Chimney Corbel: What It Is, Signs of Damage, and How to Repair It

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If you’re a homeowner, you know there are always things to fix and maintain around the house. One of the structural components of your home that may need some attention is the chimney corbel.

It’s not often that we give much thought to the chimney corbel. After all, it’s just a small part of the chimney, and it doesn’t do anything significant, does it?

The chimney corbel is an integral part of the fireplace system, and it is a part of the chimney that can become damaged over time. Therefore, it’s essential to know how to repair it if this happens.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss what a chimney corbel is, the signs of damage, and how to fix it.

What is a Chimney Corbel?

Also known as a “shoulder” or “hips” (depending on your location), a chimney corbel is the bumps-out or protrusions outside your chimney and are usually found near the exterior of the chimney’s smoke chamber.

Corbelling, therefore, means the structural piece of stone, brick, or wood that projects out from the wall and supports the weight above it. Over time, these corbels can become compromised and cause your chimney to lean or even collapse.

Corbelling also helps to keep the chimney from leaking. If the chimney is not adequately supported, it can cause the chimney to leak. The corbels bear the weight of the chimney and keep it from leaking.

Why Do Chimneys Have Corbels?

Chimney corbels have many benefits. They include:

1. Decorative and Aesthetic Purposes

One reason that chimneys have corbels is for decorative purposes. These days, many homeowners want their homes to look unique and stylish, and adding decorative features like corbels can help achieve this goal.

2. Provide Structural Support

In addition to providing aesthetic appeal, corbels also serve a functional purpose by providing structural support for the chimney. Without this support, the weight of the chimney could cause it to collapse.

3. Prevent Chimney Leaks

Another reason that corbels are essential is that they can help prevent chimney leaks. If no support holds up the chimney, it can sag over time and develop cracks.

These cracks can then allow water to seep in and cause damage to the chimney and the home, resulting in expensive repairs.

Overall, corbeling a chimney has many benefits that improve the chimney’s function and appearance. If you’re considering adding corbels to your chimney, consult a professional to ensure that they are installed correctly and that the chimney can support their weight.

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Different Chimney Corbeling Designs

There are numerous different designs for chimney corbels. Some of the most popular include:

  • Square Corbel Shape: This is the most commonly used corbel shape. It is easy to install and provides good support for the chimney. Additionally, it is less likely to leak than other corbel shapes.
  • Stair-Step Corbel Shape: This corbel shape is similar to the square corbel but with a stair-step design. It provides good support for the chimney but is more likely to leak than the square corbel.
  • Slab-Corbel Shape: The other typical corbel shape, the slab-corbel, is a single piece of stone or brick placed under the chimney. It provides good support but is more likely to leak than the square corbel.

Signs You Need Chimney Corbel Repair

There are a few things you can look for to see if you need chimney corbel repair.

1. Brick Discoloration

Brick discoloration around the chimney area is often one of the first signs of a problem with your chimney corbel.

When in good condition, the corbel will be a uniform color. If you see any areas that are darker or lighter in color, this could be a sign of water damage.

2. Green Algae on Your Brickwork

Green algae is a result of moisture on the bricks. If you see green algae, it’s a good indication that your chimney needs to be repaired. As mentioned, the primary purpose of the chimney corbel is to prevent water damage.

Therefore, if you see green algae, water is getting past the corbel and causing damage to the bricks.

3. Chimney Shoulder Leaks

One of the most common signs of a problem with your chimney corbel is when you see leaks coming from the chimney shoulder.

To check for the damage, open your fireplace damper and look up into the chimney using a flashlight. If you see any water stains or leaks, this is a sure sign that your corbel needs to be repaired.

A chimney shoulder leak can also lead to foul odors and the growth of mold and mildew.

4. Cracks in the Chimney

Another sign that your chimney corbel needs to be repaired is when you see cracks in the chimney. These cracks can be horizontal or vertical and usually result from water damage.

5. The Corbel Is Sagging

When the corbel is in good condition, it should be level with the rest of the chimney. However, over time, it can sag due to the weight of the chimney.

This is usually a sign that the corbel needs to be replaced.

If you see any of these signs, you must call a professional for help. A qualified chimney specialist will be able to repair or replace your chimney corbel so that it is once again functioning properly.

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How to Prevent Chimney Shoulder Damage and Leaks

Your chimney shoulder is the sloped area where your chimney meets your roof. Over time, this area can become damaged or even start to leak.

Here are some tips on how to prevent chimney shoulder damage and leaks:

Chimney Shoulder Flashing

Despite being pitched, the chimney’s shoulder absorbs water and can flow down the chimney, slowly breaking up bricks with the freeze-thaw action. But if you have a chimney shoulder flashing installed, it will direct the water to the exterior, extending the useful life of your chimney.

Make sure that the flashing extends up onto the roof decking. This will help to create a water-tight seal.

If you have any cracks or gaps in your flashing, you can use caulk or roofing cement to seal them.

Apply Flat Pavers to Cover the Chimney Shoulders

You can also apply flat pavers to the chimney shoulders, which will help protect the area from water damage.

Make sure that the pavers are at least 2 inches thick. This will help to create a barrier against water and prevent cracks or leaks.

You can find these pavers at your local home improvement stores or online.

Repointing Corbeled Chimney

Repointing is filling in any cracks or gaps in your chimney mortar. Over time, the mortar can become loose or cracked, leading to water damage.

If you have a corbeled chimney, you must repoint the area where the bricks meet the roof.

Make sure to use a waterproofing sealant when repointing to help prevent leaks. You can find these sealants at your local home improvement store or online.

Waterproof the Chimney Shoulder

Finally, waterproofing your chimney shoulder with a masonry water repellent application will help to prevent water damage.

Masonry water repellents are applied to the surface of the chimney and act as a barrier against water.

Following these tips can help prevent chimney shoulder damage and leaks. Regular maintenance and inspection of your chimney will help to prolong its lifespan.

Conclusion

If you see any damage signs on your chimney corbel, you must call a professional for help. A qualified chimney specialist will be able to repair or replace your chimney corbel so that it is once again functioning properly.

Additionally, regular maintenance and inspection of your chimney will help to prolong its lifespan.

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Thomas Green

Thomas Green

Thomas has worked in the Chimney & Fireplace field for over 12 years. He is an expert in his trade and loves to help People with their needs. Thomas Write helpful articles so that homeowners can make the most informed decisions about their fireplace and chimney.