Is Your Chimney Leaking? Call Lords Chimney Now
Over the years, we’ve witnessed some great rivalries that have led to epic battles and intense debate: Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi, Crest vs. Colgate, Nike vs. Reebok, Ford vs. Chevy, chimneys vs. water…
Okay, that last one might seem a little overdramatic, but it’s true! Water is your chimney’s great enemy, and it can cause a lot of damage if your chimney is left vulnerable. That’s right – in this rivalry, chimneys are the underdog in the fight.
But there’s good news. Chimney maintenance has come a long way and there are several options that can protect your chimney against water damage. At Lords Chimney, we consider ourselves the go-to experts in chimney leak repair services. If you’re a resident in the Houston or Beaumont area and water is getting into your chimney somehow, give us a call at 281-497-4000 or schedule an appointment online. We can find the entry point and fix the leak. In fact, we have yet to encounter a leak that we haven’t been able to resolve.
Why Is Water So Bad for Chimneys?
Brick is one of the most-used materials for traditional masonry fireplaces and chimneys. Brick – especially firebrick – can withstand extreme temperatures that come with burning a wood fire. But there’s a downside to brick. It’s naturally porous, meaning it absorbs and holds water. And since your chimney is exposed to nature on a constant basis, it’s going to take on water in the form of rain, snow, and sleet.
Okay, whatever. Water gets into my chimney… What’s the worst that can happen?
We’re glad you asked. Water looks harmless. We need it to survive, so it can’t be that destructive, can it? Well, it can be devastatingly destructive to chimneys. These are a few ways water can wreak havoc on your chimney system:
- Material Breakdowns: When water enters the chimney, it can mix with soot and creosote deposits from burning fires. This mixture can create acidic mixtures that can cause your chimney to deteriorate faster.
- The Freeze/Thaw Cycle: When water is trapped in brick, it freezes as temperatures drop overnight. The next day, the ice melts under sunlight. As this process repeats, bricks can start to shift causing gaps to form in mortar joints. The result is spalling brick that can impact your chimney’s structural soundness.
- Rust & Corrosion: Water can cause the various parts of your chimney to break down, rust, and corrode. If a few components are compromised, it won’t be long until the rest of your system starts operating inefficiently, potentially putting your household at risk.
- Efflorescence: Water can bring salts from the masonry to the surface of the brick. As the water evaporates, it leaves behind white or grayish deposits called efflorescence. These deposits are a sign of water intrusion and can indicate ongoing moisture-related damage. Brick will begin to chip and flake if efflorescence isn’t treated.
- Mold, Mildew & Vegetation: The smell of a musty fireplace could be a sign that mold and mildew have started to grow in your chimney. Moisture is the primary cause of mold and mildew and both can be dangerous to your respiratory health. The growth of vegetation isn’t as hazardous as mold or mildew, but it is evidence of water entry. It’s important to note that mold, mildew, and vegetation don’t sprout overnight. This could suggest that you’ve had an ongoing leak for quite some time.
What about prefabricated (prefab) chimneys?
Now, if you operate a prefabricated chimney, you may think water issues won’t be as big of a deal for you. Prefab chimneys aren’t built with brick and mortar, and instead use sheet metal like stainless steel and galvanized steel, so… No brick, no problems, right?
You’re not out of the woods just yet. Stainless steel is naturally corrosion-resistant, but it is not immune to rust which is caused by… you guessed it – water. Galvanized steel is about the same, but has even less corrosion-resistant properties than its stainless steel counterpart.
My Chimney Leaks When It Rains… Is That Normal?
The short answer is no, it’s not normal for your chimney to leak when it rains. Even during torrential, apocalyptic downpours, your chimney should be able to hold up. If water is getting in, that means something in your chimney system is failing or missing.
Think about the time an acorn fell and chipped your car’s windshield. It didn’t seem that bad at first, so you put off fixing it. But the more you drove around and hit speed bumps and potholes, the more the crack started to spread until it took over your whole view. What would have been an easy fix has now become an entire windshield replacement.
Chimney leaks can be gradual in that same way. What initially seems like a minor inconvenience every once and a while can become a serious and expensive problem that needs immediate intervention. The truth is, most homeowners don’t know they have a chimney leak until it’s too late and repair costs start to pile up. An annual chimney inspection can help alleviate those concerns and uncover potential weak spots for water entry.
What Causes Chimney Leaks?
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to chimney maintenance. Leaks can happen for several reasons. However, there are a few usual suspects we’ll investigate during an inspection:
Masonry problems. Many people don’t realize how vulnerable bricks and mortar are to rainwater and other elements. However, because bricks and mortar are porous, cracks in the bricks or mortar can allow water to seep into the chimney. This can cause aesthetic damage like spalling – which is when the face of the brick pops off – and require that you have bricks replaced. However, you may also find that this leaking has caused more serious problems and compromised the integrity of your chimney liner.
