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.
The chimney crown is an important part of your chimney. Its primary function is protecting your chimney from water. The techniques used to repair chimneys vary between different chimney repair company’s. Some chimney repair companies like ours use waterproofing agents that extend the life of the crown. Some less than honorable chimney service companies cut corners by using lower-quality materials. It is important to know about chimney crowns to make the right decision about your chimney crown repairs.
What is a chimney crown?
A chimney crown is a large slab of concrete that covers the top opening of the chimney, protecting the brick and mortar chimney structure from water. Chimney crowns are sometimes called chimney washes. The crown is commonly made of concrete, but it can also be metal or stone. Crowns should not be mistaken for the chimney cap, which is made of metal and primarily covers the flue. You’ll find the chimney crown above the last layer of brick at the top of your chimney. It is typically about three to four inches thick and slopes down at the edge.
There are a few types of crowns:
- Cast-in-place: Suitable for large chimneys and made of concrete,
- Precast: Ideal for smaller chimneys and made of concrete
- Floating crown: Built with an overhang that is approximately two inches above the chimney. This type of crown takes longer to install but usually lasts longer than other crowns.
The Role of the Chimney Crown
The primary role of the chimney crown is to keep water from entering the chimney. It is considered the first line of defense for the overall masonry. If the crown should fail, it can cause your chimney to leak. If you allow the crown to stay damaged, it can result in the rest of the masonry to crumble. In fact, faulty crowns are a common cause of chimney leaks. By keeping the chimney crown in good condition, you can keep your chimney and the rest of your fireplace in good repair, too.
Common Chimney Crown Problems
Be aware of such issues as:
- Sealant problems
- Cracked crown
- Masonry degradation
- Chimney leaks
The frequency and type of issues are primarily determined by the age of your chimney, how well it was constructed, to begin with, and how well you take care of your property. Do not ignore your chimney crown. Bigger problems arise when you put off issues year after year.
Chimney crown problems can lead to the deterioration of your chimney. Deterioration continues to worsen over time. It is always best to address crown issues early. You don’t want to get into a situation where the entire chimney has to be rebuilt.
How to Keep Your Crown in Good Condition
Schedule an annual chimney inspection every year. Be sure to use a qualified, professional chimney service company with a good reputation. Some companies are better than others. Pay close attention to their google reviews.
When the crown is in reasonably good shape but still cracked, crown sealant can be used. However, if the crown is already severely damaged, just applying sealant isn’t going to happen. You will need to have the crown rebuilt.
Having a professional inspect the chimney will make it easier to identify what the best fix is. In some instances, it’s best to remove the existing crown and have the surface cleaned. From there, concrete and wire mesh can be added in order to recreate the crown and reinforce it.
A good chimney service technician will identify chimney crown problems and make the right recommendation. Make a wise decision and get the repairs as soon as you are made aware. Crown damage worsens over time. More damage costs more to repair.
Read our previous article to learn more about chimney crowns.
The word “spalling” might not be familiar but the symptoms are easy to identify with a simple walk outside to look at your chimney. Chimney spalling is the deterioration of the bricks or mortar of a chimney. The spalling of chimney bricks is a common problem that can lead to significant chimney damage and extensive repairs. It is essential that homeowners understand the cause of chimney spalling and how to fix it.
What is Chimney Spalling?
When you look at your brick chimney, does it look like it used to? Spalling refers to the deterioration of the brick, mortar, or blocks making up a structure. From a distance, you may only notice that something doesn’t look right. Closer examination often reveals the symptoms of spalling.
- flaking surfaces
- cracks in the mortar, bricks, or blocks
- chunks of brick or block missing
- pieces of your chimney on the ground
What Causes Chimney Spalling?
When water freezes, it expands. The freeze-thaw cycle can split a boulder. The same cycle that splits boulders does similar damage to any bricks in your chimney. There are several ways that destructive moisture gets into chimney bricks.
