Six Common Chimney Issues We See 


Your chimney is likely the most overlooked and underestimated part of your home that requires routine maintenance. 

Especially when it’s hot outside

Your chimney and fireplace is a beautiful addition to your home, but they bring on a whole new set of responsibilities. 

This rings true if you have a wood-burning stove, a wood-burning fireplace, or even a gas fireplace. You need to have at least an annual inspection so that a chimney expert can gauge the actual condition of your chimney. 

Here are the 6 most common issues that we see:


#1 Creosote

Creosote is extremely dangerous. But it’s also a naturally occurring byproduct of burning wood and pellets (and a little bit with gas). 

As the gases from burning head up your chimney, they cool down, stick to the sides of your flue, and form a highly flammable, tar-like substance that is creosote. 

If you don’t keep an eye out on the creosote build-up, then you’re risking a chimney fire. Sparks move up your chimney too. It doesn’t take much for one of the sparks to light the creosote on fire. 

And if you have any cracks in your chimney the fire from the lit creosote can push through the cracks and catch your house on fire. 

All you need to do to prevent creosote buildup is to schedule an inspection and a cleaning. It’s that easy!

Read More About Creosote: Creosote and Chimney Fires

creosote sweep

#2 Cracked or Spalling Bricks

Cracks in your chimney’s bricks can cause your chimney to lean, crumble, or even completely collapse. 

Water is public enemy #1 for chimneys. 

Bricks are porous, which means they absorb water very easily. The danger comes in the winter when the temperature drops to below freezing.

Water will penetrate the bricks. Then at night, the water will freeze and expand, causing the bricks to chip and crack. 

That will allow even more water to enter and cause even bigger cracks in your chimney. 

If you don’t fix the cracks or spalling bricks, you risk your chimney deteriorating past the point of simple repairs towards serious structural issues for your house.

#3 Damaged Mortar

As I mentioned in the last section, water is public enemy #1 for your chimney. That includes all of the mortar that holds the bricks together. 

Just like bricks, the mortar is actually very porous. So it absorbs water and is susceptible to the same freeze/thaw cycles that bricks are. 

Damaged mortar can lead to further deterioration of your chimney. Luckily, if it’s caught soon enough, your chimney technician can easily fix the mortar with tuckpointing, and waterproof the whole thing. 

This way, you won’t have to worry as much about your chimney falling down!

#4 Missing Chimney Caps or Chase Covers

It still surprises me when I see a chimney without a chimney cap

A cap will help keep water out of your chimney and it will keep animals, leaves, twigs, and other obstructions out. 

Moreover, a chimney cap will help keep the sparks from flying out of your chimney and landing on your roof. Or in your gutter. Or on the ground. 

All of which can lead to fires. 

Any damage to your cap should be dealt with as soon as possible. That includes rusty chimney caps and crowns. 

Rust will allow pinholes to form, allowing water to enter into your chimney. And you know the relationship between water and chimneys, right? 

Read More: All about chimney caps

#5 Cracks in the Chimney Flue

Your chimney flue goes through a lot. 

Especially during the winter when you are using your chimney almost every day. Too much stress can lead to cracking or other damage to the chimney lining that can really lead to even bigger problems. 

Creosote is also a corrosive material. When mixed with moisture it becomes acidic. 

That acid can cause the inside of your chimney liner to deteriorate and can create cracks very easily inside the chimney. 

As I mentioned before, creosote is very flammable. And if it’s caught on fire, and there’s a crack in your chimney liner, you are facing a very serious risk of a catastrophic house fire. 

Assessing the inside of your flue is not an easy task for the untrained eye. 

Even when we know what we’re looking for, it can be extremely difficult to gauge the condition of the inside of your chimney unless we use a camera for the inspection

Since we put safety first, we always want to see the actual condition of the inside of your chimney. 

Read More: Everything You Need to Know About Chimney Liners

#6 Chimney Obstructions

An obstruction can be anything that blocks the inside of your chimney. A lot of times, this can be from excessive creosote build-up. But it could also be from things like birds’ nests, squirrels, leaves, or any other debris that has made its way inside your chimney. 

Your chimney can’t operate properly if there’s an obstruction. If the gases can’t move up and out of your chimney like it should, then you risk having the gases leak back into your house. 

Unfortunately, that means carbon monoxide fumes can enter your home. 

Luckily, you can make sure your chimney is in safe and efficient working order simply by scheduling a chimney inspection every year. 

But you should also be aware of chimney swifts, which are tiny birds that like to burrow into chimneys to lay eggs. Depending on the size of your chimney, you could easily see up to a thousand swifts inside your chimney!

And no one can do a thing about it. 

Chimney swifts are protected by the migratory bird act. So messing with the birds, nest, or eggs in any way can result in a hefty fine.

Schedule an Inspection

The good news with this list is that most of them can be avoided. 

All you need to do is make sure you are giving your chimney and fireplace the love and attention that they desire. That means scheduling an inspection with a certified chimney expert. 

We’ll be able to look at your chimney, inside and out, and determine if it is in safe and efficient working order. 

An annual inspection (and maybe a cleaning) is all you need to keep your peace of mind with your chimney.

Patriot Chimney has a few CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps that you can trust with your home and family. During your service, you can expect your technician to inspect your chimney with a video camera so we can give a full top-to-bottom, inside out inspection. 

We’re licensed, insured, certified, and guarantee you’ll be happy with your service.


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