Whether it’s a musty or moldy smell, a soft drip-drip sound coming from the chimney, or a puddle of water at the bottom of the firebox, a leaky chimney is a problem that cannot be ignored. Left unrepaired, even minor chimney leaks can create major damage throughout your fireplace system.
Thankfully, leaky chimneys don’t have to be a chronic problem. Identifying the source of the water entry and fixing your leaky chimney as soon as possible can prevent serious water damage to your fireplace system or home.
What causes chimney leaks?
Chimneys are built to stand strong against the elements; however, there are still a number of points where water can work its way into the chimney system. The following are some of the most common causes of chimney leaks.
Chimney cap: The chimney cap protects the top of the chimney and keeps moisture, animals, and debris from falling into the chimney. A damaged chimney cap can allow water into the flue, causing damage throughout the fireplace and chimney structure.
Chimney crown: Often confused with the chimney cap, the chimney crown is a mortar slab that seals the top of the chimney. Chimney crowns should have small overhangs as well as be built with slightly sloped edges to prevent water from pooling on the top. Chimney crowns can deteriorate over time due to prolonged exposure to the elements; this creates cracks that allow moisture into the chimney.
Flashing: Flashing is the watertight metal strips that seals the joint between the chimney and the roof. Over time, flashing can lose its seal due to overexposure to the elements; flashing can also be damaged by storms or animals.
Masonry damage: Without regular maintenance, bricks and mortar can begin to deteriorate over time. The freeze thaw process – which causes water in bricks to freeze and expand – is the most common cause of water damage to masonry.
Fixing a leaky chimney
When it comes to fixing a leaky chimney, the most important step is to find and repair the cause of the chimney leak. Repairing the water damage without first removing the cause of the chimney leak will only lead to recurrent water problems. By uncovering the root cause of the chimney leak, you can rest assured that the water damage will not return once the necessary repairs have been made.
For chimneys with damaged masonry, tuckpointing may be used to repair or replace damaged bricks and mortar. During the tuckpointing process, small areas of damaged masonry are carefully removed before the new bricks and mortar are put in; this can help strengthen the chimney structure and help avoid the costs of rebuilding the entire chimney.
Another great way to prevent chimney leaks and water damage is by having your chimney waterproofed. Professionally waterproofing a chimney can seal and protect the masonry from water damage while still allowing the bricks to retain their semi-porous nature.
If you have a leaky chimney, trust the experts at Lords Chimney to repair it. Contact us today to schedule an appointment so we can help resolve your chimney leaks!
When stains appear on the sides of a chimney, many homeowners falsely assume it is a natural part of an aging chimney. Unfortunately, chimney discoloration is often more than just a simple eyesore. Chimney stains and discoloration may indicate the presence of damage or other problems. The following are five of the most common kinds – and causes – of chimney discoloration.
Black stains on interior masonry are caused by soot buildup. Soot staining is often the sign of a chimney that has not been properly cleaned or maintained. Likewise, soot stains can also be caused by burning the wrong materials, such as green wood or paper and cardboard.
While soot stains are relatively common on older masonry chimneys, gas fireplaces should never have soot stains. Soot stains, especially those around the top of the chimney, indicate that there is a problem with the gas fireplace and the fuel is not burning correctly; soot staining on gas fireplaces can sometimes indicate a carbon monoxide leak.
Brown and black staining around the chimney cap or down the sides of the chimney structure is one of the most common kinds of chimney stains. While most homeowners assume this kind of discoloration is simply staining from soot, it is typically caused by excessive creosote buildup in the flue. If a chimney is not regularly swept, creosote can build up to the point where runoff stains the top and sides of the chimney. Because creosote staining is so similar to soot staining, a chimney sweep may be needed to evaluate the difference between the two.
Green or dark green discoloration on a chimney is caused by the growth of mold and algae. This kind of green staining is most commonly seen in areas where water directly flows. Chimneys without a lip on the chimney crown may be particularly susceptible to algae or mold growth as the water travels over the masonry.
