Your roof’s most prominent feature is also ironically its biggest threat. Problems stemming from a poorly maintained chimney – whether it be bad masonry, cracked edges, or even a possible chimney fire – can cause major damage to the rest of your house, especially your roof. We were recently contacted by a homeowner in Columbia, MD who had a damaged chimney that affected their roof.
Many homes have a chimney, even if they no longer have a fireplace. Some homeowners like to keep their chimney because of the character it provides their home, while others have one because they still have an active fireplace.
No matter what side you fall on, there are several things you need to know about chimneys even if you don’t use your fireplace all that often. Basic things like weather damage can wear down your chimney over time, often leading to other major problems down the line. And when it comes to your roof, a poorly maintained chimney can cause roof damage, which can be extremely costly.
Let’s set the record straight.
Routinely maintaining your chimney and calling in professional chimney sweepers goes a long way to preventing a ton of costly roof repairs in the future. In this article, we are going to discuss:
- The different problems related to bad chimneys
- Various causes for these problems.
- The types of damage they can cause your roof if left unchecked.
When it comes to protecting your roof, knowledge, and awareness are key. The sooner you can detect major problems, the sooner you can solve them, and prevent additional damage.
Chimney fires are unfortunately common for homeowners who neglect essential maintenance. A chimney fire can spread to your roof and the rest of your home easily.
What Are Some Signs That It’s Happening?
Common indications include:
- Loud crackling and popping
- A low rumbling sound coming from the fireplace
- Dense smoke
- A pungent, burning scent invading your home
However, some chimney fires are barely audible and hard to notice early on, so taking the right preventative measures is vital.
What Can Cause It?
Over time, heavy weather can break down the structure of a chimney. However, flue lining damage is a major culprit for fires. Flue lining is the material used in masonry to prevent heat from becoming trapped in the chimney. Seeping water can damage this lining, causing thin slices of tile to collect at the bottom.
Also, creosote, a black material with a tar-like texture that collects in your fireplace, can build up as well. Creosote forms naturally the more you use your fireplace and can thicken to several inches over time. The material itself is flammable and thus a major fire hazard. Creosote buildup can also choke your chimney of airflow, making your fireplace much less effective.
How Can I Prevent It?
Calling a sweeper is one method. Damage to flue lining can be difficult to spot, so professional chimney sweepers use specialized cameras to check for cracks and other damage within the chimney itself.
Also, you’ll want to consider getting stainless steel flue liners, which are popular with homeowners since they tend to last a long time and come with generous warranties.
But in general, you can’t beat regular inspections and cleaning. Like anything in life, being proactive will save you a lot of headaches down the line.
Whether we like it or not, masonry does break down over time. Depending on which region you live, your masonry will wear down from the effects of weathering.
What Can Cause It?
Inclement weather can chip away at stone and brick, especially near the mouth of your chimney. Even basic rain can seep into the cement between the bricks, which, when frozen in cold weather, contributes to cracking.
How Can It Damage My Roof?
Broken cement can fall onto your roof. Plus, the chimney’s weakened structure can collapse over time, posing a threat to not only your roof but also passers-by on the ground.
If your chimney does break off and collapse, it can cause extensive damage to your roof as the weight of it can collapse other areas of your roof, damage your shingles and tiles, and much more.
Water damage is one of those things that terrified homeowners across the world. When it comes to your chimney, water damage can erode it, causing it to crack, and in extreme cases, break off completely.
How Can It Damage My Roof?
As stated on sheltonroofing.com, sometimes cement and tar aren’t enough to keep water out. If your chimney is leaking water, the damage can eat into the roof around the chimney quickly. If water is gathering around your chimney, there is a good chance that it will rot your roof away with it.
What Can Cause It?
Decayed chimney flashing is a leading cause. Flashing is the material applied to the base of the chimney to prevent water from seeping into your attic.
What Are Some Signs That It’s Happening?
- Chimney spalling, or the flaking of brick and stone. This symptom is easily seen on your roof where shards of your chimney collect.
- Efflorescence, an official term used in construction to refer to salts encrusted on brick and mortar that show up when water seeps through the masonry.
- Damaged wallpaper in the house near the chimney
How Can I Prevent It?
Even well-designed chimney flashing needs to be maintained every now and again, so call a professional team like the All Pro Chimney Service team if you ever notice rusty spots or holes in the flashing.
Also consider getting a chimney cricket, a small feature on your roof that diverts rainwater and debris away from the chimney as they flow down the roof.
What Can Cause It?
When your chimney cap is damaged or missing, the open and exposed chimney mouth is practically an invitation for squirrels, rodents, insects, and other wildlife to enter and make a home. Birds can also build nests in chimneys, causing a blockage.
How Can It Damage My Roof?
Animals living in your attic can chew at your insulation and other parts of your roofing, so get that cover repaired as soon as you can. Additionally, a chimney cap can also prevent water from entering.
