On May 18th, 2016 I went to Mrs. Irshad’s home in Silver Spring, MD to give her an estimate to fix a brick chimney that was leaking. Her wood burning fireplace was working fine. However, the brick chimney was leaking. Before my visit, she had two other companies attempt to repair the chimney who were unsuccessful. As she tried to contact the other companies to tell them that the chimney was still leaking, they brushed her off and never came back to address her issues. As a result, she had paid for repairs and her chimney still leaks every time it rains. When I arrived that day, she was very skeptical and didn’t think I would be able to help her, and I don’t blame her for feeling that since two other companies burned her before my visit. This job reminded me of a chimney repair job that we did in Potomac, MD earlier this year.
After introducing myself I asked where the leak was coming in, and she showed me that the water would leak in her garage from the ceiling. Then I asked what the previous companies had done to try to fix the problem and let me just say that some people have no business doing this type of work. I feel bad for Mrs. Irshad because she spent her money with these companies to fix a problem and once they got paid to do the repairs which weren’t even proper fixes they never came back to help her address the leak.
The first thing I did to evaluate the leak was pulling out my hose and perform a water test on the flashing. I was already pretty sure that the flashing was the issue based on where the leak was coming from. Leaking flashing is one of the common causes of chimney leaks. Based on the water test I was able to confirm that the leak was coming from the flashing. At that point I was 100% confident that the job required chimney flashing repair. This also reassured Mrs. Irshad that the flashing was indeed the source of the problem and made her feel a lot more comfortable about the repairs I recommended. Here are some pictures of the job from start to finish.
This is during the site visit where I water tested the flashing and found out it was the source of the leak.
The other companies tried to fix the problem by applying silicone over the old seals on the counter flashing.
They also decided to put painters tape on the roof and siding and tar over it. This is just a horrible attempt at fixing the problem. It shows that this person had no idea what he was doing. The issue was actually where the arrow is, for some reason it was missing flashing in that area.
Once I removed the tar and blue tape, I found that the inside corner was missing flashing. The customer told me that when they applied the tar, it slowed the leak down a little bit which makes sense since it was missing flashing.
We removed the shingles and both the counter and base flashing. We then installed tar paper and new base flashing and shingles.
Here we have the base flashing and shingles installed.
This is the finished product we installed the counter flashing into the mortar joints and then sealed it. We’ve had some heavy rains since the repairs were made and Mrs. Irshad has had no leaks since!
We were contacted by Mr. & Mrs. Vincent because they wanted to install a gas fireplace insert into the existing fireplace of their home. The existing fireplace is original to the house which dates back to 1900-1920’s and is no longer functional as a wood burning fireplace. After considering how easy it is to maintain a gas fireplace and these additional benefits of gas, they decided not to install another wood burning fireplace. One of the requests made by the homeowners was to use the existing mantel with the new fireplace, which is why we ended up with the Enviro Q1 gas fireplace insert. We had recently installed the same unit in a home in Silver Spring, MD. This unit can be used as a gas fireplace or an insert…, this was perfect for this situation.
Let’s take a look at how the fireplace was installed.
Before we started the fireplace installation
The first thing we did was clear the work area, set our drop cloths, then removed the mantel and set it aside.
This is what was underneath the Durock and marble.
We took out the bricks to make room for the new hearth support.
We installed the new hearth support by securing it to the existing floor joists.
We then installed 1/2″ sheathing and had the gas line and electric ran on the back left of the fireplace.
On top of the sheathing, we installed two pieces of 1/2″ Micore and Hardibacker to meet the required 2.27 minimum R value for the hearth. This is the first layer of Micore.
This is the 2nd layer of Micore.
This is the layer of Hardibacker.
This is the new slate hearth on top. The floor on the house was level left to right, but it was slightly off level front to back (not bad for a house that’s nearly 100 years old!)
Here we have cut back the drywall and are dry fitting the slate surround to go around the fireplace.
Slate surround installed and ready for the mantel to go back on!
Finished Fireplace Installation
Here is the finished product! We reinstalled the mantel and installed trim around the slate hearth. *The flame is blue because this picture was taken within the first few seconds that the fireplace was turned on, it turns orange after a few minutes.
You can see images of other fireplace installation and chimney repair projects here.
Related Articles about Fireplace Installation
We were contacted by Mr. Paige of Baltimore, MD because he wanted to install a gas fireplace in his townhome. He had several other companies that told him it was not possible because of the venting configuration and recommended he go with an electric fireplace instead. The customer was aware of the reasons to install a gas fireplace. However, they were losing hope that he would be able to get the gas fireplace he wanted. When I came out for the site visit, we looked at the area where he wanted the fireplace, and checked the levels above and found that there was a way to vent the fireplace vertically through the closet upstairs and the attic. Needless to say, he was happy that we were a creative chimney and fireplace company that could find a way to get him what he wanted. We then went over his options for the gas fireplace and gave him a rough sketch of how the fireplace would be installed and the cabinets to be built around it. We referred him to a friend to do the cabinets. Let’s take a look at the steps taken for the fireplace installation.
