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Have Glacial Winter Temperatures Damaged your Chimney?

Chimney Inspections before winterThe winter that will soon be coming to a close has been brutally cold, and outdoor structures have had to withstand relentlessly glacial temperatures right along with brave New Yorkers. Chimneys can be damaged by packed-in snow and freezing and thawing cycles, causing the need for expensive repairs. Our chimney experts recommend scheduling a chimney inspection in the spring. You can possibly identify problems before extensive damage has been done, and you will have plenty of time to ensure your chimney is ready for the return of cold weather in autumn.

Is it possible that an animal sought warmth in your chimney during an arctic snap? It is not unusual for raccoons, birds, snakes, and other animals to climb into chimneys and then have difficulty getting out. If you hear unusual noises in your chimney or if there is a horrendous smell coming from your fireplace, it’s possible you have a living or dead wild animal in your chimney. Wild animals often carry disease, and we recommend contacting our chimney experts for removal of any critters in your chimney. We also recommend having a chimney cap with mesh installed, to prevent a repeat of the experience.

The most common problems created by harsh winter weather involve moisture; and repair is needed as soon as possible, to prevent further damage to your home. It’s possible the repeated snowy blasts of winter have caused one or more of the following problems:

Cracked Chimney Crown. At the top of your chimney, the chimney crown serves as the first line of defense against moisture, but it does not stand up well against cycles of freezing and thawing. The crown is vulnerable to developing cracks and allowing moisture to get between the chimney structure and the flue, causing damage that can be difficult to detect.

Mortar Damage. Mortar only lasts about a quarter as long as masonry, which can endure for about a century. In previous times, the brick-making procedure resulted in even more durable bricks than the materials used today. In every case, however, it’s important to keep an eye on mortar, which is supposed to prevent moisture from entering the bricks or stone. Harsh winter weather can speed the deterioration process. A procedure called “tuckpointing” is frequently used to replace damaged mortar. It’s important that the mortar is in good condition because, otherwise, the chimney will begin to lean and could even crumble, creating the need for an expensive rebuild.

Spalling. Winter cycles of freezing and thawing also cause the face of bricks and stones to pop off or flake off. If you see bits of broken masonry around your chimney, you are seeing the damaging effects of spalling.

Efflorescence or Staining. When a chimney has white, yellow, green, or brown staining on it, it is because of moisture in the masonry mixed with salt contained inside the bricks or stones that is then deposited on the outside of the chimney. This is called “efflorescence,” and it is a signal that chimney repair is needed, perhaps due to winter moisture.

NY Chimney Liner ReplacementFlue Damage. Another destructive effect of moisture occurs in the chimney liner. The liner or flue protects combustible parts of the home from the intense heat in chimneys. The creosote and soot deposits which naturally build up in a chimney can cause damage to the liner when mixed with moisture. Evidence of flue damage can sometimes be seen in the form of bits of flue tile in the fireplace. A damaged flue must be replaced before using the fireplace again, due to the potential for causing a house fire.

Damaged Flashing. The metal flashing which connects the chimney to the roof with a watertight seal is very vulnerable to excess moisture. A small hole in the flashing can cause serious roof and structural damage.

Schedule your annual chimney inspection with our chimney experts in spring, and find out whether the icy winter has damaged your chimney.

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