A fireplace and chimney add a cozy touch to chilly winter evenings. However, they’re also exposed to the harsh elements and need Baltimore Chimney Repair. Without proper care, a chimney may experience structural damage or chimney fires. It can even leak water or release carbon monoxide, a toxic gas.
Chimney maintenance can help prevent these problems and keep your family safe. A professional can inspect the chimney’s interior and exterior to identify issues that homeowners may miss.
A chimney’s flashing isn’t as obvious as the bricks and flue itself, but it plays an important role. Located where the chimney meets the roof, it keeps moisture from entering the structure and damaging the roof or attic. Flashing is typically made of either steel, aluminum, or copper and can last up to 30 years under the right conditions.
During routine chimney maintenance, it’s a good idea to check on the flashing. If a leak is present, it can cause wood rot, ceiling damage, and other issues throughout the home.
If you notice stains on your ceiling near or above the fireplace, a chimney flashing leak may be present. This is a common problem that’s easy to miss, especially when the weather is wet. Rain damage from a leaky chimney can spread into the walls, ceiling, and attic, leading to expensive repairs.
Chimney flashing is composed of three pieces: the bottom base flashing, the lower cap flashing, and the top flashing. The bottom base flashing is a piece of metal that wraps around the chimney and the roof and is fastened with roofing nails or mortar. The lower cap flashing is a separate piece of metal that covers the base flashing and is also secured with mortar or roofing cement.
The top flashing is a single piece of metal that is bent to form a hem around the chimney and is also fastened with mortar or roofing cement. It’s important that the flashing has adequate overlapping to create a watertight barrier between the chimney and the roof.
Other flashing concerns include missing shingles that can allow moisture to enter, and animal or nest infestations. If you notice a sudden increase in bird or squirrel activity, or you discover raccoon or other animal droppings inside your chimney, it’s important to call a professional right away. These creatures can block smoke from venting out of your home and lead to dangerous carbon monoxide buildup.
It’s always best to have a professional handle these issues, but you can help by regularly checking on your flashing. Use a ladder to carefully lift the shingles and examine the horizontal projection of the side base flashings. The flashing should extend down at least 4 inches on each side of the chimney. If the flashing is damaged, you’ll need to have it replaced.
The chimney flue is where your fireplace vents smoke outside. However, the incomplete byproducts of combustion, including carbon and sulfur, cling to the chimney walls, similar to tartar on teeth. If these deposits are not removed on a regular basis, they absorb moisture and start a deterioration process known as spalling and flaking that weakens the chimney masonry. Moisture can also cause water damage to the chimney chase, crown and wall surrounds if it leaks into these areas. Adding a waterproofing product to the chimney can help prevent this from happening and extend its life.
While it is possible to clean the chimney on your own, it’s a big job and requires proper tools and ladders that can be used safely. First, make sure to purchase a brush that matches your chimney’s size and shape. Some brushes are designed to be used on round and square chimneys, while others only work on one type of design. After purchasing your brush, gather all of the other necessary cleaning supplies, including a mask and safety glasses. You will also need a sturdy ladder to get to the roof. Next, remove the chimney cap and shine a flashlight into the flue to see if there is any damage or a black, flaky substance, known as creosote.
Once you have a good view of the chimney, use a rod to push the brush up through the flue and around the sides of the chimney. After making several passes with the brush and rod, it should become easier to move the brush, which is a sign that the creosote is beginning to break up. Continue this process until all of the walls of the flue are brushed.
When you’ve finished, reattach the chimney cap and reinstall the damper handle and firebox door. Be aware that sweeping the chimney will drop piles of flaky creosote onto the damper and into the firebox. You can minimize this by giving the chimney and firebox a few minutes to settle before using a shop vac to vacuum up the mess.
Chimney flues and utility flues should be cleaned at least once a year. If they are blocked or clogged, harmful gases such as carbon monoxide will not be vented to the outdoors and could leak into the home.
A chimney cap serves several important functions, including keeping birds, animals, rainwater, leaves and debris out of the flue. It can also prevent fire embers from escaping the fireplace and hitting your roof or home.
A cap can prevent soot and creosote from contaminating the interior of the chimney. This is particularly important if you are using green wood (unseasoned). Unseasoned wood has so much moisture in it that it can cause a lot of smoke and soot, and a large amount of the combustion byproducts build up in the chimney and on the grate and chimney cap screen.
If your chimney has a metal chimney cap, it should be inspected for signs of rust. Galvanized steel will rust over time, and the metal can then become detached from the chimney cap and the masonry of the chimney crown. When this happens, a lot of water and other materials can enter the chimney and damage it, leading to structural issues.
During your annual chimney inspection, we will inspect the chimney cap to ensure that it is secure and intact. We will look for any cracks, missing pieces, or gaps in the chimney structure. We will also check how tightly the chimney cap is secured to the structure. Some caps use set screws that can loosen over time, allowing the chimney cap to come off during a strong wind.
In addition to ensuring that the chimney is properly capped, we will look at the condition of the chimney crown and the smoke chamber. Chimney masonry is prone to damage from extreme weather conditions, especially in areas with cold winters and snow. The constant freeze-thaw cycle causes bricks and mortar to crack and crumble, which can lead to leaks and serious structural problems.
The deterioration of masonry can lead to costly repairs. Chimney lining is recommended to prevent deterioration of the chimney masonry due to acidic deposits from burning fuel. In addition, a chimney liner is necessary to protect the structure of the chimney from corrosion and other damage. If you notice any signs of deterioration, it is vital that you have the chimney repaired immediately.
The best way to prevent chimney problems is to schedule annual chimney inspections. These regular, visual examinations ensure that all components of the chimney and fireplace are in good condition, and that there are no blockages or obstructions preventing efficient airflow. They also help to identify potential structural damage, as well as deteriorating bricks and mortar.
The yearly chimney inspection is also the ideal time to make any necessary repairs or replacements. For example, a cracked or crumbling chimney can allow moisture to seep into the masonry, which leads to serious water damage inside the home. In addition, a leaking flue liner can cause toxic carbon monoxide to enter the home, and a damaged chimney cap can let birds and debris into the chimney.
Over time, even properly maintained chimneys deteriorate and experience damage. The combination of extreme heat, acidic creosote deposits and the constant exposure to rain wears away at the masonry and mortar. In addition, the flammable by-products of wood burning fires can burn through the liners and cause damage.
A professional chimney sweep can identify these and other issues during a routine chimney inspection. He will examine the lining, damper, smoke chamber and baffle and look for signs of water intrusion. He will survey other accessible parts of the chimney, including the attic and crawl space, and he may use a video scan of the interior of the flue.
Chimneys are engineered to eliminate harmful gases from a home or business, so it’s essential that they work efficiently. An overabundance of creosote and soot deposits can create dangerous obstructions that prevent proper venting of the by-products of combustion. A CSIA certified chimney technician can remove these obstructions to minimize the risk of a chimney fire and reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
A level 2 inspection is the most thorough and usually requires a professional to get on the roof and fully inspect the chimney from top to bottom. This is often required before selling a property, when a homeowner changes the type of fuel they are burning and after significant weather events like heavy storms, hurricanes or earthquakes. A level 3 inspection is typically reserved for situations in which a serious problem has been identified and needs more extensive investigation. This can require more substantial tools, and the chimney sweep may need to remove portions of the chimney or materials in the home like drywall to gain full access.