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Common Chimney Problems You should Know About

Nobody gives a lot of thought to a chimney, until it starts having problems. A malfunctioning or damaged chimney can be a major safety risk for you and your family.

Here are five common chimney problems and how to resolve them (and in some cases, keep them from happening in the first place).

chimney damage and restoration, marshfield maMasonry damage & decay

Older chimneys often show their age by a deterioration of the bricks and mortar. Cracks and crumbling are signs that your chimney needs quick attention to prevent further damage.

Along with age, masonry can be damaged by:

  • Lightning strikes
  • Earthquakes
  • Water intrusion
  • House-settling
  • Powerful hail storms
  • Issues with the chimney footing

and other causes.

Licensed chimney technicians address these and related issues several ways:

  • Tuckpointing to replace areas of crumbing mortar
  • Brick replacement
  • Partial or complete chimney rebuilding
  • Chimney waterproofing

Smoke not drafting well

Smoke backing up into your home is no fun. Even worse is the danger of carbon monoxide within the smoke. Carbon monoxide is an invisible and odorless gas that is known to be potentially fatal when inhaled.

Sluggish drafting can be caused by several things:

  • The house is too air-tight – crack a nearby window when the fireplace is in use
  • Burning wet (unseasoned) wood that creates excess smoke
  • A damper that is rusted or otherwise damaged and won’t open fully
  • Debris in the flue
  • Major buildup of creosote in the flue
  • Flue air is too cold for warm smoke to rise – hold a rolled-up lit newspaper beyond the damper for a minute or so

Animals and tree debris in the chimney

Debris in the flue is a serious problem, and it’s a pretty common one for homeowners who don’t have a chimney cap. Squirrels, birds, raccoons and other critters love to seek shelter in chimneys, and many of them use the space as a nesting ground.

Nearby trees can drop leaves, twigs, fruit and nuts into a flue and add to the problem. All this debris plus animals, nesting materials and even animals who have died in the chimney can make for a major drafting problem as well as serve as fuel for a chimney fire.

A proper chimney cleaning and the installation of a good chimney cap is the way to deal with this problem.

cleaning chimney creosote buildup, quincy maExcess creosote

One of the biggest chimney problems encountered by field technicians is excess creosote, which forms when wood fires are burned. Creosote is highly flammable and clings to the walls of your chimney liner. It’s the cause of most chimney fires every year, and it never should be allowed to build up.

All hearth and fire-safety organizations (including the CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) recommend having your chimney professionally cleaned and inspected once a year to keep creosote at a minimum.

Leaky chimney

A leaky chimney means ongoing damage to your chimney structure and possibly many of its components. Never neglect signs such as water in the firebox, damp patches on the walls and ceiling, white staining on exterior masonry and a squeaky, hard-to-use damper.

Many things can cause a leaky chimney including:

  • Damaged or absent chimney cap
  • Cracked/deteriorated chimney crown
  • Loose bricks
  • Crumbling mortar joints
  • Warped or missing chimney flashing

The first step in addressing a chimney leak is an inspection. This way you’ll know why the chimney leak started, where it’s centered, how much collateral damage has been done, and the best way to resolve it.

Keep your chimney in top shape

If you live in the South Boston/South Shore region of Massachusetts, Above & Beyond Chimney Service is ready to help with all your chimney problems. We provide expert chimney cleaning, chimney inspections and a full menu of chimney repairs.

Solve your chimney problems now by calling (781) 383-0415.