Common Causes of Chimney Moisture Damage
Now that winter is almost here, many areas around Henrico and throughout the RVA are already experiencing near-freezing evening temperatures. So, it’s an excellent time to remind homeowners to take the necessary precautions to protect your fireplace and chimney from moisture damage. Since chimney leaks are not always easy to identify, here are five common causes of chimney moisture damage.
Damaged or Missing Chimney Cap
A damaged or missing chimney cap is one of the most common causes of moisture damage. The chimney cap is installed at the top of the chimney to help prevent rain and snow from dripping inside the flue. However, its location at the top of the chimney can make it difficult for homeowners to see if it is damaged and may not notice if it is loose or missing until water is leaking into the fireplace. Since moisture intrusion can damage the interior masonry, flue liner, damper, and other components, it is a good idea to periodically inspect your chimney cap and replace it as soon as possible when damaged or missing to avoid more costly repairs.
Chimney Crown Cracks
Cracks in the chimney crown are another common source of moisture damage. Unfortunately, many homeowners are unaware of chimney crown leaks until they notice more severe chimney damage. The cement chimney crown tops the entire masonry structure. Its sloped design and drip edge help deflect water away from the chimney. However, wear and tear, weather, and settling can cause surface cracks. These surface cracks typically start small but without repair will worsen over time and cause significant moisture damage. Therefore, we strongly encourage all homeowners to have annual chimney inspections to detect chimney leaks early before more severe moisture damage occurs.
If you are noticing water stains on the walls or ceiling near the fireplace, there is a good chance your chimney flashing needs repair or replacement. The chimney flashing is the sheet metal that seals the seam where the chimney and roof meet to prevent moisture intrusion. Its continued exposure to various environmental conditions can eventually damage the flashing causing it to warp or corrode. Improper flashing installation can also lead to premature failure. If the damaged flashing isn’t immediately repaired or replaced, moisture intrusion can cause significant damage to the attic, roof deck, ceiling, and masonry.
Masonry damage is not only a common source of moisture intrusion, but it’s also one of the easiest to spot. While it may seem indestructible, in reality, water is a masonry chimney’s mortal enemy, especially during the winter months. Here in Richmond, VA, we experience a variety of winter weather conditions, including freezing rain, sleet, and ice. Bricks and mortar are porous materials that can absorb moisture. When the temperature dips below freezing, the absorbed water freezes into ice crystals that cause bricks and mortar to crack. Then, as the temperature warms up in the afternoon, the moisture thaws. Water fills the expanded cracks during the next precipitation event, and the freeze/thaw process repeats. This freeze/thaw process repeatedly continues throughout the winter. In the early stages of masonry damage, you may notice sections of the chimney where the mortar is decaying. As the damage worsens, bricks begin to chip, crumble and even fall to the ground. You may see pieces of masonry lying on the ground and gaps in the mortar joints, a clear indication of chimney moisture damage. Without expert masonry repair and water-proofing, the entire chimney structure is in danger of a partial or complete collapse.
If you suspect moisture damage or if it’s been more than a year since your last chimney inspection, contact Chimney Saver Solutions to schedule an appointment. Our certified chimney professionals will inspect your chimney and make the necessary repairs that will save your chimney. We serve communities throughout the Greater Richmond, VA region.