Be On The Lookout For Common Chimney Problems Before Fireplace Use

7 Common Chimney Problems to Watch For

Fall is the season of pumpkin spice lattes, cozy sweaters, and fun trips to local orchards. It is also the time of year when many of us start lighting up our fireplaces or stoves. Before you ignite your gas or wood fireplace, be sure to schedule a chimney inspection. One of these seven common chimney problems could be hiding in your flue.

creosote build-up found in chimney, racine wiCreosote

Have you ever noticed dark black or brown buildup inside the flue? That substance is creosote, an extremely flammable combustion byproduct. It’s created when smoke interacts with condensation in the chimney. Every fireplace produces some creosote (unless you have a zero-clearance fireplace that burns up all the smoke produced by the fire).

Creosote may look flaky like ashes, gooey like tar, or shinny and brittle like glass. What it looks like depends on what stage of creosote is in your chimney. No matter what it looks like, it is a fire hazard. Creosote is the leading cause of chimney fires because even a tiny amount can catch fire from high temperatures in the flue or a stray spark.

Removing creosote safely and effectively requires specialized equipment, experience, and, often, professional-grade cleaners. We don’t recommend using a DIY solution, like a creosote-cleaning log. Even the most effective logs can leave behind dangerous amounts of creosote, and can increase chimney fire since they burn hotter than regular wood.


Using a fireplace with an obstructed or blocked chimney is dangerous. Fire produces toxic fumes, including the deadly gas carbon monoxide. Usually, these fumes escape up with the chimney without causing harm. However, the smoke and fumes can’t escape if this ventilation system is blocked by an animal nest, dead animal, leaves, creosote, or another obstruction.

Many homeowners don’t realize their chimney is obstructed until their home fills with smoke. You can avoid this safety hazard by scheduling a chimney inspection to ensure your chimney is free of critters, lawn debris, and creosote.

Damaged Masonry

Cracked mortar, spalling bricks (missing chips or chunks), or broken stones are all types of damaged masonry you might see on your chimney. Masonry damage isn’t just cosmetic. Bad masonry can weaken the structure of your chimney. If the masonry isn’t restored and continues to deteriorate, your chimney could lean or collapse.

The best method for repairing damaged masonry is tuckpointing. Tuckpointing is when an experienced mason removes bad mortar and bricks then replaces them. It is a very effective solution and less expensive than a complete rebuild. If the structural damage to your chimney is severe, rebuilding it may be the only way to save your chimney.

Poorly Built Chimney Problems

Chimney problems due to inadequate building practices have become a common issue in recent years. Most often in subdivision homes built within the last ten to twenty years. We have come across prefabricated fireplaces without e correct flue liner, improperly installed chimney caps or chimney chase top, and chimneys with rotting wood under vinyl siding.

Many newer homes use wood to build the chimney and wrap it in vinyl siding and trim. Often, moisture gets trapped between the wood and siding, leading to wood rot. During a chimney inspection, Burlington’s NFI-certified chimney technicians lookout for these types of issues so that they can catch them early and resolve them, revent future problems like expensive chimney water damage.

Broken or Missing Chimney Cap or Chase Top

The metal cap that sits above most chimneys is called a chimney cap or chase top (if you have a prefabricated fireplace). It plays a vital role in extending the life of your chimney. It prevents animals, debris, and precipitation from damaging the flue. It also prevents hot embers from landing on your home’s roof.

Harsh weather, especially high winds, can break or remove this critical chimney accessory. Burlington’s certified chimney technicians fix and replace your chimney cap or chase top if it’s damaged or missing.

Chimney Leaks

Have you noticed water in your fireplace or around the chimney after a storm or heavy rainfall? If you have, most likely, you have a chimney leak. Chimney leaks can be caused by damaged flashing, deteriorated masonry, a cracked crown, a missing chimney cap, or a damaged chase top. Masonry that hasn’t been treated with a waterproofing sealant can also cause water damage.

Discovering the source of the problem is the first step we will take when you call Burlington Fireplace to investigate a chimney leak. Contact us to learn about our chimney leak repair services and how we can help you avoid costly water damage.

inspecting the chimney flue, delavan wiDamaged Chimney Flue

Your chimney liner, or flue liner, plays a crucial role in protecting your home. It channels toxic fumes outside instead of letting them escape into your home. It also prevents the intense heat produced by the fire and stray sparks from igniting nearby beams, walls, ceilings, and floors.

While chimney liners are built to last, they can be damaged by moisture, a chimney fire, or wear ‘n tear. Checking the chimney liner is a critical part of an annual chimney inspection. Protecting you and your home is our top priority!

Sipping cider next to a warm hearth is part of the pleasure of fall. But, before you enjoy your fireplace, be sure to have it inspected by a certified chimney technician! Any one of these eight common chimney problems could turn your fireplace into a safety hazard. Burlington Fireplace’s service department is here to ensure your chimney is clean and safe for another cold season. So, give us a call to schedule a chimney inspection today!

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