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Freezing Temperatures Can Cause Chimney Damage

Chimneys don’t last forever, no matter how well they’re built. Fortunately for homeowners, the breakdown is usually gradual. This means you have time to make periodic repairs to damage that would lead to the end of your chimney if left unattended.

Chimneys and the freeze-thaw cycle

Chimney Crown RepairIn cold-weather regions, chimneys are susceptible to damage from freezing water. Because bricks are porous, they easily absorb moisture. When water within brick pores freezes, it expands and gradually begins to deteriorate the bricks and mortar of the chimney.

You won’t notice the earliest stages of damage, but at one point there will be clear signs.

The most common include:

  • Visible cracks in the chimney crown
  • Crumbling mortar and bricks
  • Loose or spalling bricks

As the deterioration progresses, water will begin to infiltrate the system.

When this happens, you may notice:

  • Pieces of flue tiles in the firebox
  • White stains on the outside of the chimney
  • Water in the firebox
  • Water stains on the ceiling or wall adjacent to the fireplace
  • Strong odors caused by dampness in the flue

The importance of chimney inspections

Certified chimney sweeps have the tools and training to inspect chimneys for all types and levels of damage. Chimney sweeps who work in cold climates know how to spot the signs of damage caused by freeze-thaw cycles and then perform repairs or preventative maintenance, depending on how much damage is present.

Compromised bricks and mortar are a way water gets into the chimney system. Other ways include through a damaged chimney cap, directly into the flue if there is no cap, and through warped or deteriorated flashing around the chimney where it intersects with the roof.

A professional chimney inspector will look closely at all these components and will be able to repair or replace them as necessary.

Additionally, chimney inspectors use special tools that allow them to see down inside the chimney and determine how much creosote has built up in there. Creosote is flammable and should be cleaned out at least once a year to avoid a chimney fire.

What to do about damaged bricks and mortar

chimney brick damageIf damage is minor, or if there’s no damage yet, your chimney technician may recommend a spray sealant to prevent water from coming into contact with the chimney’s exterior surface. This is a good way to prolong the life of your chimney.

For moderate damage such as when bricks are loose or sections of bricks and mortar have crumbled away, tuckpointing may be required. Tuckpointing is a process that uses fresh mortar to fill in open areas, thereby preventing further deterioration.

If a chimney is severely damaged, a partial or total rebuild might be necessary. This is a situation you’ll likely never face if you catch damage early and schedule annual chimney inspections.

When it comes to chimneys in cold climates, Hudson Valley Chimney of Poughkeepsie, NY, are experts you can count on. We provide a full range of chimney inspection, chimney cleaning, chimney repair and chimney rebuilding services. If it’s time to have your chimney looked at, call (845) 471-1071.

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