You watch the rain outside and suddenly realize that your room smells like an old, wet campfire. You notice wallpaper peeling on the wall by the chimney. Odd leaks appear in your ceiling, and rust is forming on the metal damper. What is happening? These are some symptoms of a leaky chimney. It is time to call a chimney service company like our company, All Pro Chimney Service. But why is it leaking?
Where Is The Leak?
Water will seep into any opening and move downward. It can even travel along a rafter to drip through a ceiling far removed from the original leak. It is not always easy to figure out where it is leaking because of this. Examining your roof and chimney can provide evidence of water damage, and that is the first place a chimney repair technician will look.
- Missing bricks or crumbling mortar let water in.
- Curling or missing shingles, particularly by the chimney, show damage.
- Rusty, inadequate flashing around the chimney base cannot do its job, and leaks often form there.
- Cracked chimney crowns will not always look bad but let water past to do damage underneath.
- Missing chimney caps are a hole in your roof. Water gets down the chimney and damages it inside, where special equipment is needed to find it.
Common Places Where Water Gets In
Anything that is exposed to weather wears down over time. As a result, even well-built chimneys need periodic maintenance. All chimneys should be inspected at least once a year. You can learn more about chimney inspections by reading our previous article on the subject. During a chimney inspection, evidence of weathering reveals where the problems start.
- Chimney caps keep animals out of your house and prevent the rain and snow from going down the flue. A missing cap, or one that is improperly installed, is like having a hole in your roof. The lining of your chimney eventually starts to deteriorate. The solution is repairing or replacing the cap.
- Chimney crowns are supposed to cover and seal the top of the chimney from the edge of the liner to the edge of the chimney and guide water away to run down the roof. A poorly made crown or one that has been damaged will not be able to do its job. Sometimes the crown just needs to be repaired and sealed. In other cases, the crown may have to be rebuilt.
- Masonry like bricks and mortar are porous. If not sealed, water soaks in, and the freeze/thaw cycle causes small cracks to form. Eventually, spalding can occur, flaking off parts of the brick. Mortar will start to fall apart, even in a stone chimney. Maintaining the seal will keep this process from getting worse. If too much damage has occurred, repointing or replacing the brick is necessary. It is important to use a sealant designed for this purpose.
- Flashing is the flexible collar connecting the chimney to the roof. If this is not functional, water gets under your roof and into the house. Sometimes the flashing just needs to be adjusted, other times, it needs to be replaced.
- Crickets function like fences diverting water away from a valley in the roof at the base of the chimney. This keeps water from sitting in that valley and causing problems. A cricket might need repair, or one may need to be installed so that the water sheds away from the stack.
The Answer To The Question
In order to find out why your chimney is leaking, you need to look at that specific chimney and its surroundings carefully. You may be able to identify the source of the leak. However, you should always contact a professional chimney service company to repair your chimney. Chimneys are too important to repair on your own.
After reading our previous article, many homeowners find themselves choosing to install pellet stoves. There are many kinds of fireplace installations that you can choose for your home. A pellet stove is one of the most popular types in Howard County. People see pellet stoves as an economical and environmentally friendly way to heat their home. Now that you have decided to make this upgrade choosing the best pellet stove requires some thought. Here are some options that will help you know how to pick the right pellet stove.
Top Feed or Bottom Feed?
One of the first considerations is the way the pellet stove loads its fuel for burning. The two main types of loading are top feed and bottom feed. Both have lots of moving parts, and you need to keep an eye on maintenance. Many pellet stove owners appreciate a service contract that alleviates the hassle.
- Top Feed stoves are loaded by pouring the pellets into a hopper that uses a chute to drop the pellets into the stove. This keeps debris in the combustion chamber. Utilizing a premium grade of pellet with low ash content will lower the amount of ash and clinkers that will need to be cleaned.
- Bottom Feed stoves are slightly less efficient than top feed models, but they can use a standard grade of pellet made from a wider variety of materials producing more debris. The design pushes the ash and clinkers into the ash pan for cleaning.
When choosing a pellet stove, it is important to consider the purchase price and the cost of ongoing use. For example, A multi-fuel pellet stove tends to have a higher purchase price. However, they are less expensive to operate because you are not limited to a single type or grade of fuel. Since the various pellet types burn differently, a stove that can handle the variations gives you flexibility in the future.
Freestanding or Insert?
The location of your pellet stove and the way you plan to use it affect your choice of model. Keep the requirements for venting in mind when looking at options.
