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We all love to gather around a cozy fireplace on a cold winter day! But, remember that behind every sizzling fireplace, there’s a chimney that does the hard work by drawing out all the smoke and hot flue gases. If you don’t look after your chimney properly, a small issue may turn into a huge problem very soon — forcing you to spend a lot on chimney repair costs.
Since a chimney comprises several vital parts including a firebox, damper, flue, liner, crown, and cap, you need to ensure that each of these works well. Failing could lead to water infiltration, embers escaping into the walls, blockage of the flue or the masonry, and crown cracking.
A faulty chimney will not only harm your fireplace, but it will also compromise your home safety. Therefore, it’s important to keep your chimney in good condition. Apart from saving you from high chimney repair costs, it might even save your life!
If you’re looking to repair your chimney — maybe because it’s suffering from age, damage, or other structural issues — you’re in luck! We have Chuck Roydhouse, a retired professional firefighter, owner of Clean Sweep of Anne Arundel County, and President of The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) answering all your chimney-related questions.
With a degree in Fire Science from Shepherd University and 25 years of experience as a career firefighter, Roydhouse is an expert on maintenance as well as performance of chimney and venting systems.
Fortunately for us, he has provided a complete guide on chimneys, including chimney repair costs and some expert maintenance tips.
What is the average cost for chimney repair?
The average cost of chimney repair is between $300 and $4000. Of course, the total cost to repair a chimney depends on the extent of the damage, the materials, and its location.
Roydhouse says that “Because of the different materials used, the maintenance and cost factor for chimney repair is going to vary greatly. Chimney repairs, depending on the materials and what you’re doing to the system, can be anywhere from hundreds of dollars to thousands and tens of thousands of dollars.”
Therefore, it’s better to get a chimney specialist to inspect the condition of your chimney and get an estimate before beginning the home improvement.
How often should you get your chimney inspected?
The rule of thumb regarding a chimney inspection is that you should get your chimney thoroughly cleaned and checked at least once a year. Having said that, you need to be always on the lookout for any potential problems. Timely preventive measures and chimney sweeping will help you avoid costly repairs and prolong your chimney’s lifespan.
A chimney pro will look at your chimney’s efficiency, system maintenance, any buildup in the smoke chamber, and overall consistency, to determine if the chimney is suitable for use. Scheduling an annual inspection is the best way to know if it’s time to make repairs to your system. A well-maintained chimney can last a lifetime!
What are the factors that determine the total chimney repair cost?
Roydhouse believes that “If you let time go on without doing preventative maintenance, obviously the cost factor greatly increases. Usually, the repairs that are most expensive are due to neglect, and if they would have been caught 5 years earlier, instead of spending maybe $10k-12k on repairs, the homeowner could have made a $900 repair and had no problems for maybe 10 years.”
Clearly, upkeep or tiny repair is much less expensive than it is to let things get out of hand. The quality of repairing materials, the type of chimney, and the complexity of the work also affect the total cost of your chimney repair.
Here are some types of chimney repairs and their costs to give you an estimate.
What are the types of chimney repair work and their costs?
Leaking chimney repair cost
Fixing a leaking chimney costs about $150 to $350. Water leak happens when rainwater gets in through the small cracks, usually at the roofline. This is generally due to damaged flashing and sealers.
Chimney sealing with mortar will cost you $180 to $350 while chimney flashing replacement will cost $200 to $350. Here, metal is installed as added protection against water infiltration — exactly where the chimney and roof meet. Just chimney flashing repair will be cheaper — from $20 to $120.
Chimney repair cost based on chimney material
Your chimney repair cost depends on the type of chimney you have. For instance, repairing brick chimneys can cost anywhere between $175 and $4,000. A total chimney replacement or removal project will cost you about $10,000. The cost to repair a stucco chimney is between $570 and $4,200.
Chimney crown repair/replacement cost
A chimney crown repair costs $150 to $300. It’s the slab of concrete at the top of a chimney that keeps the rain from coming down the flue, into your home. Moreover, it protects the brick and mortar of your chimney while keeping the pests out. Most importantly, it prevents the sparks from the chimney from landing on your roof.
A chimney crown replacement will cost you anywhere between $220 and $2,000.
Chimney chase cover/chimney cap replacement cost
A new chimney cover, sometimes known as a chimney cap, installation costs between $150 to $200. This cover is located at the top of your chimney and protects your flue.