Flashing problems. Flashing is the metal banding that wraps around the part of your chimney that meets with your roof. It’s designed to keep a watertight seal at this critical joint. But we find that flashing can become faulty for many reasons – like perhaps it wasn’t installed by a chimney professional, or perhaps it is just old and outdated. Rusty nail holes in the flashing, in particular, can become places for water to gain entry.
Cracks in the crown. Your chimney crown is the mortar or concrete cap at the very top of your chimney that protects it from water and other offenders. Chimney crowns are designed to direct water down and off of your chimney and onto your roof. A cracked crown may be doing just the opposite.
Lack of a chimney cap or cover. If your chimney isn’t fitted with a properly-sized chimney cap, you may as well be inviting water damage and home repair bills into your life. These components also keep out animals, outside debris, and downdrafts as well – a worthwhile investment all around.
No waterproofing. Waterproofing is a professional service that involves spraying your chimney with a water-resistant sealant. Without waterproofing, your chimney lacks a basic first line of protection against moisture and will take in tons of water.
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What Are The Signs of a Leaking Chimney?
As we mentioned earlier, signs of water damage in chimneys don’t usually show up until it’s in its later stages. Annual chimney inspections are your best bet for catching leaks early, but it is possible for something to happen in between inspections. If you notice any of the following, reach out to Lords Chimney.
- The sound of dripping water in your fireplace and/or chimney
- A musty odor coming from your fireplace
- Leaks or water stains on the ceiling and walls near your chimney
- Walls and ceilings that are damp to the touch or have peeling paint
- Clogs or buildup in the flue
- Condensation on the walls of the firebox
- Puddles of water in the firebox
- Mold, mildew, or vegetation growth which can appear as green or black stains
- Signs of discoloration like efflorescence
- Spalling, cracking, or chipping bricks
- Woodwork near your chimney that is soggy or rotting
- Metals parts that are rusting and/or corroding
- Crumbling or flaking mortar
- Damage to the flue liner
What Can Happen if I Don’t Fix My Chimney Leak?
Chimneys are the unsung heroes of home life. Everyone likes to gather around the fireplace on holidays or cold and rainy days, but on most days, chimneys are out of sight and out of mind. That said, if you suspect you have a chimney leak and try to hold off on fixing it – or keep pushing it down your to-do list – you will end up regretting that decision.
A lot can go awry in a neglected chimney and those issues only get worse if the chimney in question has water damage. What can go wrong because of a leaky chimney?
- Damage inside your home: Water leaking into the chimney can find its way into your home’s interior walls and ceilings. This can result in water stains, peeling paint or wallpaper, and damage to any nearby furniture and keepsakes.
- Mold and mildew growth: We’ve touched on this a few times already, but the threat of mold and mildew can’t be overstated. Moisture from a leaky chimney creates the perfect environment for mold and mildew to thrive and hurt your home’s air quality – which means you and your loved ones are at an increased risk of upper respiratory illness.
- Flue liner deterioration: If your chimney has a flue liner made of clay, metal, or other materials, a leak can cause damage and affect its ability to contain heat and redirect harmful combustion byproducts like carbon monoxide out of your home. A damaged flue liner needs to be replaced and repaired as soon as possible.
- Increased risk of fire: As water physically destroys areas of your chimney system, cracks and gaps in the chimney structure can allow heat to escape and ignite nearby woodwork or combustible materials.
- A decrease in efficiency: A leaky chimney will not work as well as it should. You may notice you’re having a harder time starting and/or maintaining a fire, and then not getting as much heat as you should once things get going.
- Lowered property value: If you have plans to sell your home in the future, a chimney that hasn’t been maintained can impact your ability to close a deal. A lot of buyers ask for a real estate chimney inspection before going through with a purchase, and if your chimney can’t pass the mark, you could cost yourself a sale.
- Structural damage: This is the big one. Water is highly destructive to brick and mortar. If a leak is suspected but goes untreated, the water can cause bricks and mortar to deteriorate over time. This can weaken the chimney’s structure, leading to cracks, crumbling, and even a collapse.
How Do I Prevent Chimney Leaks?
Now that we’ve given all of the worst-case scenarios, we can give you the silver lining. With the right combination of regular chimney inspections, sweepings, and routine maintenance work, you can stop chimney leaks before they start. Lords Chimney offers a slate of services with chimney leaks in mind. Whether you’re in the prevention market or you need a leak fixed, we’re the right team for you.
- Don’t slack on annual inspections. An inspection by a technician certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) is the simplest and most straightforward way to see what’s going on inside your chimney. You can also schedule your chimney sweeping at the same time and get it all taken care of over a weekend.
