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4 Common Problems with Chimneys in the Winter

Chimney problems happen most often in the colder months for two reasons: First, chimneys get a lot more use, which can lead to damage and malfunction; second, cold and rainy winter weather takes its toll on chimney structures and their components. Fortunately, there are solutions to every kind of chimney problem. Here are some points to consider.

chimney brick & mortar repair, christiana tnMasonry damage

Old age can be responsible for the deterioration of bricks and mortar in a chimney. Other causes that are common during the winter months include:

  • Freeze-thaw cycles, wherein water seeps into small cracks in bricks, freezes, expands and causes ongoing masonry damage
  • Heavy rain and snow, a particular problem if there are compromises within the masonry
  • Pounding hail storms and lightning strikes
  • Fierce wind events

Damaged chimneys keep getting worse, so it’s a smart idea to have your system properly inspected once a year. This way you can get on top of early signs of problems before they become major.


Chimney fires

Chimney fires happen more often than people think. You’ll always know when a dramatic fire is burning, but many chimney fires are relatively “small” and start and go out on their own.

The majority of chimney fires are caused by excess creosote – a byproduct of smoke from wood fires – igniting in the flue.

Every type of chimney fire can cause damage to the chimney liner, interior masonry and adjacent building materials of the home.

Flue obstructions & drafting issues

Creosote buildup is a common flue obstruction during the winter, and so is outside debris and the nesting materials of birds, squirrels and other small animals.

A narrowed flue passage won’t allow smoke to draft efficiently, sending it and dangerous carbon monoxide into your living spaces. Keep in mind that carbon monoxide – unlike smoke – can’t be seen or smelled but is potentially deadly. Make sure you have a working CO monitor near your fireplace to alert you of unsafe CO levels.

A well-fitted chimney cap solves the problem of debris entering your chimney from the outside. Simple flue covers block the opening to the flue; full-width chimney caps block the flue opening as well as the entire top of the chimney including the vulnerable concrete chimney crown.

Chimney leaks

chimney cap installation, suwanee tnLeaky chimneys are a big problem during the winter, particularly when a chimney hasn’t been inspected regularly and maintained correctly. Chimney leaks are defined as any cause that allows moisture into your chimney system. Common causes can include:

  • Deteriorated masonry
  • Damaged or missing chimney cap
  • Cracked chimney crown
  • Warped or missing chimney flashing

Once a chimney starts leaking, severe damage likely is on the way. Watch for these signs of a leaky chimney:

  • Water in the firebox
  • Strong, musty odors coming from the fireplace
  • Similar odors in the attic and crawl spaces
  • White staining on the exterior masonry (means water is getting into the bricks)
  • Damp patches of walls or the ceiling near the fireplace

Solving winter chimney issues

If you know or suspect your chimney is experiencing any of the above problems or other problems, call a local chimney repair and inspection company. The first step in dealing with winter chimney issues is an inspection, which will tell you exactly what needs to be done to solve the problem.

A1 Chimney Specialist provides licensed chimney inspections, chimney cleaning and all types of chimney repair and rebuilding work. In Winchester, TN, call (931) 967-3595. If you live in or around Huntsville, AL, reach us at (256) 285-4895.