Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Why Repair Brick Chimneys?

This article in the Santa Rosa Press- Democrat got me to thinking about something again. The article is about a kid in Napa that had a chimney fall on him during their earthquake of a few days ago. It nearly killed him. I had to wonder if his parents are going to rebuild that chimney?

Many people do. I've seen it here in Eureka many times. When an earthquake damaged our chimney back in the early '90s, I tore it down. The part sticking above the roof, anyway. But I can think of two very large chimneys almost within sight of my house that were damaged and repaired. Now they have the potential to be damaged again or even collapse.

Make that three or more chimneys if you count the Arkley's. Theirs were damaged back in the 2010(?) quake and they seemed to go to some effort and expense to rebuild them. I had to ask Cherie Arkley why they went through all that effort when they could have simply replaced the damaged sections above the roof with stovepipe. She just shook her head and almost glared at me. Some folks just like brick chimneys.

With that in mind, why are we still using traditional bricks for chimneys? I would think it wouldn't be too difficult to come up with a simulated brick made out of something akin to what they used for space shuttle tiles: super light, fireproof but durable. Make bricks out of something like that and I would think the hazards of earthquake vs. brick chimneys would pretty much be eliminated, yet you'd still have the brick appearance some insist upon.

I'm wouldn't expect people to rush out and replace their brick chimneys with the phony ones, but on new construction and repairing earthquake damaged ones, seems a lightweight alternative would make perfect sense.

All right, entrepreneurs, let's develop those artificial bricks.

Addendum: A fellow replying to my comment in the Press- Democrat advises me such artificial bricks are already being used, although I'm not sure they're exactly what I was proposing.


At 9:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe because they care about the look/aesthetic of their homes? Run a bunch of rebar through the brick to tie it all down correctly. If the mortar cracks after the next earthquake, it's an easy fix.

At 9:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You, a non-1%er, dare question an Arkley? The nerve.

At 9:48 AM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

Oh, stop it.

I just asked why they were going through all that hassle for a chimney that might well get damaged again. I think her glaring at me was just she felt stove pipe would be tacky. I don't think so, but it's their money to waste.

At 10:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr Arkley, tear down this wall! actually you are better off removing the old heavy brick and replacing the chimney with a plywood boxed frame covered by 1/4" thick brick veneer. It is a lot lighter than real brick, looks the same, and wont fall on you in an earthquake

At 2:01 PM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

I'm not sure what they used. I drove by there today to see if I could refresh my memory but couldn't tell if it was real brick or that veneer stuff. Maybe someone hip to construction could tell?

I do know I mentioned to Cheri it seemed foolish to put up another brick chimney when it might just get damaged again. She replied that the way they were doing it, it shouldn't be a problem.

Whatever. I still don't think it would have looked any worse if they just replaced the chimneys with stove pipes, but maybe that's because I'm a low class kind of guy.

At 5:06 PM, Anonymous Prof. Quiz said...

Modern day bricks for chimneys have holes in them for rebar to keep them in place. Just add cement. I have a friend who informed me that after 1920 or so the chimneys were made this way. My 1890 or so home lost its brick chimney back in '89 or so. As stated above I made a box of cement board ( Plywood will rot over time and especially if the grout cracks allowing moisture in )and mortared fake brick ( Like Z brick ) to it with appropriate flashing. The trick is to get the fake brick that wraps around corners to keep moisture out. I even fooled the building inspector! My brick was already "antiqued". 199He was HOT when he got out of his car. I had to take him into the attic and show him the triple wall stainless piping before he calmed down. I couldn't imagine putting anything else in its' place. I would have glared at you for suggesting otherwise also.


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