Chimney leaks can be a problem, especially if they're allowed to go on for a long time. Knowing the cause of chimney leaks and the signs that your chimney has a leak of its own can help you avoid problems, take care of your house, and maintain your property's value. With a little ongoing maintenance, your chimney can avoid this problem.
What Causes Chimney Leaks?
Chimney leaks typically occur because of everyday wear and tear that can break down the parts of your chimney over many years. Exposure to freeze/thaw cycles, rain, intense heat, UV rays and other environmental factors cause your chimney to slowly deteriorate. Some of the common problems that cause chimney leaks include:
- Cracked or loose mortar. Mortar needs to be replaced periodically, or it will begin to crumble. Cracked and loose mortar allows rainwater to dribble into the fireplace over time.
- Crack in chimney flashing. Flashing is the material that surrounds the chimney where it emerges from your roof. Flashing bends over both sides of the chimney and roofing shingles. Caulking helps waterproof the flashings, but caulking will eventually wear down.
- There is no chimney cover. Chimney covers are designed to prevent rainwater and undesirable things (bugs, leaves, and birds) from falling down the chimney. Not all chimneys come with a cover. Those without a cover may leak over time.
- Damaged shingles. Damaged shingles around the chimney can cause flashing to deteriorate quickly and can lead to leaks.
- Chimney crown is cracked. The crown is the cement surface at the top of the chimney that helps keep rain out. Cracks in the crown, if left unfixed, will absorb water. Freeze/thaw cycles can cause these cracks filled with water to widen and become worse. Over time, these freeze/thaw cycles can shift the entire structure of the chimney.
How to Spot Chimney Leaks
Some chimney leaks are obvious, others are not. Knowing the signs can help you identify a problem. One thing is for sure: it's really important to identify a chimney leak when it's happening. Leaks that are allowed to persist for a long time can lead to wood rot, roof damage and other problems. Be aware of what's happening in your house, and inspect the area in and around your chimney on a regular basis. Signs of a chimney leak:
- Water or condensation inside the firebox. You'll notice this problem after a rain, before making a fire.
- Sound of dripping water in the chimney. Sometimes the sound of dripping water in your chimney is an indication of a leak, but other times it's a natural part of having a chimney in a rainstorm. If you hear dripping sounds in your chimney, look for other signs of a chimney leak to confirm.
- Stains. Leaks often cause stains and water damage. Look for moisture, leaks, or water staining the walls or ceilings around the chimney.
- Mildew or musty odors. Mold and mildew are natural problems that occur when an environment gets wet and stays wet for a long time. If you can smell mold in or around your chimney, this could be a serious problem. Mold can cause health problems, so have your chimney inspected as soon as possible.
- Cracked or spalled interior or exterior masonry. If the bricks around your chimney are spalled, meaning the smooth surface of the bricks have cracked or broken off, this is an indication that the bricks have absorbed water and been damaged during freeze/thaw cycles.
What Can You Do to Protect Your Home From Chimney Leaks?
Fortunately, there are many ways that you can protect your home from possible chimney leaks. By maintaining your chimney and your roof, you can avoid the kind of deterioration that leads to water intrusion.
Install a Cap
As already mentioned, not all chimneys have caps. If your chimney doesn’t have a cap, get one installed. This is an easy and relatively inexpensive fix. If your chimney is of unusual size, your repair professional may need to have a cap custom-made. Speak to your chimney repair professional.
Waterproof the Chimney
Waterproofing can prevent water from seeping into the crown and bricks. Waterproofing may need to be done on a regular basis. Your chimney repair professional can tell you how often this work needs to be done.
Perform Preventative Maintenance
Chimneys need to be inspected and repaired on a regular basis - especially if they're used throughout the colder months of the year. Schedule regular inspections of your chimney with a reputable professional. Make sure the contractor you hire is going to inspect the flashings and caulking around the chimney with every cleaning.
Call Pickard Roofing
At Pickard Roofing, we think Design. Craft. Renew. We are experienced in all types of roofing systems- and provide the right roofing design and selective craftsmanship for renewing our customer’s assets. We invite sustainable building customers to give us a call for your free evaluation. For over 90 years Pickard Roofing Company has installed countless metal, tile, slate, TPO, EPDM, and all types of shingle roofing in the Triangle. Our services include residential, commercial, custom architectural metal fabrication, and historical renovation.