Weeds and roots growing out of your chimney stack? That means it’s time to act…

It’s one of the most neglected parts of your property, and yet when it comes to having a safe home or even workplace, it’s absolutely vital.

I’m talking about your chimney stack and pot.

Over the years, chimney stacks and pots really do take the brunt of the elements. Wind, rain, ice, hail, sun… they are fairly sturdy but even the best constructed chimneys can start to develop faults due to the passage of time.

I find that, out of all the property types, Victorian and Edwardian chimney stacks tend to suffer the most. This is down to a combination of sheer length of time they’ve been standing, plus also sometimes the weight of the bricks pushing down on the mortar. Over the years, mortar will turn brittle and in many cases will revert to a sand-like substance.

Also, older properties, because of their design, sometimes had quite tall chimney stacks, so the potential for fault is greater. Don’t forget there was also a time when chimneys were very much a status symbol. The taller the chimney stack, the grander the property.

Tall chimneys were a status symbol in years gone by

So, how can you tell whether your chimney stack and pot is in need of attention? 

The honest answer is to get a professional to inspect it closely. Some faults (such as water ingress) can be seen from the ground with a good pair of binoculars – vegetation growing out of the stack is a common giveaway. 

For other faults, such as loose chimney pots and cracked flaunching (the bed of mortar which binds the chimney pot to the top of the chimney stack brickwork), then these can usually only be seen close up. In one instance, I found vegetation growing inside a disused flue, something nobody would have spotted without looking down the flue.

Vegetation growing inside a chimney pot

Having a chimney stack and pot in good order is important for a number of reasons. 

If water is getting in, then it can cause damp in your property. If you have a chimney liner, it can rot the liner from the outside.

Loose brickwork or pots are also a potential major hazard. It’s not unheard of for chimney stacks to collapse… and of course something of that weight falling from height is extremely dangerous both to life and /or property.

In some instances, bricks and chimney pots are so loose that they can just be lifted off the top of a chimney stack by hand!

Of course, this advice isn’t just for people with solid fuel appliances such as woodburners and open fires. if you have a chimney stack which is no longer in use, it’s sensible to keep on top of the maintenance for general safety reasons. 

And it’s worth pointing out this applies to commercial properties, not just domestic. A number of older buildings will still have the original chimney stack, and these are among the most neglected because they were last used 50-odd years ago.

A professional sweep can help point out some potential issues to you as part of their initial inspection of your chimney system.

The good news is that now (spring/summer) is the ideal time to get your stack inspected and, if necessary, sorted. 

It’s tempting to put it off, but I strongly advise against it. Because leaving it to chance could mean you end up with a bigger bill further down the line…

Mr Soot Chimney Sweep is a HETAS Approved Sweep, and member of the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps, offering a professional and friendly chimney sweep and stove service in Wigan, Stockport, St Helens, Ormskirk, Chorley and surrounding areas. Book Mr Soot online or call 0800 0541154.

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