there is no airflow in and out of a home, a fire will devour what little oxygen there is, and then carbon dioxide; finally creating carbon monoxide which has nowhere to go if the chimney is blocked. The only option is for it to flow back into your home.
Ensuring that your chimney is regularly checked and cleared of blockage (and NOT using it if you know that it is blocked!) will reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. But even so, it’s a good idea to buy a carbon monoxide alarm if you use a fireplace or any fuel-burning device in your home. Far, far better to be safe than sorry!
The lining in your chimney (also called flue lining) is one of the most important pieces. It is what helps vent your chimney (and prevent things like carbon monoxide poisoning). A cracked lining could be extremely dangerous because it can also spread fires to parts of your home that could catch fire.
If you do not have a stainless steel flue lining, consider getting one. Steel, rather than clay, is far more heat resistant and therefore damage resistant, and takes much longer to need replacing. Be sure to examine your chimney lining regularly (at least once a year) to ensure that all is working properly and to mitigate any damages!
Caps and Crowns
When you think about the fact that a fireplace/chimney’s primary function is, well, fire, then it makes sense that its most deadly enemy would be water. A chimney’s cap and crown are on the front lines against this enemy, and if they aren’t in top shape then the structural integrity of your chimney could pay the price.
A chimney crown is a slab that seals off your chimney from water and the elements. If it is cracked or not as watertight as it is meant to be, then the water can trickle in and cause the mortar of your chimney to soften and begin to crumble. Crowns need to be checked frequently to ensure that they are working up to snuff.
A chimney cap is a part that covers the flue and keeps everything from rain, debris, and curious wildlife from sneaking in. Without a proper cap, rust and decay can enter the chimney, and gases and fires could enter your home.
The structure of a chimney itself – the brickwork, stucco, stone, etc. – can actually be one of the most enduring elements of a chimney if the masonry was done right. But with time, erosion, and of course improper maintenance of the cap and crown, the chimney can need repairs just like any other function.
If a brick is cracked or out of place, then “repointing” or “tuckpointing” can be done to fix the problem. Repointing is grinding out the mortar between bricks that is getting worn down and replacing it with fresh mortar. Tuckpointing is replacing the mortar and choosing that matches both the original mortar and the bricks to refine the lines and create an aesthetic approach to the repair.
It is possible that you may have to replace entire bricks on your chimney if there has been too much damage done to them. This can be frustrating, but remember that it is cheaper in both the financial realm and in the peace of mind to pay someone to replace a few bricks instead of dealing with an entirely collapsed chimney.
All of this may sound expensive, overwhelming, and maybe not even worth having a fireplace to deal with in the first place. But that does not have to be the case! Remember that fireplaces are an investment for you and your home, and keeping them that way can make your days in the house that much better, and also improve the value of your home.
The best times to have an inspection of your chimney is right before and right after the wintertime (which is when fireplace use is the most prominent). It’s important to catch issues before they become dangerous or catastrophic events that can claim lives. It doesn’t have to be scary with some precautions and knowledge about how your fireplace works and what sorts of things to be aware of. And your inspector, of course, should know these things as well and can discuss them with you.
A fireplace can be one of the primary centerpieces of a home. Whether it is used in your kitchen, a bedroom, or living area, the warmth and light that it exudes draws people near it for fellowship. Don’t let small issues detract from that fact, and give your chimney what it needs to protect the fireplace so that your house and family can enjoy all of the benefits!