How To Address Your Leaky Chimney This Winter
The winter season is a festive time of year for gathering around the fireplace, sharing stories, and sipping hot cocoa. The pillow of snow blanketing the neighborhood is a beautiful sight, but it is also a time of year when homeowners are likely to spot a leaky chimney. The rain, snow, and ice can be damaging to masonry chimneys. They soften the porous materials causing bricks and mortar to flake, crack, and crumble, leaving tiny gaps where water can infiltrate the chimney system. It can also damage the flashing material, another common entry point for water leaks.
Where Chimney Leaks are Likely to Occur
Masonry Damage: The freezing rain and ice have a damaging effect on the exterior masonry. Over time, the constant freezing and thawing cause brick and mortar to crack, exposing gaps in the mortar joints. As the damage progresses, bricks will loosen and separate from the chimney. Extensive masonry damage can lead to a partial or complete chimney collapse.
Chimney Cap: Winter storms can damage or dislodge the chimney cap allowing rain and snow to leak inside the flue and fireplace. The water can damage the interior masonry, chimney liner, and firebox. It can also cause the damper to corrode and lose its airtight seal.
Chimney Crown: The cement chimney crown tops the entire masonry structure, and its sloped design deflects water and snow away from the chimney. The rain, snow, and ice can cause cracks to develop on the surface resulting in a leaky chimney damaging the chase.
Flashing: The flashing is a metal strip that seals the seam where the chimney meets the roof to prevent water leaks. When winter weather damages the flashing or sealant, moisture can seep into cracks causing water damage to the roof and chimney.
Signs You May Have A Leaky Chimney
Sometimes a water leak is not as evident as noticing water dripping in the fireplace. Water damage can occur slowly over time, so it’s vital to look for the signs to stop any leaks before they get worse.
- Spalling or cracked masonry
- Missing bricks
- Sounds of water dripping in the chimney or fireplace
- Water stains or puddles in the firebox
- Moisture or condensation on the interior masonry walls
- Water stains on the ceiling near the fireplace
- A musty odor in the fireplace
Preventing Chimney Leaks
Homeowners can help prevent leaky chimneys and water damage with annual chimney inspections and cleanings. Your chimney sweep has the training and specialized tools and equipment to identify any deficiencies in the chimney system that are a potential source for water leaks and recommend repairs before extensive damage occurs.
Chimney Leak Repairs
Water damage is progressive and will only continue to worsen until repaired. Chimney repairs should only be done by a trained and certified chimney technician.
After repairing any exterior masonry damage, waterproofing the chimney can help protect it from future water damage. The sealant will need to be reapplied every few years to maintain its effectiveness.