Calling the Experts
A lot of the damage-inflicting your chimney and roof are difficult to see from the ground, and since climbing onto the roof, yourself is dangerous. If you’re inexperienced when it comes to roof repairs, we recommend you call an experienced roofing company. Like chimney repairs, an experienced roofing company will know how to fix any problems you are experiencing with your roof properly.
All Pro Chimney Service offers dedicated roof repair services to customers in the Baltimore and DC Metro areas. Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about your chimney, its condition, and how you can maintain and stay ahead of potential problems.
As a homeowner, it is important to schedule yearly professional chimney inspections. In addition, it is wise to keep a close eye on your chimney in-between inspections. We recently received a call from a homeowner in Columbia, MD who noticed that her chimney was damaged. Seeing the problem and getting her chimney repairs early saved her a lot of money. Watch for these six problems, which typically indicate that your chimney needs repairs.
1. Damaged Mortar Joints
This is a problem may need to be seen from the rooftop in order to be noticed. As as result, it may be best handled by a professional chimney sweep company. A good repair technician will look for any kind of damage to the mortar joints between the masonry of the chimney. If there is damage, it needs to be repaired as soon as possible given the following:
- Mortar joints that are damaged cause the bricks to suffer from exposure to moisture.
- Moisture that enters small cracks can lead to larger cracks.
- Freezing and thawing over the course of the winter speeds up this process.
- Failure to repair damaged mortar could result in the chimney collapsing.
2. Rusted Damper or Firebox
Moisture in your chimney or fireplace is a clear sign that your chimney is not working properly. You can check for this problem by being vigilant for the following:
- Checking to see if there is rust in the firebox or damper.
- Another sign of rust and excess moisture in your chimney is if your damper becomes challenging to operate or doesn’t seem to be sealing correctly.
- Rusting indicates that there is too much moisture in your chimney, which is a serious problem. Rust can damage the chimney liner. Flue tiles can crack, and this cracking and deterioration in the flue lining can lead to a house fire.
3. Spalling Bricks
Spalling happens when water gets into brick, concrete, or natural stone and causes the masonry’s surface to either peel off or pop out. Salt is also known to cause spalling. You can identify spalling by the observing bits of masonry coming off from the chimney. Without repairs, spalling can lead to more crumbling and, ultimately, the destruction of the chimney.
4. Shaling Flue Tiles
Shaling is another problem and sign of chimney damage that you should check for inside your fireplace:
- Shaling can occur when your chimney liner is damaged. Liner damage results in bits of tile from the chimney piling up at the bottom of the fireplace.
- Shaling flue tiles are more easy to spot than cracked flue liners. Often, checking for cracked flue liners involves a professional chimney sweep using a special camera. The camera allows the chimney repair tech to identify potential problems in the flue that cannot be easily spotted by other means.
- If you notice shaling or suspect cracked flue tiles, your chimney needs repairs.
5. Cracked Chimney Crown
The chimney crown is the top part of your chimney. The crown serves a critical role in protecting the chimney structure from the elements. As such, it is important that the chimney crown is kept in good condition. Checking for damage requires that you go to the rooftop or hire a professional chimney sweep. The following problems can occur if the chimney crown is damaged:
- Water can get inside, freeze and thaw, and create bigger cracks.
- Moisture can come into the space between the chimney and liner, which can lead to deterioration of the masonry.
- Weatherproofing the chimney crown as well as the chimney is a helpful step you can take to guard against this problem.
6. Damage to Wallpaper
Damage to wallpaper that’s close to the chimney may be due to excess moisture in the chimney. If you notice this problem, make sure your chimney is inspected and repaired as soon as possible.
Being on the lookout for these issues and contacting a professional chimney sweep at the first sign of these problems can save you from your expensive
As the weather gets colder, people start thinking about getting cozy in front of a beautiful fire. Even if you had your chimney cleaned at the end of last winter, it is a good idea to ask a certified chimney sweep to inspect before you start using your fireplace. No one wants to experience the cold season in Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia without being able to use their fireplace safely. Their many reasons why waiting until the winter for a chimney sweep is not the best idea.
Things Can Change In Your Chimney Over The Summer?
An unused chimney is not a vacuum-sealed space that stays in perfect condition until you open it up for the winter heating season. Things happen both inside and outside that can change your chimney or fireplace needs.
- Animals like squirrels love places like chimneys. If your chimney cap was damaged or missing, you made an open-door invitation to nest builders and nut storage. Animals in your chimney threaten the safety of your home.
- If a chimney swift has built a nest in your chimney, it issues by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and will usually be gone when cold weather arrives. If it is still there, your Chimney Sweep can answer your questions about your options.
- The storms that your chimney encountered during the spring and summer can cause damage to masonry and flashing. Heavy rainfall and wind drive water into those damaged areas. Your chimney could already be damaged.
Why Not Wait Until Winter?
While winter is the time that we use our fireplace and chimney, it’s not a good time to do inspections and repairs. Chimney service companies are busiest just before the winter holidays because people start a fire on the hearth then realize that the chimney isn’t clear and call in a panic.
- Your chimney could have small cracks in the mortar and flashing. These cracks turn into leaks once the freeze-thaw cycle of winter starts. It is always best to catch problems early. Small cracks quickly turn into major problems. Repairs now save you money.
