How To Check The Safety Of Your Chimney

10 Jul 2013
There is no doubt that caring for your chimney is not on the top of your chore list in the midst of a beautiful summer. But before you know it, the weather will be cooling down and a nice evening by the fire will sound like perfection. The last thing you want to do is notice a chimney problem as just as you are about to put a log on the fire. After all, a chimney that has suffered damage is a major fire hazard. If you notice something is not right with your chimney, you need to get it taken care of as soon as possible. Here are the most common and major signs of chimney damage to look for so you can rest assured you will have a smooth winter full of warmth beside the fire.
 
The first thing to look for is a white discoloration. This discoloration is called efflorescence. The staining is caused by moisture in the concrete or masonry. When you notice a significant amount of white on your chimney it is likely being caused by the moisture in the warm air inside your house condensing on the inside of your chimney in the cold months. This condition could eventually lead to a rapid deterioration of your chimney. You also need to be on the lookout for damaged mortar joints. When mortar breaks down, the masonry becomes increasingly exposed to moisture, accelerating the the deterioration of your chimney. In freezing weather, this problem could cause the entire chimney to collapse if left untreated. 
 
Next, you must check for both spalling and shaling. If you see bits of masonry collecting outside your chimney, or pieces of chimney tiles collecting in your fireplace, your chimney is suffering from one of these two conditions. You are seeing shaling when the problem is inside the the fireplace. This tells you that your flue is likely damaged. This is one of the main reasons to have a yearly inspection. Spalling is when you see the masonry on the outside. This is yet another chimney problem caused by excess moisture. There are two more important clues to look for as well when dealing with too much moisture. First off, if you have peeling wallpaper near your fireplace, that is a dead giveaway of excess moisture in your chimney. Secondly, you must look for rust. You should not have any rust on your firebox, or damper. If you do, it is almost certain that you have too much moisture. Even if you don’t see the rust, if your damper does not seal properly, the rusting process has likely begun. 
 
The final important sign of chimney damage to check for is chimney crown damage. To check for this issue you will need to go up on your roof. The health of your chimney crown is incredibly important. It is your chimney’s first line of defense from the brutal beatings a chimney may take from the weather. If there are any cracks, you can be sure they will lead to more, and larger cracks. These cracks will let in moisture can cause many of the above problems we previously discussed. 
 
If you notice any of these issues, even if they seem minor it is best to call a chimney professional sooner than later. These problems never go away, and always progress. It is best to always have a yearly chimney inspection to avoid these chimney hazards. Just as the safety of your chimney is important, you must also learn how to check the safety of your fireplace as well. Don't forget, you can check our website at any time for all of your fireplace, hearth and chimney supply needs. 

Comments

Well, I can't say that I am happy to learn about what the white stuff on my chimney was. But, I do appreciate the heads up. Now I know what I suspected all along. I need to call a pro to check on my chimney. I can't miss out on those warm fires this winter.

It looks like I might have some shaling. I've been noticing it for a little while now but didn't think it was a huge deal. I guess I was wrong. Sound slike my chimney might have a flue problem. I guess it's better than me having the flue. 

I'm sorry to hear that you both found problems lurking in your chimney. But I am glad that they sound like they can be fixed and you will be all set by the time the cold weather arives. And Jack, even though your chimney is sick I hope you stay healthy!