As a homeowner, you do everything you can to protect your home from needing costly repairs, including regular maintenance. However, if your home has a chimney and you’re not scheduling professional chimney inspections at least once a year, you could be setting yourself up for expensive repairs down the road. Fortunately, homeowners can get chimney repairs in Washington DC fairly easily. It’s not too late to begin scheduling chimney inspections and cleanings. In between professional inspections, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for some common signs of chimney problems. The earlier a chimney problem is discovered, the easier and more affordable the repair will be.
Perhaps the most serious and obvious sign that your chimney needs some work is that of a chimney fire, which can be a scary situation for any homeowner to encounter. Specifically, chimney fires occur when creosote along the interior of the chimney is ignited by a flame. This highly flammable material builds up over time and can be easily removed with a professional chimney cleaning. Unfortunately, many homeowners fail to have this basic maintenance done each year, drastically increasing the chances of a chimney fire. When a chimney fire ignites, you may notice a very loud cracking or popping sound coming from the chimney, as well as thick smoke. It is important to evacuate your home immediately and call 9-1-1 to have the fire put out safely.
Even if you’re not experiencing an actual chimney fire, you may still notice large amounts of smoke when you use your fireplace. Excessive smoke coming from your chimney could be a sign of a liner that’s in need of repair or replacement. Check to make sure that your chimney vent is open; if it is and you’re still experiencing a lot of smoke, then you will need to call a chimney repair company as soon as possible. In the meantime, stop using your fireplace, as smoke can be damaging to your lungs and other aspects of your health.
Ceiling and/or Wall Stains
If you notice any staining or discoloration on the walls or ceiling around your fireplace/chimney, this will also need to be investigated by a chimney repair specialist like us. There’s a good chance that the discoloration you’re seeing is due to moisture getting into your chimney and gradually seeping into your home. Over time, this can be very damaging, especially if the water damage reaches the framing of your home and begins to rot it out. Moisture getting into your home through the chimney can also lead to mold and mildew problems that can hide behind walls, so be sure to have your home checked for these issues. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Flaking Chimney Liner
Another relatively common chimney problem that you’ll want to address is that of shards or flakes of your chimney liner falling down into your fireplace. This is known as “shaling” and occurs when the liner of your chimney deteriorates over time. In some cases, this is simply as a result of wear and tear, meaning that your liner will need to be replaced or repaired by a professional. In other cases, an underlying problem with your chimney could be to blame. Either way, your chimney’s liner plays an important role in protecting your home and your health, so this is not a problem that you’ll want to ignore.
Chimney Crown Cracks
The “crown” that surrounds the exterior of your home’s chimney is made of cement and is designed to help keep out moisture and debris. Over time, exposure to the elements (especially precipitation and fluctuating temperatures) can cause small cracks to form along the chimney crown. Eventually, these cracks will allow water and other debris to enter your home, which you definitely don’t want. Unfortunately, the chimney crown can be difficult (and sometimes impossible) to see from ground level, which is why scheduling annual inspections on your chimney is so important. Small cracks can be easily patched and repaired by a specialist before the problem worsens. You will find it helpful to read our recent article about a chimney crown repair project.
Missing or Damaged Chimney Cap
All chimneys should have a metal or aluminum cover that is designed to prevent rain, debris, pests, and other unwanted items from entering your home through the chimney itself. These caps are designed with ventilation holes or flaps to allow smoke to exit the home effectively while keeping unwanted items out. Over time, however, these covers can become damaged by the elements and will need to be replaced. Rust and corrosion are common problems in chimney covers, especially in areas with high rainfall. Fortunately, these are easy to replace by an experienced chimney professional.
Pests Getting Into Your Home
While a pest infestation in your home isn’t always necessarily caused by a chimney issue, it’s a possibility you’ll want to consider if you’re experiencing insects or rodents getting into your home. Sometimes, this can occur when a damaged or missing chimney cover allows access through your chimney. This could especially be the case if you’re noticing that the pests getting into your home tend to be found mostly in the room where your fireplace is located. Of course, pets can also be getting in through your garage, attic, or other areas of the home, so it may also be a good idea to call a pest control specialist if you’re having trouble figuring out where the pests in your home are coming from.