- Many chimney repairs need good weather and a specific temperature window to be done correctly. Fall weather is warm enough for repairs to be completed quickly.
- If you wait until winter to call, you might have to wait longer for the sweep to come and risk waiting for needed repairs past the time you wanted to enjoy your fireplace.
- If you use your chimney without inspection, you risk the health and safety of your home. You don’t know for sure if your chimney is safe.
Why Not DIY?
Cleaning your chimney yourself is a bad idea. Certified sweeps are the best choice to do an inspection. The reasons are simple.
- Certified sweeps know what to look for and what to do about it.
- Certified sweeps have the equipment to see deep into your chimney and vents.
- Professional chimney sweep technicians have the experience and training to see current problems in addition to identifying potential problems. Early detection saves you money.
- If repairs are needed, they often can do those repairs in the same visit or schedule a time before the winter hits.
If you have a chimney, you need a sweep every year. Make sure your home is protected by selecting a chimney service professional who is fully certified and call for an appointment before the busy season starts. Waiting until the winter could be too late.
There are many different ways to heat your home, whether it’s a gas furnace, wood fireplaces or pellet stoves. Wood pellet stoves like ours are a popular choice among homeowners because they put out a lot of heat and have relatively low operating costs. However, there are some disadvantages of using pellet stoves as well. We find that pellet stoves are particularly popular with our customers in Columbia, MD. Read on to learn more about pellet stoves, including how they work and the advantages and disadvantages of using them.
How Do They Work?
Every heat source uses some form of fuel to create heat. Pellet stoves use pellets made from compressed wood as their fuel source. These pellets are eco-friendly because they are made from compressed wood, plus they produce significantly less smoke and fumes than traditional firewood. Many people prefer pellet stoves over other heating options such as wood stoves, gas fireplaces or electric space heaters.
Pellet stoves work by using electricity to ignite the pellets. Fresh air is pulled into the unit from your home, stoking the fire and allowing the pellets to burn effectively and evenly. The resulting gases are vented outside through a small pipe in the back of the stove. This pipe can be vented through a hole in the wall or an existing chimney.
Types of Pellet Stoves
While all pellet stoves use the same wood pellets as fuel, there are two different types of pellet stoves: freestanding and inserts.
Freestanding Pellet Stove
Freestanding pellet stoves are stoves that are not reliant on an existing chimney or fireplace. They stand on their own. They can be placed anywhere you have room to fit them. Free-standing fireplaces are a great option for adding the beauty of a fireplace to a room that currently does not have one.
Pellet Stove Inserts
Pellet stove inserts are designed to fit inside of existing masonry opening of wood fireplaces. Inserts are flush with the wall for a sleek, space-saving look, but they have to be mounted in a spot where there is an existing fireplace.
Should you choose a freestanding fireplace or fireplace insert?
It depends on your priorities and where you want to install it. While pellet stove inserts may fit with the existing configuration of your room, they have smaller hoppers and can be more difficult to clean. A freestanding pellet stove, on the other hand, takes up a decent chunk of space which could otherwise be used for furniture. The type of pellet stove you choose ultimately depends on that benefits that you are seeking.
Advantages of Pellet Stoves
The most significant benefits of pellet stoves lie in the fuel source:
- Wood pellets are a byproduct of sawmills which makes them eco-friendly
- Wood pellets produce less smoke and ash than firewood, resulting in less pollution, less creosote, and less of odors in your home
- Pellet stoves often generate more heat than gas stoves of a similar size
- Pellet stoves cost less to operate than gas because pellets are relatively inexpensive.
- The automatic ignition makes pellet stoves easy to start and use, even for novice users
- A 20-lb bag of pellets can provide constant heat for as long as 12 hours. Most people only need to fill the hopper once every couple days.
- Pellet stoves have a simple look with neutral colors. They fit with just about any decor
- Refilling a pellet stove is easy since all you need to do is pull the hopper out and fill it with pellets.
Disadvantages of Pellet Stoves
While the benefits of using a wood pellet stove may seem enormous, there are some drawbacks as well. Here are some of the issues you may face if you use a wood pellet stove:
- Pellet stoves require a lot more maintenance than gas or electric furnaces, including weekly vacuuming of the burn pot and other cleaning requirements.
- Since pellet stoves have so many moving autonomous parts, they can be a bit noisy—especially when you’re just turning one on.
- While a fireplace can be used when the power is out, a pellet stove cannot since it uses electricity to ignite the pellets and vent the smoke.
- Pellet stoves produce a small flame when compared to wood stoves. Some homeowners feel that they don’t provide the same cozy fire feeling produced by woodburning fireplaces.
- Paying to have a pellet stove shipped to you can be expensive.
- Wood pellets stored and kept on hand for future use. You will need ample storage room to maintain a reasonable supply of pellets on hand.
- In some areas, local stores may not carry wood pellets. As a result, homeowners may have to pay the shipping cost to order them online.
Want to learn more about pellet stoves? You may find our previous article to be helpful.