This guide provides a quick overview that describes the most common chimney repair problems and how to fix them.
CHECK YOUR CHIMNEY’S FLASHING
To prevent water leaks and damage to your home, look for loose, missing, cracked or damaged flashings. Caulk all seams or gaps. Deteriorated flashing should be replaced or repaired with a high quality elastomeric flashing sealant.
CLOSELY INSPECT YOUR BRICKS AND MORTAR JOINTS
To prevent the need for major repairs, make minor repairs as soon as problems arise. Check for loose, cracked, or chipped (spalled) bricks. If some bricks are loose or a lot are cracked or chipped, you may have serious water damage problems. You’ll need to call a brick mason or chimney sweep that specializes in chimney repairs. Minor cracks (up to 1/8″ wide) in bricks that are not loose can be filled with brush-applied crack filler, as can loose or missing mortar joints. Consult a professional to see if your chimney needs to have the mortar joints replaced, a repair known as tuckpointing. Minor cracks in otherwise sound mortar joints can easily be sealed with the same brush-applied crack filler.
CHECK YOUR MASONRY FOR WATER INTRUSION
After making repairs or sealing cracks, throw a few ounces of water onto the chimney. If the surface quickly darkens and the water absorbs into the masonry within a few seconds your chimney is susceptible to continued water damage. Treat it with a high-quality, 100% breathable water repellent that is made for masonry chimneys. Breathability is important because typical water sealers may trap water vapors inside the chimney and cause more damage. Before applying the water repellent, remove any unsightly white or brown stains. There are some excellent masonry cleaners that are safer than the strong acids typically used for cleaning masonry. Be sure to follow all label precautions when using any chemical.
CHECK YOUR CHIMNEY’S CROWN
The mortar or concrete on top of your chimney is called the crown. It’s your chimney’s roof. If there are loose or missing pieces, consult a professional. If cracked but otherwise solid, repair it with a brush-applied crown repair that stays permanently flexible to prevent water damage and leaks.
CHECK YOUR CHIMNEY’S INTERIOR
Look down the inside of your chimney with a bright light and check for obstructions and combustible creosote or soot deposits, though this job is best left to a certified chimney sweep. There are many problems that only trained professionals can spot. The National Fire Protection Association recommends annual evaluations of all chimneys, stacks, and vents. Every year unsafe chimneys cause significant numbers of injuries and deaths and account for more than $200 million in property damage. To find a certified chimney sweep, visit the Chimney Safety Institute of America online at www.csia.org.
INSTALL A CHIMNEY CAP
Chimney or flue caps cover the opening of your flue. They prevent animals, debris, and water from entering your chimney. Chimney caps made of stainless steel or aluminum are the most resilient and won’t rust.
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