- Older bricks may be softer and lack the glazing that protects the surface. The same issue can arise from newer homes that were built using salvaged bricks. The salvaged bricks may not have been designed for exterior use at all.
- Improper pressure washing can damage the surface of your bricks. The high pressure pushes water into microscopic crevices, and the next freeze expands the cracks.
- Leaks in your gutters, chimney flashing, or crown let water into the structure of your chimney, and this creates more places for spalling to occur.
- Storm damage from wind, debris, and hail can create avenues for water to enter your chimney bricks.
How Do You Fix Spalling Chimney Bricks?
During your annual chimney inspection, a professional will examine the inner and outer surfaces of the chimney along with surrounding flashing, etc. Their training and experience help identify all areas of concern. Cracks in a chimney crown, pitting in bricks, flaking surfaces, and other symptoms are looked at in context.
- Chimney flashing may need to be repaired.
- A chimney cap may need to be replaced or added to keep the rain out of the chimney.
- Mortar or crowns may need to be repaired with materials containing waterproofing sealant to prevent moisture away.
- Missing bricks or mortar may need to be replaced and sealed.
- If the damage is extensive, the chimney may need to be rebuilt.
When you see spalling chimney bricks on your property, you have evidence that damage is occurring. It is important to hire the right chimney repair company. Repairing that damage quickly will keep the damage from getting worse. Regular inspections and maintenance are the key to preventing spalling chimney bricks.
If you would like to learn more please visit our website. www.allprochimney.com
Most of our customers come to us asking the same questions about their chimneys. A homeowner in Howard County recently contacted our chimney services company and asked what is a chimney crown, and how does it work? It’s vital to understand chimney crowns, as it can be the source of various problems down the road. Chimney crowns repairs are one of the most common repairs. Luckily for you, we are here to explain everything you need to know about chimney crowns.
What is a chimney crown?
Sometimes referred to as a chimney wash, a chimney crown is a large slab of brick or concrete that covers the top opening of the chimney. Finding the Chimney Crown is relatively easy, as its name suggests the rest on top of your chimney on its last layer of brick. It is typically about three to four inches thick and slopes down at the edge of the bricks. Most chimney crowns are concrete, but they can also be metal or stone. They are not to be mistaken for the chimney caps, which are metal and cover the chimney flue. If you wish to know more about what chimney caps, read this article.
There are a few types of crowns:
- Cast-in-place: Suitable for large chimneys and made of concrete. Cast in place chimneys involves using steel forms to construct the chimney crown on-site.
- Precast: Ideal for chimneys that are 16×16 or smaller or new construction. Precast crowns are not suitable for chimney jobs involving large chimneys. The weight of the concrete makes this solution impractical for larger chimneys.
- Floating crown: Floating cast crowns are built with an overhang that is approximately 1 1/2″ to 2″ above the chimney. Floating cast chimney crowns require more time to install than the other options. As a result, the service cost may be slightly higher. In most cases floating cast crowns last twice as long. In most cases, longevity makes it worth the minor increase in cost.
Why do chimneys have crowns?
The primary role of the chimney crown is to keep water from entering the stack. It is considered the first line of defense for the overall masonry. If the crown should fail, it can cause your chimney to leak. Chimney leaks can cause the masonry to crumbing, leading to severe structural damage. By keeping the chimney crown in good condition, you can keep your chimney and the rest of your fireplace in good shape. You will avoid costly, time-consuming chimney repairs.
What are the common chimney problems?
There are several problems that can arise with your chimney crown. Be aware of issues such as:
- Sealant problems
- Cracked crowns
- Masonry degradation
Scheduling a chimney service company like ours to inspect your chimney will help identify chimney problems. You may encounter all sorts of issues based on many factors such as the age of your chimney, its construction quality, and how often is it inspected. Annual inspections catch problems in their early stages. Chimney crown problems can also lead to issues with cracks in the flue. Chimney crowns or one of the many common causes of chimney leaks.
