Common Chimney Problems and How to Fix Them

Chimneys are often thought of as secure, low-maintenance structures. Yet, homeowners must be aware that these structures are subject to certain issues – like blockages or cracks in the flue – that can put their home and family at risk.

Many of these problems can be prevented with routine chimney maintenance and inspections through chimney repair companies. Read on to learn more about the five most common chimney problems and how to fix them.

Creosote Buildup

Creosote is a natural byproduct of wood burning, and your chimney produces it as smoke and hot embers rise through the flue. However, if your chimney isn’t properly maintained, excessive creosote buildup can be dangerous to you and your family.

Creosote in its first degree is a light powdery dust that is similar to soot and can be removed with a chimney brush. This level is considered normal and can be swept in most homes with a regular cleaning schedule.

When a fire’s combustion process is disrupted due to moisture in the firewood, low air supply or a weak chimney draft, it creates a thicker layer of creosote known as second degree. This type looks shiny and black like tar and requires more specialized tools to remove.

When this type of creosote builds up inside your chimney, it can restrict adequate airflow and prevent toxic carbon monoxide fumes from escaping your home. This can also lead to the ignition of combustible materials in your home, and it’s a common cause for chimney fires.

Bird Nests

Birds are known to nest in a variety of places, including on or around homes. They choose these spots because they are warm, secluded and often contain the materials needed to build their nests.

It’s always best to leave a bird’s nest alone if you can. But if you must remove it, make sure that there are no eggs or babies left behind before doing so. Then, sweep the nest from the area and toss it in the trash. Clean the spot where it was before resuming use of your chimney to avoid birds resettling there and building new nests.

Also, avoid leaving discarded bird droppings lying around. These are a prime breeding ground for all kinds of parasitic insects, including mites and fleas. They also can damage your home’s paint with their uric acid. Clean your gutters regularly to keep them clear of leaves and other debris that could get into the chimney flue and cause moisture problems.

Mysterious Leaks

Chimneys and fireplaces are lovely additions to homes, providing a classic look and creating a cozy atmosphere. However, they require consistent upkeep to function properly. This is why it’s so important to catch chimney problems early with regular maintenance and inspections.

The first and most obvious sign of chimney trouble is an insufficient chimney draught. This is indicated by smoke or fumes escaping into the home without being blown back in by updraft, and is unaffected by weather conditions.

Over time, creosote accumulates on the walls of the chimney flue and can crack or damage the lining. A damaged lining can lead to dangerous carbon monoxide buildup and other health issues. To avoid this, a qualified mason should replace the lining as soon as possible. Another common chimney problem is crumbling or missing mortar in the masonry. A process known as tuckpointing scrapes out and replaces the decaying mortar, giving the chimney strength and a uniform look.

Damaged or Missing Bricks

Over time, rainy weather and general wear and tear will cause even the strongest bricks to erode. This is known as spalling, and it’s a sure sign that it’s time for masonry repair. Depending on how bad the damage is, you may need to have your chimney completely rebuilt.

White, brown, and green stains on your chimney are a clear indicator of water damage. The white stains are known as efflorescence, and they’re caused by moisture that evaporates off the bricks and leaves salt deposits behind. The brown and green stains are usually caused by algae or mold.

Chimney stains and deteriorating masonry are not only unsightly, they can also be dangerous. If left untreated, these issues can lead to expensive repairs or even a chimney fire. Fortunately, the solution is often as simple as having your chimney tuckpointed. This process involves removing old, crumbling mortar and replacing it with a fresh batch. This will not only improve your chimney’s appearance, but it will also prevent leaks and keep your home safer from water damage.

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