When it comes to a system as big as the chimney, there are many parts and things that can go wrong with them. A common chimney problem—one that can arise during any season—is a leaky chimney. Chimney leaks are especially problematic because they are hard to detect and cause a great deal of damage. In fact, many homeowners don’t know what to look for to detect a chimney leak, and by the time they notice visible signs, there is substantial hidden damage within the system. Early detection saves money and prevents damage, so it’s important to know and watch for signs of a leak.
Signs of a Chimney Leak
Every homeowner should pay attention to how the chimney and fireplace system work. An inefficient chimney is one that has a problem. You may notice the fireplace is smoky while a fire burns or it stinks while the fire is out, but there are likely signs that are missed leading up to this.
Odors – If the fireplace smells of mildew or dirty laundry, it is a sure sign that water exists in the system, probably in hidden spaces such as the smoke shelf.
Green or Black Stains – Dark stains in the firebox may have a greenish tint that indicates not just the presence but also the growth of mold. This doesn’t mean only that water is in the chimney, but it’s been there long enough for bacteria to grow.
Red or Brown Stains – Stains at the top of the chimney are usually red and brown in tint and caused by water rusting the cap or chase cover on a prefabricated chimney.
White, Powdery Stains – White stains on the masonry appear powdery because they are the minerals left behind when water passes through the masonry.
Dripping – As water moves through the chimney system, there will sometimes be water visible in the firebox and along the masonry but may be noticeable because of the sound of dripping only.
Leaks – When there are leaks in other parts of the house, the cause is likely the chimney! The water may enter via the chimney but then moves through walls, floors, and ceilings until it reaches its lowest point. There it pools and forms a leak. Many homeowners assume a leak like this is caused by the roof or an upstairs plumbing problem, but if your home has a chimney, the first call should be to the chimney professional.
Common Causes of a Chimney Leak
The biggest cause of a chimney leak is a preventable one—neglect. Chimneys that aren’t serviced regularly often experience problems such as chimney leaks because homeowners are unsure what signs to look for and experts don’t ever get a look at it. What else causes a chimney leak? The porous nature of masonry allows water to penetrate the system if it’s not prevented. If water is allowed inside the masonry while temperatures fluctuate from freezing to warm, the water can destroy the masonry through a process called the “freeze/thaw cycle”. This winter damage leads to even bigger problems later when water is allowed free entry through the damaged masonry.
Another major cause of chimney leaks includes improperly installed flashing. It’s so common, actually, that it’s usually the first thing we’ll check when we have a chimney leak call! Less common causes might be a deteriorated masonry crown (usually because it’s made improperly) and a damaged or missing chimney cap.
Water and Chimney Damage
The biggest problem for a masonry chimney is water penetration. That’s because all of the materials that make up masonry are adversely affected by water, so preventing water from entering your chimney in the first place will prevent costly damage in the future. A chimney leak that goes unchecked can lead to serious damage including:
- Chimney settlement, tilt, and collapse
- Decay of mortar
- The rot of adjacent wood
- Deterioration of the central heating system
- Clogged clean-out area
- Stained masonry, walls, and ceiling
- Deteriorated firebox
- Rusted damper assemblies
So You Think You Have a Chimney Leak?
If you have signs of a chimney problem, especially a leak, make sure you get a professional involved right away. Residents in Chico and Redding trust the professionals at White Glove Chimney and Air Duct for all their chimney needs. When you notice signs of a chimney leak and call on White Glove, one of our technicians will arrive at the appointed time and ready to work. We’ll get down to the bottom of your leaky chimney, checking your flashing, cap, crown, and masonry. If the leak is caused by the chimney, we can fix it, and if it’s from the roof, we will let you know promptly. Part of our mission is to provide comprehensive chimney care to our customers while preventing unnecessary costs and headaches.
In order to prevent future leaks, our team also offers waterproofing services that protect your masonry from ordinary water penetration. What’s more, White Glove’s waterproofing services will protect your masonry for years to come.