Common Chimney Problems | Leaking Chimney, Fireplace Smoking, Chimney Damage & More
Common Chimney Problems
The cold winter weather, snowstorms, periods of heavy rain, and humid summers in Bethesda, MD, and the Washington DC Metro Area can cause many common chimney problems that can lead to costly repairs when they are not resolved timely. The most common chimney problems to watch for include white stains, masonry deterioration, animals nesting in the chimney, water leaks, foul odors, rust, and excessive smoke in the fireplace.
At Bethesda Chimney, our Certified Chimney Professionals and masonry experts are committed to providing the highest quality repairs and workmanship with the best possible customer service for our residential, commercial, and government customers throughout Greater Washington DC, Montgomery County, MD, and Northern VA region.
A leaky chimney is a common problem that can cause significant damage to the masonry, flue liner, and metal components. Sometimes leaks are apparent such as puddles or water dripping in the fireplace. However, when chimney leaks are due to cracks in the crown, masonry, or flashing, it may not be evident until more extensive damage occurs or the chimney smells. We offer permanent solutions for any leaky chimney. An annual chimney inspection can also help detect leaks before they grow into more severe and costly chimney problems.
A white stain on one or more sections of the bricks is called efflorescence. It appears when the hard outer shell softens and moisture penetrates inside the bricks, drawing the salts to the surface. Although efflorescence or white staining may look like a cosmetic issue, it is the first sign that the masonry is absorbing water, leading to brick and mortar deterioration. If you spot white stains on your chimney, contact us to schedule a chimney inspection to avoid further water damage to the stack.
Although a smelly chimney can occur at any time of year, it is more common in the spring and summer. It is the time of year when creosote build-up, organic matter, or moisture from a leaky chimney can promote the growth of mold and mildew that can cause the area surrounding your fireplace to have a foul odor. It can also attract rodents, including mice and rats. A professional chimney cleaning will typically eliminate a smelly chimney. Sometimes however additional repairs may be required to combat the negative air pressure in your home that can contribute to the the smells that you are experiencing.
Brick and Mortar Deterioration
Brick and mortar deterioration is a common problem many chimneys have in Northern Virginia, Maryland, and DC. Brick and mortar are porous materials that absorb moisture like a sponge. Believe it or not, just one brick can hold up to 1.5 cups of water!
Deterioration is often due to the freeze-thaw cycle. Your chimney can go through several freeze-thaw cycles each season. Eventually, the decaying mortar and spalling brick can cause bricks to loosen and separate from the chimney. Noticing pieces of brickwork on the ground near the chimney is also a sign of masonry damage. When caught early, our masonry experts can use a technique known as tuckpointing to restore your chimney bricks & mortar, avoiding a more costly partial or complete chimney rebuild.
Neighborhood critters like owls, mockingbirds, squirrels, and others can often be seen running around outside the house, but they can cause problems when they crawl inside a chimney without a cap or gaps in the masonry. They usually build nests that can increase the risk of a chimney fire, aside from blocking the venting of smoke and fumes. The heat inside the flue can cause a bird's nest to catch on fire in the chimney, quickly spreading to the roof, attic, and other nearby combustible materials. Also, hearing animal noises in the chimney like chirping, scratching, or gnawing, especially at night, indicates there may be live animals in the chimney. Give us a call, and we will safely remove, humanely relocate the animals and clean the chimney. We will also install a beautiful custom hip and ridge style chimney cap with an 8-inch drip edge to keep out animals, water, and debris from the flue and protect the chimney crown.
A smoky fireplace often indicates that the smoke and exhaust are not exiting your home efficiently due to a flue obstruction, improper construction or other deficiencies. This can lead to a dangerous backdraft that pushes smoke, soot, and debris into your living room through the fireplace. It can also be from a rusty damper or draft problems. Since a smoky fireplace can be dangerous, please avoid using your fireplace until our Certified Chimney Sweep® inspects it.
Your chimney has several metal components, including the damper, flashing, and a chimney cap or chase cover that can eventually begin to rust. Since rust means that moisture is decaying the metal in those components, the damaged component must be replaced as soon as possible to prevent intrusion of water resulting in masonry damage, mold or decay of wood structural elements. Furthermore, if you have an appliance in your fireplace like a wood stove, manufactured fireplace or insert, rust from water can destroy the appliance resulting in the need for a full replacement.