Our Company Blog

What Causes Chimneys to Leak?

Chimneys are designed and built to withstand constant exposure to the elements. However, even the best built chimneys can be damaged or deteriorate over time. Chimney damage often leads to chimney leaks; with so many different components, it can be difficult to determine the exact cause of a chimney leak.What Causes Chimneys to Leak

Causes of chimney leaks

Diagnosing the cause of a leaky chimney can be difficult; because of this, we recommend having a chimney inspection done by a certified professional to identify the cause of the lea. Finding and repairing the source of the chimney leak first can prevent additional water from getting in after chimney repairs are made. The following are four of the most common causes of leaky chimneys.

– Chimney cap: The metal top and mesh sides of the chimney cap keep moisture, animals, and debris out of the chimney. However, if the chimney cap is improperly fitted, incorrectly installed, or damaged, water can easily flow into the top of the flue and down into the rest of the fireplace system.
– Chimney crown: The stone or masonry of the chimney crown is the slab that surrounds the flue and covers the top of the chimney structure. Because of their location, chimney crowns often bear the brunt of the chimney’s exposure to the elements; this can cause them to deteriorate faster than other chimney components. When this occurs, water can seem into cracks or holes in the chimney crown.
– Flashing: Chimney flashing creates a watertight seal on the joint between the roof and the chimney. Flashing can lose its seal due to overexposure to the elements, damage from storms, changes to the surrounding roofing materials, or improper installation. Leaks caused by flashing are often misidentified as roof leaks because the water appears on ceilings and walls instead of inside the chimney.
– Masonry: Water from rain, ice, snow, and even sprinklers can cause masonry to deteriorate over time. Damaged masonry can chip, crack, and spall because of overexposure to moisture. Not only does this let water into the chimney, but it can also affect the structural stability of the chimney structure.

How to prevent chimney leaks

While it is impossible to keep your chimney away from water, it is possible to help prevent chimney leaks. One of the easiest – and most important – ways to prevent a chimney leak is by having regular sweepings and inspections. This annual maintenance allows minor chimney problems to be identified and repaired long before they create serious damage.

In addition to regular annual maintenance, masonry can also be waterproofed in order to prevent water damage. During the waterproofing process a specially designed water repellant is applied to the masonry; this allows the bricks and mortar to retain their semi-porous nature without letting water be absorbed by the masonry. Waterproofing may also be able to stop the deterioration process on chimneys with existing water damage.

If you have a chimney leak – no matter how small – don’t wait for the leak to get worse before calling a chimney sweep. Contact Mountain Man Fireplace & Chimney today to schedule an inspection; our certified technicians can find and repair the source of your chimney leak!

By Jake Johnson on June 21st, 2016 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , , | Leave a Comment

Keep Birds Out of the Chimney

Birds don't belong in your chimney - keep them out with a new chimney cap!

Birds don’t belong in your chimney – keep them out with a new chimney cap!

Now that warm spring weather has arrived, birds’ nests can be seen popping up seemingly overnight in bushes and trees – and even chimneys. While it may not seem like a big deal to have a bird in your chimney – especially in the summer when fireplaces and other heating appliances are typically not used – birds can carry disease as well as cause damage to your chimney and flue.

How do birds get in?

Birds and other animals often view chimneys as safe places to nest and avoid predators. Unfortunately, most homeowners do not want their chimney to turn into nesting grounds. The best way to keep a chimney protected against bird and animal entry is with a chimney cap.

The most common way for birds and other animals to get into your chimney is through an uncapped chimney or damaged chimney cap. Even if they chimney cap has only a small hole or crack, most birds are able to wiggle their way in. Because of this, it is extremely important to have the chimney regularly inspected for signs of damage or deterioration.

The dangers of birds in the chimney

While it may not seem like anything more than a minor inconvenience to have birds in the chimney, it can actually cause major chimney issues as well as potential health problems to your family.

When birds nest in your chimney, their nests may sometimes block the flue completely. This prevents smoke and gas from the fireplace to fully vent, instead backing up into your home. Likewise, over time nesting materials can dry out, becoming increasingly brittle and at risk for igniting from sparks from the fireplace.

