How To Know Your Chimney Needs To Be Repaired

Although some repairs can only be brought to your attention by a chimney professional, there are some signs that will clue you to the fact that your chimney might need to be evaluated and/or repaired.  In addition, some chimney repairs are common over time. As a homeowner, it is easy to take advantage of a working chimney, and always assume it will work efficiently. However, one must remember that harsh elements, general wear and tear, and nesting animals can all damage the mortar and possibly the brick in your appliance. This has the potential of causing dangerous hazards including cracks, breaks, and leaks to the structure over time. Having a certified chimney repair company look at your chimney is the best way to make sure your chimney is running as it should.

Most newer homes with fireplace appliances today have the benefit of coming with a chimney liner already installed with their unit to keep smoke from entering the home. However, many older homes do not have a liner. These chimneys have a couple of things going against them: erosion over time and older technology. That is not to say that the actual construction of these appliances are much different but the materials that they are made with sometimes are very different.


Chimney and roof line view at night with stars in the background

Evidence That Your Chimney Needs Help

To help our customers better identify what may be wrong with their chimneys, we have listed some common concerns below.

  • The chimney is smoking back.  This can be caused if you light a fire when the outside temperature is warmer than the temperature inside your home.  It does not allow the smoke to properly be drawn out of the chimney.  Instead, it comes back into the house.  Smoking back can also be a result of a dirty or blocked chimney.  Your chimney should be swept and inspected.
  • Chimney has a smoky smell even when a fire is not lit.  This is caused when moisture builds up in the chimney over time on top of the creosote.  Your chimney needs to be swept.
  • Chimney has a rotting smell.  There may be a dead animal stuck in your chimney.  Your chimney should be swept then capped to prevent future animals from getting into the chimney.  If you already have a cap, have a chimney professional check the cap for any cracks or gaps.
  • Chimney has a powdery white substance on the outside.  This is called efflorescence.  Efflorescence indicates water damage.  Have your chimney professional clean it then apply a water repellent and install a chimney cap.
  • Chase cover or chimney cap has rust.  This most likely cause is improper drainage.  Water may be pooling on top of the chase or cap causing it to rust over time. Have your chimney professional replace it.
  • Bricks inside fireplace are cracked.  In a prefab fireplace, you are probably seeing the refractory panel , which is a panel that looks like bricks on the rear and sides of fireplaces. Have your chimney professional evaluate the cracks.  Depending on the size of the cracks, the panels may need to be replaced and/or install a heat reflector. In a masonry fireplace, you would be seeing the firebricks. Your chimney professional should be able to replace the firebricks for you.
  • Dripping noise coming from the chimney.  Water may be leaking into the chimney.  Make sure your damper is properly closed.  If you have a chimney cap or top-sealing damper, it should stop the rain from getting into the chimney.  However, if everything is closed properly, and you still hear the dripping, have your chimney professional inspect the chimney and evaluated where the leaking is coming from. Ignored chimney leaks can quickly cause a great deal of damage inside your home.
  • Bricks or concrete on the interior or exterior of the chimney/fireplace are crumbling.  This is known as spalling.  It is the result of water damage and is most common in masonry chimneys with or without clay flue liners.  Once spalling occurs, it is almost impossible to repair, and in most cases, the bricks must be completely replaced. Have your chimney professional evaluate the chimney.  As you might guess, this can be an expensive and time-consuming repair project but must be done to maintain the integrity of the appliance.

What Can Damage A Chimney?

Here are the most common things that damage chimneys over time:

  • rain or water
  • wind
  • smoke
  • creosote
  • small animals including birds and bats
  • debris
  • lack of maintenance

Changes in weather patterns have affected the US, so it doesn’t matter where you live. You may have incurred damage to your chimney without ever realizing it. If you have had any unusual storms over the last year, it is a good idea to have a professional chimney company like ours examine your chimney to determine if it has had any damage. Protecting your chimney from excess water absorption is very important.  Water damage can be caused by cracks in bricks, rusted chases or caps, etc.  A knowledgeable sweep can recommend the best way to fix water problems.  In addition to replacing old rusted chase covers and chimney caps, we have several applications including ChimneySaver® and CrownSeal® that we apply to keep the water out but still allow the masonry to breathe.  This is very important for your unit to function properly.  Visit our Water Repellent and Crown Seal Applications Page for more information.  Although there are several ways to prevent water damage and other excessive repairs to your chimney, the best prevention is routine maintenance.

Older chimney with smoke damage on old metal roof
Tools on wooden table screwdriver, allen wrenches rubber hammer

Most Common Repairs Our Company Does

  • Apply ChimneySaver® water repellent.
  • Repair chimney crowns/apply CrownSeal®.
  • Replace/install chimney caps.
  • Replace/install chase covers.
  • Replace cracked refractory panels.
  • Install heat reflectors.
  • Apply ChamberTech2000 to cracks in the fireplace profile.
  • Replace/install dampers and damper handles

Whatever needs to be done to get the appliance working safely and up to codes should be done before the unit is ever used. Just like your car and your health, if you do the tune-ups and check-ups when you’re supposed to, you can tackle the small problems before they become bigger problems. Contact us today!

Is your chimney leaking? If so, call us today and see what other services we provide.