The chimney is an important part of a home, but, unfortunately, it is often neglected. Apart from stone chimneys, which are the most durable and hassle-free ones, all other materials can be quite complicated, especially when they go decades without at least basic maintenance. Regular inspection, along with occasional chimney masonry repair, is the only way to keep a chimney looking as new for longer. Unlike other parts of a home, where signs of decay can only be noticed upon close inspection, damage to the chimney is quite noticeable and it can completely ruin the aspect of a building. Needless to say, an old chimney can be hazardous to the health of the people living inside and to the integrity of the building as a whole. Old chimneys are unstable and pieces of them can fall off, damaging the roof and hitting pedestrians. Also, they can have problems with ventilation, which are very dangerous.
Time is a universal cause for deteriorations, but other causes are specific to some locations. For example, a humid climate characterized by heavy rainfall is a huge problem, because water penetration damages chimneys. As mentioned previously, stone is not that affected, but all other masonry materials, such as concrete, mortar and iron are. Permanent moisture makes the object less solid, loosening its bonds and causing them to rust. Also, when water gets inside and freezes during winter, volume expands, putting a strain on the entire structure and causing it to break. It also causes bad smells and wall damage.
Regular inspection is recommended to keep these problems at bay. You should ask your local contractor to have a look at your chimney at least once a year. If you live in an area with heavy rainfall, then you can protect your house by installing a rain cover or chimney cap. If you live in an older house, you should replace the chimney crown, because old models were made of mortar and today’s ones are made of cement, which is more sustainable. Also, ask your contractor if you should add a waterproof layer to the entire structure. This is more expensive than the average fix, but in the long run it prevents heavy water damage. However, remember that these only have medium lifespan. You can usually rely on them for about a decade and after this time you have to hire a professional to repair or replace them, depending on the technologies available/