Preparation and planning for the gas fireplace installation
This is the space where the customer wanted to install the gas fireplace. It’s on the second floor of a three story townhome.
This is the closet where the vent would have to pass through. They were willing to give up a little closet space for the fireplace they wanted.
During the site visit, I looked over the area thoroughly and found that we would be able to pass the venting between the floor joist in the closet and up the through the attic.
Once I determined that the gas fireplace installation was possible, I gave the customer this rough sketch of how fireplace would look with the cabinets built around it and the TV mounted above it and he approved the design.
Once he approved the design we went over the plans with the carpenter and we mapped out the footprint of the fireplace and cabinets.
During the fireplace installation
The first thing we did when we started the installation was determining where the venting was going to go and installed the fire-stops.
This is the view looking down at the closet fire-stop from the attic fire-stop.
Once we installed the flashing on the roof we were able to start installing the venting.
This is the venting going through the closet.
This is the venting going through the attic with an attic insulation shield installed to prevent the insulation from making contact with the vent pipe.
This is the venting being terminated on the roof. We installed a high wind termination cap and sealed the storm collar.
This is the enclosure in the closet hiding the chimney vent. (not finished).
These are some pictures of the clearances being maintained from the vent pipe to the combustibles. Proper measurement is important.
Here we were dry fitting the slate hearth and surround once the fireplace and venting were set. One of the issues we faced was that the floor was off level, so we had to shim up the right side of the fireplace and hearth.
After fireplace has been installed
This was our last day on the job, installing the slate. From here on it was the carpenter and the electrician working on getting things finished.
Completed fireplace installation with cabinets.
Everything is pretty much done. There are a few minor things to be done with the cabinets but for the most part, it is done.
Here is a picture the homeowners sent me as they were enjoying their new gas fireplace and TV. The carpenter did a great job putting together the finishing touches, and everything looks like it was original to the house which is exactly what our goal was. We did not want this to seem like an afterthought.
We recently provided chimney repair services in Silver Spring, MD on a home with a chimney leak. This time of year we encounter more chimney leaks than during the drier season. It’s common to have your chimney develop some leaks. The scariest part of it is that you can have a chimney leak without realizing it. Unknown leaks can lead to potential hazards and costly repairs if left untreated, so it’s important to have a regular chimney sweep and inspection done by a certified chimney repair company. Some types of chimney leaks are not as dangerous, but they still cause damage to your home because moisture gets where it should not be. Here is a short list of the most common causes of chimney leaks:
No cap or cover on the chimney
A chimney that is open to the sky lets rain and snow fall inside and cause that wet campfire smell to permeate the room. It also gives animals and birds opportunities to build nests. Things pile up, and your chimney could be blocked, leaking carbon monoxide into the ho
Damage to the chimney crown
That sloped layer of concrete, the chimney crown, is what keeps water from damaging the mortar in the bricks beneath it. It also seals the gap between the liner and the outside chimney. When it has little cracks, the freeze-thaw effect makes those cracks grow bigger. It’s like losing shingles on the roof. If your crown is damaged, there will be leaks. We witnessed this problem with a chimney repair project in Ellicott City, MD Be sure to read this article on repairing chimney crown cement.
Deteriorated or improperly build chimney shoulder
The shoulder of the stack, the sloped area on the stack where it transitions from a broad base to narrow, is a common area where the masonry deteriorates and is the cause of leaks, or it is just not constructed well enough to hold off rain and snow. Here is an example of a chimney in Columbia, MD that was poorly constructed resulting in leaks. Often it is built without a proper pitch to allow the water to run off, and as a result, it soaks and leaks its way into the chimney.
Deteriorating mortar & masonry
The Chimney Safety Institute of America says water and your masonry chimney is a dangerous mix. The result of prolonged water contact rusts metals in the stack structure, and the porous masonry holds water that allows mold in warm situations and the freeze-thaw effect when it’s cold breaks down the integrity of your building. We frequently see this problem when doing chimney repairs in Washington DC.
The flashing is supposed to be the flexible connection between your chimney and roof that lets each side expand or contract without making a gap between them. If the flashing needs to be repaired or replaced, you will see leaks around the chimney. This is a common problem in Washington DC.
Rusted chase cover
Often when the builders install prefabricated fireplaces, they will install a galvanized chase cover which sits flat on top of the chase. When snow sits on top of it, it weighs it down and allows water to puddle up causing the galvanize chase cover to rust out and allow water to leak into the house. A certified chimney repair company can install a new stainless steel chase cover which won’t rust and is pitched to allow the water to run off.
