What to Look for in a Chimney Repair Pro

Chimneys are subject to a lot of weather damage year-round. Water, in the form of rain or melting ice and snow, is one of the primary concerns because it can damage the masonry.

Moisture can cause a chimney to deteriorate quickly, leading to serious problems that require Chimney Repair. The most common signs of chimney deterioration include:

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The chimney crown sits at the very top of the structure and extends a little farther than the brick chimney stack to keep rain water and snow from settling in the flue. Chimney crowns are made of cement and are designed to withstand the elements. However, even a well-made chimney crown will begin to crack over time. These cracks can be caused by a number of factors, including shifting in the chimney structure or shrinkage from the day it was installed. Whatever the cause, the cracks can be a big problem for your chimney.

The cracks in your chimney crown expose the brick and mortar to moisture, increasing the risk of spalling. A spalling chimney is a serious safety issue and needs to be repaired as soon as possible. The best way to prevent cracking in the chimney crown is with regular maintenance inspections from a professional chimney sweep.

Chimney crowns also need to be sealed with a durable chimney sealant to protect the masonry from moisture damage. These products can be purchased from your local chimney retailer and are relatively easy to apply. However, if your chimney crown is severely cracked or damaged, a professional mason will need to rebuild the crown. Chimney rebuilding requires a great deal of knowledge of chimney construction and building codes, so this repair is best left to the experts.

While the chimney crown can crack from a variety of causes, it is most likely to become damaged by water. Water seeps into the cracks and freezes and thaws throughout the winter, making the cracks larger and weakening the masonry. The most common signs of a cracked chimney crown are the appearance of water stains on the roof or around the chimney.

A good chimney sweep will recommend either sealing or repairing the chimney crown, depending on the severity of the damage. Chimney masons use a special chimney sealant that fills the cracks and creates an impermeable surface. If the crown is in need of more significant repairs, a skilled mason can rebuild the chimney crown using concrete and proper slopes to direct water runoff away from the chimney.

The lining of your chimney is designed to keep combustible gasses, including carbon monoxide, from seeping into the home. A leaking chimney liner is often the result of a clay tile that isn’t properly cemented together. Over time, moisture and the freeze/thaw cycle can cause these tiles to break apart and crumble inside your chimney.

If left untreated, this condition can lead to your chimney liner leaking water into the masonry of your chimney stack. This water can cause extensive damage and lead to a chimney fire. Fortunately, this isn’t always an issue if you have a chimney cap and flashing that are in good shape and protecting your chimney from rainwater.

Another common reason for a leaking chimney is poor construction or the settling of your home over time. Cracks and gaps in the flue tile can cause a chimney leak that allows combustible creosote to escape and build up outside the fireplace. This can be extremely dangerous if the creosote catches fire because it will no longer be contained within the chimney.

In these situations, it is often best to replace your chimney liner. A new metal liner can help prevent a chimney leak. These liners are made of either stainless steel or aluminum. Stainless steel is preferred by professionals because it can last for the life of your chimney.

Regardless of which liner you choose, you should have it installed by a professional to ensure it is done correctly. Chimney technicians can also seal the leaking area of your chimney to prevent more water from entering your chimney.

Leaking chimneys are not only dangerous for your family, but they can also be very expensive to repair. If you are experiencing any of the signs of a leaking chimney (stained walls or ceiling near your fireplace, water spots on the floor of your fireplace room, stains on the exterior bricks of your house), schedule a chimney inspection right away. The sooner these issues are addressed, the less costly and extensive the repairs will be. The experienced technicians can diagnose the problem and recommend the appropriate solutions for your chimney.

Chimneys are essential for many homes and businesses, helping to draw in fresh air for fires to burn and provide a way for smoke to escape. However, chimneys are often exposed to the elements and can suffer a wide range of damages. Fortunately, hiring a professional for chimney repairs can help you keep your chimney safe and in good working condition. But what should you look for in a reputable chimney repair pro?

The first red flag to watch for is a white, chalky substance on the exterior of your masonry walls called efflorescence. Efflorescence is a naturally occurring process that occurs when water seeps through porous building materials, such as brick or concrete. The moisture evaporates, leaving behind salt crystal deposits that create a powdery or chalky appearance on the surface. This is a common problem with building facades and can appear near water fountains, steps, and other areas where water may penetrate through the masonry.

While this phenomenon poses no danger to the structure of your home, it is aesthetically unappealing. Fortunately, the appearance of new efflorescence can often be removed with a light wash or a chemical solution, such as lye or sodium bicarbonate. However, it is important to note that these types of washings should only be used on fresh efflorescence; if done too soon, they can actually damage the masonry.

More than just an eyesore, excessive efflorescence can indicate a problem with the moisture in your building or chimney system. Chimney professionals should examine the problem and offer corrective measures to prevent future moisture problems. In addition, this issue can be a sign of a leak, which could be caused by water entering your chimney from the outside or from the flue liner itself.

Other signs of chimney problems include spalling, where the bricks begin to crumble due to erosion and weathering. This type of damage can be costly to repair and can involve tearing down the chimney, rebuilding it, and then resealing. The best way to protect your chimney from these issues is to hire a professional for regular maintenance and inspections. A pro will be familiar with all the necessary building codes and standards that you need to follow for a safe chimney.

Chimneys and the chimney components like crowns, flashing, and liners are incredibly complex systems that operate under some pretty harsh conditions. This is especially true if there aren’t regular maintenance, inspections, and repairs performed as needed. The most common culprit for problems with a chimney is water, and this is due to both its effects as well as its ability to penetrate deep into cracks and joints where it can cause significant structural damage over time.

When bricks and mortar come into contact with water over a long period of time, they will begin to decay. The thaw and freeze cycles of winter can be very damaging to masonry structures, and it isn’t a question of if, but when bricks will begin to spall. Spalling is the process of water seeping into brick and then refreezing in a shortened timeframe, which weakens brick and mortar until it begins to crumble and fall apart.

Heavy rains can also lead to leaking chimneys if the flashing isn’t properly installed or repaired. The flashing is the area of metal that runs up the chimney to the roof, and it prevents moisture from entering the home through the top of the stack. If a flashing isn’t sealed properly or it becomes damaged, the resulting leak can discolor ceilings and drip down walls near the chimney.

Having a leaking chimney creates the ideal environment for mold and mildew to grow inside the house. This isn’t just unsightly, but it can actually pose a health risk for those with allergies and respiratory issues. Mold and mildew growth can be very difficult to remove, and if left unchecked will eventually begin to ruin wallpaper and paint as it continues to spread.

While it’s tempting to try a DIY chimney repair, the truth is that this can be extremely dangerous and costly. Many chimneys require specialty tools and equipment to work on, and these can easily be damaged or break when they aren’t handled properly. Adding chimney tuckpointing and waterproofing to your preventative maintenance plan will help you avoid expensive chimney repair costs down the road.