Visible Settling of Chimney
From the outside of your home, take a look at your chimney. Does it appear straight and sturdy? If not, then it may be time to call a repair specialist. Over time, the brick and mortar joints that make up the exterior of your home’s chimney can become damaged by the elements, especially when moisture is present. This can cause cracking and crumbling of the chimney itself, which can become dangerous if it becomes too progressed and compromises the structural integrity of the chimney. This is another scenario where it’s wise to have a chimney inspection every year, as an inspector will be able to notice cracks and other damage to your chimney that you may not be able to see yourself.
White Stains on Chimney Exterior
You may not think much of white staining on the exterior of your chimney, but this is actually something that indicates the need for repair. This staining often has a chalk-like appearance and is known as “efflorescence.” It usually occurs in chimneys where there is excessive moisture beginning to affect the brick and mortar joints themselves and is not uncommon in chimneys that have begun to lean or crumble. If you see any white staining on your chimney, be sure to call a professional as soon as possible.
A Rusted Damper
Your chimney relies on a firebox or damper to protect itself (and your home) from moisture. Therefore, if you notice that your damper has become difficult to operate or if you can see visible rust beginning to form on it, this needs to be addressed by a chimney repair specialist right away. Specifically, rust and/or corrosion of the damper is a sign of a moisture problem that will not go away on its own and can lead to serious water damage inside your home if not repaired quickly.
Framing Rot in Your Home
Finally, always keep an eye on the ceilings and walls around your chimney and fireplace. If you begin to notice any bowing inwards or outwards of the drywall, this could be a sign of water getting into your home and rotting out the wooden framing on the affected wall. As the rot takes over the wood framing, it will begin to buckle and the wall or ceiling will begin to lose some of its structural integrity. A chimney repair specialist will be able to pinpoint not only where the water is getting in from the chimney, but how to repair it as well. However, you will most likely need to have a general contractor come out and rebuild the damaged wall framing as well as install new drywall to complete the repair.
As you can see, there are a number of possible “red flags” to watch out for when it comes to your home’s chimney. The good news is that many of these signs are early warnings of underlying issues, meaning they can be addressed and repaired relatively easily. Still, when you notice any potential signs of a chimney problem, it’s important to make calling a repair specialist a top priority. Otherwise, you could be setting yourself up for more costly repairs down the road in addition to potential damage to your home from moisture seepage, smoke build-up, and other issues.
Many homeowners don’t realize that their chimney requires regular maintenance in the form of inspections and cleanings. Usually, these homeowners are blissfully unaware of the importance of chimney maintenance until they end up with a chimney leak. Periodic heavy rains often result in the need for chimney repairs in Washington DC homes. These leaks can be quite damaging and costly if not caught early, which is why it’s good for all homeowners to be aware of the most common causes of chimney leaks, how to avoid them, and what to do in the event of a leak.
Common Causes of Chimney Leaks
A chimney leak occurs when water is allowed to bypass the liner of the chimney and find its way into your home. The resulting water damage can be expensive to repair, especially if it has been going on for a long time and has reached the wood framing of your home’s walls. Take a moment to become familiar with these common causes of chimney leaks. From there, you can take steps to avoid them in your own home.
Cracked Chimney Crown
A chimney crown refers to the cement part that runs along the top of a chimney and wraps around the vent. Crowns are very effective at keeping moisture away until they begin to chip and crack, which is inevitable over time. When cracks form in the chimney crown, water can gradually begin to make its way down the chimney flue and directly into your home.
Not all chimneys have crowns (some has covers, as will be explained in the next section). However, if your chimney has a crown, it’s a good idea to inspect it at least once a year for cracks and chips. If you live in an area that sees all four seasons, the best time to inspect is during the spring, as water freezes and thaws in even tiny cracks during the winter months.
Small cracks can occasionally be caulked and patched, though more extensive damage may call for a total replacement of the crown by an experienced chimney repair company. The best chimney repair companies use floating cast crowns.
Lack of Chimney Cover
For chimneys that don’t have a cement crown, there should be a chimney cover in place. These covers are usually made of metal or aluminum and are placed directly on top of the chimney vent with a tight fit around the vent itself. These covers prevent rain and other precipitation (not to mention pests) from traveling straight down into your chimney but have ventilation built into the sides to allow proper ventilation (especially while you’re using your fireplace).
