Chimney Leaks: Prevention and Repairs

As a homeowner, you understand the seriousness of the words “water damage.” In fact, that phrase might even physically repulse you. If your basement was flooded, if your ceiling was leaking, if any other area of your home was suffering water damage you would act immediately to repair that damage and prevent future problems. Why, then, do we not feel the same sense of urgency and diligence when it comes to our masonry chimneys?

Typically, chimneys do not receive the same level of attention and maintenance that homeowners devote to their other home features and appliances. Perhaps this is because chimneys appear to do their job reasonably well, even when neglected. However, looks can be deceiving: chimneys are exposed to the elements and can dangerously deteriorate from water damage without the proper maintenance and repairs. This deterioration leads to serious safety hazards, in addition to steep costs, for homeowners. It is critical to understand the threat water penetration presents to your masonry chimney, so that you can preserve the integrity and safety of your chimney and your home.

Threat of Water Penetration

Masonry chimneys can be constructed from any combination of a variety of materials, including brick, mortar, stone, concrete, siding, wood, tile, steel and cast iron. All of these construction materials will experience severe deterioration as a result of prolonged exposure to water. That said, while stone is largely unaffected by water, stone chimneys are built with large amounts of mortar and are therefore not safe from water damage. When water penetrates these materials, it will freeze and thaw, contract and expand as the weather changes, deteriorating your chimney. The adverse effects of water leaks in your masonry chimney are numerous:

  • Unpleasant smell, due to the mixture of water and creosote
  • Rusted damper system
  • Rusted metal and glass accessories
  • Rotted wood components
  • Water stained walls and ceiling
  • Clogged clean out area
  • Deteriorated central heating system
  • Stained chimney exterior
  • Deteriorated exterior mortar
  • Cracked flue lining system
  • Collapsed hearth support
  • Collapsed chimney structure
  • Chimney settlement

Left unattended, this deterioration can lead to serious damage to the structure of your chimney and your home.

Prevention

Chimney caps, or rain covers, are one of the most essential preventative measures a homeowner can take against water damage. Left uncovered, the large flue openings at the top of your chimney can directly funnel water into your chimney’s interior. A chimney cap prevents these water leaks, protecting your chimney from damage.

Additionally, you can install a cricket, or a water deflector, to prevent rain runoff from flowing into your chimney. This is especially helpful if your chimney is on the low side of a steep roof.

Furthermore, you can waterproof the points of your chimney with the most potential for water penetration, such as brick and mortar joints. Employ a professional chimney sweep to assess the potential for water damage in your chimney. They can seal any cracks, stop up any leaks and apply water repellant where necessary to protect your chimney from water invasion.

Repair

If your chimney has already experienced significant water penetration, it is important to repair the damage as soon as possible. There are many reparations that may be necessary. If your chimney crown, which covers and seals the top of the chimney, is damaged and no longer directing water away from the chimney, you may need to repair or replace the crown. If some of your chimney’s brick and mortar joints are deteriorated, they may require repair. It may also be necessary to repair or replace the flashing, or the seal between the roofing material and the chimney. Hire a professional to assess the water damage to your chimney and execute the necessary repairs, before the deterioration increases.

Water damage to your masonry chimney is serious business and can lead to safety hazards, structural damage and astronomical costs. The best way to prevent and repair this damage is to have your chimney regularly swept, inspected and maintained. Don’t hesitate to contact Chimney & Masonry Outfitters to begin protecting your chimney, your wallet and your sanity today.