No homeowner wants to hit the fall months and be told that their fireplace or chimney needs to be repaired before it can be used. That’s why it’s important in the spring or early summer to take stock of your chimney and fireplace masonry. By knowing how to spot common masonry damage, you can have problems addressed during the summer, so your chimney and fireplace will be ready when you want to light your first fall fire.

So what do you look for when trying to spot masonry damage? 


Cracks are probably the most common of all masonry damage. On your chimney’s exterior, the porous masonry absorbs water. When temperatures drop below freezing, the water within the masonry expands, causing masonry to crack or brick faces to pop off. Within your firebox and flue, masonry tiles can be cracked by water damage or from the extreme heat in your fireplace. Crumbling mortar.

Crumbling Mortar

Just like the rest of the masonry, mortar is porous and susceptible to freeze-thaw damage during the winter. That can cause mortar to crumble away from your chimney’s joints, weakening the chimney structure and turning your chimney into an eyesore.Pieces of masonry in the firebox.

Pieces of Masonry in FireboxSpot Masonry Damage Image - Asheville NC - Environmental Chimney Damage

It can be difficult to spot damage within the chimney flue unless you have a chimney professional perform a video chimney inspection. That’s not to say that you can’t spot interior chimney damage on your own. If you have a masonry chimney flue, you will want to be on the lookout for pieces of chimney tile within your firebox, a sign that the tiles are damaged and crumbling.


Discoloration in your chimney’s masonry can be another sign that your chimney has damage that is causing it to take on water. If you have stains on your chimney’s exterior masonry — whether it’s white, blue, green, brown or black — you should have your chimney inspected for leaks.


Water should not be making its way into your firebox, period. That’s why it’s important to be on the lookout for signs that water is leaking in through your chimney. A puddle of water in the bottom of your firebox is an obvious sign that you have water entering the chimney. Some more subtle signs include rust on metal fireplace components, such as the damper, grate or fireplace doors, or foul odors coming from your chimney when temperatures warm up.

Wall and Ceiling Damage

Homeowners don’t always equate water damage in the walls and ceilings with chimney damage. However, they can go hand in hand. Water leaking around your chimney can cause damage to your home structure. Check around your chimney for stains on the walls and ceiling, peeling paint or wallpaper and sagging wallboard.

If you notice any signs of chimney damage, it’s time to call in the professionals. Chimney damage can get worse quickly. If you fail to address masonry damage in a timely manner it can lead to much costlier repairs. The damage may even prevent you from using your fireplace when you want to! If you spot signs of masonry damage in your fireplace or chimney, call Environmental Chimney Service to schedule an appointment today!