Four Underlying Causes of Chimney Damage
It’s easy to take your chimney system for granted. Just as you might not think about replacing your roof until it begins to leak, homeowners often don’t worry about their chimney until something goes wrong. By that time, the damage may be extensive. When we talk to homeowners about chimney repairs, usually the first question we answer is “How did this happen?”
There are 4 root causes of chimney damage:
• Normal Wear & Tear
Much like your home’s roof and gutters, exposure to the elements will eventually wear down the chimney system. The metal chimney cap or chase top that prevents snow and rain from falling into the chimney is susceptible to rust. If you have a masonry chimney, the chimney crown and the mortar may eventually begin to crack and chip after many seasons of freezing and thawing.
Flue liners and prefabricated fireplaces have a limited lifespan of 20 to 50 years. The high temperatures of the hot air and smoke that runs through the flue breakdown the flue liner over time. Clay tile flue liners and cast-in-place liners eventually crack and flake. Metal flue liners can become warped.
• Hidden Defects
Whether your chimney is old or new, it may have hidden defects that need to be resolved. Some defects pose safety risks while others can cause damage to the chimney system. A common hidden defect of an old masonry fireplace that poses a safety risk is a missing flue liner. Though flue liners are essential to protect your home from the risk of a house fire and carbon monoxide poisoning, they were not required until the 1950s. If your home’s fireplace was built before then, it may not have one. It is wise to have one installed to protect you and your home.
For both new masonry fireplaces and prefabricated fireplaces, the most common hidden defects are the result of improper installation. Often, these defects create pathways for moisture damage. They could also pose a safety risk. Here are just a few of the hidden defects from improper installation that we have come across: open mortar joints, inoperable dampers, poorly installed chimney chase tops or chimney caps and flue liners that are the wrong size for the chimney. All of these defects can cause serious damage to your chimney system or home if they are not fixed. An inoperable damper may also pose a safety risk if it does not create a big enough opening for carbon monoxide to escape when your fireplace is in use.
• An Unforeseen Event
There are many types of unforeseen events that can damage a chimney system. High temperatures from a chimney fire, a lightning strike, and high winds are all examples of unforeseen events that can leave you with chimney repairs. Any of these events may have occurred without your knowledge, even a chimney fire. The majority of chimney fires are quiet and go unnoticed until afterward when the damage is discovered.
Moisture is the greatest enemy of any chimney system. Typically, moisture damage is a secondary cause. Normal wear and tear, hidden defects and unforeseen events can all create pathways for moisture to enter the chimney system. Once moisture gets into the chimney, it can cause a wide range of damage from making the flue liner crack or rust to deteriorating the structural integrity of the chimney itself.
It is important to keep in mind that chimney systems are surprisingly complex. If your chimney needs to be repaired, there may be more than one reason. For example, high winds could loosen a chimney cap that was improperly installed in the first place allowing moisture to get into the chimney and damage the liner. In this case, damage would result from three different causes: an unforeseen event, a hidden defect and moisture. We often discover that there is more than one cause for the damage that we find.
While diagnosing the underlying cause can be helpful, establishing an effective plan to repair the damage and restore the integrity of the chimney is most important. Black mold, house fires, carbon monoxide poisoning and water damage to ceilings, walls and beams are all risks associated with damaged chimney systems.
If your chimney needs repaired, give us a call! You can count on the chimney experts at Northeastern Chimney, Inc. We have been serving homeowners throughout Central Connecticut since 1984. We are committed to going above and beyond to protect the safety and integrity of your home by repairing your chimney system with the best quality techniques and materials.