4 Interior and Exterior Chimney Problems & How to Solve Them

deteriorating chimney bricksA chimney that’s in good repair is a chimney that does its job safely and efficiently. When damage or other problems develop within the chimney system, the best move is to arrange for a professional inspection and then chimney repair or chimney sweep services to restore soundness to the structure.

Here are four fairly common issues that chimney service techs see on a regular basis.

  1. Leaky chimney

When addressing leaks in a chimney, the first step is to determine exactly where the leak is coming from. We know that water is getting into the system somewhere, and we need to know where. Many things can be responsible for a chimney leak including:

  • A damaged or missing chimney cap
  • Cracking in the chimney crown
  • Warped flashing
  • Spalling bricks
  • Internal masonry damage due to a faulty chimney liner

If left unattended, a chimney leak can lead to widespread rot and decay within the chimney structure and the house itself.

  1. Damaged chimney masonry

white stained chimney exteriorExternal damage to the bricks and mortar of a chimney is fairly easy to spot: cracks are obvious, bricks are loose, often there are patches of crumbling scattered around on the roof. Various approaches can be used to repair damaged masonry such as:

Tuckpointing: A strong, new compound is added to areas where bricks are missing.

Partial chimney rebuilding: Depending on where the masonry damage is and the extent of it, it may be necessary to rebuild sections of the chimney.

Complete chimney rebuilding: For chimneys with extensive damage that makes them unsafe to use or live around, a total chimney rebuild can restore safety to the home and your family.

Chimney waterproofing: In cases of minor cracking in the mortar, a waterproof sealant can be applied to the chimney to prevent damage caused by incoming water.

  1. Efflorescence on exterior chimney bricks

Efflorescence is the white staining sometimes seen on the outside of chimneys. When this is present, it means that moisture is getting into the bricks and pushing out the naturally occurring salt within the bricks, leading to the unsightly stain.

If efflorescence is the only problem you have with your chimney, you’re fortunate. By scheduling a certified chimney inspection to assess the extent of the water-infiltration and then having the reason for the problem repaired, you can save a lot of money on expensive chimney restoration projects down the line.

  1. Creosote/obstruction buildup in the flue

Wood-burning fireplaces cause the smoke byproduct creosote to form and build up on the inside of the chimney liner. Creosote is flammable and can easily ignite and start a chimney or house fire. Professional chimney sweeps certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America have the equipment and training to safely and thoroughly remove creosote and soot from your flue. Once-a-year cleaning is recommended.

If your chimney cap is severely damaged – or if you don’t have a cap at all – various debris can get into the flue and cause smoke-draft blockages. This debris includes leaves and twigs from nearby trees and small animals and their nests. One of a chimney sweep’s jobs is cleaning obstructions from your chimney to ensure smooth and efficient drafting of smoke and gasses.

When your chimney needs repair or proper cleaning, High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, is standing by to exceed your expectations. Whether it’s chimney sweep, chimney inspection, chimney repair or chimney rebuilding services, we’re ready to go to work. Call us at (301) 519-3500.


Fireplace Safety: Why Regular Chimney Cleaning Matters

Professional Chimney SweepThe safest fireplaces and chimneys are those that receive regular cleaning, repair and maintenance by certified technicians. If this service is neglected, it won’t take long for your chimney to experience a dangerous buildup of creosote and soot. Smoke-drafting obstructions, a common problem if you use your chimney without a chimney cap, also can lead to dangerous operating conditions.

Here are the primary reasons regular chimney sweep services are so important.

First, can you do the job yourself?

Some homeowners think they can clean their own chimneys, but rarely is this the case. Professional chimney sweeps have special tools like rotating brushes, hand brushes, vacuums, scrapers and powerful cleaning solvents that work together to rid your flue of flammable creosote and soot. It’s unlikely the average homeowner has this equipment or the skill and training to use it.

Creosote removal

Creosote is a byproduct of smoke and may appear as a flakey, sticky or solid substance. It’s the cause of the majority of chimney fires in the U.S. each year. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends annual chimney sweeping for chimneys connected to wood-burning appliances, because even less than an inch of this compound is enough to start a potentially fatal chimney fire.

Signs of a chimney fire

Not all chimney fires are obvious. Some are small and extinguish on their own. But even small fires can damage the chimney liner and the interior masonry, which leaves combustible materials of your home vulnerable.

Common signs of a chimney fire include:

  • An unusually large amount of smoke pouring from the top of the chimney or flowing into the room
  • A ticking or tapping sound
  • The sound of rumbling, like a distant train

Removal of obstructions

Creosote in ChimneyIn addition to removing creosote, chimney sweeps also remove obstructions in the flue caused by an accumulation of leaves, twigs, small-animal nests and the like. These obstructions will make smoke draft improperly and back up into the home, carrying with it deadly carbon monoxide.

You can keep all debris out of your flue by having a quality chimney cap installed. Chimney caps cover the flue opening to prevent water intrusion (and subsequent water damage), and the sides are made of a material that allows smoke to move through them while keeping outside junk outside where it belongs.

What you can do to ensure the safety of your chimney

Where creosote is concerned, the less smoke your fireplace produces, the less creosote buildup you’ll have to deal with. Here’s how to create less smoke:

  • Burn only dry (seasoned) wood
  • Don’t stack logs tightly together – they need space to gather oxygen
  • Ensure sufficient air within the home is getting to the fireplace (crack a window, if necessary)
  • Keep your flue clean so smoke can travel up it smoothly
  • Make sure your flue opening isn’t too small for the fireplace
  • Make sure your chimney is tall enough (minimum 10 feet high and extending at least two feet from the roof)

By you doing your part and letting a certified chimney sweep do his or her part, you can rest easy, knowing your chimney is clean, safe and working at peak performance.

High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, is ready to help with all your chimney cleaning, chimney inspection and chimney repair needs. We’re certified by the CSIA and guarantee workmanship and customer service that’s unmatched in our region. Call (301) 519-3500 today with questions or to schedule an appointment.


What is Creosote?

chimney repair washington dcAt High’s Chimney, we believe in the importance of educating our clients to help prevent and maintain the safety of their chimney and overall property. As your trusted chimney company, we are dedicated to our craft and customers, which is why we continuously improve our services to help you have a superior experience every time.  As a homeowner with a fireplace, it is vital to understand the harmful substance called creosote that can accumulate in your chimney.

Creosote is one of the most dangerous things you can find inside of a chimney. This substance is often found in chimneys by building up naturally as you burn fires in your fireplace. This thick substance develops as a part of the combustion process, but it tends to develop when wood is not burned completely. Since creosote is highly flammable if left untreated, a common consequence of creosote build-up is house fires. To prevent a house fire, look to our professional and insured chimney contractors to help you clean your chimneys free of creosote.

Whether you are in need of a chimney repair in Washington, DC, or a chimney cleaning, we are sure to provide you with honest services to better your property. If you are interested in learning more about our services, we encourage you to contact our company today at 1 (888) 444-4712.