There are many homes across Nashville, TN that have chimneys, either because they have working fireplaces or because they used to, and the chimney stack itself is all that is left. Whatever the state of your internal fireplace, your chimney stack is an incredibly vulnerable part of your home that you should investigate regularly for signs of movement and damage. If it becomes too damaged, a chimney stack can start to pull away from the main home and even collapse entirely.
When a tilting chimney becomes a collapsing chimney, the consequences can be dire. From widespread structural damage to serious injury (or even hospitalization), this is an issue that you should not ignore. Of course, being able to nip it in the bud means being able to spot the problem signs that are associated with this issue and understanding just what a tilting chimney can mean for your home.
Problem Signs: What a Tilting Chimney Can Mean
A tilting or leaning chimney is an unsafe chimney, whether you are in Mobile, AL, or another area. However, a tilting chimney stack is a problem sign that lets you know that your home’s structure is being impacted by pressure and instability. Of course, the underlying factors can be varied and there are some issues that are more common than others. If you have a tilting chimney, then it is likely that it is a problem sign for one of the following issues:
Foundation Settlement or Sinking
Any movement in your property’s foundation can have a significant impact on every part of its structure, including the roof and chimney stack. A tilting chimney can be a sign of general foundation movement (for example, lateral movement) but is far more likely to be a problem sign of issues like sinking and settlement.
These issues, in turn, are most related to issues with moisture management and soil movement. Expansive soils and loose or weak soils are the most likely to cause issues in a property, of course, and can cause sinking or settlement because of soil movement. This movement can either come from extreme pressure, saturation, or dehydration.
Expansive soils can shrink and expand, depending on their water content. Repeated periods of saturation and dehydration can cause the property’s foundation to crack and shift. This, in turn, can destabilize your chimney stack.
Damaged Foundation Walls
Your property’s foundation walls are subject to serious amounts of hydrostatic pressure due to their placement. While they are designed to withstand this pressure, there is a limit to what they can withstand, and hydrostatic pressure is a changeable force. If the area gets unusually high rain or sees flooding, then the levels of hydrostatic pressure will rise quite considerably.
This level of hydrostatic pressure can cause foundation walls to start buckling and bowing. Bowing walls are a significant issue that you should not ignore. They will slowly collapse, over time, and will destabilize your home’s structure as a whole. You will recognize bowing walls by visible unevenness and cracking, as well as general dampness.
If your foundation walls start to bow, then it is likely that a tilting chimney stack will be one of the first visible problem signs. Unfortunately, it can also be a serious issue all on its own. Therefore, you should talk to a professional as soon as possible.
Damage or Flaws in the Chimney Stack
Finally, a tilting chimney can be indicative of defects in the chimney itself. These can be problems with the design of the chimney stack or with the materials used in the building of the chimney stack as a whole.
This can happen because the concrete used to hold the bricks together has fundamental flaws or because the bricks used are weak and damaged. Alternatively, the problem could be with the way in which the chimney has been designed. Whatever the case, a defective chimney is a dangerous and unstable one.
Of course, each of these issues can cause other forms of damage over time. As such, learning to spot the problem signs that are connected to these other forms of damage is hugely beneficial for homeowners.
Other Warning Signs to Look Out For
If you want to catch damage and get it repaired before it escalates into something more serious, then you need to be able to recognize other warning signs and act appropriately. The following are the most associated with a tilting chimney and the secondary damage that most often co-occurs.
If you see cracks in your property’s chimney stack, or in the walls and flooring around it, this is a strong sign that something has gone wrong. You should consider whether the cracks are stable or actively growing. Stable cracks that do not grow or spread are most often signs of old damage, but spreading cracks is another matter.
The rate at which cracks grow and spread can tell you a huge amount about how serious the pressure behind your tilting chimney is. Of course, spreading cracks can be connected to any situation or process that creates enough pressure to crack concrete.
One of the strongest signs of damage to your property’s chimney is visible unevenness and damage. If you can see a gap between your chimney stack and the main structure of your property, or your chimney looks visibly uneven, you should act quickly.
