Bramwell-McKay Masonry, Consulting, and Education
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Why Chimneys Deteriorate

Expert Advice From the Field:  Essential Info On Masonry Chimneys!

Why is my chimney continuing to deteriorate???????

     Andrew Carnegie.  Yes, THAT Andrew Carnegie.  In the same way Henry Ford impacted the decline in the  manufacturing of buggy whips, Andrew Carnegie, of US Steel, is still, a hundred years after his death, impacting your chimney.  OK so here's what happened:
Prior to the industrial revolution, one of the greatest crafts one could aspire to was that of Master Mason.  Fathers handed thousand-year old knowledge down to their sons.  In turn, those sons handed the knowledge of master masons down to their sons.  And so it went for many generations.  Subtle, yet critical nuances of masonry design were honed, maintained, and passed down from master mason to mason apprentice...until the beginning of the industrial revolution.  In 1857, when Sir Henry Bessemer perfected his Bessemer process of making steel stronger, faster, and cheaper, his partnership with Andrew Carnegie caused an unprecedented explosion of steel manufacturing, and the industrial revolution was born.  The sons and grandsons of our country's master masons did what everyone else was doing at that time.  They followed the steel industry.  As we all know, this impacted many aspects of our daily lives--one of which is YOUR chimney's structural integrity.  Between the late 1800's and early 1900's, critical knowledge on something as simple as masonry drip edges and how to properly crown a chimney was lost.  
     Today's common practice of "topping out a chimney" entails the construction of a bell, instead of a proper chimney crown.  If your home was was built within the last eighty years, your chimney likely has a bell at the top, and has been worked on, or "fixed" more than once with little or no lasting difference.  
     A proper chimney crown consists of poured concrete (not mortar or portland cement), at least four inches thick, or a solid stone slab, with an inch-and-a-half overhang of the top course of brick with a drip edge and expansion material between the flue tile and the crown.  This lost method of properly crowning off a chimney is the SINGLE GREATEST CAUSE of chimney failure over the last one hundred years.

Take a look at a 100-year-old PROPERLY CROWNED CHIMNEY and you won't see any evidence that the chimney has ever been worked on or repaired. 
 A properly crowned chimney does not allow water to infiltrate the inside of the chimney cavity.
A chimney that stays dry on the inside does not crack during the freeze-thaw cycle of winter, and lasts over a hundred years with no need of repair!

Take a look at a proper chimney crown and see the difference.
All chimney work performed by Bramwell-McKay carries a lifetime guarantee.
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