Are Chimney Leaks Common?

Are Chimney Leaks Common?

Are chimney leaks common? Having a crackling fire in your fireplace is a wonderful experience for the family in the cold of winter.

Of course, having a fireplace means maintaining it and the chimney that protects your home and family from exposure to smoke, and like any element of the house, chimneys sometimes cause issues. 

One common concern with chimneys is the leaking of water into the home. We’ll explore why leaks happen, how you can notice the signs before there is advanced damage, and what we can do to help. 

Chimney Leaks are a Common Problem

Regardless of whether you live in a particularly hot or cold climate, chimney leaks can and do impact many homeowners. Seasonal changes and large temperature fluctuations contribute to leaks. Thankfully, when caught early, chimney leaks are often easy to address. However, signs of a leak may be subtler than you expect, so getting a certified inspector to review your home is best.

Drywall and wood exposure to water damage are fairly limited early on in leaks. Still, any water damage to the home should be taken seriously and addressed as quickly as possible to avoid mold and structural damage. If mold develops within the walls and spreads to your ventilation system, it can be spread throughout the home and impact your family. Addressing it quickly when it occurs is important. Water damage to drywall will also impact the structural integrity of the drywall, putting it at risk for collapse or lack of ability to support objects.  

Signs of a Chimney Leak

You might expect a leak in your chimney would result in water collecting in the fireplace, but this is not always the case, especially if the leak is caught early on. For example, in the rare instance mentioned above where condensation appears after a poor conversion of a wood-burning fireplace, the condensation would be noticed well before water collected at the bottom of the chimney. Instead, you should look and listen for other signs: 

  • Dripping within your chimney
  • Moldy smells following precipitation like rain or snow
  • Cracks in your masonry or the liner within your chimney
  • Water damage in your drywall or the attic
  • Rusting of metal elements of chimney or fireplace

Unfortunately, observing leaking from your chimney is difficult to do early on. By the time most people know they have a chimney leak, they see visible water or smell the odors of damaged drywall. This is why regular maintenance is helpful. Our experts who service many chimneys each year will be more familiar with what to look for.

Causes of a Chimney Leak

Climate

Consistent rain in more coastal, humid climates can work its way past the flashing that seals your chimney and eventually get into the attic and other portions of the home. Cooler climates experience both precipitation and cycles of freezing and thawing, which work away at your masonry and sealed portions of your chimney alike. 

Damaged Components

The chimney crown and cap serve to keep precipitation, debris, birds, and other animals out of your chimney. It also protects your chimney from direct contact with water, which can damage the chimney’s external masonry and internal coating. Like any part of the home, these can become damaged by the elements and weathering and eventually crack or rust, leading to leaking into the chimney. 

Faulty Installation

If you choose to convert your traditional wood-burning fireplace to a gas one, steps must be taken to ensure it is converted properly. For example, some wood-burning fireplaces are quite narrow and do not allow for modern round liners. In this case, a different type will need to be installed. In rare instances of poor conversion to gas fireplaces, condensation can form on the inside of the chimney rather than being introduced from outside. 

Failed Lining

Your chimney very likely has a layer of the temperature-safe lining that runs from just above the firebox to the top of the chimney. This is common in any gas-fed chimney, and is expected to last a long time, but can still crack and fall into disrepair without adequate maintenance. If your lining cracks, it can introduce water beneath the lining and impact the masonry on the outside of the chimney as well. 

Professional Chimney Repair from CMO

Annual reviews of your chimney can help diminish the risk of leaks by catching disrepair early and monitoring for common concerns of leaks. If you have an older chimney, you can request more frequent reviews to prolong the life of your historic piece. Our certified Chimney and Masonry Outfitters technicians can help you review your chimney for leaks, suggest solutions, and ensure your chimney is leak-free for future enjoyment. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.