Common Masonry Problems and How to Fix Them

Brick chimney depicting common masonry problems

Many homeowners want a fireplace in working order, and for good reason. It’s nice to be able to have a fire on a cold day. Often a brick fireplace and hearth creates an aesthetically pleasing style element running up the inside or outside of your house.

Brick masonry, if maintained and retrofitted correctly, can last for many years. However, when your brick masonry becomes cracked or develops other problems, it can be an expensive hassle. Cracks can even cause significant damage to your house.

For this reason, it’s best to make sure you always keep your chimney and other masonry maintained rather than trying to fix a problem that’s already gotten out of control.

Common Masonry Problems

Here are some of the most common masonry problems that can develop when masonry is not appropriately maintained:


Staining is one of the least dangerous problems as it is only cosmetic. Over time, bricks stain from exposure to the humidity and minerals in water and sunlight. The wrong thing to do is paint your brick without consulting a professional.

Brick needs to breathe, and if it gets sealed improperly with paint, this can cause problems and eventually structural damage to your house.

Cracking & Leaking

As cracking and leaking are the most common masonry problems, most of what you need to know is here. Cracking in your masonry is natural because when bricks settle and shift over time, small cracks appear in the mortar.

What is most important to know about this is that a professional can spot and repair the mortar joints and re-point the masonry before these small cracks become a problem. It will make your chimney or other brickwork look and perform like new.

However, if you don’t take care of this problem regularly here’s what happens: leaking.

Small cracks in your chimney aren’t a big deal by themselves. The problem is they don’t stay small. Brick and mortar are both porous materials which absorb water. When water freezes and expands, small cracks become larger cracks. Water will get in wherever it can.

Other Types of Chimney Leaks

If your chimney doesn’t have a cover, rain and snow from the top could be a significant problem. Chimneys are generally covered to keep out rain, snow, debris, and animals.

Once your chimney is significantly blocked by debris falling in near the bottom, you run a significant risk of getting carbon monoxide poisoning. So make sure everything is okay with your chimney cover.

Cracks in the Crown

Your chimney crown is the cement part on top of the chimney to keep the rain and snow from getting into the space between the bricks and the tile flue liner. If the structure of your chimney shifts or if there is shrinkage in your crown because of it being improperly installed, it may develop cracks.

These cracks are subject to the freezing and expanding of water just like your bricks. Chimney crowns can benefit from preventative maintenance. A crown coat can be applied before any significant cracking begins.

Flashing Leaks

Flashing leaks is a common problem we talk about often. The space between a chimney and the structure of your roof is often usually large and easy for water to infiltrate.

Aluminum flashing is often used, coupled with tar or another waterproof sealant, to seal that space. But flashing can get damaged, and tar doesn’t last very long.

The flashing on your roof needs to be regularly maintained to make sure leaking and significant damage to your house isn’t the result.

Other Chimney Problems

Other chimney problems that are more serious include what’s called spalling where bricks simply fall out. This condition can be dangerous and eventually make your chimney unsound. Displacement happens when your chimney doesn’t have enough lateral support and begins to warp. Both of these problems may result in needing a new chimney.


As with many other common roofing problems, chimney problems can be prevented with regular maintenance by a professional. If you have any questions about your chimney or about leaking in your house, call Renovations Roofing & Remodeling, Inc.  We would be happy to help!

Call today!


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