The wrong chimney liner
Your chimney liner must be sized based on the appliance it’s serving, if the flue is too big for the device(s), the flue gasses will condensate. For wood burning appliances, this means excessive creosote build up which can lead to chimney fires and for gas appliances this means moisture build up in the flue system which can cause the masonry to deteriorate and cause the moisture to leak out into the house. A certified chimney repair company can reline your chimney with the right size liner.
You need a chimney cricket
“Cricket” is the term for a water deflector that is installed where the roof rises from the chimney. It is an excellent idea for a steep roof or chimneys more than 30 inches wide. As the rain runs down the roof toward the chimney, the cricket moves the water to the sides and on down to the gutter.
There’s a clog in your chimney
Leaky chimneys can cause moisture damage to the point that bricks fall into the chimney and clog it up (commonly seen in older homes that are not lined) or an animal builds a nest in the chimney clogging it up. Whatever the case maybe, if the chimney is clogged there is a problem with the airflow, which could result in no heat and hot water or a more severe type of leak — carbon monoxide.
So how do you keep these causes of chimney leakage from causing trouble? By making sure, you have a regular chimney inspection by a reputable chimney repair company. That way, the source of the leak is identified by the people who know what the problem is and can fix it. No matter what kind of leak you have in your chimney, letting it continue to be there guarantees your problem will get worse.
Welcome to part 3 of our chimney repair series dealing with chimney crowns. In parts 1 of the chimney crown series we discussed crown sealing. Part 2 of the chimney crown series concerned replacing concrete crowns. In this final part of the chimney repair series about chimney crowns, we will review building a floating cast concrete crown. Floating cast concrete crowns are very common in Silver Spring, MD and other parts of Montgomery County. However, we are starting to see them across the region.
The chimney crown is the layer of concrete sitting on top of the last row of brick, and its purpose is to shed water away from the chimney. It’s normally 3″-4″ inches thick and starts high around the flue liner then slopes down to the edge of the bricks. The chimney crown is the first line of defense for the masonry, once the crown fails the chimneys become prone to leaking, and the masonry below will soon fail after.
Floating Cast Concrete Chimney Crown
Floating cast concrete crowns are a great option when rebuilding a chimney crown with a leaky history. This type of crown does not make contact with the bricks below it. We install a stainless steel sheet over the bricks then pour the concrete on top. This ensures that the crown will not leak. If the water penetrates the crown, it will shed off of the stainless steel sheet underneath. The casting for the crown gives it a 1 1/2” overhang past the bricks below to give it a drip edge so water does not run down from the crown. Be sure to read this article about a floating cast concrete crown that we installed in EllithEllicott City, MD.
How to install a floating cast concrete chimney crown
- The original crown on top of the chimney is removed, the surface is cleaned, and we check the top course of bricks to make sure that they are not loose.
- We build the form for the crown using 2×6’s and 2×4’s to give it a 1 1/2″ overhang past the bricks below it.
- We set the stainless steel sheet over the bricks and wrap the flue liner(s) with foam for an expansion joint.
- We set the rebar on top slightly elevated to reinforce the concrete.
- We mix the concrete and add PWR waterproofing powder to the concrete mix. Mixing in this way ensures that the new crown is waterproof as soon as it’s dry.
- We pour the concrete tap on the form to make sure the concrete settles in.
- Once it’s dry, we come back to remove the form and seal the expansion joint
Before Floating Cast Chimney Crown Repair
This chimney in Takoma Park, Maryland had a severe leak issue. The right side of the chimney is pretty much hollow below the soldier course and every time it rained water would leak into the ceiling next to the fireplace. The homeowners had the crown rebuilt and repaired by different companies, but it still leaked. The last thing done to it was a crown sealant the cracked, peeled and failed. They even had the chimney tuckpointed and waterproofed in hopes that it would stop the leak, but it didn’t. When I came out for the site visit, I determined that the problem was the crown and my recommendation to them was to do a floating crown.
During Floating Cast Chimney Repair
Here we have the forms for the crown built with 2×4’s and 2×6’s. The stainless steel sheet is in place. The pink foam around the flue liner is for the expansion joint, and the rebar is set but not raised yet in the picture to the right.
After Floating Cast Chimney Repair
Here you can see that the crown has the overhang around the chimney and is about 4″ thick at the edge.
Here you can see the stainless steel sheet underneath the chimney crown. We did seal the space between the brick and the stainless steel, but we purposely do not seal between the crown and the stainless steel allowing the water can run off if it penetrates the crown. Adding PWR waterproofing powder to the concrete mix has waterproofed the crown.
** The tuckpointing repairs on this chimney were performed by another company before All Pro Chimney Service repaired the crown.