15 Obvious Signs Your Chimney Needs to be Repaired
It’s easy to overlook your chimney. Especially when the weather warms up and you stop using your chimney. No fault to you. And when the colder weather comes, a few things may trump the chimney projects you have and you don’t have a lot of time to worry about it.
Chimneys look robust and durable, but just like Superman, they have their Kryptonite. Unfortunately, a damaged chimney acts like a domino, where once it starts to fall, it brings other issues with it.
For example, a simple crack in the crown of your masonry chimney can go through a freeze-thaw cycle, which is notorious for expanding the cracks. With the bigger cracks, more water can enter, also going through the freeze-thaw cycle, causing your chimney to start to leak.
This can be a small leak at first, but with more water and more freeze-thaw cycles, the leak is bigger and more destructive. The real kicker is that you may not even notice that this is happening at first. You may not even notice that your chimney is crying for help. At least until it’s too late and the leaky chimney has caused mildew and mold to form and rotted the wood foundation of your home.
This might seem like an exaggeration, but this is a story that we hear all too often. Sometimes it’s very difficult to spot issues with your chimney. But sometimes it’s pretty easy to see and that’s what I want to do today. I want to share 15 obvious signs that your chimney needs to be repaired as soon as possible.
Table of Contents
You can see white stains on your chimney
You see rust anywhere
You can see deteriorating mortar joints
You can see shaling flue tiles
You see signs of spalling
You have ceiling and/or wall stains
You see chimney crown damage
You can hear or see water dripping
You have excessive amounts of creosote
Pests are getting in your home
There's visible settling of your chimney
There's framing rot in your home
You've had a chimney fire
You have a missing or damaged chimney cap
There's build up inside of your chimney
#1 You Can See White Staining (AKA Efflorescence) On the Outside of Your Chimney
You might not think too much of it, but if you see white color on your chimney, then there’s a very good chance that your chimney needs some immediate attention. This staining usually occurs when your chimney has excessive moisture that is beginning to affect the brick and mortar joints. Once this happens, it is not uncommon for chimneys to lean or even crumble.
#2 You See Rust Anywhere
You know rust is bad. Well, your chimney’s not an exception to that rule. If any of the metal elements in your chimney are showing signs of rust, it’s time to get them replaced with new ones. Rust can be a simple sign of natural weathering and moisture in the air. But it could also be a clear sign that there is moisture being exposed to your chimney by way of leaks. Rust also indicates that your elements are weaker than they should be. Whether it’s natural weathering or part of a leak since rusted metal can crack and flake, it’s always better to get these parts replaced.
#3 You Can See Deteriorating Mortar Joints
You may have to be on your roof to see, but damaged mortar joints between chimney masonry is an issue that you should have fixed soon. A mortar joint is the space between bricks on your chimney that is filled with mortar. Failing mortar joints can accelerate chimney damage since the damage could expose the bricks to even more moisture. Ultimately, if you don’t address the problem, you could risk your chimney collapsing.
#4 You Can See Shaling Flue Tiles
If you start to see slices of your chimney tile inside your fireplace, you have a problem. This is a clear sign that your flue is damaged. The flue lining must be intact for you to use your fireplace safely, and any cracks could easily contribute to a house fire. While finding pieces of flue tile is convenient to determine if your flue liner is cracked, many cracks go unnoticed until you hire a chimney company to perform a video inspection of your chimney.
#5 You See Signs of Spalling
You can detect spalling when you can see bits of masonry around the bottom of the chimney from outside. If your chimney is not waterproofed, as we’ve seen before, water can seep into bricks. When that happens, it can force the surface of the brick, concrete, or even stone to peel off, pop out, or flake off. If you don’t fix this, you’ll risk your chimney collapsing.
#6 You Have Ceiling and/or Wall Stains (including damaged wallpaper)
One of the major signs that your chimney is damaged is watermarks on your walls and/or ceiling near the chimney. This is usually a clear sign that water is seeping from your chimney and into your home. If you are seeing the discoloration, most of the time the leak is pretty far along and should be taken care of as soon as you can. Otherwise, the water could reach the frame of your house and begin to rot it out. Or the water could seep behind your walls causing serious mildew and mold issues.