In addition to the fire hazard nesting materials cause, birds themselves are often carriers of disease. Bird droppings are often a toxic combination of various bacteria; ironically, homeowners are most at risk when they attempt to clean these droppings themselves. Instead, trust a professional with the correct safety equipment to remove them.

Preventing birds in the chimney

The best way to keep birds out of your chimney is through a good chimney cap and regular chimney maintenance. An annual chimney inspection is an excellent way to make sure the chimney cap has not been damaged. Likewise, an inspection can often catch other signs that animals are trying to get into your chimney such as scratches around the chimney cap or flashing.

If you have had birds in your chimney before, simply getting them out may not be enough. Oftentimes, birds return to the same areas each year to nest. This is especially true of migratory birds which are known to return to the exact same tree year after year. Because of this, it is important to fix how the birds are getting in to keep them from coming back. Furthermore, some birds, like the Chimney Swift, are protected by federal law by the Migratory Bird Act Treaty and cannot be moved once they nest. It is best to prevent them from nesting in the first place!

If you’ve had problems with past animal entry or fear you may have birds currently building a nest in your chimney and live around Littleton, contact Mountain Man Fireplace and Chimney today. Our highly trained technicians can help repair your chimney to keep animals out – for good.

By Jake Johnson on May 26th, 2015 | Tagged with: Tags: , | Leave a Comment

The Advantages of Keeping your Chimney Cap Clean and Free of Debris

The chimney cap is one of the most important parts of your chimney. In addition to keeping hot coals and embers from flying out onto your roof, it also prevents animals, debris, and moisture from getting into your chimney.

To keep working well, chimneys and chimney caps should be regularly inspected and maintained. A chimney cap that is clean and free of debris will work more efficiently and minimize potential hazards.

chimney-cap-maintenance-image-evergreen-co-mountain-man-chimney

What is a chimney cap?

A chimney cap is a metal covering designed to protect and cover the top of the flue. Made of clay or metals such as stainless steel or copper, chimney caps also have mesh or wire sides that prevent animals or debris from getting into the chimney structure.

Chimney caps are important in that they protect your chimney. Water entry can cause serious damage to nearly every part of your chimney and fireplace, and debris can clog the chimney and become a fire hazard.

How do chimney caps become clogged?

The same wire or mesh that prevents animals or debris from getting into your chimney is also the reason your chimney cap may be clogged. If the spacing in the mesh is too large, small birds or mammals may be able to squeeze through and into the chimney. If the spacing is too small, it may become clogged from the inside with creosote, soot, or ash.

Likewise, over time leaves and debris may blow onto the outside of the chimney cap and get stuck, restricting airflow. During winter storms, the mesh may also be blocked by accumulating ice or snow.

Advantages of keeping your chimney cap clean

Because chimney caps play such an important role in protecting your fireplace and chimney, it is important that they receive regular upkeep and maintenance. A chimney cap that is clean and free of debris allows open airflow into the chimney. This allows fires enough oxygen to start quickly and burn fully. Likewise, a clean chimney cap reduces potential fire hazards as there is no creosote to be accidentally ignited by stray sparks or embers.

Chimney caps that are clean and free from blockages also prevent smoke or gasses such as carbon monoxide from backing up into your home.

How can I tell if my chimney cap is clogged?

Identifying a clogged chimney cap may be difficult because of their location. However, there are a number of signs that you may be experiencing a clogged chimney cap. Because a clogged chimney cap restricts airflow into the chimney, homes where the cap is partially or fully blocked may have issues starting or maintaining a fire in the fireplace.
Homeowners may be able to identify a clogged chimney cap without getting on the roof. Excessive creosote buildup on a chimney cap may cause discoloration to the surrounding bricks and mortar. Likewise, if the chimney cap is visible from the ground, you should be able to see light through the screen. If it is opaque or if there is visible debris on the exterior of the chimney cap, it is most likely clogged.

If you think your chimney cap is clogged or simply need to have an annual chimney sweep or inspection performed, contact Mountain Man Fireplace and Chimney today!

