Long Maryland winters mean a lot of fireplace use for many people. After months of running your fireplace, it’s not uncommon for minor damage to have occurred as well as the accumulation of excess creosote and soot. Let’s look at some of the reasons that chimneys become damaged and dirty over the winter.
Creosote and Soot
Wood-burning fireplaces create a creosote every time a fire burns. A byproduct of the combustion process, creosote can be flakey, puffy or solid, but in all forms it’s highly flammable. Both creosote and soot in sufficient amounts can ignite and start a chimney fire. Each substance needs to be cleaned out of your chimney once a year by a certified, professional chimney sweep.
Chimney cleaning not only addresses the creosote issue, it addresses any obstructive debris (leaves, twigs, nests of small animals, etc.) that may be hindering efficient smoke-drafting.
A thorough chimney inspection at the end of each burning season is a smart move, because severe winter weather and the intense heat from fires can cause various levels of masonry damage. Cracks in mortar joints often lead to serious structural compromise when water moves into the cracks, freezes and expands.
Masonry also can be affected by a cracked or broken chimney liner, which allows corrosive gases to regularly contact internal bricks and mortar. A damaged chimney cap and warped or missing flashing can put chimney masonry at risk for decay. By having your chimney inspected once a year, you can spot early signs of masonry problems and get them fixed before more serious damage occurs.
Chimney Crown Damage
The cement crown at the top of your chimney is prone to cracking, which will lead to the same kind of problems as when bricks and mortar crack. Infiltrating water can cause chimney crowns to deteriorate, especially when the temperatures outside cause the water to freeze and expand, breaking apart the cement. When caught in time, minor chimney crown damage often can be resolved by waterproofing. When severe damage is present, the crown may have to be rebuilt.
After a hard winter, homeowners sometimes notice signs of a leaky chimney. If your chimney is leaking but you don’t know exactly why, schedule an inspection from a CSIA-certified technician. Fixing a leaky chimney isn’t always a complicated job, but the first step must be determining what’s causing the leak and how extensive it is.
Signs of a chimney leak include:
- Water on surfaces inside the firebox
- Unpleasant odors coming from the fireplace
- Efflorescence (white stains) on exterior chimney masonry
- Damp patches and/or discoloration on walls or the ceiling near the chimney
- A fireplace damper that squeaks and won’t open and close properly
Start with a Chimney Inspection
After a busy burning season, your chimney and fireplace may have sustained damage that you aren’t able to see and evaluate. It’s always best to let chimney service experts take a look at your chimney system once a year and then give you recommendations on what kind of chimney repair work is needed to restore safe and efficient operation.
High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, offers basic and comprehensive chimney inspections, chimney repair, chimney sweeping and other key services to keep your chimney running at its best all year long. Get your questions answered or schedule an appointment by calling (301) 519-3500.