Chimney flue repair cost
You can expect to pay about $200 for repairing a single flue tile — if it’s easily accessible, that is. Or, $65 to $100 per square foot. Do remember that repairing a cracked flue liner is just a temporary solution. It will need replacing eventually. Relining the chimney flue costs between $2,500 and $5,000. The total chimney flue liner installation could go as high as $7,000.
Tilted chimney repair
If you have a leaning chimney stack, it indicates that there’s an issue with the chimney’s foundation. A contractor will check if the horizontal mortar joints are level or not, and carry the repair accordingly. The repair work typically costs $3,000.
Chimney wood rot repair cost
A homeowner can expect to pay a few hundred dollars or several thousand — depending on how extensive the wood rot is. A minor damage could cost $100 to $300 while a major renovation could cost $2,500 to $4,000. If the wood rot is beyond repair, you will have to replace or rebuild the chimney.
Spalling chimney repair
This process refers to fixing the deterioration of bricks, which happens when moisture penetrates the bricks of a chimney, causing structural harm.
Repairing spalling can be expensive, as it may involve replacing bricks, repairing mortar joints, and applying waterproof sealant. On average, the cost ranges from $1,000 to $2,835.
This involves replacing the mortar which typically costs around $165 to $465. The expense can be lower if the issue is detected early, as the bricks can be reused, resulting in significant savings.
This refers to the process of removing and repairing mortar to prevent a chimney collapse. It entails restoring the mortar joints and brickwork, with an estimated cost of $550 to $2,500.
This type of chimney repair focuses on filling and patching mortar to match the surrounding brickwork, primarily for aesthetic purposes rather than damage repair. The cost for tuckpointing is similar to repointing, ranging from $550 to $2,500.
Smoke chamber parging
Such a chimney project involves applying a fresh layer of mortar to the chimney’s bricks, providing a smoother surface for the smoke chamber. This process enhances fireplace safety, improves structural integrity, and reduces the accumulation of creosote—a tar-like substance resulting from lingering smoke—in the smoke chamber.
Which other issues commonly require chimney repair?
Chimney repair is often necessary for various issues that arise due to the age and usage of the chimney. Older chimneys or those frequently used are more likely to require repair compared to newer or infrequently used chimneys. Some typical problems homeowners may encounter include:
- Large cracks in the outer brick or masonry.
- Cracks in the chimney liner or flue.
- Water infiltration.
- Chimney blockage, often caused by bird nests and debris.
- Accumulation of creosote (a harmful mix of carbonaceous chemicals due to wood burning).
- Loose chimney flashing.
- The separation between the chimney cricket (a small roof transition piece) and the chimney.
- Inadequate venting.
How does the chimney repair cost depend on the chimney material?
Determining the cost of chimney repairs can be difficult if the specific problem requiring fixing is unknown. However, the material your chimney is constructed from can provide some insight into the potential price range.
Brick chimneys, also known as masonry chimneys, are popular due to their visual appeal and the value they bring to a home. Over time, they can deteriorate due to weather conditions and erosion. On average, repairing a brick chimney costs between $210 and $1,165.
A simple re-mortaring job falls on the lower end of the cost spectrum, while more extensive repairs, such as fixing flue damage, spalling bricks, or a leaning chimney stack, can result in higher expenses. The total repair cost also depends on the number of damaged bricks.
Stucco chimneys, with their smooth finish and waterproof surface, are among the more expensive options. Repairing a stucco chimney typically costs between $690 and $2,480.
Homeowners often choose to apply stucco over an old brick-and-mortar chimney to extend its lifespan. The price of stucco is more affordable than completely rebuilding the chimney.
Metal chimneys are desirable for their lower cost compared to brick and stucco, as well as their durability. Repairing a metal chimney averages between $235 and $1,200.
However, keep in mind that metal chimneys can suffer dents during heavy storms, which can lead to issues with the smoke chamber and flue. Consequently, they are not the best choice for areas with frequent heavy rainfall.
Prefabricated chimneys, similar to metal chimneys, can also experience dents during severe storms. They are typically made of sheet metal, such as stainless or galvanized steel, and are manufactured in a factory before being installed in your home. These chimneys are primarily for decorative purposes rather than heating. The average cost of repairing a prefabricated chimney ranges from $235 to $1,200.
How do I know that my chimney requires repair?
