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Chimneys

Brick and masonry chimneys may crack, shift or collapse in an earthquake, causing damage to people and property. They can topple or collapse through the roof, or fall outwards damaging other parts of your property. 

Things to check

You can make some basic checks of your chimney to see if it has any signs of a problem.

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  • Is the chimney reinforced (making it stronger and more resilient)? It can be hard to tell but if it’s made from old concrete or heavy brick and built before the 1980s, it’s probably not. Brick chimneys built after 1985 should have a reinforced concrete flue within the brickwork and be tied to the house framing to prevent collapse.
  • Is the chimney in good condition? Look for:
    • cracks
    • loose or broken bricks
    • loose masonry or plaster
    • a lean or twist.

If the chimney has any of these issues you may have a problem that needs immediate attention. You could ask a licensed building practitioner for advice.

  • Is the chimney adequately connected to the house at each storey and to the roof? If not, you may be able to add restraints to your chimney to hold it more securely.
  • Is there anything inside the ceiling to stop bricks falling through? Timber and ply bracing above the ceiling can help stop bricks falling through.
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Replace or remove your chimney

Think about how much you use your chimney and whether it’s time to replace or remove it.

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  • If you still use your chimney, you could replace it with a lighter metal flue within a timber-framed surround. Lightweight flues can be made to look like a brick flue, and can be installed at the same time as a solid fuel heater within the existing firebox. 
  • If you don’t use your chimney, consider removing it altogether, or at least the section above the roof. If you do seal the top of the shortened chimney, make sure you also seal off the fireplace. 

Depending on your chimney’s construction, you may need a building consent to remove it and will usually need a licensed building professional to do some of the work. Check with your council about their requirements. 

Fix. Fasten. Don't Forget.

Watch our video to see what to watch for with chimneys and ways to fix them.

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Working safely at heights

If you decide to go into or onto your roof, make sure you do so safely.

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Some key steps:

  • If you’re going up on the roof, check the weather and delay your inspection if necessary.
  • Ask someone to watch while you’re inside the roof or up top, and let them know which areas you’ll be inspecting.
  • Check it's safe to work around any power services. If not, turn them off.
  • Check your equipment is in good condition (for example, your ladder or torch).
  • Wear appropriate safety gear for the task, such as non-slip footwear, hard hat, high vis vest, gloves, mask, overalls, kneepads, boots and protective eyewear.

You can read more about working safely at heights on the Worksafe website.

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The effects of a chimney collapse

Watch this video to see how a collapsed chimney damaged the Lee family home during the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake.

Is your chimney safe?

  • Do you use your fireplace? If not, could you remove the chimney and remove an earthquake hazard?
  • Are there any cracks, tilts, or missing bricks? Is your chimney well connected to the house? 
  • Is there timber and ply bracing in the ceiling to help stop falling bricks from damaging your house?

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