shutterstock 1672570057

Did you know that fireplace chimney separation is one of the earliest signs of foundation trouble?

In Residential Blog Posts by John Topa

shutterstock 1672570057

A beautiful fireplace adds a warm glow to your home’s interior. The exterior chimney does not get as much attention. However, its condition can serve as an early warning sign that your house needs foundation repair.

Homeowners in Orlando, Tampa, and Naples should keep an eye on this important part of the house. Checking the chimney for signs of separation needs to be on every Florida homeowner’s to-do list. It is an easy way to spot trouble and head off extensive foundation damage.

What Is Chimney Separation?

That ground-to-roof chimney is attached to your home’s exterior, but it does not rely on the house for support. The entire weight of the structure rests on a small slab. This pad is commonly called the footing. In most cases, the concrete footing and the home’s foundation are poured at the same time during construction.

When the footing cracks or shifts, the chimney eventually separates from the house. The conditions that compromise the footing pad and result in separation are the same problems that cause foundation trouble.

What Causes Chimney Pad Shifts Here in Florida?

Footing and foundation problems are usually caused by the expansive soil underneath Florida homes. The ground tends to expand with heavy seasonal rains and contract during dry spells. This natural action shifts the soil beneath both the footing and the foundation.

However, there are other causes that lead to footing shifts, chimney separations, and foundation damage.

Soil Conditions – Bad drainage, underground plumbing leaks, natural soil movement, and tree roots can all affect the ground around and under your home’s foundation and footing.

Improper Installation – If soil is not properly compacted before pouring concrete during construction, it can result in footing and foundation problems, including cracking, shifting, and sinking.

Undersized Footing – To support the chimney’s weight, a footing pad should be at least 1 foot deep and extend at least 6 inches outward from the structure’s base.

Low-Grade Materials – Low-grade concrete holds down construction costs, but it compromises the support capability and durability of a home’s foundation and chimney footing.

Natural Settling – Over time, all concrete pads begin to shift and sink regardless of their original load-bearing strength and construction quality.

What Should You Look For?

chimney separation

It is not always easy to spot foundation problems caused by soil conditions. Poor foundation construction is not obvious until interior walls show cracks and doors do not open or close properly.

When you see these signs of trouble, you can be sure you need to stabilize the chimney separation as soon as possible.

• Cracks in the wall or ceiling near your home’s fireplace
• Separation of the fireplace from interior walls
• Gaps of any size between the chimney and the house
• Damage along the roof edge next to the chimney
• Cracks in exterior walls around the chimney shaft
• Tilting or sinking chimney footing edges

How Does a Foundation Contractor Fix Chimney Separation?

The best foundation solutions are affordable, efficient, and permanent. Those same principles apply to repair a chimney pad. An experienced foundation contractor will recommend installing helical piers underneath the footing. The large steel shafts restore the pad to its original level with these five steps.

1. Initial Inspection– Your foundation contractor starts by inspecting the chimney footing. He or she evaluates the damage, determines the exact cause of the problem, and outlines the repair process.

2. Helical Pier Installation– These long steel shafts are driven into the ground under the chimney pad. They are positioned deep enough to rest on load-bearing soil under your home. Foundation technicians accomplish this step with hydraulic rotary drive equipment.

3. Bracket Installation– After confirming the positioning of the helical piers, the foundation team installs specialized steel brackets under the footing. These brackets transfer the structure’s weight down to the helical piers.

4. Pad Leveling– Once technicians stabilize the structure, they slowly raise the footing pad to its correct level. This is done so that the chimney is returned to its original position. Often, leveling is accomplished with only a small shift in pad depth.

5. Final Securing– The last step involves removing the hydraulic jacks and permanently securing the brackets under the footing. This prevents future sinking because your chimney’s weight is supported by the pad, the brackets, and the helical piers.

What Are the Benefits of Chimney Foundation Repair?

A stable chimney is the main benefit of footing foundation repair. You do not have to worry about its tilt distracting from your home’s good looks. You protect the house from any further damages, and you preserve its important property value. You also enjoy these benefits of professional chimney pad repair.

Cost Savings – The pad stabilization process holds down overall costs compared to more traditional types of repairs for a leaning or separated chimney.

Smooth Installation – The work is time-efficient and does not involve pouring and curing concrete.

No Construction – The process eliminates any need to disassemble or rebuild your chimney.

No Soil Concerns – The helical piers are driven deep below active soil, so you do not have to worry about seasonal moisture or ground shifts.

Immediate Results – Once the job is completed, the entire structure is immediately stabilized from footing to crown.

An Undisturbed Yard – The pad repair process does not require digging up the yard or moving large amounts of soil.

A Safer Home – Your home is no longer threatened by a chimney that can fall and cause serious damage.

A Permanent Solution – The installed helical piers and brackets prevent further settling under the footing, and that prevents future tilting or separation.

Why Choose a Florida Foundation Contractor?

When you choose a foundation contractor here in Florida, you’re bringing in a team that specializes in solutions for all types of pads. A leaning chimney is a sure sign of trouble under its footing. It is also a good indicator that your home’s foundation needs a professional inspection.

Solve both problems with a contractor who understands the factors that affect foundations under Florida homes. Here at Helicon, we offer more than 15 years of experience, and our estimates are always free. If you are a homeowner in Orlando, Tampa or Naples, do not ignore that leaning chimney. Call us today: 813-567-1065.