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Racheljaners

Masonry chimney chase in attic supported 2x4's??

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HELP!!! We moved into a 16 yr old all brick house 3 months ago. Water began leaking through ceiling, I inspected the attic and discovered our chimney is leaking all aound the outside of the REAL BRICK as well as leaking from inside the chimeny. The chase cap is 2 years old, and is not the source of the leak. Part of the leaking is from bad flashing around the chimney. BUT that is not as big a concern to me as the leaking from inside the chimney, there is NO barrior between the brick (Which I know brick absorbs water like a sponge) and the pressed board box inside the chimney. (a gas fireplace) Thus, the water flows through the brick, and drains down the chimney and settles on the support structure of wood beams. I need advice because it does not seem right to me that the foundation for the massive chimney 5 ft by 4ft wide 25 foot high brick chimney starts in the attic, supported by wood and no steel! Is this strange to anyone else?

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Are you saying that from the point that brickwork rests on the wood framing, the masonry goes up twenty-five feet? That hardly seems likely.

At any rate, brick are, on average, about four to five pounds a piece, and you can figure about 6.75 bricks per square feet. If you do the math, you'll realize that it's probably not as heavy as you are tempted to think.

We are left to assume that someone calculated the loads, when they ran it through the building inspection process?

In the mid 70's strict requirements, regarding the absorption rate of bricks were imposed, which put some brick manufacturers out of business, or at least made them truck in material necessary to keep going. Since then, water rarely penetrates the entire thickness of a brick. Unfortunately, if the brick veneer was installed badly (not full head and bed mortar joints), the system will readily take on water.

From your pictures, it does look like the majorority of your problem might be flashing and cap.

I've seen situations like this where folks actually had to resort to a drip tray and drain to manage the moisture intrusion.

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Thanks for replying. The chimney is a monster. The majority of it is above the roof line, we have a very high peak that the chimney must rise above. I still cannot believe it is built on wood beams starting in the attic. I have seen water dripping down from between the board and brick inside and it is running down the 2x4s pooling on the attic floor, soaking the insulation and now through the downstairs ceiling. I have had 2 roofers look at it and one said he never seen a chimney with real brick built on a wood support. He suggested taking it down! I am at a loss, and don't know what to do. The roofer said the re-flashing would fix the leaking around the outside of the chimney, but he is concerned with the leaking from inside that is causing damage to the wood supprt structure.

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Really, the only thing that the chase is doing, besides leaking, is protecting the metal flue right? No reason to not remove it, well except for cost of course. Do you have a pic of the exterior(chase) by chance? Is it supported above the roof line?

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I still cannot believe it is built on wood beams starting in the attic.

It's really a perception deal - unconventional. But, if you think about it, the average home, according to the manufactured home industry, weighs somewhere between 50,000 to 120,000 pounds. If a home is two stories with a walkout basement, a little less than a third of that weight is resting on a wood frame outer wall (the walk-out basement wall). [This would assume that the center beam is carrying the greates weight, but that is offset by the fact that all of the roof framing weight is on the outer walls.] Does that put things in perspective? We don't think twice about a wood frame wall supporting the lions share of the weight of a home, but suporting BRICK???!!!!! Suddenly we experience a mental disconnect, mostly because it's not what we're used to seeing.

That's not to say I like this arrangement, because I definitely don't.

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It was not unusual here in the past for a single flue brick chimney to be supported by a stud wall. The builders would frame up a shelf in the kitchen wall for example, about 3 feet up the wall, so the mason could build a chimney up through the attic and the roof for a wood stove. All that brick work would be supported by a 2X4 stud wall resting on the floor joists and possibly a wooden beam and some piers in the crawlspace.

Look for signs of movement. Is the chimney sinking, causing the flashing to pull out?

After stopping the leaks, you will need to dry out all that OSB sheathing and have it checked by a builder. Some of it may need to be replaced.

A Home Inspector would have told you all about that mess before you bought it.

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Thank you John! I agree with you that a home inspector would have caught it so we could have avoided this mess. As a matter of fact, we hired a home inspector and paid him $625.00 for his professional opinion before we purchased this home! However, he did not even bring this to our attention!! I think he dropped the ball on this big time.

And yes, there is sign of movement, a 1/4 inch dip of one corner of the wood support into the floor. There is a visible slanting there.

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Did the builder of this house happen to a fella named Bubba? He's been getting around lately.

There's no flashing between the brickwork and the wood framing that supports it. I call it 'tribal' construction methods.

Marc

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HELP!!! We moved into a 16 yr old all brick house 3 months ago.

Just to be clear, and in case you don't know, you don't have an all-brick house. You have a wood-framed house with brick veneer siding.

Water began leaking through ceiling, I inspected the attic and discovered our chimney is leaking all aound the outside of the REAL BRICK as well as leaking from inside the chimeny. The chase cap is 2 years old, and is not the source of the leak. Part of the leaking is from bad flashing around the chimney. BUT that is not as big a concern to me as the leaking from inside the chimney, there is NO barrior between the brick (Which I know brick absorbs water like a sponge) and the pressed board box inside the chimney. (a gas fireplace) Thus, the water flows through the brick, and drains down the chimney and settles on the support structure of wood beams.

