Causes of leaking chimneys can usually be narrowed down to FOUR reasons
#1 The Simplest Cause of Chimney Leaking: Rain Going Straight In from the Top
It’s not hard to picture that. Chimneys without covers get a lot of rain falling straight down into them. A chimney cover makes sense to most people. Not only does it keep the rain out, but keeps birds, animals and debris out. The greatest value of the chimney cover is really keeping these out because when chimneys get blocked at the bottom, people get sick (or even die) from CO poisoning. While it’s true that sometimes an uncovered flue is the source of water problems, most often this reason for a leak is only when the liner is metal. So do get a chimney cover and make sure it’s not just this simple.
#2 Many Chimney Leaks are from Cracks in the Chimney Crown or Pan
The chimney crown is the cement part on top of the chimney. Chimney Pan goes over the top of the chimney without a chimney crown. The bricks go up around the tile flue liners, but at the top you need something to stop the rain and snow from just falling in around the tiles. You can see that the very purpose of the chimney crown is to keep the rain out. Cracks in the chimney crown can occur from shifting of the structure or from shrinkage dating back to the first day the crown was put on. When your crown has cracks, the water goes right through those cracks.
Most crowns have small cracks. Even small ones need to be fixed because all big cracks started out as small ones. Water freezes and thaws in the cracks all winter long, year after year, forcing small cracks to eventually become big cracks.
Once chimney crown damage is significant, though, the only fix it is to remove and relay the masonry. Best to coat your crown now with Crown Coat and avoid the big hassle and expense later. Chimney Pan can crack or get damaged from storms. Once Chimney Pan has been compromised (damaged) it needs to be replaced.
#3 Chimney Flashing Causes Leaks
The flashing is what keeps water from going into the place where the brick structure comes through the roof. Flashing is often aluminum that goes in between a couple of bricks and bends to go on top of the shingles. In a lot of cases, you can actually repair the flashing rather than replace it altogether. However, significant damage could require a complete replacement
#4 Chimney Leaks Caused by Leaking Bricks
Bricks and mortar both pass water and often lots of it. The problem here is the same as with the crown- the freezing and thawing all winter long with the resulting damage which causes leaks in the house.
When water is absorbed into a brick or a mortar joint in the summertime, the water probably dries out after a while. The exceptions might be for a surface in the shade or on the side of the house where the sun never shines; those walls just stay wet. That water does try to escape by “falling” i.e. the water weight (or head pressure) carries it toward the ground where it forces its way out of the bricks either inside or outside of the house.
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