A fireplace is a great accent piece to any home. Spending cold winter nights snuggled up under a blanket listening to the crackling of a fire is a dream of many. However, the upkeep of a fireplace and chimney can be quite involved and it is very important to keep an eye on things. Just as with most home systems, it is better to catch problems early rather than letting them get out of hand. A damaged chimney is a huge fire hazard. It is very important to hire someone for chimney cleaning and also to do a chimney inspection once a year. It is also a good idea to look at the chimney yourself and ask questions during a chimney inspection. Here are five signs to look for in a damaged chimney. If you notice any of these, get a professional out right away.
1. Keep an Eye Out for Excess Moisture When Performing a Chimney Inspection
This excess moisture can take on several forms in a damaged chimney. Look for a white color appearing on your chimney. This is called efflorescence and its presence means that there is moisture in the masonry. It is easy to clean up but alerts you to a bigger problem. Rust is another indicator of a moisture issue. If there is rust on the firebox or damper, that means that there is extra moisture inside your chimney. Other indicators of this issue are cracked flue tiles, which can be found with a camera during a chimney cleaning.
2. Go Onto Your Roof to Look for Chimney Damage to the Chimney Crown
When going on your roof to clear leaves out of the gutter or to perform some other task, use the opportunity to perform a chimney inspection. Take a look at the chimney crown. If this structure is cracked or damaged, water will be getting into the chimney. Call someone right away for a professional chimney inspection and to fix the issue.
3. While on the Roof, Check the Mortar Joints
Since you will be on the roof already, might as well do a thorough chimney inspection of the mortar joints. Water can get into these joints and expand when freezing, causing chimney damage. This can lead to cracks in the masonry and put the whole chimney structure in danger of collapsing.
4. Watch for Spalling on the Ground or on the Roof Outside of Your Chimney.
If you notice little bits of masonry collecting on the ground or on your roof around the bottom of your chimney structure, it may also point to damaged masonry and a damaged chimney. These could be falling down because of moisture causing the mortar, brick, or stone to crack and fall off.
5. Look for Shaling Falling into Your Fireplace
Chimney tiles and the flue lining are very important to fire safety. If these tiles are cracked and crumbling, it is not safe to operate the fireplace. Call someone for a professional chimney cleaning and chimney inspection to diagnose the problem. These professionals can use their special equipment to see what is going on inside the walls of the chimney.
Remember, the most important line of defense is an annual chimney cleaning and chimney inspection.