Your chimney is an important part of your home. It provides a safe, efficient way to get rid of the smoke and soot from your wood-burning stove or fireplace. But if something goes wrong, it can be a serious problem for you and your family.
Here are 49 things that could go wrong with your chimney, along with tips on how to spot them before they become major problems.
1) Damaged crown:
The crown protects the top of the chimney from exterior elements like hail and tree branches; a damaged crown will allow water into your chimney which can cause cracks in masonry or even lead to structural damage over time.
2) Damaged flashing:
Flashing prevents water from leaking through joints in the chimney structure and into the walls of your house. Damaged flashing is one of the most common chimney problems, typically caused by water leaking through cracks in mortar joints.
3) Missing crown:
If you don’t have a crown on top of your chimney, or it’s damaged, it could cause leaks and other problems with your masonry over time. Crowns are used to protect the top of the chimney from exterior elements that can cause damage.
4) Chimney facing is damaged: The facing material, usually made out of stone or brick, protects your masonry while adding an attractive appearance. If it becomes damaged over time, you may need to have it replaced but if you wait too long, the damage may become more extensive.
5) Exterior chimney surface is cracked:
Like sunken concrete steps or a foundation wall that has shifted out of place, cracks in chimney mortar joints can be an early sign of bigger problems to come if not tended to.
6) Flue is damaged:
Looking inside your flue for cracks, rust, or other discoloration and then taking steps to fix the problem is a good way to prevent further damage.
7) Larger than average amount of creosote buildup:
If you have a wood-burning stove or fireplace that is used regularly, you should expect some amount of creosote buildup because it is a natural byproduct of burning wood. If you notice an unusually large amount of creosote in your chimney, or if the flue has been recently blocked, this could be an indication that there are problems with your stove operation or venting setup.
8) House shifting:
A house that shifts away from its foundation indicates that the chimney is not properly set and could be tilting as a result. This can cause leaks in your structure, which will need to be repaired before they become even more extensive problems.
9) Slate missing or damaged:
Slate or terra-cotta tiles are used on top of your masonry material because they are more water-resistant than other types of tile. If they become damaged and begin to fall out, allowing water into the area where the chimney meets the roof of your home, there could be significant problems with leaking or rot down the road.
10) Missing crown flashing:
A crown that is not properly installed will lead to leaks around your wood-burning stove or fireplace. Watch for missing or damaged flashing when you spot a problem with your crown.
11) Poorly installed chimney cap removal:
If you have an old wood-burning stove that requires an oversized flue, your chimney may come with a cap designed to make it easy to remove the top of the flue for repairs. If not properly installed, removal of this cap can cause problems that could lead to leaks.
12) Cracked chimney crown after installing a liner:
The purpose of a liner is to protect the integrity of your masonry by keeping water out; however, when they are improperly installed, liners can damage your existing mortar joints and result in leaks.
If you notice cracks in the crown of your chimney after installing a liner, this is one place to look for leaks or other issues that could be related to damage from the liner’s installation process.
13) Exterior brickwork cracked around the fireplace:
Inspecting and repairing exterior surface cracks on your foundation can help prevent more extensive problems down the line. Chimney masonry joints will crack and cause problems despite regular maintenance, but you should look for a larger than average crack that extends outward from the fireplace.
14) Natural cracks extend below the mortar joints:
Constant temperature change can lead to cracking and damage of your chimney’s exterior material; however if cracks are extending closer to the ground than they should be, this could indicate more serious problems.
15) Flue cap is missing:
The purpose of a flue cap is to protect your home from fire and water damage that can occur if the chimney is not properly cleaned or inspected regularly. This simple device prevents rainwater from pooling around your wood-burning stove or fireplace and keeps the fire from coming up through the floor of your home.
16) Lose mortar joints around the chimney crown:
If loose mortar joints are near the area where your chimney meets your roof, it could lead to leaks that cause damage to interior ceilings and walls. This is a good place to inspect for cracks, sloping, or other structural damage to your chimney crown.
17) Water stains running down the sides of the structure:
If you notice water stains on the exterior brickwork of your chimney, this could indicate that there are leaks in the masonry joints or around the roof flashing. You should also look for pooling water or water flowing down the exterior that may indicate a problem with your roof.
18) Pointing missing from masonry joints:
If pointing is missing from cracks around your chimney structure, it could allow water to enter and cause damage to the interior of your chimney. In more extreme cases, it could also lead to leaks around doors or windows.
19) Overflowing rain gutters:
Homeowners with wood-burning stoves and fireplaces should also check for overflowing rain gutters around their homes. Poor drainage of surrounding areas can lead to pooling water, which expands when frozen; this can put pressure on your chimney structure, causing damage or leaks. To prevent serious problems, make sure your gutters are draining properly.
20) Damaged mortar joints on the chimney crown:
If you notice any damage to your chimney’s crown that could cause a leak inside your home, get an expert to inspect it right away.
21) Broken glass or plastic beads around the flue area:
If you notice broken glass or plastic beads around your fireplace, this could indicate that moisture is getting trapped in the flue area and causing damage to the brickwork. Inspecting for cracked mortar joints or other damaged areas as soon as possible could save you from having to repair more extensive issues later on.
21) Exterior cement stains on the chimney:
You should also inspect the exterior cement around your chimney for cracks or stains. Cement staining that goes beyond a crack could indicate water damage inside of the fireplace, which could also cause structural issues with your masonry.