3 Ways Water Ruins Your Chimney

 

We might start sounding like a broken record after a while, but the truth is the truth: Moisture is your chimney system’s worst enemy. Sure, we have to consider other potential chimney problems in providing proper chimney care, like fire hazards and proper draft. But when Mountain Man Fireplace and Chimney technicians are called out for chimney repairs, more often than not, the culprit behind that repair need is water.

How Water Damages Your Chimney

One potential result of excess water in your chimney is damage to your mortar joints.

One potential result of excess water in your chimney is damage to your mortar joints.

Here’s the thing about the various sources of chimney trouble: Most of them are either irregular, or relatively avoidable. Yes, a lightning strike could cause serious damage to your chimney, but those don’t happen frequently. Same goes for seismic events. And while a chimney fire is a serious concern, we can do a lot to make those far less probable, from sweeping your chimney every year to guiding you toward proper burning practices (like always and only burning seasoned or kiln-dried firewood).

Water, on the other hand, is consistent. Season after season, year after year, rain, snow, sleet and other forms of precipitation bear down on your chimney exterior, wearing at the masonry and the various components of your system. You can’t keep your chimney clear of moisture, but you can know how moisture attacks and damages your chimney, and learn what you can do to protect the system and avoid extensive damage.

3 Types Of Water Damage

Rust/Corrosion

Many components of your chimney system are made out of metal, including your chimney flashing and chimney cap. In pre-fabricated chimney systems, you’ll have a metal chimney chase installed at the top performing a job similar to that of a masonry chimney crown: diverting water away from the flue opening. Depending on what those components are made of, rust and corrosion could be a concern. Galvanized metal is a budget-friendly material, but it doesn’t stand up to the elements nearly as well as copper or stainless steel. Galvanized caps and covers can start to fail even in just a few years. Rust and corrosion are things we’ll look for during your chimney inspection, but if you see rust streaks on your chase cover or chimney cap or notice damage on your flashing in between inspections, call Mountain Man — those components likely need replacing.

Spalling

Spalling masonry is masonry that’s flaking, chipping or crumbling, and that can span from surface flaking on your chimney crown to bricks that look like their faces have popped clean off. And yes, water is your culprit here too. Water causes spalling often through the freeze/thaw cycle — moisture weaves its way into small imperfections like cracks, then the water freezes as the temperatures drop, and expanding ice breaks open the masonry from the inside. But the regular assault of rain and snow can just slowly wear at your masonry too, causing the surface to flake and crumble.

Mortar Joint Damage

Bricks will generally stay stronger longer than the mortar joints holding them together. So after years of being bombarded by precipitation, it’s common for mortar joints to recede or crack, allowing moisture to move toward the interior of your chimney, affecting other components (like rusting your throat damper or wearing down the mortar joints in your firebox). Leaks like these can also create a mold issue. Mold feeds on moisture, and if it starts growing in your chimney, it can contribute to health problems, from skin irritation to respiratory problems, for the people in your home

How To Keep Water From Ruining Your Chimney

Your chimney system was designed with components that protect it against water. Your chimney crown or chase cover usher rain away from the flue; flashing keeps water from intruding where your chimney meets the roofline; a chimney cap helps protect the flue opening from letting precipitation in. When Mountain Man technicians perform your annual chimney inspection, we check all of those components to ensure that they’re performing properly and effectively — and if they’re not, we can do the right repairs to change that. So keeping up with those inspection appointments: a big step toward keeping water from ruining your chimney.

Another proactive step we can recommend is having Mountain Man techs apply a waterproofing sealant to your masonry. Waterproofing keeps excess moisture from being absorbed, and protects the masonry itself, helping to extend its service life. It’s a really worthwhile extra step that helps you avoid damage and leaks, and care for a beautiful part of your home.

If you have any questions about moisture damage to your chimney — or if you’d like to make an appointment with Mountain Man Fireplace & Chimney’s CSIA-certified technicians — just give us a cal

Keep the Water Out

Look Up: Preventing Leaks Can Start At The Top

Your chimney is a complex (and pretty remarkable) system, and every component plays an important role in its performance, safety and longevity. But when we get on the subject of understanding and preventing chimney leaks, it sometimes helps to start by looking up.

