Common Chimney Problems That Homeowners Face

Chimneys used to be a home fixture that would be part of a house by default.

This is no longer the case as technology has made newer and better heating systems and equipment available to the masses.

However, few can deny the appealing rustic look that chimneys can bring into the home interiors.

If you have fallen in love with chimneys and have them at home from choice, I respect that.

However, there are a lot of households that despise their chimneys and never chose to have them in the first place. It just somehow got there and they are not going to relocate just to live chimney-free.

Whether you are selling the house and need to do a general evaluation of the chimney, buying one and needs an assessment of it, or living with a chimney and wants to have a better idea of it’s current status, here are some of the most common chimney problems at home.

1) Water

The most obvious problem with chimneys is it’s exposure to water damage as it rises up to the roof and serves as a opening for water to roll down the flue.

While chimneys are understandably designed with water damage prevention in mind, one can never ensure 100% protection no matter the material used or quality of workmanship.

The source of water is not just from the external environment due to rain or snow.

It can also come from water vapor created as a result of burning materials to generate heat (which is the primary purpose of a chimney). These water vapor can be absorbed by masonry chimneys or cause metal chimneys to rust.

The acidity of these water droplets can cause water damage faster than natural water.

2) Water physical states in masonry chimneys

While metal will not absorb water masonry does.

Whether it’s made up of stucco, bricks or mortar, water vapor obviously seep into these materials in a liquid state.

But as the seasons changes to winter, these water will freeze causing it to shrink. These natural events causes the internals of the chimneys to compromise. And when it thaws as the temperature rises, water moves about again, leaving tiny gaps in the structure foundations created when it was frozen.

Materials will deteriorate. The adhesive holding them together can loosen. And bricks have a tendency to spall.

While these foundational compromises are minute, they can cause huge problems over the years when left unattended.

3) Defective chimney cap

The chimney cap plays a critical role in the whole structural integrity of a chimney. It’s amazing that such a small item can have so much significance in the structure.

But this is not exaggerating.

The chimney cap prevents rain and downdraft from having a direct entry into the flue which will inevitably and prematurely shorten it’s lifespan.

This is why even a tiny crack in the cap means that it should be a priority and replaced immediately without delay.

Sometimes a proper chimney cap is not used due to the type of chimney that is being built be contractors.

For example, very often builders only apply a layer of cement over the top of the chimney. When there is no overhang in the installation, water will have an easier route into the flue.

Proper chimney caps are always recommended.

4) Debris accumulation

With a cap in place, it can sometimes puzzle homeowners as to where debris might originate from.

Yet the fact is that debris will accumulate in the chimney. Especially at the bottom.

This can result in a hazardous blockage of the appliance vent.

Most modern chimneys should have a clean-out door as part of the structure. Homeowners need to regularly use it to remove accumulated debris so as to ensure that their chimneys continue to work efficiently.

5) Lack of bracing

The taller a chimney it, the more of a safety hazard it can be.

This is partly because the higher it rises above the pitched roof, the more wind it catches which results in a pull on the house itself. Sort of like pulling a lever on an oversized gauge.

If the structural of the chimney is stronger than the house itself, it can potentially flip the house over during freaky windy weather.

This is why tall chimneys need to be be braced to ensure it’s stability.

6) Draft

On the other hand, short chimneys often inherit the problems associated with downdrafts.

However, other factors such as flashing come into play to determine how serious the problem really is for each specific house.

7) Liner gaps

Liner gaps are caused by bad workmanship with bad material planning.

Because it is industry practice to have the top tile extend 2 or 4 inches from the chimney top, when this is not achievable, builders can often raise and install the top tile to meet that protruding requirement.

This leaves a gap between the top tile and the tile below it.

The gap would then allow air and moisture to seep into the system causing defects to it.

This is observable when we sometimes see chimneys with a mysterious ring around part of it. This can cause by the gap in liner.