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A case of severe spalling. Spalling is the process by which bricks or other porous materials break down and flake away due to water intrusion combined with the freeze-thaw cycle. This could have been avoided by applying waterproofing before the spalling starts.
This is what the same spalling process looks like when it occurs in a concrete block chimney. Here's a great article about the process......https://orf.od.nih.gov/TechnicalResources/Documents/Technical%20Bulletins/19TB/The%20Freeze-Thaw%20Cycle%20in%20Concrete%20and%20Brick%20Assemblies%20January%202019-Technical%20Bulletin_508.pdf
The solution to spalling? We use Watertite. What is Watertite? Watertite is a VOC-compliant emulsion with a 12-year warranty. Heres a bit more information about the product which costs $6-$10 per square foot including labor and materials. http://www.newenglandchimneysupply.com/#/catalog/product?id=22001
Spalling doesn't only occur outside a chimney. With no cap for protection, water can get into the chimney allowing the spalling process to begin in the tiles of the chimney. Tiles can also break down from caustic fumes produced by oil furnaces. In this picture we can actually see light through where the clay liner meets the brick. This is extremely dangerous in the event of a chimney fire as the fire can escape through this opening. We also see brick with no liner which isn't to code.
This was a tile bust out to accommodate a liner. However, this is also what broken tiles from spalling and cracking look like when they fall into the cleanout door area.
Here we can see another chimney with severe spalling. This one also has minor debris inside due to the lack of a cap. Also note that there is a severe offset where the chimney tiles don't match up. This is very dangerous as it allows fire to exit the chimney and enter the structure of the home in the event of a chimney fire.