- Freestanding units will radiate heat from all sides. This makes the room they are in warm quickly. They are an excellent choice for large, open areas. You might be able to move the warm air into other parts of the house with a fan.
- Fireplace inserts can use the existing chimney as the venting system for the stove if it is allowed by local code. This usually means an approved chimney liner or vent is installed in the fireplace according to professional standards. An insert can also be placed into a wall or corner. Vents and fans can blow warm air into the room.
- Pellet-fueled furnaces and boilers can supplement or take the place of your conventional heating system.
Other Factors To Consider
Since different models of pellet stove put out different levels of heat, your specific requirements need to be discussed with the dealer/installer to make sure your expectations will be met.
- A general rule of thumb is to figure that every 100 square feet will take 2,500 BTU from your stove to heat, but your space could be different, and a professional will know the right option. A robust model that has to run on its lowest setting all the time will not be as efficient as a less-powerful model that can heat the same space.
- Lots of windows, cathedral ceilings, and poor insulation can make it hard to retain heat so a higher BTU-range stove can compensate.
- Try to see the model in use so you can assess the noise level from a fan, for instance, or the way it must be loaded and cleaned. Think through what using this stove will be like in your home.
- If seeing the flames is essential to you, choose a model that displays the fire inside with an attractive window. Ceramic logs add to the ambiance of this feature.
- Look for the EPA Certified stamp on your insert. This isn’t required, but it shows that the stove will burn more efficiently, have higher heat output, and less creosote buildup.
Upgrading your home with a pellet stove will increase your home’s value. If you have chosen the right stove, you will enjoy the warmth and coziness of a pellet stove in your home for years.
Want to know the basics of pellet stoves? Read this article.
Pumpkins and decorative gourds. Golden and crimson leaves. Warm days and nippy nights. It’s promising to be a beautiful fall, full of decorating inspiration. Your fireplace is the warm heart of your home, and that bare mantel is just begging to be spruced up with seasonal displays. We always notice the beautiful mantel decorations while we are sweeping chimneys. There are many options for decorating a fireplace mantel for the fall. Stuck for ideas? Here are a few fireplace mantel projects for people of every skill level:
Play With Colored Lights
Transparent vessels of colored glass beads are a classic for a reason. When they catch the light, they cast gorgeous colors throughout the space. Best of all, this fast and easy project makes a big impact.
Pumpkins are best known for Jack-o’-lanterns, but they also come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. You can buy an assortment of pumpkins, winter squashes, and decorative gourds and create an overflowing cornucopia on your mantel. Alternate light and dark colors for festive cheer, or organize them by shade for a more structured look.
You can also hollow out and carve the biggest one into Jack-o’-lanterns. Not interested in grinning faces? Many stencils on the market will let you create nighttime or autumnal scene lit up by votive candles.
Highlight Fall Foliage
There are two different routes you can go here. First, take advantage of the cooler temperatures to go for a walk, gathering autumn’s most stunning colors along the way. Once you get home, you can place these in a vase or float them in a bowl of water to highlight their natural beauty.
Secondly, if you aren’t a fan of how natural leaves fade quickly, you may want to use artificial leaves. You can get these from most craft stores.
You’re probably very familiar with Christmas Tree lights, but Halloween lights are a hot new trend. Look for ones in glowing fall colors such as orange, crimson, and yellow. If you aren’t using the fireplace yet, you can cascade these off of the chimney. Otherwise, drape these near your mantel and, in the evenings, bask in their warm, gentle light.
Flowers in the Fall
Here’s a great one for families with small children: make this Fall bloom by creating your own flowers. You can help the kids use construction or tissue paper, paint, glitter, glue, and markers to create the blossoms of their dreams.
Older children may be interested in trying out origami flowers. Origami has a reputation for being difficult to learn. However, many flower forms can be made with a few quick folds. Also, origami paper comes in a rainbow of lovely shades and patterns, perfect for this project.
Candles, whether pillars, tapers, or autumn-themed shapes like apples with wicks for stems, add instant comfort and sophistication to any space. They’re also one of the most versatile ways to decorate your mantel and surrounding area. Use the warm, flickering light of the candles to draw attention to architectural features like your chimney or highlight other items displayed on the mantel.
If you aren’t using your fireplace, you can also set them inside that space. Use multiple tiers at different heights to mimic leaping flames, or set a few votives down low to bring to mind glowing embers.
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 we recommended.
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.