Chimney contractors are busy after recent storms hit the greater Kansas City area with wind, hail, and lightning. Most homeowners miss these damages because few look up at their chimney.
One local chimney sweep company received multiple calls to inspect chimneys this past week after homeowners noticed pieces of bricks on the ground and roof. This is a sign that a recent event, such as hail, caused damage to the bricks. On close examination, the inspector found that hail knocked the brick faces off. When this happens rain water can more easily enter the bricks and saturate the interior, which causes the bricks to break down and spall faster. There is no way to repair this type of damage and the bricks must be replaced.
In some cases the damage is so severe that the chimney must be torn down and rebuilt. In other cases where there are only a few damaged bricks these can be removed and replaced with new bricks.
Stones can also be damaged by hail in a similar manner.
Cement crowns may show cracking or missing pieces especially if they were not in perfect condition to begin with.
When lightning strikes a chimney the evidence is usually very obvious. There is always an entrance and exit point. The entrance point, usually found near the top of the structure, will likely be a large hole with burn marks, and may include large cracks through the masonry or blown out sections of stones or bricks. The exit point is usually found somewhere within the chimney structure in the flue, smoke chamber, firebox, or even the outer hearth inside the house.
A professional chimney inspector should examine any chimney that has been damaged by lighting, hail, or high wind. As tornado season approaches, the risk for damage by tornado should not be overlooked.
The Midwest Chimney Safety Council recommends that a chimney professional be called to do a Level II internal chimney inspection with a chimney camera system. Only persons trained specifically on chimneys can identify chimney damages properly and provide the needed report for an insurance claim. A standard inspection by a home inspector or general contractor is usually not sufficient.