Our Company Blog

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!