What do you need to do to ensure that your chimney stays dry? We have answers.

What do you need to do to ensure that your chimney stays dry? We have answers.

The top portion of your chimney, up above the roofline, tends to be both your chimney’s first line of defense against moisture intrusion and moisture damage and the most heavily bombarded part of your chimney — between rain, snow and baking sun. Making sure that all the parts of your chimney system that live above the roofline are in top shape goes a long way toward keeping chimney leaks at bay. And that’s something we want to help you do at Mountain Man Fireplace & Chimney, because chimney moisture damage is a serious, and seriously frustrating problem.

The Top Portion Of Your Chimney: A Breakdown

Chimney Caps

If you’re looking at your chimney from the street, the first thing you notice up at the very top should be a chimney cap. These are installed atop your flue opening, and their role is multifaceted: Chimney caps not only help to keep rain, snow and other forms of precipitation from diving right into your open flue, they also keep nesting animals out, which helps prevent a whole other kind of damage and annoyance.

If you don’t have a properly sized chimney cap at the top of your flue, that’s one big piece of prevention missing, and one big step closer to moisture problems in your chimney.

Chimney Crowns And Chase Covers

If you have a masonry chimney, you’ll have a masonry chimney crown built up top, right below where your chimney cap is installed. It’s in a tough spot — horizontal, in the direct line of sun and precipitation — and it does an important job, directing and diverting water away from your flue opening. Given all the stress your crown is under, it’s not uncommon for cracks to form. But once cracks do form, bigger trouble begins — moisture can make its way into small cracks, expanding as it freezes and more or less bursting the masonry apart from the inside. The longer it’s left uncorrected, the more damage occurs, and the more moisture gets a chance to make its way into the interior of your chimney and your home.

That’s part of why we’re so vocal about keeping up with your annual chimney inspections — if we’re checking your system closely each and every year, we’ll find those small cracks and make repairs before you’re left with a crumbled and spalling crown that needs to be completely rebuilt.

If you have a pre-fabricated or factory-built chimney system, you’ll have a chase around the upper portion of your chimney, topped with a chase cover that performs a role similar to a chimney crown. Chase covers are constructed with metal, so you’re not dealing with spalling masonry, but instead with the potential for rust and corrosion. Homeowners with galvanized metal chase covers most often have that problem — and rusty, corroded chase covers are a just about surefire contributor to a chimney leak.

If you notice rust streaks on your chase cover in between chimney inspections, give Mountain Man Fireplace & Chimney a call. We can replace the damaged cover with a new one, and talk to you about different options for materials, like stainless steel and copper, which are far more durable (and are beautiful, too).

Chimney Flashing

Where your chimney comes up through your roof, you have seams — the places where the horizontal roof butts up against your vertical chimney column. Seams in just about any context — from your chimney to your chinos — can mean vulnerability when care isn’t taken to strengthen them. So in a chimney, we install flashing all around the chimney, sealing off and carefully protecting those seams from moisture intrusion.

Since its role in leak prevention is so important, damaged flashing is a big deal — if pieces of flashing tear or come off in a storm, or corrode over time, the likelihood of ending up with a leak certainly isn’t low. If there’s a problem with your flashing, Mountain Man technicians can do the careful, custom work required to getting it back in shape.

If you have any questions about your chimney, from its design and function to the best ways to protect it (and your home), we’re always glad to help. Call Mountain Man Fireplace & Chimney!

 

Chimney Safety Saves You Money!

The primary reason that Mountain-area homeowners have their chimneys swept each year is safety – none of us want to put our homes at increased risk as the result of a hostile chimney fire.  Of course, it’s also important to remember that it saves you money to keep your hearth appliances well maintained and operating at maximum performance and efficiency!

If you don't have a chimney cap installed, it is imperative that you act now to divert water from your chimney. Over the long-run, water rots your chimney from the inside; costing considerably more money.

If you don’t have a chimney cap installed, it is imperative that you act now to divert water from your chimney. Over the long-run, water rots your chimney from the inside; costing considerably more money.