This kind of structural instability and damage is a sign of advanced damage to your home. As such, you should call an expert quickly and stay clear of the chimney stack until it can be stabilized and repaired.
If you find signs of dampness in the interior spaces around your chimney stack, then you should investigate quickly. This is a big red flag and could indicate hidden structural damage to your chimney or the walls and floor around it. If this is indeed the case, then you could catch the damage before it escalates.
The signs of dampness in a property include, but are not limited to: humidity, condensation, unpleasant odors, increasing energy bills, and the formation and spread of fungal growths. Of course, dampness is a very general problem sign, so you should have a professional come out and investigate the area.
Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew formation go hand in hand with dampness and humidity, so if you see them forming, you should call a professional as soon as possible. Mold and mildew are not overly damaging to your home (though they can pose a real risk to your health and wellbeing). There is another fungal growth you should worry about, however: wood rot.
There are three kinds of wood rot: brown, white, and soft. While each looks slightly different, they all cause damage to wooden surfaces around a property and will wreak havoc if you let them. So, it is best to act quickly.
If parts of your chimney stack start to crumble or collapse, then you should contact a professional as soon as possible. Even cosmetic levels of damage should be thoroughly investigated to ensure that the cause is, indeed, benign.
Cosmetic or partial collapse can be caused by wear and tear from poor weather, as well as defects in the materials used to build the chimney in the first place.
If you see any of these warning signs, please do not hesitate to contact a professional right away. Doing so could save you a huge amount of time and money. The process of repair will depend on the nature of the damage and its severity.
Straightening Your Tilting Chimney
When it comes to tilting chimneys and chimney stacks, there are several viable solutions on the market right now. Most professionals will recommend that you choose SettleStop Helical Piers to stabilize and reposition a damaged chimney stack permanently.
Helical piers are a form of foundation pier. Foundation piers are used to lift, straighten, and support properties that are moving or sinking because of issues in the soil underneath their foundation. These piers, whether helical or resistance, transfer the weight of a property or structure from the loose or incompetent soil directly below it to stronger, load-bearing strata far below the frost line.
Of course, helical piers will not always be the best solution to your property’s issues. Therefore, it is imperative that you contact a professional as soon as you see any damage. Only an expert can properly identify and deal with all the co-occurring issues and contributing factors.
Generally speaking, helical pier installation has four steps:
Any repair method for structural problems like a tilting chimney or damaged foundation will require a certain level of excavation to ensure that it can be properly installed. This requires specialist equipment and tools, as well as a serious amount of time and effort.
When it is your chimney that requires this attention, most of the excavation should be undertaken from the outside. The main exception, of course, would be if the chimney in question is in the middle of your home.
Once your foundation has been exposed in the necessary areas, the helical piers will be placed and driven into the ground until they meet sufficient resistance. In most cases, more than one helical pier will be needed. However, the precise number will depend on the situation in your home. A professional will be able to give you a rough estimate when they assess your home for the first time.
Once the helical piers have been properly placed, the weight of the structure they need to support will have to be transferred onto the pier and, by extension, the healthy soil beneath it. If the piers have been properly placed, then this should be a straightforward process. The only time where this process might cause issues is if the piers have been placed improperly. This may lead to them bending under pressure.
Once the piers have been properly installed and the weight of the structure has been transferred, the excavated sites will be covered up so that the result is seamless. This final stage is the quickest but the most important in maintaining your property’s ambiance. Professionals will always clean up after themselves and leave your property in the best possible state.
Several issues can contribute toward a tilting or damaged chimney stack in or around your home. Of course, some are more likely than others, but they can all be split into the categories of damage and defects.
Any damage to the structure of your property will cause instability that can inevitably lead to further damage and problems in your home. Foundation problems, for example, are notoriously prone to causing things like bowing walls and sagging flooring. A tilting chimney will be a natural result of these kinds of issues when they are left unchecked.
