When European immigrants brought English ivy plants over to the new United States over 200 years ago, they had no idea how aggressive and invasive it would become. The popularity of this plant boomed because it was a good-looking groundcover that grew quickly and needed very little maintenance. However, English ivy soon turned into too much of a good thing. Not only can this plant damage trees by preventing leaf access to sunlight and moisture, but this type of ivy can also cause major problems with structures, including chimneys. At Fireplace Service Company, we totally understand that some people love the look of English ivy growing up their chimneys, but we want to inform you of the damage it can do to a masonry chimney. We would like to tell you more about how English ivy can cause you problems with the structure of your chimney.
What is English ivy?
With dark-to-bright green leaves which can have a white or silver variance, English ivy is spread through cuttings as well as excretion from birds and wildlife. It grows with twining tendrils and clusters of roots along the stems. These stems discharge a sticky liquid that allows the plant to climb up trees along with brick, masonry, and wood walls. According to the San Francisco Gate, well-established plants can have stems that can grow over an inch in thickness. In fact, the Plant Conservation Alliance has reported English ivy vines with a diameter of over a foot!
How can English ivy damage my chimney?
You do not usually need to worry if your chimney is well-built with no spalling damage of cracked, loose, and missing bricks and mortar joints. However, if your home was built before 1930, you may have a problem if English ivy is growing on your chimney. The durable Portland cement was not available to use in masonry construction until after that year, so earlier houses were built with weaker mortar that can easily erode over time. However, please, do not pull this plant away from your chimney to look for masonry damage. This is how chimneys can be severely damaged because the ivy grows into any cracks in masonry structures. If you pull the ivy away, you could very well take your chimney down with it. If you do live in an older home and have English ivy climbing up your chimney, give us a call at Fireplace Service Company so that we can safely inspect the exterior of your chimney for any damage.
What other problems can English ivy cause?
When this plant is growing on your chimney, it hides any cracked, loose, or missing bricks and mortar that could be present. It can be impossible to see through, and as we mentioned earlier, you do not want to pull it away to check out the condition of the masonry chimney. English ivy growth can also make it difficult to maintain your chimney as best as you should. If you like the look of greenery growing up your chimney, we recommend you build some sort of support system, like a trellis, that can be easily moved without worries of bringing down the entire chimney.
Questions about English ivy? Contact us at Fireplace Service Company to get your answers. We can also make recommendations of less aggressively-growing climbing vines that you might want to plant instead.