We have a problem that seems to be perplexing to several contractors
in our area. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
As briefly as possible, we have developed a gap between the house (25
year old aluminum siding) and the chimney ranging from the top of the
house at the gable to 4 ft. down. At its widest, it's approximately
2-3 inches and narrows as it moves down the house. It's hidden behind
a tree that hugs the house and went unnoticed for a period of time.
Our first move was to have the chimney checked. While the flashing
does appear to be pulling somewhat from the roof, the chimney
person/mason put a long level on the chimney and contends that it is
straight. We have also consulted with at least one general contractor
and other siding contractors. They have raised the possibility that
the gable has moved inward somewhat away from the chimney, and that,
at a minimum, the sheathing has "disintegrated" in that area from rain
and elements. The siding does have "give" a bit in the area when
poked, although there is no sign of leaks/weather damage on the
interior of the house.
In general, we are being encouraged to replace the siding, which could
use it anyway (we would pretty much have to switch to vinyl), with the
ultimate determination as to the problem waiting until the siding has
been removed. While I can see the logic to this, I'm uncomfortable
with the "open-ended" nature of the fix (not knowing what the "real"
problem is) and wonder if some of this work potentially is beyond the
expertise of those who do siding ("warping" of wood?). Thanks much
in advance for any thoughts as to what this might involve and
Get a price or be at the job, openended is right. Ck your foundation its
settled or shifted, it has probably stopped but maybe not. You will want
measuremets set into the chimney with the house you ck every 6 mo.
In my not so vast experience, you're very likely to find
rotted/damaged sheathing behind the chimney. What happened
to us was an area about ten feet wide up to the peak had to
be resheathed, a few sisters placed on top of a new piece of
footer that was added at the bottom, and new vapor barrier,
insulation, etc. installed. Rain and winter weather had
taken its toll.
The job was pretty simply actually, and relatively
straight forward to accomplish, and all done from out doors.
It wasn't necessary to disturb anything inside even though
the insulation was even pulled out and replaced. It stunk
the high heavens, too! It was left open for about three
weeks to dry everything and then closed back up and resided.
Wasn't terribly expensive, but not cheap either since it
happened to two out of three chimneys.
I guess where it could get REALLY expensive is when
sillplates, whatever they call it at the second floor level
have to be worked on. Ours were OK: somehow they were
protected & were "fine" for another hundred years, as one
guy put it.
I am mildly surprised that contractors won't tell you
approximately whaty THEY think it'll cost, based on a
straight forward job, of varying degrees. e.g. open wall,
no problem, close, open, remove, replace, etc.. My guys all
gave me four different scenarios - and their pricing was
interestingly close, enough so that I snooped during the job
to see just how well they knew each other. They didn't,
near's I could tell, so ... who knows?
I don't pretend to know how they knew what to do where,
other than what was visibly rotted or still ater soaked, but
I did think everything I watched them do made sense. It's
interesting to watch your house wall come apart like that
without the whole place collapsing! <g> Gave me a whole
new meaning for "bearing wall"!
Can't see your house from here, but it sounds like you are getting good
advice so far. If a competent mason or engineer has signed off that the
chimney stack is solid and vertical, the only conclusion is that part of the
house has moved. Not suprising that they are reluctant to quote a repair
cost before wall is opened up. You never know what the 'as built'
framing/sheathing/weather seal is like, and you never know how far the rot
has spread. But the longer you wait, the more it will cost. Just for laughs,
check your household insurance- part may be covered as weather damage. (The
framing, not the siding.) Get the contractors to run estimates based on
worst-case scenarios, of demo and replace of all wood on house that appears
to have moved. Hopefully, it won't be that bad once they open it up.
One last thought- A 'long level', typically about 4' or so, may not be long
enough to show problems with chimney stack. If you have a ladder long
enough, try using a string and plumb bob on all 4 corners and in the middle
of each face. Hang it off a notched wood block so the string is about an
inch out from the chimney. Any waves or lean will jump right out. Wait for a
calm day, and be patient till the bob stops moving by itself.
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