How To Know if Your Chimney Needs Repairs
There are some common chimney repairs that are often done because people just don’t know to be on the lookout for ways to reduce them. For example, the type and amount of firewood burned in a wood burning fireplace or woodstove has a lot to do with buildup of a substance called creosote. Creosote can cause your fireplace to smell during the warmer parts of the year and if not addressed, it is the substance that can catch fire and cause damage to your home and potentially loss of life. Being aware of this can lead to a maintenance schedule where the unit can be swept and inspected based on the burn. Of course, you can also get the recommended annual checkup if you don’t know the type of wood or how much you burn every year.
Maintaining Chimney Health
Chimney appliances are very much like us, if we maintain our health with the right types of fuel and get those annual checkups, we tend to feel and do better. When we do break down, it’s normally due to unforeseen circumstances or accidents and we find that true in the fireplace and chimney business as well.
With that said, another thing to lookout for is water coming into your chimney system. If you see or hear water dripping anywhere around the firebox, mantel or chimney, please call us sooner than later. Water is the #1 enemy of your chimney. It can damage the brick, mortar and flue and can cause some very expensive repairs that have to be made to the appliance, to walls, mantels and ceilings in the room where the fireplace or stove resides. A chimney leak left unchecked can do a lot of damage!
We see other common repairs that need to be made that are either due to weather or animals or just from the normal wear and tear of the unit. It’s pretty easy to stop water and animals from entering the top of the system through the flue or chase with a good chimney cap that also is equipped with an animal screen. However, the weather related repairs are mostly those unforeseen lightning strikes or unusually high straight-line winds or even tornados.
Most parts of the country these days are experiencing different weather patterns and extreme storms that they didn’t have before. That chimney sticking up out of the roof is a big target for these storms. That’s one reason we highly recommend getting a certified chimney sweep out to inspect the system if your area has experienced one of these storms before starting your first fire. Sometimes your chimney just gives out to let you know it needs some help but if you call us out first, we can find cracks and leaks that can be repaired before the whole thing falls.
New Construction Ills
Unfortunately due to oversight or just lack of knowledge, many chimney systems in new homes have clearance-to-combustible issues. Simply stated, this is when a combustible or flammable material is too close to the fire or heat source. In these instances, wood beams, boards and other materials are run through the chase or too close to the flue, which carries the smoke and CO2 gases out of your firebox into the atmosphere. In the worse cases, we find the mantels are too close and have the potential to catch fire. This is why we recommend you have any new chimney appliance checked out so we can see if these problems need to be addressed before you start your first fire.
Things To Look For That Say “Help”
- Smells coming from the chimney can be dead things in there or creosote buildup. Both require a good sweeping followed by a level 2 inspection so we can run a video up and see if additional repairs are needed.
- Smoke from your fire is not going up the chimney but back-filling into your room. This could be a blocked flue or a bad chimney draw. Both situations require that your chimney be swept and a level 2 inspection done to see if additional repairs are needed.
- There’s a white residue on the brick or stone. This indicates water damage and we recommend a thorough sweeping followed by waterproofing the brick with a commercial water repellent. If you don’t have a chimney cap or chase cover, we recommend you get one as well as check the flashing.
- The brick in your fireplace is cracking. It’s probably a refractory panel if your fireplace system is a prefab unit and you will need to have a professional chimney technician check it out to see if it needs replacing. For masonry units, a certified chimney sweep will be able to remove the damaged bricks and replace them.
- The bricks are flaking or turning back to sand. This is called spalling and is due to your bricks being exposed to water. This is a harder repair than one would think, so you need a chimney guy that knows what he’s doing to make this repair and it can be expensive.
The Five Top Destroyers Of Your Chimney System
- High Wind
- Lack of Maintenance
- Allowing animals, birds, bats and debris into the system
Most of these – water, maintenance, creosote and keeping animals, birds, etc. out of the system – can be planned for. Unusually high winds is just the luck of the draw and the only thing we can do is make sure everything else is taken care of so the chimney has the best chance of survival when something unforeseen happens.
Because of this, we highly recommend you call a certified chimney company to inspect your chimney system so you can rest easy at night while continuing to enjoy your fireplace or wood stove.