Here are some fundamental ways to stay safe and save money at home this Spring:

1.  If you don’t have a chimney cap, get one.  Without a cap, rain and snow enter at the top of the chimney – not too much differently than having a hole in the top of your house.  Moisture in the flue not only damages the interior liner (either eroding the mortar joints or causing rust on the steel components) but it washes some of the combustible soot and creosote down the side of the flue.  Now that it’s warming up again, critters like a quiet place to have a litter away from predators.  All of these conditions are going to cost you some serious money to get fixed, but simply having a properly sized cap will prevent this from happening.

2.  If you have a chimney cap, make sure it’s not getting plugged.  Modern chimney caps have a wire screen to act as a spark-arrestor.  This is a valuable part of the chimney system, but also the first place that gets plugged with creosote.  Check for these two signs; if you’re having difficulty getting a fire started when it used to be easy, it’s likely that your chimney cap is partially plugged.  If the cap is blocking the airflow at the top of the chimney, the draft in the flue will be reduced.  Restricted airflow means lower flue temperatures and increased creosote buildup – and it means poorer efficiency.  A poorly operating hearth appliance means extra money spent on fuel and extra emissions entering the atmosphere.

3.  Don’t forget your dryer vent.  Much like their hearth appliance brethren, dryer vents rely on an unplugged venting system for good airflow.  A common symptom of a dryer vent that needs to be serviced is clothes that take extra cycles to get completely dry – and that means spending extra money for each load of clothes.  Obviously it’s costing you extra money if you have to run your dryer longer to dry the same clothes.  A simple mistake many of our customers make is to assume that their dryer vent will get serviced when they have a new dryer installed.  In fact, it’s rare for an appliance installation crew to remove the lint and debris from anywhere other than inside the room containing the dryer.

4.  Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly gas created by the incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons – including cord wood, natural gas, pellet fuel and propane.  Medical research has shown that long term exposure to levels of CO once thought to be ‘safe’ can cause serious health problems including memory loss and lung damage.  The best way to prevent CO production is to have all heating units regularly serviced as part of an annual system of inspection and evaluation.  The best way to detect CO after its production is with a CO Detector.

To receive a Free Copy of the CSIA Bulletin: The Facts About Chimney Fires: Causes and Cures and/or a chimney cap brochure, or for more information about heating with wood, gas or pellet products or for service on all makes and models, call us today at Mountain Man Fireplace & Chimney – (303) 679-1601. Semper Fi!

Why is My Chimney Leaking?

There are few things more aggravating to a homeowner than having water leaking into their home. Finding the exact source of a leak around a chimney can be particularly frustrating.  The inherent complexity of having a masonry structure pass through a framed roof can turn the proper diagnosis of a leaking chimney into a time-consuming headache.

Annual chimney maintenance is helpful because it alerts you to problems early, before they become catastrophic.

Annual chimney maintenance is helpful because it alerts you to problems early, before they become catastrophic.

To understand the fundamentals of why a masonry chimney will or won’t leak, let’s start at the top of the flue and work down to the roofline.  First, if you don’t have a chimney cap, get one.  An uncovered chimney allows whatever rain and snow are falling to enter right into the fireplace flue.  Over time, that water erodes the mortar joints between the flue tiles and it also damages the chimney as the water is heated into steam during operation of the fireplace.

The chimney crown is the ‘lid’ over your chimney.  It’s useful to think of a chimney as a hollow box built out of cinder blocks or bricks.  To keep water from entering the chimney from above, a crown is poured.  The crown should be concrete that is 4” – 5” thick and contoured to drain moisture.  Lots of chimney crowns in our area were just built with mortar instead of concrete or they lack an expansion joint to allow the top flue tile to expand when the fireplace is in use.  The result is cracks and erosion that allow water to penetrate and cause increasingly larger cracks as the freeze-thaw cycle occurs.

The sides of a masonry chimney are often the least understood culprit when making a leaky chimney diagnosis.  Like all masonry materials, mortar joints will allow water penetration when saturated.  When the mortar joints are cracked or damaged, water easily flows through them and into the space between the cinder block structure and the stone veneer.  It flows downward until it reaches the framing of the roof and into your home.  Even in our dry climate, when a chimney is exposed to excessive rain and snow, it will absorb moisture through the rocks or bricks on the sides. The solution is to locate the weakened joints and cracked rocks and seal or replace them as necessary.