Unfortunately, chimney covers can go missing or deteriorate over time. This is especially common in older covers that are made of metal, which can rust and corrode. The good news is that replacing a missing cover is relatively simple and inexpensive when done by a reputable chimney repair company.
Cracks in Brick and Mortar
Chimneys are usually constructed of brick that is held together by mortar, and these are very durable materials. Still, over time, the cement holding the brick and mortar together can crack and crumble (just as it can on chimney crowns). When this occurs on the chimney structure itself, water can penetrate the chimney and gradually, the structural integrity of the chimney can even be lost. If you can see cracks or “wavy” areas of your home’s chimney, there’s a good chance that this type of leak is already happening. Because brick is a naturally porous material, it’s not a matter of “if” brick will eventually give way to cracking and crumbling, but “when.”
Applying a special brick sealant to the chimney is a temporary way to stop water from entering your home, but eventually, a long-term solution will need to be done by a chimney repair service.
Bad Roof Flashing
Finally, perhaps the most common cause of chimney leaks in residential buildings is that of bad roof flashing. When roofing is installed on a home with a chimney, a waterproof material known as flashing is installed around the chimney before the roofing shingles are put on top. Unfortunately, poor installation or even deterioration over time can render flashing ineffective. There are several things that can cause chimney flashing to leak. Find out more here.
When this occurs, water can seep into the chimney flue right around the base of the chimney where it meets the roof of the home. This is a repair that can be completed by a roofing or chimney company, as new flashing will need to be installed.
Telltale Signs of Chimney Leaks
The best way to avoid chimney leaks is to have your chimney inspected at least once a year for the most common causes. Still, in between inspections, there are some “red flags” homeowners should watch out for that could indicate the start of a leak in the home.
Peeling Paint or Wallpaper
One of the most common signs of a chimney leak is that of peeling paint or wallpaper inside the home near the chimney flue itself. Homeowners may notice peeling or bubbling paint around a home’s fireplace, which is likely caused by moisture inside the flue. If you have wallpaper on the walls near your fireplace, you may also notice it beginning to bubble or peel, especially at points where two pieces of wallpaper come together.
Spots of Discoloration
Before the paint starts to peel, you may also notice odd, discolored spots on ceilings or walls near a chimney flue in the home. On a white ceiling or wall, these spots will appear yellow or tan. They will darken over time as water damage becomes more widespread and serious.
Chimney Settlement or Collapse
While getting up on top of your roof and inspecting your chimney yourself may not be advised, you can conduct a quick visual inspection of your chimney from the ground in most cases. If your chimney appears to be tilting to one side, warped, or visibly settling, you’re most likely going to have water leaking into your home.
Wood and Framing Rot
When water damage inside the home progresses, you could even end up with more serious structural issues, including rotting out of the wood that makes up your home’s framing. The most obvious sign of rotted framing will be bulging or warped drywall, but only ripping out the drywall and inspecting the framing underneath will determine the extent of the damage. In some cases, mold or mildew will also become an issue in the home when this occurs.
While these are the most common signs of a leaking chimney, some other possible signs to be on the lookout for include:
- rusted fireplace components
- corrosion of damper assemblies
- stains on chimney exterior
It is important to act quickly when you see signs of a chimney leak, as water damage can spread in the blink of an eye.
What to Do if You Have a Chimney Leak
If you notice any signs of a chimney leak, the only course of action is to contact a professional chimney repair company. Chimney leaks are not something you can repair on your own, and of course, climbing onto your roof can be dangerous. When you call a professional chimney repair company that meets professional standards like these, you can have the peace of mind that the problem will be fixed. The water leaks will stop and future water damage will be prevented.
A chimney repair specialist will be able to determine the cause of your leak and advise you on how any water damage inside your home should be repaired. Some repairs that a chimney repair company may be able to assist with include:
- chimney crown repair or replacement
- chimney cover repair or replacement
- repair of brick and mortar cracks
- replacement of chimney liners
- replacement of flashing around the chimney
Furthermore, a professional chimney service will be able to advise you on additional services to protect your home, chimney, and fireplace. For example, many companies offer chimney fireproofing, which involves the sealing of the chimney structure itself to make it less susceptible to damage from water, such as cracking and crumbling. A special sealant must be used to fireproof the chimney, as it is necessary for the sealant not only to keep water from getting in but for continuing to allow gasses to escape. In other words, the sealant must allow the brick to retain its porous structure to gasses but not to water. Waterproofing a chimney is a complex task that should only be done by an experienced professional.