22) Exterior brickwork leaning or cracked:
If you notice any signs of leaning on your chimney structure’s exterior, you should have it inspected right away. You may need to replace bricks or mortar joints as a result of damage caused by shifting because of improper installation, settling, and poor maintenance.
23) Missing top tiles:
If your chimney crown is missing some upper tiles, this could indicate water damage that has occurred during freeze-thaw cycles in colder weather.
24) Broken or cracked flue tiles:
If there are any broken or cracked flue tiles, you will need to inspect your chimney to see if any of these pieces fell into the structure and caused damage. Some cracks may be small in size but could cause major problems if left alone for long periods of time due to freeze-thaw cycles.
25) Loose top tiles:
If your chimney crown has top tiles that are missing or loose, you need to have them inspected right away. This could indicate a problem with the upper cap joints around your chimney, which may be cracked and allow water in during freezing temperatures.
26) Brick discoloration or different color mortar joints:
If you notice discoloration on the bricks of your chimney, look for cracks and water stains around it. If you see grout lines that are missing between mortar joints, this could indicate an issue with how the chimney was constructed. You should contact a professional right away if you notice any serious damage to your chimney.
27) Leaning exterior brickwork:
If your outside brickwork is leaning or cracked, you may have an issue with how the fireplace structure was built from the very beginning.
28) Dirt buildup on masonry joints:
You should inspect for any signs of dirt buildup around your chimney’s masonry joints to see if any weak areas could potentially crack or completely give out.
29) Broken keystones:
If your chimney has a broken keystone, water can easily leak into the masonry joints without having to go through other interior brickwork. This is why it’s important to check for cracks and discoloration at these vulnerable spots on your chimney.
30) No top tiles:
If you notice that your chimney crown has no upper-level tiles, this could indicate a leaking issue in the joints of your chimney’s cap or the mortar between the bricks. You’ll need to have it inspected by a professional to see what repairs should be made as soon as possible.
31) Staining on the interior:
If you notice any staining along with your fireplace’s exterior brick or mortar joints, water has likely gotten behind the upper cap of your chimney.
32) Water stains and discoloration above cap:
Keep an eye out for stains and discoloration above the crown of your masonry firebox to see if there are any signs of leakage.
33) Lose upper mortar joints:
Look for any areas on your chimney where the upper joint of the bricks or mortar is loose to determine whether or not it’s been leaking water inside. This could be a sign that the cap needs to be replaced by a professional.
34) Water stains at the bottom of your fireplace:
This could be a sign that water is leaking over time into the masonry joints and mortar below your chimney’s cap.
35) Cracked exterior brickwork:
If you notice any cracks in the mortar joints or bricks around your chimney, this indicates damage to a vulnerable part of its structure where water can easily get behind the upper cap.
36) Loose, cracked halves or full caps:
If you notice your chimney’s cap is broken into halves or completely missing altogether, this could mean that it has not been properly installed and will need to be professionally inspected right away.
37) Missing mortar joints on the bottom row of bricks:
When water does leak into your chimney, it can cause major damage to the interior brickwork of the fireplace. If you notice any cracks in this area, you will need to call a professional right away.
38) Spalling on the masonry joints:
Look for spalling in areas at the upper cap on your chimney where frozen water drips can reach. This may be a sign of leaking that needs to be addressed by a professional.
39) Exterior brickwork:
If you notice anything out of the ordinary with your chimney’s exterior—such as cracks, stains, or sagging mortar joints—you will need to have it inspected right away to determine whether or not it’s in danger of leaking.
40) Sagging mortar joints:
Loose or cracked masonry joints that seem to be giving way could mean your chimney is at risk of water damage and other issues.
41) Leaning bricks on the firebox exterior:
Using a level, check to see if there are any sagging or leaning bricks that could be an indicator that the chimney is at risk of water damage.
42) Loose mortar joints on the firebox interior:
If you notice loose or cracked masonry joints in areas around your firebox, this may mean that it’s giving way to any leaks caused by a storm surge.
43) Leaking rust stains under the crown:
The rust stains may be an indicator of a larger problem with your chimney’s upper cap, which can be the result of water damage.
44) Rust stains around the masonry joints:
If you notice any rust staining in areas around the mortar joints on your chimney, this indicates that water has made it into these spots. You’ll want to have your chimney inspected right away.
45) Black stains on the sides of the fireplace:
If you notice black streaks on the sides of your masonry firebox, it could mean that there have been some cracks or leaks in its structure. These will need to be repaired by a professional right away if they are found.
46) Metal flashing rusting:
If the metal flashing around your chimney is rusting, you may need to have it replaced by a professional right away.
47) Loose glass in the firebox:
Check for any loose glass pieces near your fireplace door that could mean that water has made its way inside and caused damage. This will need to be repaired by a professional.
48) Loose mortar joints on the firebox exterior:
If you notice sagging or cracked masonry joints in areas around your fireplace, this could mean that water has made its way into these spots. This will need to be addressed right away.
49) Leaking grout between bricks:
You may notice the grout around your chimney is cracked or breaking. This can indicate that water has made its way into these spots, which will need to be repaired by a professional right away.
If you are noticing any of the above signs on your chimney, it is best to have a professional inspect it right away.
The pros at Pros On Call can provide services such as chimney cleaning, inspection and repair, and crown installation. Contact them today for more information!