The chimney is designed to safely and efficiently expel the smoke, soot, and gases to keep your home and family safe while using the fireplace. When the chimney or its components are damaged, it can increase the risk of fire or exposure to carbon monoxide fumes. It can also cause more extensive chimney repairs. With that in mind, here are six chimney repairs that homeowners shouldn’t ignore.
Regular chimney sweeping is essential for fire prevention. Creosote is a combustion by-product that hardens into a dark, tarry, and flammable material that continues to accumulate in the chimney with every burn. There are thousands of fires in homes every winter due to excessive creosote in the chimney. Although it is most prevalent in wood-burning fireplaces, the sticky residue also occurs in gas fireplaces. An accumulation of 1/8″ or more of creosote is hazardous and should be removed, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA).
Without a chimney cap, rain and snow can enter the exposed flue and soak the chimney and fireplace. Small animals, pests, and debris can also block the flue obstructing the venting of dangerous fumes. The decaying organic matter can cause foul odors. Since water can be very destructive to chimneys, addressing a broken or missing chimney cap as soon as possible will help prevent water damage. It will also help stop small animals and debris from obstructing the flue vent.
The chimney liner is a vital safety component that helps protect the masonry and prevent the high temperatures in the fireplace from spreading to combustible building materials. Normal wear and tear, moisture, and corrosion can damage the flue tiles causing them to crack. A chimney fire can also cause severe damage to the chimney liner. Since cracks in the chimney liner significantly increase the risk of fire and exposure to carbon monoxide gas, it should be repaired or relined right away.
The cement chimney crown is the top of a masonry chimney. Its sloping design sheds moisture away from the chimney. Age, settling, and weather conditions cause cracks to develop on the cement surface, allowing water to leak in the chimney that can damage the masonry and chimney liner making your fireplace unsafe to operate. Since small cracks in the chimney crown can cause extensive water damage to the structure, it’s a type of repair that must be addressed as soon as possible.
The damper is an iron or metal device that regulates airflow in the chimney. It forms an airtight seal when shut to prevent energy loss when you’re not using the fireplace. Creosote, warping, rust, and corrosion can inhibit its operation. A faulty damper that doesn’t shut completely is like having an open window. Repairing or replacing a damaged damper as soon as possible increases energy efficiency and reduces heating and cooling costs.
The chimney flashing is the sheet metal that covers the seam between the chimney and roof. When the flashing is damaged, usually due to corrosion, rust, or warping, water will leak through the gaps. Noticing water stains around the walls and ceiling near the fireplace is often a sign that the flashing may need repair or replacement. It is necessary to address flashing repairs quickly before it results in more extensive damage to the attic and roof.
The constant exposure to wintry weather conditions can accelerate the normal wear and tear of masonry chimneys that can cause bricks to crack and gaps in the mortar joints. It can also expose the chimney to water leaks. Making brick repairs as soon as possible can help prevent more extensive damage. Efflorescence or white stains that cover the brick surface is often the first sign of water damage. It occurs when water penetrates deep within the bricks, drawing the salts in the clay material to the surface. Making necessary masonry repairs early will prevent more expensive repairs later. After making the brick repairs, waterproofing can help protect the masonry from further moisture intrusion.
The continuous exposure to rain and snow can damage the brick masonry resulting in white powdery stains appearing on the brick surface. These white stains or efflorescence occur when moisture absorbed in the bricks draws out the salt deposits deep within the clay material. Since efflorescence is a sign of water damage, it requires immediate attention to prevent further masonry damage. When the absorbed moisture freezes and thaws in the winter, the water damage will worsen, causing bricks to crack and gaps in the mortar joints. Entire pieces of brick can become loose and separate from the chimney, weakening the structure that could lead to a complete or partial collapse.