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Chimney Maintenance: 6 Common Issues And How To Fix Them

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If your home in Winnetka, Illinois, has a chimney, it’s essential to keep up with regular chimney maintenance. Neglecting your chimney can lead to many problems, including decreased efficiency, expensive repairs, and even chimney fires.

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at 6 of the most common chimney issues and offer some chimney maintenance tips on what you can do to prevent and fix them.

6 Common Chimney Issues That Require Chimney Maintenance

1. Chimney Flue Blockages

The flue is the part of the chimney that carries combustion gases up and out of the home. Those gases can go back into the house if it becomes blocked, leading to decreased efficiency and potential health hazards.

What Are Chimney Flue Blockages? 

Chimney flue blockages are caused by a buildup of soot and creosote in wood-burning fireplaces. Over time, these materials can form a hard, impenetrable crust that blocks air flow through the chimney. This blockage can cause dangerous fumes inside the home, putting your family at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. 

How Can I Prevent Chimney Flue Blockages? 

The best way to help prevent chimney flue blockages is to have your chimney cleaned and inspected regularly. The frequency you need to do this will depend on how often you use your fireplace. However, as a general rule of thumb, you should have a chimney cleaning at least once a year. 

How Can I Clear Chimney Flue Blockages? 

If you already have a chimney flue blockage, don’t worry. There are ways to clear it.

First, try burning a fire in your fireplace. The heat from the fire will help to loosen the buildup of soot and creosote, making it easier to remove.

You can also use a wire brush or other tools to loosen and remove the blockage.

However, we recommend calling professional chimney sweeps for assistance. A chimney sweep will have the knowledge and experience necessary to safely and effectively clear the blockage from your chimney. 

2. Creosote Buildup

Creosote is a substance that is produced when the wood is burned slowly or imperfectly in a wood-burning fireplace. It’s black, sticky, and flammable, and it can cause severe problems if it isn’t removed from your chimney regularly. If the creosote isn’t removed, it can lead to chimney fires. Creosote buildup is one of the main signs that it is time to clean your chimney.

How To Prevent Creosote Buildup

The best way to help prevent creosote buildup is to perform a chimney cleaning regularly. Depending on how much you use your fireplace, you should have it cleaned yearly. You may need to have it cleaned more often if you burn wet or green wood.

Another way to help prevent creosote buildup is to use a metal mesh screen over the top of your fireplace opening. A metal mesh will catch any sparks that might escape the fire and prevent them from landing on the roof or in the chimney. 

How To Clear Creosote Buildup 

If you already have creosote buildup in your chimney, don’t panic! There are a few ways that you can clear it away.

One way is to use a special chimney brush that is designed to get rid of creosote. Another way is to hire a professional chimney sweep to come and take care of the problem for you.

3. Cracks In The Chimney Crown

The crown is the cement cap at the top of the chimney. It must be in good condition to keep water from seeping into the bricks and causing damage. Cracks in the crown can also allow water to enter the chimney, so it’s essential to have any cracks repaired as soon as possible.

How To Prevent Cracks In The Chimney Crown

The best way to deal with a cracked chimney crown is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Here are a few tips that will help you keep your chimney crown in good shape: 

  • Inspect the chimney regularly and look for signs of wear and tear. If your house is located in an area with extreme temperature changes, be sure to have your chimney inspected more frequently. Drastic changes in temperature can cause the bricks to expand and contract, which can lead to cracking
  • Make sure that the crown is properly sealed. If it isn’t, water can enter the chimney and cause the crown to crack
  • Have your chimney cleaned regularly to prevent soot and debris from building up on the crown
  • Ensure that the flashing around the base of the chimney is in good condition. If there are any leaks, water can seep down into the masonry and cause the crown to crack

How To Fix A Cracked Chimney Crown

If your chimney crown has already developed cracks, don’t despair, there are still things you can do to repair it.

One option is to use mortar repair caulk, a type of flexible sealant that conforms to movement and won’t crack like traditional mortar.

Another option is to use a product like Rutland Precast Concrete Repair Mortar, designed specifically to repair cracks in concrete structures like chimneys.

Whichever method you choose, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully so that you get the best possible results. 

4. Damaged Chimney Liners

Many newer homes have a liner inside the flue that helps protect against heat transfer and corrosion. If this liner becomes damaged, it must be replaced as soon as possible. Otherwise, you risk costly repairs down the road.

The best way to prevent this is to do routine maintenance on your chimney. You or a chimney company professional will need to inspect it to ensure there aren’t any damages.

