Now that spring is here, you may be ready to forget about your chimney until fall rolls around. Waiting until autumn for an annual inspection could be too late. It’s smart to take a close look at your chimney now to make sure it hasn’t been damaged from the rough winter and isn’t vulnerable to water damage from a rainy spring. Chimney damage tends to compound over time. Even if you aren’t a chimney expert, there are warning signs that you can spot. Catching damage now can save you money in the future.
Most chimney damage is caused by moisture that is absorbed into the masonry. There are many different ways that moisture can get into a chimney system such as from a leaky chimney cap or broken crown. Once moisture gets into a chimney, it can do a wide range of damage. The main reason why it is so destructive is because of the freeze-thaw process.
As the moisture within masonry freezes and thaw throughout the winter, it expands and contracts. This process breaks down bricks and mortar. After a hard winter, you may be able to spot the signs of water damage from the freeze-thaw process.
You don’t have to climb up on to the chimney to see problems. Here are 3 warning signs you can spot from the ground:
- Chipped, Broken, or Cracked Masonry
If you notice broken bricks, chipped mortar or cracks running through the masonry, you should contact a chimney solution specialist. This type of damage can lead to serious structural problems if it is not taken care of.
In many cases, tuckpointing repairs will solve the problem. Tuckpointing is a process that involves removing damaged bricks and mortar, then replacing them with matching bricks and mortar. If the damage is minor, applying a waterproofing sealant to the masonry may be all that is necessary. If there is severe damage to your chimney, a more extensive rebuild may be required. A certified chimney sweep will be able to access the damage and suggest the best solution.
- Pieces of Broken Flue Tiles
Many homes have a chimney liner that is made of tiles. Tile chimney liners can crack and break because of moisture just like exterior masonry. When tile chimney lines breakdown it is called spalling.
Make sure to check for broken pieces of tile when you clean cool ashes out of the firebox. If you find pieces of broken flue tiles, contact a certified chimney specialist. Using a fireplace with a broken flue liner is dangerous. It increases the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and a house fire.
The most common solutions for a spalling flue liner are to resurface the flue with a sealant or reline it with a metal chimney liner. Either solution will allow you to safely use your fireplace in the future.
- Discolored or Stained Masonry
Discolored or stained masonry is more than just an eyesore. It is a sign of an underlying problem. The color of the stain can give you a clue to the problem.
Brown or black stains are usually a sign of excessive creosote buildup. Creosote is a flammable chemical compound that is a byproduct of burning fuels like wood. Along with staining your chimney and increasing the risk of a chimney fire, creosote can produce a strong odor during hot humid weather.
Red and orange stains may be a sign that a metal chimney component, like a chase cover or chimney cap, is rusting. Green staining is often a sign that mildew or mold are growing in the chimney. White staining is called efflorescence. It is sign that high levels of moisture are being absorbed by the masonry.
All of these underlying problems can be solved by a professional chimney sweep. The solution may be as simple as a chimney cleaning or chimney cap replacement or more complex.
Don’t wait if you notice any of these problems! Call on a chimney professional who has been certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), like our team at Chimney Solution Indiana, to do an inspection. Tackling this problem in the spring will give us plenty of time to address it and stop it from escalating.