Why Chimneys Lean and What to Do About It

Masonry chimneys can weigh more than 8,000 pounds. That makes for a pretty stable structure – as long as everything is working as it should. When there are problems, this massive structure can begin to lean and cause serious damage.

leaning chimneys in Jefferson NJNational Chimney Cleaners of Fairfield County, CT, and Morris County, NJ, would like to share a little about leaning chimneys, including their causes and ways they should be fixed.

How to tell if a chimney is leaning

Obviously, a chimney that’s leaning a lot is easy to see from the ground. But early stages of trouble might not be so obvious at first glance.

During your regular visual inspections of your chimney’s exterior, check the flashing that seals the gap between the chimney and roof. If it’s dislodged, and if you notice a clear separation between the chimney and roof, it may be an early sign of chimney misalignment.

Also, look at the bricks and mortar. Are the bricks cracked, scaling or missing? Is mortar crumbling away? Masonry damage can lead to a leaning chimney and, eventually, a collapse.

Primary causes of a chimney that leans or tilts

Here they are, in no particular order.

Footing issues

The chimney footing is poured in the ground as a platform on which to build the chimney. If the footing’s diameter or thickness is too small, it won’t provide proper support. Older homes often have no chimney footings, which provides no support at all.

If the footing is made with low-quality materials, it can crack and cause the chimney to lean. Another problem in the area of the footing is the soil. Shifting or poor-quality soil can lead to leaning problems.

Poor chimney construction

As with footings, the chimney structure itself should be built with quality materials by experienced masons or contractors. Cheap bricks, inferior mortar and bad workmanship will almost always lead to a chimney that leans.

Problems with the masonry

When a chimney’s masonry is damaged by water leaks, earthquakes, pounding hail, lightning or other occurrences, it will become unstable. Water intrusion is a major cause of widespread masonry damage. This is why chimney companies encourage homeowners to have leaky chimneys fixed immediately.

House settling

Houses settle over time, and this can cause the roof, attic or other parts of the home to push the chimney off-center. Earthquakes can also make the house move against the chimney and disrupt its position.

What to do about a leaning chimney

The first step is to have an experienced mason or chimney builder inspect the situation. This way, you’ll know what has caused the leaning and be aware of how much collateral damage, if any, has been done.

Fixing a leaning chimney can involve the following:

  • Rebuilding sections of the chimney structure
  • Using push piers driven deep into the soil to stabilize a compromised footing
  • Soil replacement to add strength to the base of the chimney
  • Rebuilding the entire chimney from the footing up

chimney inspections in Chester NJGet your chimney the help it needs

Neglecting a leaning chimney can lead to extensive masonry and roof damage, water leaks throughout the system and a very dangerous living environment for you and your family.

National Chimney Cleaners of Connecticut and New Jersey provides expert inspection, repair and rebuilding services for leaning chimneys. If you suspect that your chimney is in trouble, call us now at (800) 631-6177. You can also reach out through our simple contact form.


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Our pros have to know what they’re doing when they put their heads up a chimney and to do that, chimney sweeps obtain specialized training and have years of experience in the field.