The chimney is an integral part of your house. Its job is to direct smoke and fumes outside, all the while ensuring that sufficient air is drawn in for the fire to burn clean.
But did you know that you need regular chimney servicing and repairs?
Wondering what the key signs you need chimney servicing and repairs are?
We’ll get right to that.
But first, let’s start with why chimney servicing and repairs are so important. Shall we?
Chimney Repairs & Servicing: Why Is It Important?
Let’s get this straight: you should not ignore the need for chimney repairs and servicing at any cost.
Well, the reason is simple.
When it comes to chimney repairs, even slight negligence can pose serious safety threats to you and your family.
So, let’s dig into the importance of being proactive.
High Fire Risk
Starting with the most serious threat, have you ever noticed that thick, dark film that lines the inside of your fireplace and chimney?
Well, that is called creosote—a byproduct of flames.
And let us tell you that if your heating system doesn’t have adequate ventilation, creosote—being highly flammable—can start a chimney fire.
So, the best way to avoid creosote buildup and, subsequently, fire risk is to have your chimney professionally examined and cleaned each year, especially before seasonal usage.
Creosote is a byproduct of smoke accumulation. Smoke accumulation occurs with a cold or wet fire.
Release of Hazardous Carbon Monoxide
Your chimney’s primary job is to remove smoke from your house safely.
However, smoke from your fireplace enters your home when a chimney is blocked or otherwise in need of repairs, allowing dangerous gases like carbon monoxide to enter your home.
You should not take this lightly because although carbon monoxide is an odorless and invisible gas, it can be fatal at higher concentrations.
Extremely High Costs
Although it may seem as simple as inserting a brush into the chimney to remove soot and debris, chimney sweeping is rather complicated.
This is because there are seldom two chimneys that are exactly alike. So, there’s a minut chance that you have seen every possible issue that could arise.
You could look at a serious problem while cleaning your chimney and never even notice it.
When you employ a professional, you have someone who can quickly identify a potential problem by taking one look at your chimney.
They can suggest a repair, which will probably cost you less in the short term than later when the problem gets out of hand.
Insurance Claim Can Be Refused
Did you know that if you ever file a claim for a house fire resulting from your chimney, many insurance policies will require you to provide proof of routine chimney servicing and repairs?
If you don’t present that proof, your claim may suffer.
Surprising, isn’t it?
For this reason alone, you must hire a group of qualified experts to inspect and service your chimney promptly.
Additionally, professionals are often protected by their private insurance if they are hurt at work, allowing you to prioritize your own safety and well-being.
Now that we have (hopefully) convinced you why chimney inspections and repairs are extremely important, let’s get straight to the key signs you should be looking for.
1. Smoky Or Unpleasant Fumes
As we discussed before, creosote is a typical result of wood combustion.
So, the more often you use the fireplace—especially during cold winters in cities like Fredericksburg, VA—the more quickly creosote will stick to the flue liner.
Usually, toxic gases coming from a wood fire escape safely through a clean chimney.
However, creosote can prevent those gases from escaping, worsening the quality of air within your house and increasing the likelihood of starting a house fire as the amount of creosote increases in the chimney flue.
Other than that, there may be some blockage (e.g. a nest) inside your chimney if you haven’t had it cleaned recently.
This blockage, similar to creosote accumulation, can lessen the draw of the fireplace and keep it from properly expelling smoke, hence increasing the likelihood of a chimney fire.
So, if you’re smelling a foul or smoky odor indoors, it’s likely signaling an excessive creosote buildup/blockage and a clear sign that you need chimney servicing and repairs.
2. Worn Out Mortar
One of the most visible indications of a chimney that needs repairs is when the mortar (an adhesive substance used to hold masonry components like bricks together) begins to show signs of wear.
This can happen due to moisture penetration, seasonal expansion, or simply over time. As the mortar starts getting damaged, you will start to see significant cracks in certain places, and if the issue is left untreated, your chimney can ultimately collapse.
Cracks and gaps created can also allow water into the house in chimney and the areas surrounding your chimney.
When that occurs, it can be a significant safety hazard for you and your family.