Red and brown rust stains are almost exclusively seen with prefabricated or metal chimneys. Because factory build chimneys have metal chase covers, they are prone to rusting. When this occurs, dark brown, red, and orange rust stains will begin to streak down the sides of the chimney chase. If rust staining is noticed, the chimney should be inspected immediately for signs of water damage caused by a chimney leak.
White stains on masonry structures are known as efflorescence. As water in the brick evaporates, it leaves behind mineral salt which then creates powdery white or crystalline discolorations on the masonry of the chimney. Exterior efflorescence is usually harmless and caused by ground or rain water. However, interior efflorescence may indicate the presence of a chimney leak.
Chimney stains do more than just affect your home’s curb appeal; they can also indicate the presence of a serious chimney problem. Schedule an appointment with Lords Chimney today to find out if your chimney discoloration is cosmetic or caused by something more serious.
When it comes to fireplace and chimney service, installation, and maintenance, finding the right company to work with can be hard to do. With so many businesses to choose from, it can be difficult to determine the seasoned professionals from the seasonal workers.
Although anyone with a brush and a truck might be able to call themselves a chimney sweep, few have earned the Chimney Safety Institute of America, or CSIA, certification. By hiring a certified chimney sweep, you can feel confident that you are working with a highly trained and educated professional.
Are all chimney sweeps certified?
Many homeowners mistakenly believe that all chimney sweeps are created equally. Unfortunately, there are few regulations or restrictions on the industry. Because of this, any handyman with a couple of brushes can call themselves a chimney sweep. Oftentimes, these “chimney sweeps” do little more than push around the ash and soot in your chimney, making more of a mess than actually cleaning the chimney.
In order to get the best service possible for your fireplace and chimney system, it is important to work with a CSIA certified chimney sweep. The CSIA certification is recognized as the gold standard in the industry. Chimney sweeps that hold a CSIA certification have completed extensive education, training, and testing and represent the best in the industry in terms of skill and professionalism.
In order to earn their CSIA certification, chimney sweeps must study and be tested on topics such as:
- Fireplace and chimney safety practices
- Local and national building and fire codes
- Fireplace and chimney building dynamics for wide range of units
- Installation and maintenance practices for fireplaces, inserts, and stoves
- Current EPA standards for fireplaces, inserts, and stoves
CSIA certified chimney sweeps must also stay up to date on current industry practices. Because they must retest every three years in order to maintain their certification, CSIA-certified sweeps have information on the most recent safety and technology developments and best practices in the industry.
Hiring a certified chimney sweep
Because chimney maintenance can directly impact the safety of you and your family, it is important to work with a professional that you trust. Before hiring a chimney sweep, consider asking them the following questions:
- How long has your chimney sweeping company been in business?
- Can you offer current references?
- Do you have unresolved complaints filed with any consumer protection agencies or the Better Business Bureau?
- Does the company or the individual chimney sweep carry business liability insurance policy to protect my home and furnishings against accidents?
- Will the company guarantee that a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep will be on my job site?
Don’t trust your family’s safety to the cheapest company you can find. Instead, hire a CSIA certified chimney sweep to ensure that your chimney’s maintenance and repairs are done correctly – the first time. In the Houston area, contact Lords Chimney to schedule an appointment with our CSIA certified chimney sweeps!
When it comes to chimney maintenance, most homeowners remember to clean out their fireboxes and know they need to have their chimneys swept. However, many may forget that some of the most important parts of the chimney cannot be seen from street level. One of these chimney parts that is often ignored is the chimney crown.
What is the chimney crown?
Chimney crowns are the slightly-angled slabs that surround and protect the top of the flue. Sometimes referred to as a chimney wash, the chimney crown acts as the base for the chimney cap; chimney crowns are designed to help moisture from ice, rain, or snow to flow away from the chimney structure and safely onto the roof.
What causes chimney crown damage?
There are a number of factors that can cause chimney crown damage. One of the primary causes of chimney crown damage is improper construction. Oftentimes, inexperienced contractors build the chimney crown using mortar instead of cement. Mortar, however, deteriorates much faster than concrete, especially when constantly exposed to the elements. The can cause the chimney crown to crack and spall, allowing moisture into the chimney structure.