As mentioned, a yearly inspection of your chimney system can tell a lot about its condition. It’s especially critical if your home has witnessed a chimney fire, a lightning strike, or storm damage. Of course, some damage is obvious while others are not. That’s why it’s important to have your chimney inspected by a licensed chimney professional.
In Roydhouse’s words, “ The #1 thing you want to look out for that will let you know your chimney requires repair is water damage — that’s the biggest threat to a masonry chimney because a brick chimney can absorb up to a cup and a half of water per brick. The weight of the water pushes the salts and minerals out of the faces of the brick, and you can see white stains on it. You’ll also likely see vegetation growth, and the actual mortar and brickwork will start to deteriorate and disintegrate.”
He further explains that “If the water damage occurs in a chimney venting a furnace system that’s either oil or gas, then you’re dealing with carbon monoxide going through those openings or gaps or overheating in those areas.”
Certain parts of a chimney can deteriorate over time. Some visible exterior signs of chimney damage may include cracks in the brick or masonry. Interior signs of chimney damage could be water stains, water leakage, or cracks in the chimney liner. Other chimney components that may require your attention include:
- Faulty damper.
- Damaged crown (the upper masonry section).
- A defective spark arrestor.
What are some obvious signs that indicate a chimney needs repairs?
There are several indicators that suggest your chimney requires repairs. These signs include:
- Foul odors from the fireplace during hot weather.
- Drafts of air entering the fireplace.
- Presence of water or moisture in the fireplace and adjacent drywall.
- Accumulation of creosote and soot, which can potentially lead to a chimney fire.
- The inability of gases and smoke to escape through the flue, resulting in leakage back into the home.
- Cracked or spalling bricks.
- Noticeable deterioration of the chimney crown.
Read more: Why a Home Inspection is Necessary
How much time does a chimney repair take?
Roydhouse states that “Depending on the severity of the repair being made, repair time can range anywhere from 30 minutes to 5-6 days. If you have something simple like maybe your flashing is starting to crack or pull away, there are repair methods to actually repair that and cover it up, and that’s something that, depending on the size of the flashing and what it takes to get to the flashing, could be done on-site during the inspection visit in 30 mins to 2 hours.
If it’s a fairly normal roof and you can walk right over to the chimney and work off of the roof without setting up any kind of special ladder, plus you have the right temperatures outside and it’s not raining, these repairs can be made on-site in an hour or less on average.”
Will homeowners insurance cover chimney repair?
According to Roydhouse, “It’s going to vary slightly by each individual’s homeowner policy, but typically, in my 30+ years of experience, the only thing that’s going to be covered by homeowners insurance is what’s listed in what’s called your peril part of your policy.
That would cover any damage that was created by a chimney fire event or a sudden occurrence (i.e. a lightning strike or a large tree that fell on your house and damaged your chimney or the chimney area).
As far as normal wear and tear maintenance goes, like weathering and water damage due to neglect, they would not typically cover that. For example, if you didn’t properly waterproof your chimney and freeze/thaw caused the bricks to break down and faces to pop off (which is called spalling), they would not cover that as water damage, because that’s something you neglected.
The same thing goes with chase covers. If you let it rust through and you have mold issues, that’s typically not covered unless you have a specific area on your policy that calls out for mold or some specific damage.”
Always remember that your fireplace is only as good as its chimney. Since a chimney is an important structure of your home, you must take care of its exteriors and interiors. Make it a part of your routine home improvement.
The moment you realize that there’s something wrong with your chimney, you must get it fixed at the earliest. It will save you big money on your chimney repair costs.
Read more: Need to know about chimney liners
Is it possible to repair a chimney on your own?
A DIY chimney repair – without any prior experience or knowledge – is not recommended. Do not treat it as a DIY project. Dealing with gases and chemicals, and working on a roof require specific safety procedures to be followed. Additionally, specialized equipment is often necessary. It is advisable to leave chimney repairs to trained, licensed roofing contractors or local pros who have the expertise and equipment for the job.
What is the life expectancy of a chimney?
A well-maintained chimney can last anywhere between 50 and 100 years – provided you’ve taken care of tasks such as waterproofing, fixing damages on time, and ensuring chimney caps.
Are there useful tips for extending a chimney’s life?
Yes. You can take the following steps in ensuring that your chimney lasts a long time:
• Ensuring proper waterproofing to prevent any water damage.
• Keeping the chimney location central on the roof to reduce exposure to elements.
• Using a chimney cap to protect the chimney material and keep debris and rain out.
If you need a friendly abstract, take a look at this infographic.