Common Chimney Problems & What to Do About Them
A well-built, properly maintained chimney will serve you for many years. But even the best chimneys have problems now and then. These problems can range from minor to catastrophic – it all depends on the nature of the problems and how long they’ve been allowed to progress.
Northeastern Chimney of West Hartford, CT, would like to outline some of the most common chimney problems we see in the field and tell you how we resolve them.
Damaged Chimney Masonry
The lifespan of the bricks and mortar that make up a chimney’s masonry is long, but it’s not indefinite. Over time, our severe winter weather and other factors can cause bricks and mortar to decay and deteriorate.
A compromised chimney can allow large amounts of damaging water to enter the system. At one point, the chimney can begin to lean to one side. In the worst case, it can collapse.
We address masonry damage in several ways:
- Brick replacement
- Tuckpointing to replace crumbling mortar
- Chimney rebuilding, either partial or complete
- Chimney waterproofing to keep water away from the masonry
All chimneys smell a little because of creosote and soot inside them. Some chimneys, however, smell bad enough that people don’t even want to be around them. Common causes of a very smelly chimney include:
- Large accumulations of creosote and soot
- Moisture that leads to a musty, mildewy odor
- Rotting tree debris (leaves, twigs, etc.)
- The nests and presence of birds, squirrels and other small animals
- Dead animals
A proper chimney cap will seal the flue opening and prevent debris and animal intrusion. A thorough chimney sweeping will remove the odor-causing materials.
Leaky chimneys are common in our region of Connecticut. Water from rain and melting snow can enter the system through damaged masonry as well as through:
- a damaged or missing chimney cap
- a cracked chimney crown
- warped or rusted-out chimney flashing
When water intrusion starts, it won’t resolve on its own; rather, it will continue to spread and can damage the chimney liner, the interior masonry, parts of the home near the chimney, the firebox and the fireplace damper.
Our first step with this and all other chimney problems is an inspection. We’ll determine why the leak is happening and how much damage has been done. We can then make the proper repairs.
If your fireplace is sending smoke into your room, there may be a drafting obstruction somewhere above the fireplace. The most likely causes and solutions are:
Closed fireplace damper: Open it and make sure it stays open during a fire.
Creosote or debris is narrowing the flue passage: Have your chimney professionally cleaned.
Heavy, cold air in the flue prevents lighter smoke from rising: Hold a rolled, lit newspaper or a hair blow dryer up into the flue for a minute or so before starting a fire.
Firewood is damp: Use seasoned (dry) firewood, which produces much less smoke.
Negative air pressure in the house: Air conditioners and exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms can cause air to back up out of the chimney and pull smoke and gases into the room.
The bricks and refractory panels inside a firebox can become damaged after years of use. The firebox is designed to manage extremely high temperatures and flames, both of which can escape if bricks and panels are compromised.
Northeastern Chimney provides CSIA-certified firebox repair, including brick replacement and the replacement of the refractory panels.
Call Your Connecticut Chimney and Fireplace Experts Today
What we mentioned here are the “common” types of chimney problems. Many others can arise, and we know how to solve every one of them.
If it’s time to have your chimney looked at, speak with a chimney expert at (860) 233-5770 or get in touch with our simple contact form.