3. Damaged Chimney Crown
Crown cracking is another obvious problem you can see from the outside, and as you may guess from the name, the crown sits atop the chimney, so it’s a bit hard to locate.
Water can easily enter the chimney when the protecting crown has cracks, and the resulting moisture can cause serious issues in your masonry.
Fortunately, reaching out to a local expert with knowledge of chimney crowns can stop the damage from spreading to other areas of your house.
Rust can be difficult to notice from the outside but can still be just as serious of a concern as mortar problems.
The most likely reason for rusting might be excessive moisture exposure, aging, and poor maintenance. So, if you reside in an area where there is a lot of moisture and your chimney maintenance is out of date, rusting is bound to happen.
But what exactly should you look out for?
Well, rusting manifests itself on your chimney as red-orange discoloration, stains, and residue. You should keep an eye out for rusting, especially in the following areas:
- Exterior of chimney: This is the easiest way for you to discover rust in your chimney. The residue pours down the side of the chimney from the top and leaves unsightly red and orange streaks in its wake.
So, if you have discovered anything similar, it’s time for some urgent chimney repair.
- Firebox: The presence of rust in the firebox is unmistakable evidence that your chimney should no longer be used until it is serviced.
Rust around the firebox means that residue is dripping from the chimney cap or, worse yet, the flue liner.
Your home is shielded by these liners from toxic gases and extreme heat. If they are damaged, you and your family might be at serious risk.
Unaddressed masonry and your chimney being saturated with water are the main reason rust is present, so you may want to get any sort of rust in your chimney checked out by a professional chimney service provider.
5. White Stains
Yes, it’s true that chimneys and fireplaces can’t always be clean.
This is because as they are used, they naturally fill up with ash, smoke marks, and other debris; this is nothing to be concerned about.
White stains called efflorescence occur from the salt and minerals left over from rainwater absorbed by masonry.
However, you should contact a professional if the white stains remain after thoroughly cleaning the fireplace.
This can happen because of the following reasons:
- Not having a chimney liner.
- The absence of a chimney cap.
- An open joint between the liner sections or a damaged liner.
The prevalent white stains may be a clear indication that outside moisture is seeping into the chimney.
As we’ve already mentioned, this kind of moisture can lead to structural issues that could pose serious risks.
6. Spalling Bricks
Are the bricks in your chimney crumbling or falling off?
If yes, these broken or missing bricks also indicate moisture issues. But before trying to fix the issue, you should find out the root cause.
The first step is to schedule a chimney inspection to determine the severity of the issue by seeing how the water is entering the masonry.
The reason can be anything from the weather conditions to pressure washing or construction flaws.
However, brick spalling is largely influenced by the weather.
So, if you live in an area that frequently experiences rain, fog, or freezing weather, you should routinely inspect and service your chimney.
Some important things to keep in mind:
- Poor quality bricks or poor construction can accelerate the brick spalling process. So, utilize good-quality bricks and hire skilled craftsmen.
- Your chimney may look spotless after pressure cleaning or sandblasting, but the micro damage could eventually cause spalling, so try avoiding this cleaning technique.
In case the damage has already occurred, the entire brickwork will most likely need to be repaired or completely replaced if there has been substantial damage.
7. Water Puddles
A puddle of water near your fireplace is a dead giveaway of a chimney leak.
The reason can be anything from crown cracks to deteriorated masonry.
Regardless of its source, the accumulating water can seriously harm the structure of your home, and result in mold formation, wood rot, metal deterioration, rusted fireplace accessories, water stains, and even chimney collapse!
The secret to avoiding leak repairs is spotting issues as soon as they arise.
So, if you notice any water drips or pools in or near your fireplace, it’s time to bring in the experts for chimney servicing and repairs.
Having a chimney and fireplace in your house is a major blessing, especially if you reside in a city like Fredericksburg, where the winters are chilly.
But remember that regular chimney servicing and repair work is essential to ensure the effective functioning of the chimney. It will ensure that you can live comfortably and safely without having to face any major future inconveniences. Isn’t that just what you want?
If you are looking for a professional chimney repair and servicing company in Fredericksburg, VA, OHA Heating and Air has you covered.