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Diagnosing Chimney Leaks

Water in your fireplace and chimney – whether it is a few small drops or a large puddle – is never a good thing. And because chimneys have many different components, identifying the exact cause of a chimney leak can be difficult. However, it is important to identify – and repair – the underlying cause of the chimney leak in order to prevent further water damage from occurring.

Diagnosing Chimney Leaks - Seattle WA - Pristine SweepsCommon causes of chimney leaks

The following are four of the most common causes of chimney leaks. Because every chimney system – and leak – is unique, a professional chimney inspection is often needed to identify the exact cause of the leaky chimney.

  • Chimney cap: Made of a solid metal top with mesh or wire sides, the chimney cap is designed to keep water, animals, and debris out of the flue. If the chimney cap is ill-fitting, incorrectly installed, or damaged in any way, water can begin to leak into the chimney.
  • Chimney crown: While chimney caps protect the top of the flue, chimney crowns seal the top of the chimney. Made of masonry, stone, or concrete, chimney crowns often bear the brunt of the exposure to the elements; their flat top means they are especially prone to water damage from rain, ice, and snow. Because of this, chimney crowns can crack and allow water in, causing a chimney leak.
  • Flashing: Flashing seals the joint between the roof and your chimney. Made by layering strips of metal to create a watertight seal, leaks caused by faulty flashing are often blamed on roofs instead. Whether it was installed with too many nail holes, was jostled while the roof was being repaired, or has simply been exposed to the elements for too long, leaky flashing can damage the roof, masonry, ceilings, and walls surrounding the chimney.
  • Masonry: Your bricks and mortar themselves can let water in. Because masonry is naturally porous, small amounts of water and constantly being absorbed. However, the absorption of too much water can damage the masonry; this leads to masonry holes and cracks that can create leaks.

Preventing chimney leaks

Oftentimes the best way to prevent chimney leaks is through regular chimney maintenance. Annual chimney sweepings and inspections can insure that no parts of your chimney are damaged – and that there are no unseen areas of water entry.

In addition to annual inspections, waterproofing may be able to protect your masonry against water. During the waterproofing process, specially designed masonry water repellants are applied to the bricks and mortar. These products penetrate deeply into the masonry, keeping new water out but allowing old water to evaporate.

Don’t let a leaky chimney cause damage to your fireplace and chimney system. Instead, have a chimney professional diagnose – and repair – the cause of your chimney leak. Contact Pristine Sweeps today for more information on how we can repair your leaky chimney and the damage to your fireplace it may have caused.

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House Pressure Issues

Fireplaces are supposed to add warmth and comfort to our homes. However, if you are experiencing pressure issues your fireplace could be directly affected. If it seems like your fireplace is not producing any heat, is using too much wood, or is letting cold air in you are most likely experiencing problems with house pressure.

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Airtight homes

Open hearth masonry fireplaces are not known for being efficient; what they lack in efficiency is more than made up for in warmth and ambiance. However, more and more modern homeowners find themselves experiencing burn issues with their open hearth fireplaces. This is, in part, due to a home’s air pressure.

Modern homes are designed and built to be air tight, keeping the conditioned air inside and the hot or cold air outside. While this lack of airflow saves you money on your monthly gas and electric bills, it can have a major negative impact on your fireplace system.

Fires need oxygen in order to burn their best; in an airtight home, a lack of fresh oxygen can cause fires to burn sluggishly. Likewise, tight homes may also have issues with drafting. A lack of outside air can create a weak draft, making it difficult for smoke to be pushed up and out of the chimney. This can lead to smoky fires that affect your home’s overall air quality.

The stack effect

House pressure issues can also be caused by the stack effect. The stack effect is based on a principle that everyone knows – cold air sinks and hot air rises. However, this can wreak havoc when you are trying to heat your home or use your fireplace in the winter.

As the warm air in your home rises up – and out – through upper attics and windows, cold outside air is drawn in through holes or cracks near the bottom of your home. For homeowners with a fireplace, the stack affect can cause cold air to be drawn down the chimney and into your home. In addition to causing your heater to work harder to compensate for the influx of cold air, this can also create fireplace burning problems. The cold air being drawn down the chimney can disrupt the draft of the fireplace, pushing smoke, soot, and ash back into your home.

Fixing pressure issues with makeup air

While an airtight home or the stack effect can create drafting issues in your home, utilizing exterior air intakes, or makeup air, may help resolve the problem. Makeup air can be as simple as cracking windows or doors around the fireplace; for homes with more serious pressure issues may need to install a permanent supply of outdoor air. By installing an exterior air intake, the pressure inside your home can naturally equalize, leading to a reduction in fireplace draft issues.

House pressure issues can have a major negative impact on your ability to enjoy your fireplace system during the winter. This year, rather than dealing with problematic pressure problems, contact the experts at Pristine Sweeps. Our staff can help identify and fix the cause of your pressure issues, allowing you to get back to worry-free enjoyment of your fireplace.