There are so many different problems that can lead to a disastrous water leak in your chimney, but the good news is that they’re all 100% preventative with just a little maintenance and care. Be sure to have your chimney and fireplace inspected by a professional at least once a year, and you’ll be able to avoid many of these issues. Furthermore, if you ever spot signs of a chimney leak, don’t hesitate to call a chimney repair service to get things under control before the leak causes widespread and costly damage to your home.
While interviewing chimney repair companies, many homeowners found themselves lost in a sea of technical chimney terms. The chimney repair technicians use words like flue liners, corbelling and creosote as if homeowners use those words every day. That fact is that no one but chimney repair techs uses those words. Homeowners in the Washington DC Area tend to be smart people. However, even the highest levels of education do not teach about chimneys. When providing services like ours, we do our best to share information using terms that are easy for homeowners to understand. We have created this article to provide homeowners with all of the terms that they will likely need to make sense of the what the chimney repair tech is telling them. Just take the time to read and digest each of them, and you will find yourself talking like a pro…or at least understand what they are saying.
Chimney Repair Terms
The chimney is the set of passageways to the exit points for flue gases. The chimney links the points of combustion to the exit point. So, flue gases from combustion get to the atmosphere through the chimney.
This is where ashes are stored. It is usually located at the base of the chimney. It is simply a pit where ashes are stored temporarily before being disposed of.
This is an object that is fixed in any appliance to change airflow direction. The baffle also changes the direction of flue gases and also slows down air-fuel mixtures.
Chase is the area that surrounds metal flue pipes. It is used to stimulate a chimney. There are several variants of chase. Some variants are made of steel while some are made of wood. The external covering of chase made of either stucco or lathe.
Chimneys are installed vertically or almost vertically so that the exit point will be facing the sky. So, it is possible for rain, dust particles or snow to enter the chimney to through its opening. It is even possible for animals to get into a home through the chimney when not in use. This is why it is important for chimneys to have a protective cover to prevent the entry of animals, rain, snow and dust particles. The protective covering is the chimney cap. You may want to read this article to learn more about replacing chimney caps.
Chimney Cleaning and Chimney Sweep
This term is easy to understand. It is exactly what you are thinking. Chimney cleaning is the process of cleaning the chimney. It is as simple as that. Soot, debris, and creosote usually gather in the chimney, and they can block the airflow when they become too much. In fact, the moment they start gathering there, the flow of air will no longer be seamless. So, the chimney has to be cleaned regularly for efficient performance.
Besides, it should be cleaned for safety reasons too. When soot and creosote encounter real heat, they can ignite resulting in house fires. The worker whose responsibility is to clean the chimney regularly is the Chimney Sweep. Learn more about our chimney sweep services here.
This is any of the pipes that connect the chimney to any fuel-burning device or appliance. They are usually more than one.
The flue system allows smoke and gas to travel from your fireplace up your chimney and away from your home. The flue liner is the material that is used within the system. Flue liners are commonly comprised of Terracotta made from clay.
Corbelling is what happens when bricks are stacked on top of each other and are projecting outwards. This is often seen in the smoke chamber resulting in increased creosote build up that can result in chimney fires.
These are highly flammable dark, tar-like deposits that form when products of combustion (smoke, gas, etc) fail to escape from the flue. Instead of exiting the flue, they cool and form creosote. Creosote build up within the smoke chamber or flue is a common cause of house fires.
This is also known as a saddle. This is a long ridge that links the back of the chimney to the slope of the roof. The cricket is required when the chimney is 30″ or wider. Its purpose is to ward water off the main connection between the chimney and the roof.
A concrete surface that sits on the top surface of the chimney that sheds water away from the flue liner. There are several types f chimney crowns.
Below are links to our 3 part series about chimney crowns
This abbreviation stands for Chimney Safety Institute of America. The organization is a non-profit making and tax-exempt organization established to regulate chimney and vent related activities in the United States. It is dedicated to venting and chimney system safety.
