Crew on jobsite in winter installing push pier

Tilting Chimney

A cracking, leaning chimney is one of the more dramatic signs of foundation failure. Learn how to identify and repair failing chimneys.

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Enjoying a warm night by the fireplace is a favorite winter pastime for many families. However, if your chimney tilts or leans away from your home, this innocent activity may quickly turn dangerous. Using a chimney that has started to separate from your home’s structure can introduce toxic gases throughout your house. You may also find your home suffering from further structural damage just below the surface as well. 

What can cause a chimney to lean in the first place? How can Innovative Basement Authority repair your chimney so that it will never tilt or break away from your home again? Let’s take a closer look.

Problem Signs to Watch Out For

The average homeowner might not even notice when their chimney is having issues. Fortunately, there are quite a few obvious problem signs that point to chimney damage. Keeping an eye out for them can help you stop any structural issues from growing even worse.  

  • Leaning or Tilting Chimney 

Your chimney should always remain perfectly straight and aligned with your home’s infrastructure. Should this structure begin to lean away from your home, you need to have it repaired right away. The average chimney weighs anywhere between 2 to 7 tons. On the off chance it fully breaks away from your home, your chimney will cause substantial damage to your property or your surrounding neighbors’ properties. The falling debris may even severely harm anyone who happens to be nearby as well. 

This is why you must repair a leaning or tilting chimney as soon as you can. Waiting around to fix even a small gap or crack may result in disastrous consequences. A leaning or tilting chimney in itself is also a problem sign of a larger issue—foundation damage. This can negatively affect your entire home, and even cause your walls and doorways to start tilting out of alignment as well. 

Rather than being all a part of the same foundation, your chimney’s foundation is often added to the home’s foundation. These foundations may be constructed at the same time, but the fact that they are not a single unit may also contribute to the chimney leaning or tilting in the future. 

Do bear in mind that some chimney types are constructed to lean in some way. Usually, this is due to a construction error where the fireplace was not centered in your home properly. The brick courses are then offset from where they would be normally placed to create the illusion of symmetry from the outside. Fortunately, contractors will know how to stabilize this defect afterward. You will not have to worry if you notice a slight tilt as long as the horizontal mortar joints are level and do not move. 

Innovative Basement Authority offers free foundation inspections to homeowners in Minnesota, North Dakota, and eastern Montana. Be sure to take advantage of this to ensure your home and your chimney remains level and safe for years to come.  

  • Gaps 

Spotting a gap between your home and your chimney can indicate major structural damage, no matter how small the gap is. You may think ignoring a tiny gap will do your home no harm. The longer you neglect to repair your leaning chimney, the worse the internal damage may become. 

You will notice gaps more easily on the outside of your home rather than from the inside. Gaps typically appear between the joint between the side of your home and the exterior side of your chimney. If you have moved into an older home, you may also notice glimpses of old repairs. These clearly have not worked if your chimney continues to tilt farther away from your home. 

You may also notice gaps in your attic’s framed opening if the chimney runs through there. This proves your chimney is not the only part of your home affected by this type of damage. You need to call the foundation experts at Innovative Basement Authority right away to have this matter fixed. 

  • Cracks  

Finding cracks sprouting up your chimney can be troubling in itself. Often, though, these cracks are another sign of significant foundation damage below. That damage may easily spread out, even if your chimney’s foundation is separate from your home’s overall foundation. 

Both gaps and cracks will also allow more moisture to enter your home. This only results in more prominent leaks or even floods in your living room, attic, or other spaces connected to the chimney.  

  • Roof Damage 

A damaged chimney will start to affect other parts of your home as well. You might find the parts of your roof closest to your chimney to be cracked or damaged in some form or another. Again, this allows for leaks or even flooding to run into your attic or other rooms in your home. 

  • Pests 

Cracks or other similar damage to your chimney may act as another opening for pests to sneak into. Ants, cockroaches, mice, or similar vermin can easily slip through the cracks and quickly infest your home. 

You will know that you have a significant infestation once you see these pests scuttling across your floors or walls in broad daylight. Before it gets to this point, it is best to seal away any possible entrances they might slip into, including any gaps or cracks a tilting chimney might cause.

Helical Pier on Concrete

What Causes Chimneys to Lean? 

Chimneys might seem stable and unbreakable for the most part, but they are not invulnerable to wear or damage over time. Here are the most common causes of chimney damage.  

  • Inadequate Chimney Footing 

The footing at the base of your chimney is meant to stabilize this structure and keep it level. The footing must be at least one foot thick and six inches wide on all sides or it is too weak to function properly. In the winter, the footing itself may shift or have immense pressure building around it as the ground underneath freezes and expands to it. This can cause it to crack or even destroy the footing and surrounding foundation completely. 

  • Poor Supporting Soils 

The soil surrounding your chimney plays a much bigger role in maintaining the structure than most homeowners might think. This soil must be compact enough to bear the entire chimney’s weight and keep it standing upright and level. If this soil becomes loose or is of overall poor quality, your chimney will lack the support it sorely needs. 

As it turns out, most soils that support foundations are already loose due to a common construction defect known as the clay bowl effect. When a foundation is first constructed, contractors will dig a large hole in the ground where they plan to lay it. Once this and the entire basement or crawl space are placed in this hole, part of the soil is backfilled in again as support. This once-compact soil is much looser and will likely never compact in the same way again. 

Soils that absorb a lot more water content, such as clay soils, are the worst to use as chimney support. This can be especially troublesome if you live in a humid or wet climate. Your chimney will very likely tilt or even sink into this weaker soil.

