Whether you’ve had an official diagnosis of a leaky chimney, or you simply see signs of a leak, the chimney needs to be addressed right away. If it hasn’t been seen by a professional yet, schedule an appointment. If you have a report and a repair plan, do not put this off! It is imperative that chimney leaks are diagnosed and repaired as soon as possible. This prevents future damage and ensures current hazards are corrected. There are still at least 6-8 weeks left of burn season and that leaves plenty of time for water damage and dangerous fires—unless you take action now.
Signs of a Leaky Chimney
The chimney system is a large one, with a large portion being hidden from sight, so many signs of a leak go unnoticed until it’s too late. By the time a homeowner notices signs of a problem, it’s likely been going on for some time. In order to prevent these types of problems and catch them early when they do happen, it’s important to schedule annual inspections. This is the one time a chimney expert will get a look at the entire chimney from top to bottom. If there is a leak or other hazard, it will be detected at the inspection. If it’s not, or if you haven’t had your chimney inspected, there are still ways you can look for a leaky chimney yourself.
Listen – Sounds of water dripping inside the chimney indicates a hidden leak. The dripping may be muffled as if landing on masonry or could be dripping onto a puddle on the smoke shelf. Either way, this water may not show visible signs for some time.
Look – Stains in the firebox that appear green or black are usually caused by water and mold. Stains on the exterior of the chimney are also signs of a leak. Red stains at the top of the chimney are usually caused by rust from a dislodged cap. White, powdery stains on the chimney surface indicate water penetration where the water has passed through the masonry and left minerals on the surface. Lastly, visible dripping inside or along the outside of the chimney is a problem.
Smell – Oddly enough, you can often smell a chimney leak. Odors that smell like mildew or dirty laundry occur when a chimney leak has persisted for some time. Other times you might smell these odors when pressures are high outside, like before a storm.
When you leave a leaky chimney unattended and neglect necessary repairs, the leak can worsen quickly. Even the most elaborate and well-constructed masonry chimneys can be brought down by the water. This is because of the nature of masonry. The very thing that makes it perfect for fireplace ventilation makes it susceptible to water damage more than anything else. The materials that make up masonry are all adversely affected by water, and therefore a small leak can easily lead to even bigger damage. Once water is allowed into the chimney system it can lead to even more, including:
- Rust of important components such as damper assemblies, fireplace accessories and glass doors
- Deterioration of metal or masonry firebox, central heating system, and flue liner
- Rotting walls and wall coverings
- Damaged, stained, spalling, and collapsed, and tilted masonry structure
The damage of a chimney leak goes further than the chimney itself. The chimney may be the entry point, but the water will travel through walls and ceilings until it reaches the lowest point and forms a leak. You may find a leak in a bedroom which damages the ceiling, furniture, and walls and be tempted to call a general contractor, roofer, or plumber, but the cause is the chimney. Only a chimney expert can properly diagnose a chimney leak and correct it. Your contractor may fix the damage and try to find the leak. He may even source the leak back to the chimney, but only a CSIA certified chimney sweep can repair the chimney and prevent a recurrence.
Preventing Chimney Leaks
For serious homeowners in and around Raleigh, North Carolina, who take their home and chimney seriously, we can help prevent chimney leaks. Our team at Mr. Smokestack Chimney Service doesn’t just diagnose damaged and leaky chimneys. We also waterproof them by installing chase covers and chimney caps, repairing crows, installing flashing, and treating the masonry with an industrial water repellent. After we take care of your chimney, you can rest assured your parts are all in working order to keep water out, and even the masonry itself will also. The water repellent we apply the masonry surface penetrates deeply and keeps water molecules from passing through. Unlike products from your local home improvement store, our industrial water repellent is vapor permeable so it allows your chimney to breathe and vent properly.
In much of the continental U.S., it is a wet time of year. If you are a home or business owner in or around Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, we can help protect your property from chimney leaks and water damage as a wet winter turns to an ever wetter spring.
Call us today at 919-747-1859.