#7 You See Chimney Crown Damage
Unfortunately, this one may also require a trip to the roof (be careful!). The crown needs to be in perfect condition because it is your chimney’s first line of defense against the weather. Over time, it’s natural for small cracks to form along the chimney crown. But eventually, these cracks can expand and allow even more water and other debris to enter your home or your liner. A cracked chimney crown is often the catalyst for shaling and spalling.
#8 You can hear (or maybe see) water dripping
Sometimes, this can be as simple as a missing cap. But sometimes it can be the start of a pretty serious problem. As we’ve seen, the chimney is not as durable with water as you probably hoped for. If you hear water when it is raining you know that you have a problem that needs to be addressed quickly. You’ll learn more about the cap in #14, but the other issue is that now it is obvious that water has penetrated into your chimney.
#9 Excessive Amounts of Creosote
Creosote is normal. It’s the black, tar-like material that you can see inside your flue. This is what the chimney sweeps cleanout in your annual sweep. But if you notice creosote outside of your fireplace, you may want to give a professional a call. Too much might mean that something is wrong with your chimney. For example, if your fireplace is producing too much smoke, it could be a sign that your liner needs repair or even replacement.
#10 Pests Getting Into Your Home
Of course, pests can get inside your house in countless ways, but your chimney could be an entry point. If you are finding the pests in your home exist mainly in the room that your chimney is at, they may be entering through cracks (if the cracks are big enough) or just straight from the top, when you don’t have a chimney cap. You should call a pest control company first, but if you are still having some issues, then maybe consider giving a chimney company a call to settle the issue.
#11 Visible Settling of Your Chimney
Take a look at your chimney. It should be straight and sturdy. If it doesn’t, and you didn’t have it built to be crooked, then you should call a chimney repair company to check it out. As we’ve seen, brick and mortar joints can easily be damaged by weather, especially with water. This could cause cracking and crumbling of the chimney and will compromise the structural integrity of the chimney.
#12 Framing Rot in Your Home
Always keep an eye on the ceilings and walls around your chimney and fireplace. Not just for discoloration or peeling wallpaper, either. If you see the walls bowing inwards or outwards, you may have water getting into your home. Unfortunately, you may have a bigger problem because this is a clear sign that the wood framing is beginning to rot. As rot takes over the wood framing, the wall will begin to buckle and the wall or ceiling can lose structural integrity. You’ll need both a chimney repair specialist and a general contractor to completely fix this problem.
#13 You’ve had a chimney fire
One of the most serious signs that your chimney needs work is when you’ve had a chimney fire. Chimney fires occur when creosote or other debris is ignited by a flame or even an ember. Most chimney fires go unnoticed, but it only takes one fire to make your chimney unsafe. Sometimes, though, the chimney fire can make a very loud, cracking noise inside the chimney. If this happens, leave you home immediately and call 9-1-1 to put the fire out.
#14 Missing or Damaged Chimney Cap
All chimneys should have a cover over the flue. This is designed to prevent rain, debris, pests, and other unwanted substances from entering into your home through the chimney. Over time, just like most of the other materials of your chimney, your cap can deteriorate thanks to the weather. Rust and corrosion are extremely common, especially in areas where it rains a lot. Fortunately, these are relatively inexpensive to fix.
#15 Buildup Inside of Your Chimney
While buildup inside your chimney isn’t necessarily damage, if left alone, it can cause serious damage to your home and reduce the effectiveness of your fire. You should have your chimney cleaned each year to make sure creosote and other debris are removed. But blockages can also occur from birds, squirrels, garbage, and anything else that may get trapped in the flue. If your fire isn’t burning hot, or your home is smoky, or you can’t seem to keep the flame going, check for blockages and build up.
Have You Noticed Any of These Signs?
If so, give us a call. You don’t want to wait too long and you don’t want to trust just anybody. Patriot Chimney is a licensed, insured, CSIA certified chimney company that you can trust to handle any chimney job.
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