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

When is a Chimney Not a Chimney?

Part Two of ‘Why is MY Chimney Leaking?’  

There are quite a number of ambiguous and even confusing terms used in the hearth industry.  Among them is the very basic word ‘chimney’.  If what looks like a chimney and sticks up out of your roof is covered with siding or stucco, it’s probably actually a ‘chase’.  The chase is the framed box and it’s the metal pipe inside that is the chimney.  But all this does is lead to the same questions we answered last month – why is my chimney leaking?  Or my chase or whatever you want to call it?!?!?

In order to safeguard performance and all who live in your home, you must take steps to waterproof your chimney.

In order to safeguard performance and all who live in your home, you must take steps to waterproof your chimney.

Water leaking into your home is a hassle and it can be difficult to locate the source.  Whether you’re venting a fireplace, a stove or even a furnace; the fundamentals of investigating a leak on are the same with a chase as with a chimney:  start at the top and work down to the roofline.  Usually the chase is covered by a sheet metal cover that was fabricated for that specific chase – it looks like an upside down cake pan.  In order to keep it from leaking, the ‘chase cover’ needs to be properly supported and sized for whatever chimneys pass through it.  A properly installed chase cover consists of four components:  the underlying framing and plywood to support it, the cover itself – it should have 4” sides and a drip edge, the chimney collar – the transition from flat to round, and the storm collar – the hat brim-shaped strip of metal that fits around the outer wall of the chimney above the chimney collar.

If water leaks into the chase cover from the top, it typically runs down the outside of the pipe until it reaches something to absorb it.  That can be the ceiling, the top of a freestanding stove or even the walls on the front of a fireplace.  It’s also common for water leaking into the chase to eventually create rust on the top of a built-in fireplace, causing a serious deficiency in the ability of the fireplace to protect the surrounding combustible material.

Because the chase is built very similarly to a standard wall, the sides of a conventional chase are the easiest to evaluate during a leaky chimney diagnosis.  Like anywhere else on your home, water can enter through gaps and/or splits in the siding, cracks in the stucco, and even through holes made by animals.  A comprehensive chimney inspection will include an evaluation of all four sides of the chase.

Where the chase 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/chase, we evaluate the entire chimney/chase as a system: top (cap and cover), middle (siding and/or stucco) 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.  Our standardized 20-point inspection process is designed to locate the source of leaks and allow us to create a repair program for stopping the water penetration into your home.

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!

Ways to Extend the Life of your Chimney

Your chimney works hard to ensure that you and your family stay warm during the cold-weather months.  It's only fair that you work hard for your chimney to ensure that it's able to continue working for you for many years to come.

Your chimney works hard to ensure that you and your family stay warm during the cold-weather months. It’s only fair that you work hard for your chimney to ensure that it can continue working hard for you for many years to come.

After years of constant usage of your chimney and fireplace, there will come a time where damages, cracks and leaks will gradually start happening. That’s why it’s best to always have us on your priority numbers’ list so that one of our CSIA-licensed experts can help you install, repair and replace any part that needs immediate attention. Here at Mountain Man, we want to make your chimney last as long as possible. Here are some tips on how to extend the life of your chimney.

The Flue and the Flue Liner

One of the most important parts of the chimney is the flue together with the flue liner. It functions to make sure that the smoke from the open combustion in the fireplace is properly led out of the home. It also helps increase draft efficiency and will allow proper flow of air and smoke. However, when there are cracks, there might be a need to reline the flue. In worst cases, the entire flue needs to be replaced. Paying close attention to the flue and flue liner will definitely prolong the life of the chimney.

Waterproofing your Chimney

Water is one of the biggest enemies of chimneys; it can destroy it over time as water seeps into the mortar brick walls. Waterproofing your chimney by applying a waterproof sealant to the brick walls will definitely prevent water from entering thus adding more years to your chimney. Install a good chimney cap and chimney flashing too and you’re all set for any kind of weather. Having a chimney cap is a good thing because it also prevents obstructions like:

• Debris
• Small animals
• Birds and nests
• Spider webs
• Fallen leaves

These are only two of the courses of action you can take to make your chimney last longer. There are indeed many ways to extend the life of your chimney, but like everything else; it always comes with a price. Nonetheless, we will make sure that our services and our customer service are always worth both your time and money.

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!