- A chimney cap is a good start. Your chimney has an opening to allow smoke, fumes, and toxins to exit your home safely. This seems like a bit of a flaw (albeit a necessary one) in its design because a big hole at the top of your chimney is an easy way for water to get into it. A cap is a metal piece that closes that opening to prevent water, debris, and animals from getting into the chimney, while still allowing all that smoke out.
- Invest in a chimney crown or chase top (cover). The chimney crown is a slab of concrete (sometimes mortar) at the very top of your chimney that protects it from water, animals, and debris. A good chimney crown should taper off at the edges so that water is diverted down and away from your chimney and onto your roof. A chase top is similar to a crown, but it is made of metal and used mainly for prefab chimneys.
- Have a professional install flashing. Ah, the vulnerable area where your chimney and roof meet… This stretch is hard to seal completely because roofs and chimneys are usually made from different materials, so it’s prone to have openings for water to enter. Flashing is layers of metal that are placed over this section to protect it from water.
- Ask your chimney technician about a chimney cricket. Not all homes require a chimney cricket. If your chimney is wider than 30 inches, ask one of our sweeps about having a cricket installed. A chimney cricket is like a miniature peaked roof that sits just behind your chimney, and it prevents water from pooling, redirecting back down to your roof.
- Don’t delay repair work. If you’re in between annual inspections but think something may be wrong, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’ll send one of our sweeps out to investigate and resolve the problem before it gets worse.
Don’t Forget Waterproofing
A leaky chimney can be extremely problematic and damaging, so we recommend that our customers take preventive measures to keep water out of their chimneys from the get-go. One of the easiest ways to let water know it’s not invited inside of your chimney is to have a water repellent professionally applied to the exterior of the structure. Lords Chimney is proud to use ChimneySaver, which is a proven and trusted solution in the chimney industry, keeping water out for the long haul.
What does waterproofing do?
- Blocks water absorption in your brick and mortar
- Keeps your brick and mortar from cracking, spalling, and/or gapping
- Protects your masonry from unsightly discoloration
- Allows your brick and mortar to “breathe” and release water vapors
- Prevents damage that normally occurs following a freeze/thaw cycle
Why is ChimneySaver so highly esteemed?
Lords Chimney exclusively uses ChimneySaver to waterproof our customers’ chimneys. This is a breathable waterproofing substance that we spray onto the exterior of the chimney to stop leaks.
ChimneySaver is a water repellent that penetrates masonry to protect it from destructive water penetration. It also contains patented siloxanes small enough to penetrate most masonry pores, which allows them to form strong bonds with the silica in masonry and concrete. Because of this bonding process, one application of ChimneySaver provides up to 10x the water-repellent protection of typical sealers.
ChimneySaver is 100% breathable and vapor-permeable. It’s also a non-film-forming water-repellent that penetrates and lines masonry pores. Unlike simple sealers, it releases otherwise trapped water vapors and effectively reduces water absorption. This means water vapors escape from the masonry, preventing deterioration, freeze/thaw damage, spalling, scaling, and the need for expensive masonry reconstruction.
How Much Does It Cost To Fix a Leaky Chimney?
We know it’s not the answer you’re looking for, but it’s hard to say how much it can cost to fix a leaky chimney before one of our chimney technicians can get in there and see what’s going on. We’d have to determine how and where water has infiltrated your chimney, how much damage it’s caused, and if any chimney parts need to be repaired or replaced before we can give you an estimate.
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Are Chimney Leaks Covered by Homeowners Insurance?
Your homeowners insurance policy may cover chimney leak damage, but payouts usually only happen under specific circumstances. Most policies state that the insurance company will only cover water-damaged chimneys in the case of extreme weather events. Unless your property was damaged during a severe flood, hurricane, tornado, blizzard (not likely here in the Houston area, but you never know), or other similar weather condition, you can’t count on your insurance company to fund the repair work.
And you should keep in mind that your insurance company may still require you to show proof that you’ve maintained your chimney even if it was damaged during a natural disaster. This is why we strongly advise our customers to keep up with yearly inspections and sweepings and to take care of repairs quickly. Hold on to receipts, too, and any documentation we give you – you never know when you might need it!
Take Care of That Leaky Chimney – Schedule With Lords ChimneyIf you walk by your chimney and get a whiff of something musty, or if you start to see water pooling in the bottom of your firebox, don’t wait for a simple leak to become a full-on headache. Call Lords Chimney at 281-497-4000 or schedule an appointment online with us now.
We’re the best in the business when dealing with leaks and we can get your chimney back up and running in no time. If you don’t fall directly within our service area, ask one of our customer service representatives and we may be able to arrange to come to you for an additional fee. Thanks for trusting us.