What maintenance is required for chimney crowns?
Just as you should schedule roof inspections periodically, you want to have a chimney sweep inspect your entire chimney inside and out. They can identify if there are issues so that you can schedule a chimney repair. You may also be able to conduct a visual inspection on your own to see if the chimney crown is cracked or damaged in some way. However, your visual inspection is not a suitable replacement for professional service. Annual inspections are the best way to catch problems in their early stages.
Chimney crowns are one of the most critical parts of your chimney system. They are often made of concrete, and there are several options for structuring them. The best way to prevent chimney crown problems is by hiring a professional chimney service company to inspect our chimney every year. Annual inspections will not prevent problems. However, it will result in catching issues before they become costly.
During a recent chimney inspection at a home in Rockville, MD, we discovered that chimney liner needed to be replaced. The homeowner quickly asked, “So, what’s a flue?” We were glad that the homeowner asked that question. It shows that the homeowner cared enough to want to know everything that is happening with their chimney. Most people don’t give much thought to their chimneys, thinking of them as simply a low-tech invention which funnels smoke out of their homes. But in reality, a chimney is an evolved structure with several essential components that work together to move smoke and heat safely and efficiently out of your house, and one of the most important of these parts is the flue or liner. Your chimney integrity and maintenance is critical to fire safety, that is why you should always have your chimney professionally inspected and clean by your local fireplace services company.
What Is A Chimney Flue, And What Does It Do?
At one time, most chimneys were constructed without a flue liner, but because of safety concerns, most local building codes now require one to be installed. Various tests conducted in the mid-20th century showed that unlined chimneys did a poor job of protecting a structure from fires and damage. Without a flue, the heat was transferred rapidly to the surrounding wooden structure, setting them aflame in as little as a few hours. The chemicals released by combustion can act directly on the brick, stone, and mortar, causing rapid deterioration and failure of the chimney, and possibly releasing deadly carbon monoxide into the home. A flue liner also allows for the correct sizing of the chimney configuration and a proper draft, which is necessary for efficient combustion and prevention of the buildup of creosote in the chimney, which can lead to fires.
Types Of Chimney Flue Liners
There are three basic types of flue liners used today:
- Clay Tile Liners – This is the most common type because it’s inexpensive and easily available and works well in a properly maintained chimney and open fireplace. Most older homes with liners will have this type. With regular cleaning and maintenance, they can last for decades. They aren’t as effective at containing chimney fires or the chemical by-products of gas fireplaces, and they are susceptible to cracks. When significant cracking has been detected by a professional Chimney inspection, it is usually recommended that a new liner be installed rather than attempting repairs.
- Metal Liners – Usually made of either aluminum or, more commonly, stainless steel. They are very safe and durable and do a good job of protecting a chimney and lessening the need for expensive repairs. Metal liners can be constructed for almost any type of chimney and can be flexible or rigid, making for easier and less costly installation. They sometimes need to be used with insulating material for higher temperatures.
- Cast Liners – Commonly made out of cement or like material, these work well for their intended function and also contribute greatly to the structural integrity of the chimney, and are especially recommended for older chimneys that need support. They can be poured directly into the chimney creating a seamless and leak-proof lining. These can also handle higher temperatures than other liner types, something around to 2,100 degrees. That makes them better protection against chimney fires and creosote buildup. The drawback is that if they are somehow damaged, which is unlikely, it requires complete removal and replacement.
Your chimney flue is very important to the safety of your home and family, and to the useful life of your chimney. It’s a good idea to have your chimney inspected and cleaned at least once per year, especially before cold weather arrives. That way if any damage is found, you can get it repaired in order to start using your fireplace or woodstove immediately. If you are concerned if your fireplace needs to be repaired or not, here are 6 signs that you need chimney repair.
All Pro Chimney Services operates in Washington D.C., Virginia, and Maryland. Contact us today for an estimate.