Where the chimney meets the roofline can be the most complicated region of a leaking chimney to diagnose.  Every roof-chimney interface should have an overlapping system that includes both flashing and counter-flashing.  The flashing starts under the roofing materials and runs up alongside the chimney.  The counter-flashing starts out with a ‘cut’ into the side of the chimney and then overlaps the flashing to create a barrier to water intrusion.  Unfortunately, a huge percentage of homes in our community have chimneys that are flashed improperly.  We often see chimneys where the counter-flashing is just placed along the chimney and ‘sealed’ with some type of goop.  WRONG!  Chimneys like these need significant repairs to keep the water out of your home.

To correctly diagnose and fix a leaking chimney, we evaluate the entire chimney as a system: top (cap and crown), middle (stonework or bricks) and bottom (flashing and counter-flashing).  If any of the three sections is leaking, then the chimney has a potential for water to enter the home.  Next month we’ll explain how to find the leaks on a framed chase with a factory-built chimney.

To schedule a fireplace/chimney sweeping and/or inspection – call us today at Mountain Man Fireplace and Chimney, Inc – (303) 679.1601 / 838.3882 or electronically at office@MtnManChimney.com.  Semper Fi!

 

 

 

 

 

Common Chimney Repairs

Getting Started

The one thing you hear the most in the chimney world is to make sure you keep up with your annual maintenance.  This maintenance consists of an inspection and sweep every year.  When researching for a technician, make sure that they are credible.  You can find out a lot about the people working in your neighborhood through word of mouth of family and friends, or also checking internet websites where customers can leave reviews after the service has been completed.

Over time, water will wear down the defenses of your chimney. Common waterproofing repairs include restoring flashing and replacing chimney caps.

Over time, water will wear down the defenses of your chimney. Common waterproofing repairs include restoring flashing and replacing chimney caps.

Anyone you have perform a chimney sweep should be certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America, (CSIA) a non-profit organization that serves as a great place of information for homeowners.  Having this maintenance done can prevent you from having many other problems arise in the long run, so make sure it is done on time and not just when you think it’s needed.  To schedule your appointment call the professionals at Mountain Man Chimney Fireplace & Chimney.

Biggest Threats

There are many things in a chimney that can malfunction, and can potentially cause big problems even though they seem small in the beginning.  First, water can enter your home and cause mold to form.  This is extremely common in areas that have high precipitation levels.  Water can enter when the flashing on a chimney becomes loose, cracked, or missing.  Sometimes caulk can be used to fix the gaps, but sometimes it will need replacing.

Bricks can become cracked which can also be a place for water to collect.  When this happens, call an experienced sweep that can come repair the unit properly.  They will be able to judge the size of the crack and what needs to be used to fix it.  The chimney crown serves as a roof to the unit, so that must also be repaired if cracked.  Lastly, installing a chimney cap will not only help keep water out, but animals as well.

After a chimney has been repaired, toss a little water on it to make sure that it was done properly and no water is still allowed to enter.  If the surface turns a dark color and absorbs into the chimney, you may still be in danger of water damage.

Taking Care of Business

To take care of this, you should have your chimney waterproofed.  There are special chemicals that form a sealant when applied that will repel the water as it hits the structure.  It is important to have a breathable substance so that vapors are not trapped inside of the chimney.  You always want to make sure that the chimney is cleaned before applying the repellent.

What is the Risk?

When these repairs go unattended they can become much worse.  If a crack becomes larger more water can collect inside of it.  This will lead to more mold, which can spread into the foundation of your home and also the air you and your family breathe.  Also, if you do not have your sweep in a timely fashion you can become susceptible to chimney fires and draft problems that could eventually lead to carbon monoxide poisoning or become a threat to the structural integrity of your home.

We recommend an annual chimney cleaning and inspection, so that we can identify and eliminate problems early on. Waiting is more dangerous and much more expensive. Call today!