Has the Icy Winter Damaged your Atlanta Chimney?
Many cities in the U.S. have experienced record lows this winter, and Atlanta, Georgia, is among them. Almost the entire month of February, 2015, temperatures in Georgia were below average; and it was at the freezing mark or below 22 days of February. All of those freezing cycles followed by thawing cycles throughout the winter season can wreak havoc on your chimney. Our chimney professionals advise homeowners to schedule their annual chimney inspection during springtime because it may be possible to catch damage before needed repairs are extensive.
As regards harsh winters, the primary concern is that the freezing and thawing moisture has caused some type of damage. The following are the most common types of chimney damage caused by moisture plus one unrelated issue to be aware of:
Flashing Damage. The chimney flashing is metal and serves the important function of creating an watertight seal between the chimney and the roof. Flashing is not as durable as other chimney components and should be checked regularly. The winter moisture could have caused rusting, and even the smallest hole in the flashing can cause major damage to your house.
Deteriorating Mortar. The mortar used on masonry chimneys doesn’t last as long as the brick or stone, and moisture is the most destructive factor that wears mortar away. Mortar begins to crumble, over time, and the harsh winter weather can significantly contribute to the deterioration process.
Once mortar begins crumbling, moisture gets into the masonry and causes other problems. In addition, the masonry can begin leaning or collapsing, which is a very expensive problem to repair. The most cost-effective way to deal with worn mortar is to use a procedure called “tuckpointing,” which replaces the mortar and provides new stability and fresh aesthetic appeal to the chimney.
You may begin noticing bits of broken brick around the chimney or on the ground below the chimney. The broken pieces are evidence that moisture has entered the masonry and caused the face of the masonry to flake or pop off. The freeze-thaw cycles of winter are a common cause of spalling.
Staining or Efflorescence
If you ever see white staining or perhaps green, brown, or yellow stains, you are seeing evidence of moisture in your chimney masonry. Not all masonry is susceptible to efflorescence because not all masonry constains salt. The following three conditions must exist for the staining to appear on your chimney:
- There must be soluble salts within the structure of the masonry.
- There must be enough moisture to create a salty soluble solution.
- The salt must have a means by which to travel through the masonry and then evaporate on the outside of the chimney, creating a crystallized efflorescence.
Moisture is a destructive force in chimney liners. What happens is that the moisture mixes with the flammable creosote and soot combustion deposits. Deterioration of the liner is accelerated with the presence of moisture. A damaged liner makes your home vulnerable to a hazardous chimney fire that could potentially cause an out-of-control house fire.
The chimney crown at the top of the chimney is vulnerable to freezing temperatures. When the crown cracks, moisture is able to leak down between the flue and the chimney structure, which can cause costly damage.
It is not unusual for various kinds of animals to seek the warmth of a chimney during especially cold temperatures. Some animals are unable to make their way back out, which can lead to the terrible inconvenience of a dead animal that creates a horrible stink. You can never be sure whether wild animals are carrying disease, and we recommend contacting our professional chimney technicians for animal removal. If you have a chimney cap with mesh, you can prevent this type of problem from occurring.
Contact our chimney professionals, and they will be happy to examine your chimney to determine whether the cold winter months caused damage.