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3 Ways To Tell Your Chimney's Ready For Repair

Old Chimney
Having a fireplace in the comfort of your home represents a true luxury. A fireplace can also add significant value to your home — provided you keep it in good working order, that is. A rundown fireplace, on the other hand, may represent a serious structural liability, one that can decrease value and place your home at risk of fire and water damage.

Most fireplace problems are in fact problems with the chimney and/or the chimney flue. Unfortunately, it can be hard to spot such problems unless you know what to look for. If you would like to increase your chimney troubleshooting skills, read on. This article will discuss three ways to tell that your chimney needs professional attention.

1. Crumbling Mortar Joints

One of the tricky things about chimney damage is that it isn't always easy to see directly. The one exception involves the exposed portion of a chimney. A substance known as mortar acts to hold those bricks or stones together. This cement-based material possesses high hardness and durability, yet may still develop issues as time goes on.

Water and ice act to degrade chimney mortar. As water penetrates into small cracks and freezes, it expands. This places a lot of internal pressure on the mortar. Over time, it will begin to crumble and fall out, leaving deeper void spaces between the layers of brick. This allows yet more water to penetrate, causing the problem to grow exponentially.

Eventually, if degrading mortar isn't replaced, your chimney may become so weakened that it collapses or topples over. For that reason, plan to inspect your mortar from time to time. You don't necessarily have to go up onto the roof to do this. Instead, simply grab a pair of binoculars and head out to your yard. Be sure to inspect the state of the mortar on all four sides of the chimney.

2. Debris Inside Fireplace

As noted above, it can be difficult to visually inspect chimneys. Aside from the part projecting out through your roof, the majority of a chimney remains hidden within the structure of your house itself. Within this chimney is a secondary structure known as the flue.

The flue plays a vital role in diffusing the large amounts of heat generated by your fireplace. Over time, this heat — along with corrosive soot and other byproducts of combustion — will exert a damaging influence on your flue. Many people remain unaware of flue problems, since only a professional has the tools and knowledge necessary to perform a thorough inspection.

One clue you should never overlook, however, is the accumulation of debris on the floor of your fireplace. Such debris tends to consist of small blackened bits of a hard, clay-like material. These are bits of your flue which have cracked and crumbled away. They represent a strong indication that your chimney requires serious repair — and possibly an entirely new flue.

3. Rusty Damper

All modern chimneys contain a damper that allows you to adjust the outflow of air. This, in turn, permits you to more accurately control how quickly your wood will burn. Closing the damper also allows you to prevent heat loss when your fireplace in not actively being used.

A damper in good working order should move smoothly from a fully closed to a fully open position. If you have noticed that your damper resists such smooth movement, or that it squeaks or squeals in protest when moved, it may be suffering from corrosion. You may even be able to spot areas of rust on the surface of the damper.

Such rust indicates that water has found a way to penetrate inside of your chimney. In a well constructed system, this should never happen. The longer the problem persists, the greater a threat it will pose to the integrity of your flue.
If you believe that your chimney may be suffering from water damage or any other form of damage, please don't hesitate to contact the fireplace experts at Midwest Fireplace.