This is a valve that comes mostly in the form of a retractable plate. It is simply meant for controlling the flow of smoke or air or both. Most times it is located at the top of the chimney. It opens the top of the flue when the chimney is in use and it closes it when idle. This prevents cold air from coming in and it also prevents warm air that is keeping the house warm from flowing out through the flue.it is the cable attached to the side of the flue that opens and closes the flue.
“Direct vent” refers to a sealed-combustion system in which air for combustion is piped from the outdoors, and the event products are vented to the outdoors. (Got this from an online definition)
The draft is the pressure difference created by a rising gas. The pressure difference draws combustion air into the appliance and discharges exhaust gases to the atmosphere via the chimney
Are metal strips at the base of the chimney as it penetrates the roof. There are two parts.
1- Base or step flashing, butts up against the chimney and is tucked underneath the shingles.
2- Counter flashing- over laps the base flashing and is tucked into the mortar bed joints of the chimney.
This is the link between the chimney and the exit point for gases. The gases from combustion pass from the chimney via the flue to the outside atmosphere. A multi-flue chimney is a single chimney that contains more than one flue.
This is the inner wall of the flue. It is designed to hold products of combustion. It is done in adherence to the safety rules guiding the installation of chimneys.
This is a chimney made of cement, concrete, stones, bricks or a combination of some of them.
This is a coat of mortar applied to a surface to smooth it out. Parging is often done in the smoke chamber to correct the corbelling bricks. Some technicians use spray on substances to apply a thin coat to parge the smoke chamber. This spray on technique does not last long. The better chimney repair companies parge the chamber by applying thick coats by hand.
Relining a chimney is the process of repairing/replacing damaged or faulty flue liners. It is the replacement of the flue liner.
Stainless Steel Liner
It is the stainless steel pipe used to replace a damaged liner in a chimney.
This can be described as carbon particle residue that is formed from oxygen-poor combustion. It resides inside the chimney until it is swept out. This is a regular occurrence. This is why chimneys should be cleaned regularly.
This is the tendency of warmer air to rise within a chimney leaving cooler air at the base known as the stack effect. This is because air is lighter when warm or hot and heavier when cold.
Thermal expansion is the expansion of the metal surfaces of the chimney caused an by an increase in temperature. This does not only happen in the chimney. It also happens everywhere else. Heat makes metals expand.
This could be fixed/permanent or removable. It is the ring situated in the hole where the chimney is connected to the wall. The chimney connector passes through the thimble.
valuable is passage that links the flue collar to the draft hood.
This is not such a technical term. It is video camera and monitor that is installed to inspect the innermost part of the flues that are difficult to access.
This is the piece of metal that is placed in the masonry wall to ward off water from the wall and from the roof surface. Counter Flashing is important, as the continuous entry of water can cause issues. There are three basic types of counter flashing – surface mounted counter flashing, reglet counter flashing and through-wall counter flashing (SEE chimney flashing)
Tips for maintaining your chimney
Here are a few important tips for the maintenance of a chimney
It is advisable to use seasoned woods always. This is because using seasoned woods usually slows down the buildup of creosote. Properly seasoned wood should have a moisture content around 20%. The best way to ensure your fire wood is seasoned is by using a moisture meter.
Ensure compact stacking for your fire. It burns longer and more efficiently than loose stacking. You do not need starters like kerosene and gas to start a fire. Using any of them can lead to severe burns. Don’t overlook the importance of a chimney cap. Apart from protecting your chimney from debris, birds and some other small animals can enter through it when they are avoiding predators.
There are a lot of cleaning that you can do around your home on your own. However, when it comes to cleaning your chimney and making sure that it is in the best condition possible, you want to rely on a professional chimney sweep in Washington DC. After seeing these signs that you need a cleaning, it is important to hire the right chimney company. In Washington DC homeowners want companies like ours that will do the job right at a competitive price. Here are some tips for hiring a chimney company in Washington DC.
1. Look for a company that believes in preventing problems before they become costly.
A good chimney sweep looks for future problems in addition to existing chimney. Some chimney companies only look for blaring problems. They ignore minor problems in the hopes that they can charge more when the minor issue becomes a major problem later. The best chimney sweeps look for signs of future problems and make recommendations. Doing so often results in lower repair costs. It is always cheaper to address minor chimney issues before turns into major repair needs.
