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 an insulating material for higher temperatures.
- Cast Liners – Commonly made out of cement or a 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 a better protection against chimney fires and creosote buildup. The drawback is that if they are somehow damaged, which is unlikely, it requires a 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 consultation and an estimate.
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 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.