When discussing when to have their chimneys inspected, most homeowners know that they need to have an inspection done if their home has been affected by a major natural disaster such as a tornado, house fire, or earthquake. However, many fail to realize that even minor seismic activity can damage their chimney structures.

Although you may think of California as the only part of the United States to be affected by earthquakes, more and more seismic events are occurring in the rest of the country. With fault lines crisscrossing the country, there is the potential for both major and minor seismic activity in the Midwest.


Earthquakes in Memphis?

The San Andreas Fault line might be the most famous in the United States, but it is far from being the only fault line in our country. In the Midwest, we are most affected by the New Madrid fault line. This fault line runs from Saint Louis to Memphis, affecting more than 15 million people in an 8 state range.

The New Madrid fault line is most famous for a series of quakes between 1811 and 1812, the most severe of which even caused the Mississippi River to flow backwards. While the fault line has not caused a major quake in more than 200 years, it is responsible for small amounts of seismic activity each year.

“We have about 200 small earthquakes per year that we record,” said Gary Patterson of the University of Memphis Center for Earthquake Research and Information. “Compared to California, you’re getting two to three thousand smaller quakes like that, but for eastern North America, this is a hot spot, the most active seismic area east of the Rockies in the United States.”

According to a 2009 report by the US Geological Survey, Memphis could be particularly vulnerable to any major seismic activity. “Memphis has an aging infrastructure,” the report states, “and many of its large buildings, including unreinforced schools and fire and police stations, would be particularly vulnerable when subjected to severe ground shaking.”

How does seismic activity affect my chimney?

Your chimney structure may be damaged during even a minor earthquake. The shaking of the ground and of your home may cause the masonry to crack or crumble. This leaves your chimney vulnerable to further damage, including detaching from the home or toppling over. To prevent this from happening, homeowners should ensure that their chimneys are adequately braced. Metal straps should be placed to connect the chimney to other structural parts of the home such as the ceiling, floor, and roof joists.

Likewise, having an annual chimney inspection is an important part of detecting any masonry damage caused by seismic activity. Trained technicians will inspect the interior and exterior of your fireplace and chimney structure for signs of damage, including cracks that are dime-sized or larger or areas of masonry that crumble when scraped with a metal tool.

If you suspect that your chimney may have been damaged by minor seismic activity or have significant damage to the masonry of your chimney structure, contact Coopertown Services today. Our expert staff can inspect and evaluate the overall health and safety of your fireplace and chimney system, eliminating potential safety hazards and saving you money on costly future repairs!