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What Happens When You Neglect Chimney Maintenance

As with any appliance or system in your home, your chimney needs a certain amount of proper maintenance and care to keep it running safely and efficiently. When chimney maintenance is neglected, bad things can happen. These are things you should be aware of if you own and use a chimney and fireplace.

A variety of things can go wrong with a chimney if it doesn’t receive regular cleaning, inspections and repairs. Problems most often center on water damage, ineffective drafting and chimney fires.

leaky chimney damage, beekman nyWater damage in neglected chimneys

Water can enter your chimney system in several ways, including:

  • A damaged/missing chimney cap
  • Through cracks in the chimney crown
  • Through cracks in the bricks and mortar
  • Through gaps in the flashing at the base of the exterior chimney

Water from rain and snow leads to decomposition and decay. Over time, chimney masonry can crack and crumble, eventually leading to a chimney collapse. Water inside the chimney flue can harm the chimney liner and create unpleasant odors when mixed with soot and creosote. Water moving past damaged flashing can cause rot and mold in your home’s unseen building materials.

Preventing chimney leaks and water damage

A proper chimney inspection will discover early signs of leaking, even before you notice any symptoms. Repairs may include chimney waterproofing, tuckpointing, brick replacement or the repair/installation of damaged components.

Drafting problems

Chimneys that are used regularly or over long periods of time without proper maintenance often have drafting issues. Wood fires cause creosote to build up inside the flue, where it clings to the chimney liner and can restrict air flow.

If you don’t have a chimney cap (or have a damaged one), outside debris from trees as well as nest-building small animals can get into the flue, making the drafting obstruction worse.

When smoke can’t vent correctly, it may back up into your home, carrying with it dangerous carbon monoxide. This toxic gas can’t be seen or smelled but is known to be potentially fatal to humans and animals.

Addressing an obstructed flue

The solution here is to have a certified chimney sweep clean your chimney once a year. This will remove creosote and soot buildups as well as nesting materials and animals that may have died inside your chimney. If you don’t have a chimney cap, one can be installed to prevent further debris infiltration.

Chimney fires large and small

Chimney fires usually are caused by ignited creosote. Fires can be large, obvious events, or they can be small events that go unnoticed. But regardless of the size, every chimney fire has the potential to cause serious damage to your chimney liner, interior masonry and adjacent building materials of your home.

chimney sweep, cold spring nyReducing the chances of a chimney fire

Chimney sweeps who are certified through the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) use specialized brushes, rods, scrubbers, solvents and vacuums to safely remove creosote and drafting obstructions.

You may have heard reports of catastrophic house fires that started in the chimney. Regular cleaning and good overall chimney maintenance can help keep you from becoming the subject of one of those reports.


Hudson Valley Chimney of Poughkeepsie, NY, provides a full menu of chimney maintenance services including certified chimney sweeping/cleaning, licensed chimney inspections and all types of chimney repair and rebuilding work.

When your chimney needs attention, we’re the experts you can trust to do the job right. Get your questions answered or schedule an appointment by calling (845) 471-1071.

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