These kinds of issues are caused either by an excessive level of pressure or a lack of support in key areas. This can happen because of loose soil, expansive or changeable soil, or extreme weather and climatic conditions. Flooding, drought, and poor drainage can all create the correct conditions for structural damage and movement. Of course, in most cases this damage will build up over a long time.
If the damage to your chimney, or your home as a whole, comes on quickly and without any obvious reason, then there is a high chance that the materials that have been used are simply defective or that the chimney stack was poorly designed. If the chimney is too tall, too heavy, improperly prepared to deal with heat, or is poorly supported, then it will start to suffer very quickly.
Defective or flawed materials and design are incredibly rare, thankfully, but if this is the case, any issues you might have will recur repeatedly until you hire a professional to assess the state of your home.
As soon as you notice the warning signs, it is time to contact a professional to come check out the potential damage.
Waiting is Dangerous
Waiting is a dangerous game when it comes to structural damage. Any amount of time spent waiting for the signs of development will lead to the issues growing more severe. If you wait too long, then they could cause secondary or even tertiary issues, all of which require their own solutions. This can be incredibly expensive in terms of time and money, of course, but it can also be very dangerous.
Structural damage, as a whole, is incredibly unstable and unpredictable. Foundation damage, in particular, is notorious for developing at an exponential rate and putting serious pressure on the whole structure of a property very quickly. As such, it will never be safer, easier, or cheaper to repair a tilting chimney, or any structural issue, than the day that you first become aware of it.
The Benefits of Acting Quickly
Acting quickly in the face of structural damage will save you a huge amount of money and stress, of course, but it could also save you from injury. A tilting chimney is inherently unstable. If it is put under any serious amount of pressure, then there is a very real and genuine risk that it will break away from the property and collapse.
If this happens, then it will pose a significant risk to the health and wellbeing of anyone in its vicinity. In fact, it could even be fatal for anyone directly under it. A collapsing chimney will also bring parts of the rest of the structure down with it. As such, avoiding this issue is one of the main benefits of calling a professional to repair your home quickly. The other benefits are peace of mind and a flawless finish that will make your home look good as new.
No, you should not try to fix structural damage of any kind alone. Doing so could lead to serious issues and even injury to those helping you to deal with the damage. As such, it is best to call in a professional to get the best results.
DIY Is Not Cheaper
The reason that most people choose to undertake DIY is to save time and money, and while we understand the desire to save money in the current climate, we urge you not to cut corners when it comes to structural repair. Doing so could be dangerous for your home and health. What’s worse, DIY won’t be cheaper in any significant sense when it comes to structural repairs.
One of the main problems is that you will need to rent the excavation equipment needed to expose the very base of your property’s structure. Likewise, if the underlying issues in your home require foundation repair, you will also need to rent hydraulic equipment to properly place and set the helical piers and transfer the weight of your property. All of this comes with a hefty cost attached to it.
Professionals Guarantee Results
Professionals have all the tools and equipment they need on hand, as well as the training, skills, and experience to use the tools properly. As well as being comparable in cost, professionals can offer you a far better experience and results. This means fewer delays, fewer accidents, and a better repair overall.
As such, you can expect a professional job to be quicker, less fraught with setbacks, and more durable in the long-run. This means that you will get great, long-term results at a cost that is comparable to the cost of DIY. As such, we always recommend that you choose professional services where it comes to structural damage of any kind. It is simply not worth the risk of going it alone!
Choose AFS for Expert Chimney Repair in Nashville, TN
If you have started to see signs of movement and damage to your property’s chimney, then you should act quickly. Calling in a professional to deal with your property’s tilting chimney as soon as you see signs of damage and deterioration could make all the difference when it comes to the cost of repairs (in both time and money). Here at AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists, we have decades of collective experience in repairing this kind of damage.
Whatever your home looks like, the repair process will begin with a full inspection of the damage to identify connected issues and underlying causes. We offer free inspection appointments that come with a written estimate for the cost of all repairs that we suggest. This should allow you to make an educated decision about what is best for your home, whether you are in Birmingham, AL, Huntsville, AL, Mobile, AL, Nashville, TN, Chattanooga, TN, or Knoxville, TN.