The chimney is one of the most important systems in your home. It may also be the largest system in the house. When something goes wrong with the chimney it can affect the entire house. The worst thing that can happen to the greatest and largest chimney or the smallest and oldest chimney is water damage. A chimney leak can wreak absolute havoc on a chimney, leading to costly repairs and ruining furniture and property. An unchecked chimney leak can go on and on without the homeowner noticing. The best way to prevent a leak? Keep the chimney maintained properly.
The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) agree that homeowners must schedule regular chimney sweeps and annual inspections for the safest and most efficient chimney systems. If your chimney has a leak, it’s likely because these necessary appointments were neglected. Don’t risk your chimney, your home, or your family’s health. Schedule important chimney services so that you can rest assured your system is safe for use and will last a lifetime. It’s at a chimney sweep or inspection that a technician might notice a problem with your system such as a damaged or missing chimney cap.
Keeping Water Out of the Chimney
The chimney cap and flashing are the chimney’s first defense against water intrusion. The cap is the roof of the chimney, situated at the top of the flue, and sheds water off and away from the flue. When the water runs off the cap, it drops onto the slanted surface of the chimney crown where it drips down onto the flashing via a drip edge. This system is designed to keep water out of the flue but also keep it from running down the masonry. When the water drips from the chimney crown drip edge, it drops straight onto the flashing of the roof instead of running down the masonry. The flashing which protects the intersection of the roof and chimney is one of the most vital parts of the entire chimney system. This intersection is the most vulnerable part of the entire chimney system and is the first thing a professional will check when there is a suspected chimney leak. Flashing is often installed improperly and shifts over time, allowing water to slip in.
Water and Your Chimney
The chimney cap’s first and most important job is to keep water out of the chimney system. In fact, the cap, crown, and flashing work together to prevent water penetration. It is essential that water is kept out of the system not only throughout winter but year-round. This is because the materials which make up your masonry chimney are all adversely affected by moisture in all forms. Water that penetrates the system during winter months can lead to winter damage caused by freezing temperatures. The water enters the chimney as a liquid but then freezes as temperatures drop, expanding and breaking apart the mortar. When the water thaws, it moves further into the damaged masonry until it freezes and expands again. This process repeats itself all winter long and leads to extreme damage and costly repairs. Water damage affects every part of the home when it’s allowed to enter the chimney and if water enters the chimney in winter, it will also in spring and summer—some of the wettest seasons of the year.
Keeping Animals Out of the Chimney
Though the chimney cap is the chimney’s first defense against water and protects it from the top, down, it really has three jobs. The cap keeps water out, keeps animals out, and keeps the fire in. In addition to the metal roof that sheds water off and away from the flue, the cap is designed with a metal mesh or screen that surrounds the flue opening 360-degrees. This screen is tamper-proof and prevents animals from getting through to the flue. It also acts as a spark suppressor, sending stray sparks back down into the chimney instead of allowing dangerous sparks out of the system where they might cause an accidental fire in the neighborhood or on the roof.
When Your Chimney Needs Attention
If you notice signs of a chimney leak, it’s important to call a professional right away. A leak may occur behind the scenes for some time before a homeowner notices anything at all, but once you do, it should be addressed immediately. Signs of a leak can include visible dripping or the sound of dripping, stains, odors, leaks in other parts of the house, and more. If you see signs of a leak, there is likely already hidden damages that need attention.
Northwest Fireplace and Chimney stops chimney leaks in their tracks. We repair and install flashing with expertise, choose the perfect cap to install, and even waterproof masonry to keep water out for years to come.
If your chimney needs attention, we can help. If your cap looks crooked, has red rust stains beneath it, or your flashing is loose, call our experts at 219-413-2349. We fix flashing and caps in Valparaiso and beyond.