If you see any of the following when you are buying a home, it is better to have the chimney inspected by a professional chimney inspector.
1. Cracks in chimneys. These may be large or small. Of course the larger the crack the more of a concern. Cracks in the hearth, the inside the fireplace, the facing around the mantle, the walls around the fireplace opening, or anywhere on the chimney all the way up to the top of the chimney are red flags.
2. Cracks that go all the way around the chimney particularly at the roof line. The roof line is the weakest point of any chimney. It is a major red flag that the chimney may be broken.
3. Any bricks that have moved out of place, especially if the mortar around it is also disturbed. Sometimes you will see an awkward repair with mortar poorly cleaned. Occasionally you will find a chimney with missing and misplaced bricks and so little mortar that you wonder how this chimney is still standing.
4. All Chimneys built before 1940 should be inspected. The building code changed after the Long Beach earthquake of 1935 when reinforced masonry structures suffered little to no damage, but non-reinforced masonry structures collapsed. Now all masonry structures, including chimneys must be reinforced with steel.
5. Fresh Stucco on the Chimney. Why did the chimney need fresh stucco? What is under the stucco? Could there be hidden cracks or amateur repairs that do not meet minimum building code requirements?
6. Fresh Paint on the Chimney. Same questions. A house may just need a fresh coat of paint, but a few questions will put everyone’s mind at ease.
7. Fresh paint on the facing. This is where the mantle is. Fresh paint could be hiding smoke stains that indicate that there is a problem with the way the fireplace drafts.
8. Smoke Stains on the facing. This is the same as number 8.
9. The fireplace has never been used. The question is, what happened the last time they used it.
10. All prefabricated Chimneys should be inspected. Many realtors tell me that they never have them inspected because there is so little that can go wrong with them. This is an urban legend. Over 50% of all chimney fires are from prefabricated chimneys. The truth is they are not always installed properly.
Boston Brick & Stone, Inc.
2005 Lincoln Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91103