What Can Fix a Tilting Chimney? 

When you notice your chimney tilting or leaning, it is best to call the professional foundation experts at Innovative Basement Authority. Our helical piers are the best repair option for your tilting chimney!  

  • Helical Piers  

Innovative Basement Authority’s helical piers work to simultaneously stabilize your chimney and slowly repair any cracks within your foundation. You can rely on these piers to keep your chimney level and upright for many years. 

The spiral-like blades on the ends of these steel piers sets them apart from other pier systems of a similar nature. The blades make the installation process much easier for our foundation experts and will help the piers drive down to the more compact soils below your home. With much more solid support at their bases, both your chimney and your foundation will be structurally sound for years to come. 

  • Installation 

First, our foundation contractors will remove the soil from around the areas where each helical pier will be installed. They will then calculate the proper depths and capacities each pier must be mechanically driven into the more solid soil below. 

Contractors will then mechanically drive each pier deep into the soil underneath your foundation with small construction equipment. Once each pier is installed to the proper depth, contractors will then position heavy-duty steel foundation brackets just below and against the foundation footing to hold the helical piers into place. 

The helical blades are only installed on one end of the pier. The spiral-like blades make it much easier for the contractors to screw each pier into the more compact soils. The rest of the pier helps distribute the weight of your chimney (and your home as a whole) down to these solid soils. The foundation piers will then be able to stabilize your home foundation, and potentially lift it back to its original position by the end of the installation process. You will also find the gaps or cracks along the exterior of your chimney can close up again as well. The soil previously dug from around your foundation is then carefully backfilled in a way that compacts it up again. You will not have to worry about your foundation shifting, settling, or cracking ever again.

Tilting Chimney

FAQ's

A tilting chimney can be a concerning issue for any homeowner. If the gap is small enough, however, it might seem like implementing a simple DIY repair might suffice. Are there easy chimney repair solutions available for the average homeowner? Can you fix your leaning chimney by yourself?  

  • Why DIY Repairs Will Not Work 

Many home improvement stores will often peddle quick DIY repair methods that claim to be able to fix your leaning chimney. You might think that filling in that small void between your home and the chimney with caulk, foam, insulation, or other quick-dry material is enough. If you have moved into an older home where the previous owner has also implemented these solutions, then you might falsely believe that they will continue to hold up your tilting chimney. 

Unfortunately, these so-called “solutions” will only serve as temporary fixes. At best, they only delay the inevitable. Not to mention that they will have to be scraped out anyway as soon as you implement some real repairs. If you notice your chimney starting to tilt, it is best to call the foundation experts at Innovative Basement Authority to fix it for you. 

  •  Helical Piers Benefits 

Helical piers offer plenty of benefits that other DIY solutions simply will not have. For instance, Innovative Basement Authority guarantees a solid galvanized steel design that will bear both extremely heavy and relatively light chimneys. Our helical piers do not rely on the weight of the structure to drive themselves into your soil. Rather, the mechanically driven piers are installed at precise locations and will support your entire home as a whole. The rounded shaft ends have a high resistance to bending. You do not have to worry about any of these steel piers breaking under the weight of your home.

Your leaning chimney is a big enough problem on its own. Unfortunately, the damage may not stop there. Other areas of your home might become negatively impacted by the foundational damage caused by a tilted chimney, too.  

  • Foundation 

Any damage your chimney sustains can easily spread down to your home foundation as well, even if your chimney rests on a separate foundation beside the original one. In fact, noticing significant damage to your chimney often indicates the reverse—that your cracked or settled foundation is actually the cause for this damage in the first place. 

Keep in mind that a cracked foundation can affect more than just your chimney. Your house’s entire infrastructure relies on this one component to stay standing. If your foundation has cracked, shifted, or settled, you might find other aspects of your home starting to lean or tilt as well. It is possible your walls, doorways, and windowsills will begin to sway. You may even find your floor starting to dip in places. Not only will this make your home more difficult to navigate, but this spells out disaster for your home overall. 

It might become more difficult for you to open or close your doors and windows. You might find yourself tripping more often. Several areas of your home might even become the nesting grounds for various unwanted pests and vermin. No homeowner wants to have to deal with a broken foundation, let alone the other problems that come with it. Innovative Basement Authority will offer you the best solution to restore and repair your foundation so that this will not happen. 

  • Basement or Crawl Space 

Because your basement is the closest room to your foundation, you might find underlying damage spreading here as well. If you notice any leaks, cracks, or other smaller signs of damage here, it is likely that the root of it lies within your foundation. It is not wise to ignore any of these problem signs for very long. Both leaks and cracks are large contributors to flooding in the basement. Flooding, in turn, can bring about other unwanted issues, such as pests drawn to the excess moisture or mold and mildew growth. 

Similarly, if you have a crawl space instead of a basement, this area might be encountering the same issues. The crawl space houses many of the most vital components of your home, such as your plumbing, your HVAC system, your insulation, your foundation, and more. It is best to call Innovative Basement Authority to take care of any repairs your crawl space might need.

Innovative Basement Authority Offers the Best Chimney Repair Solutions 

If you notice a gap between the joint between the exterior of your chimney and your home, then this is a sign your chimney is starting to break away from your house. Of course, a leaning or tilting chimney is rightfully alarming in itself. Fortunately, Innovative Basement Authority’s helical pier system can easily stabilize, repair, and restore your leaning chimney! Contact us for a free foundation inspection and written foundation repair estimate. Our warrantied solutions will quickly and permanently solve any foundation issues your home may be facing.

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