Our Company Blog

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!