How To Repair Damaged Chimney Liners

  1. Start by removing any loose or crumbling bricks from around the damaged area
  2. Next, use a masonry hammer and cold chisel to remove any remaining mortar from between the bricks
  3. Once the area is cleared, use a wire brush to clean out any debris
  4. Next, mix up some refractory cement according to the instructions on the package
  5. Once it’s mixed, spread it over the damage with a trowel. Be sure to smooth it out so that it’s level with the surrounding surface
  6. Allow the cement to dry for 24 hours before using your fireplace again

5. Fallen And Broken Bricks

Over time, bricks can loosen and fall from the chimney. Falling bricks not only damage the chimney itself but also creates a potential safety hazard. To prevent bricks from falling, have your chimney checked for loose bricks every few years and repaired as necessary. It would be best if you also had any cracks in the bricks repaired as soon as possible to prevent further damage.

The only methods to help prevent bricks from falling are performing a regular chimney inspection, chimney maintenance, and using a waterproof sealant.

How To Fix Broken Chimney Bricks

The first step is to do a chimney inspection to evaluate the damage and decide how extensive your chimney repair will need to be. If only a few bricks are damaged, you may be able to patch the area with new mortar. However, if the damage is more significant, you’ll need to replace one or more rows of bricks. 

Once you’ve determined the extent of the damage, you can begin removing the damaged bricks. First, put on your dust mask and gloves. Then, using your cold chisel and brick hammer, chip away at the mortar around the damaged brick until it is loose enough to remove. Be careful not to damage any of the surrounding bricks. Once the damaged brick has been removed, remove the old mortar from the joint with a wire brush. 

If you’re only patching an area with new mortar, skip this step. However, if replacing one or more rows of bricks, you’ll need to prepare the area before continuing. To do this, use your cold chisel and brick hammer to remove any remaining mortar from joints in the affected area. Then, using wire mesh and expansion joint material, create a support system for the new bricks you’ll add. 

If you’re only patching an area with new mortar, mix up some mortar according to the manufacturer’s instructions and use it to fill in any gaps or cracks in the affected area. If you’re adding new bricks, dip each one in water before placing it on top of the fresh mortar. Once the new mortar or bricks are in place, allow it to dry completely according to the manufacturer’s instructions before using your fireplace again. 

6. Bad Flashing

Flashing is the metal material that seals where the roof meets the chimney. If it becomes damaged or improperly installed, water can leak into your home, causing extensive damage. Make sure that any gaps or holes in your flashing are adequately sealed and have any damaged flashing repaired or replaced immediately. 

How To Prevent Bad Flashing 

There are a few things you can do to prevent bad flashing: 

  • Inspect your chimney regularly for any cracks or holes in the flashing. If you see any damage, repair it immediately
  • Make sure that the cricket on your chimney is in good condition. The cricket is a curved piece of metal that diverts water away from the area where the chimney and roof meet. If it’s damaged, water can quickly get into your home through the gap
  • Ensure that your gutters are clean and free of debris. Clean gutters will help prevent water from overflowing and causing damage to the flashing 
  • Check the caulking around your chimney annually and reapply as needed
  • If you have any doubts, hire a professional inspector to check out your chimney at least once a year. They will be able to spot any problems that you might miss

How To Fix Bad Flashing

If you already have bad flashing, there are a few things you can do to try to repair it: 

  • Use a putty knife to scrape away any old caulking or sealant around the area where the leak is coming in. Clean the area thoroughly. Apply new caulking or sealant around the perimeter of the hole or crack. Make sure that you use a high-quality product that is specifically designed for use on roofs
  • Place a metal sheet over the hole or crack and secure it with screws (make sure not to screw into the chimney.) You can then apply caulk or sealant around the edges of the metal for extra protection against leaks
  • If the damage is extensive, you may need to hire a professional roofer or mason to repair or replace your chimney flashing

Gromex Masonry, Inc In Winnetka Can Fix Your Chimney Maintenance Issues

These are just a few of homeowners’ most common chimney maintenance issues. By being proactive and scheduling regular maintenance check-ups, you can avoid these problems altogether or catch them early before they cause significant damage.

Have you had any of these issues with your chimney? Don’t worry; Gromex Masonry, Inc can help!

Please fill out our contact form today, and one of our experts will be in touch to schedule a chimney inspection for your chimney repair or chimney cleaning. We’ll help you identify the source of the problem and provide a solution so you can enjoy years of safe, reliable fireplace use.