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Waterproofing The Chimney

When it comes to keeping your fireplace and chimney burning safely and in good condition, few things are as important as regular preventative maintenance. This is especially true of protecting your chimney against water, one of the most damaging force’s to your bricks and mortar. Whether your chimney is in pristine condition or has a few cracks or chips, having it waterproofed can protect it for years to come. Waterproofiging the Chimney-Evergreen-CO-Mountain Many Chimney-w800-h800

Water and chimney damage

Masonry is not a delicate building material; it is built to last and can withstand years of exposure to the elements when properly maintained. However, your bricks and mortar still may be susceptible to water damage caused by the freeze thaw cycle.

The freeze thaw cycle can cause major moisture damage to your masonry in as little as one season. Because masonry is naturally porous, it can absorb very small amounts of water from rain, snow, ice, dew, or exposure to hoses or sprinklers. While this minute amount of water may not affect a chimney in good condition, if there are cracks or holes in the masonry the amount of water that is absorbed will increase.

In cold temperatures, the moisture in the bricks can freeze and expand; the causes progressively larger and larger cracks and holes to form. This damage from the freeze thaw cycle will continue to get worse over time causing large cracks to form in the bricks, spalling, or even structural damage to the chimney itself.

Waterproofing protects your chimney against moisture

While a chimney’s exposure to water is inevitable, there are steps that homeowners can take to minimize damage to your chimney. The most effective way to protect your chimney against moisture damage is by having it waterproofed.Professional chimney waterproofing products are unique and unlike another paints or sealants you can buy at a big box home improvement store. These products are specifically designed for use on porous bricks; they allow the bricks to retain their porous properties without letting new water in.

Having your chimney waterproofed can not only protect a chimney in good condition, but it can also help stop the progress of water damage to your chimney. Even if the masonry of your chimney has already begun to crack or spall, applying waterproofing products can slow the progression of the damage and protect the remaining masonry.

Other ways to protect your chimney

Water can affect more than just your masonry; there are a number of other steps homeowners can take to protect their fireplaces and chimneys against water damage. Chimney caps, which protect the top of the flue against moisture, animals, and debris, should be regularly checked for signs of damage – especially if a chimney leak occurs. Likewise, chimney flashing – or the sealant that protects the seam between the chimney and the roof – should be inspected as the flashing can lose its watertight seal over time.

It is important for homeowners to be proactive in protecting their chimney’s against water damage. If you live around Littleton, Lakewood, CO or the surrounding areas, contact Mountain Man Fireplace & Chimney for more information on waterproofing your chimney or to schedule an inspection to check for other signs of water damage or chimney leaks.

By Jake Johnson on March 15th, 2016 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

A Small Chimney Leak Does Not Have to End in a Nightmare

Every homeowner fears water damage to their home. Whether the water drips from the ceiling due to a torn shingle or the basement fills with a few inches of water after a heavy rain, water can cause serious damage to a home and the bank account. An area that could present problems with water damage is one that few people think about: the chimney. Many wrongly regard the chimney as a strong, indestructible structure designed to survive the elements. While chimneys do live outside, they are not completely resistant to weather, especially not water.

Water Damaged Chimney - Evergreen CO - Moutain Man Chimney

Water can do a surprising amount of damage to a chimney, starting with the outside of it. Masonry chimneys are built with materials like brick, mortar, concrete and stone, and each of the materials aside from stone are susceptible to water absorption. The absorption of water alone is not much of an issue, but when the temperatures fall below freezing, the water becomes problematic. Below freezing, water undergoes continuous expansion and contraction due to the freeze and thaw cycle. Therefore, the water inside the masonry materials also experiences this movement, which degrades the strength of the materials. Issues like cracks in the chimney, missing mortar, and even collapse can result from this freeze and thaw cycle of winter. Fortunately, cracks and missing mortar can be repaired before they result in a collapsed structure. Then, a preventative permeable sealant can be applied by a chimney specialist to keep water from entering the structure in the future.

Water can also affect the inside of the chimney if it is allowed to leak in. First, the water will rust out the metal flue lining. This then exposes the interior of the chimney to the same water damage that the outside experiences. A rusted flue liner full of cracks and holes may also expose the house itself to the high heat of the fire, which could cause an unintentional house fire. The water could also drip down the chimney and rust out the damper assembly, preventing proper smoke ventilation. Water damage may also become evident inside the home, with water stains on the ceiling and walls surrounding the chimney. The hearth can also become damaged after long-term exposure to water. Preventing water from leaking into the chimney is as simple as having a chimney expert install or repair the chimney cap or chimney crown. Both of these fixes are much less expensive than repairing water damage.

Water damage is insidious and can cause thousands of dollars in repair before you even realize it is a problem. Avoid these high costs by having an annual chimney inspection, where a professional can catch water damage in the very first stages. If you live in central Colorado near Evergreen, contact Mountain Man Fireplace and Chimney for a professional consultation.

By Jake Johnson on October 31st, 2014 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

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!


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!