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8 Signs that Your Chimney May Need Repairs

If you think you may be spotting one or more of these warning signs at your home, please schedule a chimney inspection and take care of any necessary chimney repairs. Burlington Fireplace & Heating is equipped to diagnose and repair all chimney problems.

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We often take for granted the safety and structural integrity of our homes. Just as termites can lead to costly repairs if you don’t pay attention to warning signs, ignoring the warning signs that you chimney is in disrepair can result in expensive structural damage or contribute to a house fire. Maintaining your chimney is also one of the best ways to ensure that your fireplace or stove is able to operate safely and efficiently.

Luckily, there are 8 warning signs you can spot that can help you maintain the health of your fireplace or stove and help you save a significant amount of money in the long run.

1. Rusted Damper or Firebox

If you are having difficulty operating your damper, it is smart to check to see if you notice rust on it. A rusted damper or firebox indicate that there has been an excess of moisture in the chimney. If you know that the root cause of the water problem has already been addressed, you may only need to replace these parts. If the cause of the rust is unknown, your chimney should be inspected to determine why there is so much moisture.

2. Flakes or Shards of Tile or Ceramic in the Fireplace

Flakes or shards of tile or ceramic in the hearth are signs that your flue liner is shaling. When a tile or ceramic flue liner begins to flake or crack it is known as shaling. Continuing to use a chimney with a shaling flue liner could easily result in a house fire since the purpose of a flue liner is to protect the walls, ceiling, floors and roof of your home from catching fire from stray sparks and heat from the chimney. If the flue liner is shaling the combustible materials of your home surrounding the chimney will be more vulnerable. Once you notice this problem, you should contact a chimney technician who can assess the extent of the shaling so that you know whether it should be replaced or repaired before you use your fireplace again.

3. Broken or Rusting Chimney Chase Top

If you have a factory built or pre-fabricated fireplace it is likely that there is a chase cover, or top pan, at the top that seals off the flue and prevents birds and other animals from entering the chimney. If it was not installed properly or is made out of galvanized metal instead of stainless steel, water may be collecting in it and causing it to rust or deteriorate. A broken or rusting chase top isn’t just an eyesore; it can also allow water into your chimney and home that can cause serious damage. Once you notice that your chimney chase top is in disrepair it is best to have it replaced immediately.

4. Cracked or Damaged Chimney Crown

If you notice cracks in the mortar around the top of your chimney (known as the chimney crown), you may want to go up onto your roof to investigate the problem further. A cracked or damage chimney crown is the root cause of many other problems because water damage is one of the greatest threats to a chimney. If a closer look reveals that your chimney crown is seriously cracked or damaged it would be wise to setup an inspection by a certified chimney professional who can repair the chimney crown and determine if it has led to other issues that also need to be resolved. If unaddressed, water will continue to thaw and freeze in these cracks increasing the damage and allowing more moisture to seep into the masonry that will lead to more serious structural problems.

5. Deteriorating Mortar Joints

If you are already inspecting the chimney crown, you may also want to look at the mortar joints along the top of the chimney as well. If these mortar joints are deteriorating, it is another sign that water is seeping into the chimney masonry and beginning to cause structural damage. Repairing these mortar joints will help to prevent more damage and protect your chimney from eventually collapsing.

6. Protruding, Flaking or Peeling Masonry

Do the natural stones, concrete or bricks that make up your chimney look as if they are protruding, flaking or peeling? Do you notice pieces or chips of masonry lying around the chimney? These are other signs that too much water is seeping into the natural stone, brick or concrete that make up your chimney. This problem is known as spalling. If left unaddressed, your chimney will crumble or collapse. A chimney professional will look for the root cause of the spalling and recommend how it can best be repaired.

7. White Staining or Efflorescence on the Chimney Exterior

White staining of the chimney masonry (known as efflorescence) may seem like a superficial problem but it is an additional sign of moisture damage. Since moisture damage can ruin ceilings, floors and walls along with deteriorating the integrity of the chimney, you should contact a chimney professional to inspect your chimney and fix the problem once you recognize it.

8. Stained Ceiling or Walls

The most overt sign that too much water is being absorbed by your chimney is staining on the ceilings or walls surrounding it. Unfortunately, it indicates that excessive moisture in the chimney is already beginning to spread to the rest of your home. When you call on a chimney professional, his/her goal will be to identify why so much moisture is getting into the chimney and determine the extent of the damage that should be repaired. The earlier this is caught, the more likely it is that you can fix the problem before the excessive moisture rots and ruin your ceilings, walls, and floors as well as the chimney’s masonry.

Now you know the top 8 signs that you need to call on a certified chimney technician to take a look at your chimney and make repairs. Hopefully, this knowledge will help you to catch problems early on and avoid expensive repairs. If you notice any of these warnings signs, don’t hesitate to reach out to our staff at Burlington’s! With years of experience and training, we can restore the health of your chimney.

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