2. Choose a chimney sweep that offers additional services
You want to choose a company that can help you in a variety of different areas. Doing so allows for you to take full benefit of their expertise. Otherwise, you will ultimately end up hiring more than one company – and there is simply no reason for this.
Some of the most common services offered include:
- Cleaning of chimney
- Masonry repairs
- Flashing repair
- Waterproofing of chimney
- Crown and caps repair
- Purging of smoke chamber
In addition to cleaning the chimney and fireplace, it is also beneficial to look at any other services that the company might offer, such as dryer vent cleaning. After all, once you find a company, it’s best to rely on them for various other services around your home as well.
3. Read Up on the Chimney Sweep Companies Reputation
You should always look into the reputation of the company. Your research should include sources such as online reviews, testimonials and their membership with professional organizations like the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). Past customers reviews are a powerful resource. If a large number of homeowners in your area have good things to say about the company, you are likely to have a similar experience. Positive reviews will help you makes sure the company that understands how to sweep a chimney in a professional manner. Taking a little bit of time to investigate the company before you hire them will ensure that you get the best services at the best possible price.
4. Find Out About Chimney Sweep Licensing
Washington DC requires that companies who provide chimney services to be licensed. You want to make sure that the business that you choose is licensed and insured. Being licensed shows that they are professional and have taken the proper steps to be compliant with the regulations. If you allow a company to come in and they are not licensed or carry adequate insurance, any damage could potentially be your responsibility.
5. Ask for a Quote
You also need to ask for a quote for the services that you require. Pricing should be relatively straightforward. When you get into repairs and installations, the company might need to come out and provide an inspection before they can provide a quote. Most companies charge for inspections and cleanings. However, they should not charge a fee to provide a price quote. Unfortunately, there are some cases where a quote cannot be given without performing a full inspection.
When you own a home with a chimney, it’s important that you practice maintenance throughout the year. This will make it easier to prevent costly chimney repairs. Otherwise, you could end up spending a significant amount of money to repair your chimney.A recent job that we did in Ellicott City, MD is an excellent example of how acting quickly can reduce chimney repair costs. Many of the most common repairs can be avoided when you know what needs to be done.
1. Use the Right Fire Wood
There are many types of wood that you can burn in a chimney. Any seasoned hardwood can be used. If it hasn’t been properly dried, the moisture can lead to problems, including creating more soot and ash that will lead to a clogged chimney. It will also increase the risk of fire inside the chimney, which is a danger. Here is a good article on how to tell if your firewood is seasoned.
“Green” wood should be avoided. If you buy firewood, look to see that it is seasoned so you can avoid issues.
2. Clean Out Ash from your Fireplace
Ash should be removed on a regular basis. Every time ash reaches the bottom of the grate in your fireplace is an indication that you need to clean it all out. It will make it easier for you to keep the air flow moving correctly. It only takes a few minutes after the fireplace has cooled, and can make a big difference in the long run. Cleaning supplies are sold everywhere, too, making it a simple task.
3.Get an Annual Chimney Sweep
Hire a professional chimney sweep once a year. They will be able to come in, provide a thorough cleaning of the chimney, as well as look for any potential issues. The sweep will know what to look for and can catch issues before they become problematic. This will also keep you “in the know” regarding the health of your fireplace. We recommend considering our services.
4. Call for Chimney Repair When You See a Problem
The moment you see a problem, call for a repair. Some of the most costly repairs are because homeowners ignore the problem. Further, don’t focus on cost alone when choosing a chimney repair service. The “cheapest” repairs are often cheap for a reason – and you don’t want to pay twice to get the job done right. Be sure to ask the chimney sweep company these questions.
5. Don’t Try To Fix Your Chimney Yourself
A DIY approach can be dangerous, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s best to hire a chimney sweep contractor who has a good reputation in your area. Also, one who uses floating cast chimney crowns is desirable because of having quality techniques to get the job done right.
In the end, you’re in control of the maintenance performed on your home. Having a fireplace and chimney can be a great feature in the colder weather, however, you need to know what can be done so you can avoid costly repairs throughout the life of your chimney and your home.