Another major cause of chimney crown damage is long-term exposure to the elements without upkeep. Because of their location, chimney crowns take the brunt of Mother Nature’s forces; they are constantly exposed to varying temperatures as well as large amounts of moisture. These conditions can take a toll on chimney crowns, especially if it is not correctly angled. If left too flat, water and moisture can accumulate on the chimney crown and cause further damage.
Chimney crowns may also lose their watertight seal around the flue. This happens due to long term extreme temperature variations caused by fireplace use. The hot air and gas from a fire as it travels up the flue along with the cold outside air temperatures can cause the chimney crown to expand and contract, breaking the seal. This can let water into the chimney, causing even faster deterioration.
Chimney crown repairs
If your chimney is leaking, your chimney crown may be to blame. In these cases, we often recommended either repairing or rebuilding the chimney crown. The amount of repair needed will depend on the amount of damage the chimney crown has suffered.
When building or repairing a chimney crown, one of the keys is to make sure the edges extend over the sides of the chimney structure. This lip is known as a kerf and should extend at least 2-2.5 inches beyond the sides of the chimney. This acts as a rain gutter that helps water flow away from the chimney and onto the roof.
If your chimney crown only needs minor repairs, we often recommend CrownCoat, a professional waterproofing sealant that can help protect and extend the life of your chimney crown. When applied professionally, CrownCoat comes with a 15 year warranty, giving you peace of mind that this eco-friendly product will last.
Whether your chimney crown has minor damage or needs to be complete rebuilt, trust the experts at Lords Chimney to repair your chimney crown.
As the temperatures outside continue to rise, most homeowners have stopped using their fireplaces until the fall. Even though you may not be using it, don’t let your fireplace sit idle until the temperatures drop! Instead, use the summer as a time to have chimney maintenance done.
Summer is a great time to have annual chimney maintenance – including a chimney inspection – completed. By having work done now, you can start using your fireplace again in the fall with the knowledge that it is in good condition and safe to use!
Why have chimney maintenance done in the summer
Because most homeowners do not use their fireplaces during the summer, it is the perfect time of year to have chimney maintenance done. As the summer is traditionally a “slow season” due to the lack of a need for fireplace use, it is much easier to get an appointment at a convenient time with a minimal wait time. Likewise, as some masonry repairs cannot be made in cold weather have summer repairs done ensures your chimney will be ready to use all winter long.
Importance of chimney inspections
“A chimney inspection is like an annual dental check-up,” says Ashley Eldridge, Director of Education for the CSIA. “It’s preventative maintenance that helps minimize potential hazards.” A chimney inspection should be a part of your yearly fireplace maintenance. Unlike a chimney sweeping which focuses on the removal of soot, ash, and creosote, a chimney inspection focuses on the condition of your fireplace and chimney.
Levels of chimney inspection
There are three different levels of chimney inspection designated by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. A CSIA-certified chimney sweep can help advise you on what level of chimney inspection your home needs.
- Level I: A Level I chimney inspection is the simplest kind of chimney inspection and is all that is needed for most homes that receive regular fireplace and chimney maintenance. During a Level I inspection, the certified chimney sweep will visually inspect all accessible portions of the interior and exterior of the chimney for signs of deterioration or damage. If any problems are found, repairs or a more intensive inspection can be recommended.
- Level II: Level II chimney inspections are used if there has been a major change to the fireplace system, such as installing a new insert or changing fuel sources. Likewise, a Level II inspection may be recommended if you are preparing to sell your home or recently purchased a new home. This kind of chimney inspection often involves the use of technology such as closed-circuit cameras as well as accessing areas of your home such as attics, basements, or crawl spaces.
- Level III: A Level III chimney inspection is the most in-depth – and most invasive – type of chimney inspection. For this reason they are only recommended in cases where serious structural damage is suspected, such as after an earthquake, chimney fire, or other natural disaster. During a Level III chimney inspection, portions of the chimney structure may need to be removed in order to better access areas of damage.
This year, don’t wait until fall to schedule your chimney inspection. Instead, have your chimney maintenance done during your fireplace’s summer downtime! Call Lord’s Chimney today to schedule your summer chimney inspection and help your fireplace be ready for fall!