Well, the water isn't leaking "from inside the chimney." It's leaking from the outside into the inside of the chimney, right?

I'm afraid that your chimney is screwed. The wooden chimney structure should have been wrapped in a water resistant barrier, the brick should have had through-wall flashing and weepholes just above the roof line, AND there should have been step flashing and counterflashing at the roof joints. The through-wall flashing and weepholes are essential and cannot be retrofitted without removing all of the brick. Besides, I'll bet that the wooden frame inside the brick has already begun to decay and needs to be repaired.

I need advice because it does not seem right to me that the foundation for the massive chimney 5 ft by 4ft wide 25 foot high brick chimney starts in the attic, supported by wood and no steel! Is this strange to anyone else?

It seems strange to me because I'm in earthquake country and we're not allowed to support brick veneer on wood framing. However, in 1993 you were definitely allowed to use wood framing to support brick veneer as long as the wood framing was designed for it. The wood is plenty strong enough to hold up the brick as long as gravity is the only force acting on it. Lateral movement from an earthquake or from high winds is another matter. Is there some lateral support to that wooden stand that I can't see in the pictures? Do you have earthquakes or high winds in Springfield?

You'll need to strip off the brick and, at least partially, rebuild the wooden frame. You might as well hire an engineer to look at the support structure to ensure that it's adequately designed to resist not only the weight of the chimney but also the lateral acceleration from earthquakes and wind. After that, hire a *good* mason to rebuild the brick veneer properly.

You might also want to speak with your home inspector and ask him to explain why he didn't mention any of this in his report.

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It's a chase for metal vents. It's not only supported by wood, but it could be made of wood framing and the brick is a veneer used for exterior siding. The details necessary for a brick veneer installation were not done, resulting in really wet OSB and framing. If this continues much longer, there's going to be extensive rot. I can't even imagine any way to fix this without removing the brick and rebuilding the whole system. The OSB could already need replacement.

I'm familiar with Springfield (I went to Wittenberg U). There's no seismic activity that causes any damage to buildings in SE Ohio, hurricanes can't make it there and the occasional spotty tornadoes don't usually cause building code enhancements.

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Not to pile on here but it looks like you have other problems too.

The B vents do not look to have proper clearance to combustibles (at the 2xs and at the top OSB) and the stains on the exterior of the B vent usually indicate a venting problem.

Before doing anything, call your HI back and let him look at the situation.

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This reinforces the reality that a large part of our job is simply being willing to hop, slither, or scoot around a structure to see what's up. One doesn't need a degree, or even much expertise, to look at Rachel's chimney and know that it's screwed up.

It isn't fair to lambast her HI without hearing his side of the tale, but if Rachel can grab photos of that mess, why couldn't the HI at least shine his flashlight on it?

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if Rachel can grab photos of that mess, why couldn't the HI at least shine his flashlight on it?

Because some HI's will find any excuse NOT to enter an attic.

One excuse I've read in a report is the HI won't enter an un-floored attic.

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The flashing around the chimney is one of two things:

1. An attempt to repair the original flashing

2. The worst job ever. The flashing is on TOP of the shingle? Am I seeing this correctly?

Did the inspector even get on the roof?

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The flashing around the chimney is one of two things:

1. An attempt to repair the original flashing

2. The worst job ever. The flashing is on TOP of the shingle? Am I seeing this correctly?

Did the inspector even get on the roof?

These two chimney pictures were taken by the inspector during his inspection before we bought the house. He said there were "no problems with the roof at the time of the inspection"

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Hi Rachel,

That flashing shown in your last picture looks odd, and may be wrong (most likely is).

Assuming there is some step flashing beneath that visible "counter" flashing, it looks like someone treated that chimney as a solid masonry chimney and not a wood chase. Then again, it's really hard to say for sure, as the construction details that need to be seen are covered up.

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Whoever designed that roofline should be hung by their thumbs. That convergence of valleys has the potential to be problematic on it's own. I'd wager it would leak even if the chase was detailed correctly.

It was very nice of your inspector to present you with photographic evidence of his incompetence. At least he knew he needed to go up and look though[:-banghea

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One thought, if you are willing to depart from the matching brick, is to fix the flashing at the roof line and stucco (real or synthetic) over the brick to provide water proofing for the outside. I normally hate synthetic stucco but the OSB should dry out pretty readily from the inside of the chase.

Of course this all ASSUMES there is no structural damage (meaning you have to check it first.)

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Thanks for the extra pictures.

There is no way to fix your problem without tearing down the chimney.

I suggest that you remove the whole mess and simply run the two vents directly through the roof with no elaborate fake masonry. It'll be more likely to remain water tight, it won't require future maintenance, and it'll relieve you of the worry of a big pile of bricks held up over your head by a wooden platform. It'll also be a lot cheaper than trying to rebuild the "chimney."

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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