When brick no longer meets house, it's time for quick action
My husband and I are fixing up his grandfather's 100-year-old single-story house. There's a brick chimney on each end, and one has pulled away from the house about 2 feet at the top. Is there anything we can do to save the chimney? We're both 65 — too old, really,
to start something like this — but we want to preserve this old house.
— Marie, Riegelwood, N.C.
Tom says: Judging by the photos you sent, it looks like the chimney is leaning away from the house, but it could be the other way around; old houses lean too, after all. You'll need to do something soon because the situation does not
look safe. And whether it's the house or the chimney, you shouldn't
tackle this work on your own. A leaning chimney requires a mason. A
leaning house needs a good contractor or structural engineer to suggest ways to pull it back into shape and hold it there. There's no fix for a chimney that far out of place; you'll have to dismantle and rebuild it. You can retain some of the history of the place by reusing as many of
the original bricks as possible, as long as you remove the old mortar
first. That's slow, tedious work, so before you begin this job, look
into the cost of using new brick.