4 Common (and Uncommon) Problems a Chimney Sweep Can Resolve
The home may be your castle, but the sounds of howling wind rattling the chimney damper, little creatures scurrying about, and dripping water in the fireplace is enough to keep anyone awake at night. But it’s also some of the common (and uncommon) problems a chimney sweep can resolve.
Normally, pressure inside the chimney pushes the smoke and fumes up the flue venting it out through the top. But cracks in the chimney masonry, especially in the cap and crown are a common problem that allows outside air to get inside. High pressure outside can lead to negative pressure inside the chimney creating a down draft that causes the fireplace to smoke when burning. This not only increases the risk of fire, but carbon monoxide can leak into the home exposing occupants to this poisonous gas. Exposure to carbon monoxide can cause headaches, drowsiness and even death.
Water leaking into the chimney when it rains is a common and annoying problem experienced by many homeowners. While mistakenly leaving the damper open when the fireplace is not in use is a frequent occurrence, one of the most common reasons of a water leak is worn flashing. The flashing consists of one or more metal sheets that attach the chimney to the roofline to create an airtight seal that prevents air and water from getting inside. But, over time the flashing can become damaged and will need to be replaced. Although not as common, the same cracks in the chimney, cap and crown that cause a smoky fireplace can also result in a leaky chimney. The chimney sweep will often resolve a leaky chimney with a thorough inspection and repairing or replacing any components or damages to the chimney structure.
Deteriorating bricks and mortar
While not a common problem in chimneys with newer UL-listed liners, unlined chimneys or older liners that have become damaged can accelerate the deterioration of bricks and mortar. When this occurs, you may notice ugly stains forming on the bricks, a tell-tale sign of a chimney problem. But when you start to see cracked or spalled bricks and gaps in the mortar, the cause is more likely to be the result of weather and/or environmental conditions eating away the protective layer of the bricks. Without this protection, the bricks will begin to soften as it absorbs water like a sponge. The constant freezing and thawing of water can eventually damage the bricks and mortar.
It’s not unusual for homeowners to experience unpleasant odors emanating from the chimney time to time. While the odor may appear to be a mystery to some, the type of smell can be a clue for a trained chimney sweep. For example, the smell of tar or burning asphalt is often the result of creosote residue building up inside the chimney, a potentially dangerous issue that can spark a fire. In the spring, homeowners may smell a musty odor after a rain shower when water or moisture is in the chimney. And a dreadful rotten odor can be an indication of debris and the carcasses of small animals that have become lodged in the chimney through a broken or missing cap.