Four Basic Categories of Chimney Damage
Conscientious homeowners have their fireplaces inspected every year, a practice advised by the Chimney Safety Institute of America and the National Fire Protection Association. When learning the findings of a chimney inspection, homeowners are often surprised to learn that their chimney is damaged and needs repair. It is a misconception that chimneys are easy maintenance items. Many things can go wrong with the venting system on a fireplace or stove. One of the easiest ways to approach the issue of helping a homeowner understand what’s going on and why is by pointing out that there are four basic categories of or paths to chimney damage.
1 – Regular Wear and Tear
A properly built masonry chimney can last upwards of 100 years or more without the need for substantial repair. The mortar that holds the masonry together, however, isn’t nearly as durable. Mortar lasts about 25 years, at best. It’s important to be aware of the condition of the mortar because once it begins to crack and crumble, the masonry becomes exposed to moisture. More about moisture problems follows below. Other types of wear and tear include a cracked chimney crown, leaky flashing, and a chimney flue that has begun to deteriorate and needs to be replaced. A liner with even the tiniest crack needs to be repaired or replaced before the fireplace or stove is used again.
2 – Moisture
Moisture is a complex issue because it can be involved with all of the other categories of chimney damage. Moisture also happens to be chimney enemy number one. The biggest problem with moisture getting in chimney masonry is that freeze and thaw cycles can cause the bricks or stones to expand and contract. They begin to crack and break off. If repair isn’t done, the chimney could begin leaning. If things get that far, a complete rebuild is usually necessary. If a leaning chimney isn’t repaired, it could collapse, possibly endangering people and causing tremendous house damage.
3 – Latent Defect
Latent defects are those which were built into a chimney system at the time it was installed, whether a masonry chimney or a prefabricated chimney pipe. Inoperative dampers, chimneys that are the wrong height to ensure a proper draft, unparged smoke chambers, and inadequate fireboxes are just a few of many possible latent chimney defects.
4 – Sudden Event
Sudden damage can occur to chimneys as a result of various unexpected occurrences. For example, a lightning strike could cause sudden chimney damage. A chimney fire can start for various reasons. The most common cause of chimney fires is a buildup of creosote, which is highly flammable. Fire safety agencies recommend getting the chimney flue cleaned once 1/8” of soot is on the liner walls. Hot embers from a fire ignite a chimney fire, which burns far hotter than a fire in the fireplace. In fact, chimney fires can be so intense that they damage the flue liner and cause a highly dangerous house fire.
Contact Chimney Saver Solutions
Chimney Saver Solutions is locally owned and operated in Richmond, Virginia. We have been trusted chimney experts in the area for more than 25 years. We have earned and continue earning the confidence of homeowners and business owners, who recognize that we are dedicated professionals who provide accurate assessments of the results of chimney inspections. A chimney that needs repair will cost less to fix sooner rather than later.