How is Your Chimney Withstanding the Arctic Blasts of Winter?
The Polar Vortex which has hit Connecticut in January of 2014 has caused problems on roadways, electrical lines, and businesses. But have you considered the damage that might be occurring to your chimney? Freezing and thawing cycles can cause extensive damage in vulnerable chimney systems. In all kinds of weather, but especially in winter, moisture is the most damaging element that comes against your chimney.
Moisture damage in the chimney can show up in the mortar, brickwork, chimney crown, flashing, and liner. The sooner you put a stop to moisture damage, the less expensive the repairs are likely to be and the safer it is to use your fireplace or wood stove.
The construction of Connecticut chimneys should be done in a way that addresses the harsh weather and countless freeze-thaw cycles that they are subjected to, and the mortar is one of the most important considerations. A significant portion of a chimney is made up of mortar, and the performance of the mortar in keeping moisture out depends upon the mortar mix that is used. Mortar in fresh brick work that is exposed to freezing temperatures will actually turn to ice and crumble.
Mortar can also deteriorate on a properly built chimney, as a result of a house settling in winter and/or the freezing and thawing of snow and ice. When mortar begins crumbling, the entire chimney structure is put at risk of leaning or collapsing altogether.
The good news is that a procedure called “tuckpointing” can be used to replace damaged mortar; a complete teardown of masonry can be avoided, if the mortar damage is caught in time. The original beauty of a chimney is restored with tuckpointing, and the fresh mortar provides a restored line of defense against moisture damage.
The next thing that typically happens after mortar begins crumbling is that moisture gets into the masonry. Spalling will occur in winter as a result of freeze-thaw cycles. Spalling is when the face of masonry pops or flakes off because of winter moisture. When you see bits and pieces of brick around your chimney, it usually means moisture is in the chimney, causing breakage.
Freezing and thawing cycles can also cause chimney crowns to crack and crumble. The crown provides important protection against moisture; and when it is cracked, moisture can cause a great deal of damage, as it gets between the chimney and the liner.
The flashing of your chimney can also leave your home and chimney system vulnerable to moisture. The flashing is the metal where the chimney connects to the roof, and it should be checked regularly. It’s a good idea to check in the attic to be sure moisture isn’t seeping in around the chimney due to faulty flashing.
The most important safety feature of your chimney is the liner, and moisture can cause it to rapidly deteriorate. When the liner has even a small crack, it puts the household at risk for a dangerous house fire.
Did you have your Connecticut chimney checked after historic Winter Storm Nemo hit in February of 2013 and before the arrival of the recent Polar Vortex? Winter Storm Nemo was the worst blizzard to hit the state since 1888. But even an average Connecticut winter is enough to wreak havoc on your chimney. An annual chimney inspection by one of our professional chimney technicians is an important safety matter; and it could save you a lot of money on repairs, since our trained, experienced pros know how to spot chimney deterioration in its early stages.
Northeastern Chimney, Inc
37 Cody Street, West Hartford, CT 06110