Winter Chimney Care: Chimneys vs. Winter Ice and Snow
This Connecticut winter has had no shortage of freezing and thawing cycles, snow on rooftops, and resulting damage to chimneys. Yet many people overlook the need for maintenance of their chimneys. The fact is that environmental factors such as freeze-thaw actions, particularly when coupled with moisture content in bricks and/or mortar, can cause significant damage. Expanding and contracting of the chimney caused by weather conditions result in gaps, cracks, and crumbling mortar. If these moisture issues aren’t addressed, using the fireplace and chimney could become a hazard. It is important to keep up with winter chimney care each year.
The mortar joints of brick and mortar chimneys can erode when water seeps into them, and this weakens the bricks. Even chimneys built with moisture-proof stones are vulnerable, since a great amount of mortar is required to properly bond the stones together. Brick and mortar chimneys and stone chimneys alike need protection from the damage caused by moisture penetration.
Prolonged contact with moisture accelerates the deterioration of the materials used in the construction of brick and mortar chimneys. All parts of the chimney can be damaged by water, including concrete, flue tile, concrete blocks, steel, and cast iron. Another commonly overlooked winter chimney care issue is that water mixed with creosote in a chimney can create a very bad odor which can leak into the home.
Some additional damage that water penetration can cause to your masonry chimney and to your home includes the following:
· Metal and masonry firebox assemblies can deteriorate
· The clean-out area of the fireplace can become clogged
· Wall coverings in the home can be ruined
· The central heating and cooling system in the home can be damaged
· The chimney exterior can become stained
· Damper assembles can rust
· The chimney structure can collapse or tilt
It’s important to get the help of a professional chimney sweep at least once annually to check and see whether damage caused by moisture has occurred.
Moisture Damage Prevention
Preventing moisture damage is usually less expensive than repairing chimney damage and deterioration. There’s nothing you can do about the weather that can have harsh effects on your chimney, but there are some other practical solutions for winter chimney care.
Install a Cricket
A chimney will sometimes need additional protection against water leakage, such as when water run-off on the roof is channeled toward it. A cricket is a compact diversion roof which stops the chimney from being deluged. Crickets are often installed to protect chimneys on the low side of the roof, chimneys on a steep roof, and those that are 30 inches wide or more.
Waterproof the Chimney
Materials used to construct a masonry chimney are usually porous and can absorb large amounts of moisture. Waterproofing materials are available which allow the chimney to breathe and yet prevent water from entering from the outside. Applying waterproofing should only be done to a unit that is sound; any repairs that are needed should be made before applying the waterproofing agents. If needed, the chimney’s exterior should also be cleaned prior to application.
Install a Chimney Cap
The most inexpensive and common sense approach to moisture prevention in a chimney is the installation of a chimney cap. It only makes sense to install a chimney cap, since large amounts of water can enter the chimney without one.
If your chimney professional identifies damage caused by moisture, it’s important to repair it, for safety’s sake. Some of the needed repair may be to mortar joints which have deteriorated, to a damaged chimney crown, or to flashing, which is the seal between the chimney and roofing material.
Moisture and other conditions caused by winter weather may not be a friend to the chimney, but our chimney professionals are. Call for a chimney inspection today.
Northeastern Chimney, Inc
37 Cody Street, West Hartford, CT 06110