common chimney problems
Whilst a fireplace is a great addition to any home, it can come with its fair share of problems. Keeping an eye on the condition of your chimney is essential to avoid any unnecessary danger to your property and keep everything running smoothly. Some of the most common causes of chimney repairs Devon residents require are due to structural damage, tar build-up, flue damage, damp and staining, and blockages.
The brickwork of a chimney is always susceptible to wear and tear due to being constantly exposed to the elements and especially in the UK, unpredictable changes in weather. Most problems to the brickwork come from cracks in the mortar or the chimney crown, which may need to be repointed to prevent moisture entering the chimney. It’s best to look for signs of damaged mortar regularly, as moisture can eventually crack the brickwork, and replacing the mortar is a lot easier than replacing bricks.
Chimney flashing can also come away from the roof with constant temperature changes. If the flashing has started to separate or rust, it will allow an opening for moisture to get into the chimney and should be repaired.
Tar and creosote build-up is another hazard to the integrity of the flue lining. Whenever the gases from a fire travel through the chimney, they leave a build-up of creosote deposits when they cool, which are highly flammable. If there is an excessive build-up of these deposits, they can start a house fire when the fireplace is used, causing black smoke and harmful gasses such as carbon monoxide to escape. Creosote deposits can be removed with a proper chimney cleaning.
The flue lining is also susceptible to damage, especially if it is made from clay, rather than steel, which is much more durable against the intense temperatures the flue must deal with. A damaged flue lining can be dangerous and is a common reason for undertaking chimney repairs. Devon is home to many old buildings, which will most likely have clay flue linings, if the chimney hasn’t been repaired or inspected in a number of years. Cracks in the flue mean that the fire and harmful gases can escape from the chimney into other parts of the house that aren’t fireproof. A chimney inspection will allow you to see whether the flue lining is in good condition or not.
Whilst a steel flue lining is more resistant to heat damage than a clay lining, they are still susceptible to corrosion, like any metal, especially if exposed to a mixture of tar deposits and moisture. Creosote deposits can mix with rainwater or moisture that enters the chimney and will eventually deteriorate the flue lining, making the chimney very unsafe.
Damp and staining
Whilst the idea of a chimney leaking may seem strange, it is not an unusual occurrence. Rainwater can enter straight from the top of the chimney or through damaged flashing, cracks in the mortar, chimney crown or flue lining. Moisture can also enter other parts of the house that may be damaged, and then finds its way into the chimney through the walls. If there is water staining around the fireplace or chimney, this may suggest that there is a significant weakness where moisture is entering the house. If there is a regular problem with moisture coming through the chimney, then it may need to be waterproofed.
If the fireplace isn’t used regularly, then a range of debris can enter the chimney and cause a blockage. This debris can be anything from disintegrating masonry to bird’s nests and leaves to birds themselves. Regular use of the chimney reduces the likelihood of a build-up of blockages, but the best course of action is to have the chimney cleaned regularly. A build-up of debris combined with a chimney with poor ventilation is likely to cause harmful gasses to enter the home when the fireplace is used, similar to the effects of excessive creosote deposits. Spotting these blockages early will help to avoid costly chimney repairs.
Devon is beautiful all year round, but still suffers some temperamental weather like the rest of the country including somerset. Whilst there are a number of problems that can affect a chimney, most of these problems are caused either by structural deterioration that allows moisture to enter, or a build-up of debris or tar. Thankfully, both of these can be monitored and addressed before there are any repercussions by having a regular chimney inspection and sweeping, which will save a lot of time and money in the long run.