Ahh! We have Chimney Leaks!
Many homeowners are surprised to discover that when it’s raining outside, it is also raining inside their chimney. As the cold and icy weather blanketed the Hudson River Valley region in the winter thaws into the warmer and colorful spring season, years of exposure to harsh winter weather became evident when spring showers sprout chimney leaks. Although a chimney leak can occur practically anywhere, it usually occurs when the chimney cap, chimney crown, flashing, or masonry is damaged.
The chimney cap is a critical accessory installed at the top of a chimney. It covers the exposed flue pipe so that water doesn’t get inside the chimney when it rains or snows. If the chimney cap is missing or is blown off, water can leak inside the chimney that can result in thousands of dollars in damages to the interior masonry, damper, and other internal components. Replacing the chimney cap is inexpensive and straightforward when performed by a licensed and insured chimney professional. A chimney professional will also ensure your chimney cap is the right size and properly secured to your chimney. A chimney cap should also include a mesh screen to keep small animals and debris from obstructing the flue. It also features a spark arrestor that prevents hot embers from flying onto the roof.
The cement chimney crown tops the masonry chimney. It also has a sloped design with a drip edge to deflect water away from the chimney. The cement crown may begin to develop small cracks in the surface due to normal wear and tear, weather, or settling. A tiny crack in the chimney crown can cause moisture to leak between the flue and masonry. Once chimney crown damage occurs, it will continue to worsen until repaired. When chimney crown damage is minor, it can often be easily repaired with a specialized waterproof sealant. More severe damage may require rebuilding the entire chimney crown.
The flashing is the piece of sheet metal that covers the seam where the chimney meets the roof. Normal wear and tear, ice, and heavy rains can damage the flashing, causing it to warp, corrode, or rust, allowing rainwater to seep through the exposed gaps. It can cause widespread water damage to the roof, ceiling, and walls near the chimney. In some cases, chimney leaks are due to incorrectly installed flashing. Always ensure chimney flashing is repaired or installed by a certified chimney professional.
Years of exposure to rain, snow, and icy weather conditions can cause cracks in bricks and mortar, resulting in a chimney leak. The porous masonry will continue to absorb more and more moisture eroding the mortar and causing the brickwork to flake, chip, and crumble. Rainwater can seep through these cracks and gaps in the mortar joints causing significant water damage. As the damage worsens, bricks will loosen and fall from the chimney. It can eventually destabilize the structure leading to a partial or complete collapse. When masonry damage is discovered early through an annual chimney inspection, it is easily repaired through a process known as tuckpointing. However, a partial or complete chimney rebuild may be necessary when the damage is more extensive.
Preventing Chimney Leaks
Homeowners can protect their home and chimney from major water damage with an annual chimney inspection. During the visual inspection, the chimney professional can often spot and repair minor chimney damage before a leak or more extensive water damage occurs, potentially saving homeowners thousands of dollars in chimney repairs.