It’s pretty clear when your car isn’t working. When the fence breaks, the neighbors are sure to let you know. How do you know when your chimney or flue needs repairing? Even when you can’t see most of it and there are no alarms that sound, there are signs to look for.
By Claire West
1 —Crumbling debris in the firebox
Don’t overlook the crumbling debris that appears in your fireplace. This debris is coming from your masonry liner. If you have cracks in your chimney flue liner then you are at risk for a house fire. Flying embers and dangerous gases traveling up the flue can escape into your home.
Tile liners in older homes can be replaced with new stainless steel liners that reduce creosote build-up and are easy to clean. Ensure that you are not at risk for a house fire, have your chimney inspected annually for cracks or wearing masonry.
2 —Water stains on the living room walls
A compromised chimney can introduce water into the interior of your home. If you see water in your attic or on the interior walls near the fireplace, it could mean that you have an area where water is entering your chimney or that your flashing is not sealing properly. Slow leaks can cause thousands of dollars in repairs and mold clean up and should be taken care of immediately.
3 —Mortar that is being squeezed out between bricks
Water that is absorbed into your bricks will expand during a freeze cycle competing with the mortar for space. This will literally push the mortar out from between the bricks. This obviously is a problem, leaving cracks where water can enter the home as well as reduce the stability of the chimney structure. If caught early enough, masons can repoint the bricks to their original condition. If not, the structure may need to be rebuilt.
4 —Cracks in the chimney crown
When water enters even tiny crevices of a chimney crown, it spells disaster. Those crevices will get bigger with every rain or freeze cycle. The chimney crown is a critical structural component to the chimney and should be maintained to protect against a complete chimney collapse.
5 —White residue on bricks
A white residue on the surface of your bricks indicates that water is penetrating them. The water that is absorbed into your bricks travels to the surface, bringing with it the minerals that were dissolved along the way. Water is the number one enemy of any brickwork, dissolving it or pushing it apart in a freeze/thaw cycle. The good news is that you can protect your chimney with a waterproofing agent that was designed just for bricks. It’s called Chimney Saver and it is available through some chimney sweep companies, like Chimcare LLC.
Nothing will give you more peace of mind then an annual chimney inspection. The professionals at Chimcare, LLC can check the condition of your masonry, look for signs of water damage and make sure that you are not at risk for fire.