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5 Common Chimney Problems & How To Fix Them

Concrete, Brick, & Masonry
By on Oct 24, 2016
5 Common Chimney Problems & How To Fix Them

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Having a working fireplace is a wonderful and cozy luxury to have on a cold winter day. When the weather gets colder, many people are preparing their fireplace for use. However, if you’re intending on utilizing your older chimney, it’s important to inspect it before use, as a damaged chimney can cause problems for the house overall.

Many people don’t know where to start when looking at their chimneys, or some even discover problems upon use. By understanding these five common chimney problems, you can quickly find a solution to resolve any issues and go back to relaxing by the fire.

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Repair Your Chimney

Chimney Maintenance Is Important

On the list of priorities for your home, chimney maintenance may not make it to the top. However, if you’re eager to use your fireplace every year, you should consider an annual chimney inspection as part of your winter home maintenance checklist. Without proper care, your chimney can actually become a fire hazard to the home. If not cleaned and maintained, it can cause a fire or even water damage in time. By inspecting your chimney and taking action when something doesn’t look quite right, you can continue to safely enjoy your fireplace.

1. Buildup In The Chimney

After many uses, your chimney will have soot buildup known as creosote. It’s important to keep an eye on the buildup in your chimney as Creosote is combustible and can be the cause of chimney fires in homes. If you shine a flashlight into your chimney, you can identify creosote by its black and brown crusty appearance. Creosote comes in different degrees of severity, first degree being the easiest to remove and third degree is highly combustible and has the appearance of tar.

To eliminate this dangerous material from your chimney, it’s best to contact a chimney pro who can ensure it is cleaned properly. The average cost for chimney cleaning is $200. If you intend on using your fireplace regularly, it’s a good idea to clean your chimney at least once a year. Additionally, burning hardwoods can help you keep your chimney clean.

Clean Your Chimney

2. Chimney Blockage

Outside of the natural buildup from burning wood, there may be an occasion where you have some sort of blockage. Unlike creosote, chimney blockage like a bird’s nest or tree debris easily seen be seen. You’ll need to inspect your chimney flue to see if it is blocked before beginning to use, because these items can easily cause chimney fires as well. If you see that it’s a nest of some sort or living animal, you may want to contact a pro who can help safely remove the critter.

To prevent outside chimney blockage in the future, invest in a chimney cap. It will protect your chimney from unwanted guests and debris. You can find a chimney cap at your local hardware store ranging from $50 to $100 depending on the size and style you choose.

3. Brickwork Problems

If you live in an older home, brickwork problems can often be seen. You may see cracks or missing bricks in your chimney. This can be a danger to the structure of the chimney itself, leading to large cracks that can permanently damage it, leaving it unusable. If you notice any signs of wear on your chimney, it’s important to contact a masonry pro as soon as possible to preserve its condition and update it to match with local codes.

Chimney Flashing

4. Damage To Chimney Flashing

Keeping your chimney dry and water-free is key to a working fireplace. Water damage to a chimney can deteriorate the masonry work and cause both interior and exterior damage. So ensuring your chimney flashing is in good condition is key.

Damages to the chimney flashing can occur with an older chimney. If you see any signs of leakage, it’s best to inspect your flashing and contact a roofing pro, as this is not a recommended DIY repair.

Chimney Crown

5. Cracks To Chimney Crown

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Atop your chimney sits the chimney crown. You likely pay little attention to it, but it serves an important function. They help keep the chimney from the wearing effects of harsh weather. One of the problems that causes chimney crowns to become cracked is freeze-thaw damage, specifically in the winter months if you use your fireplace regularly. The drastic change in temperature causes the snow or ice to melt and then refreeze once your fireplace cools, resulting in cracks to the concrete. This is more common in older homes, as many chimneys now use freeze-thaw resistant concrete.

To protect your chimney crown, invest in a concrete chimney sealer to help protect it from the elements. This is a DIY project that takes a nice day and an afternoon to complete. If you have damage to your chimney crown, you’ll need to get that fixed before sealing your chimney.


Chimneys are a staple on many homes and should not be overlooked. A regular inspection can help prevent damages to the bricks and alleviate any worries of chimney fires. Be sure to clean your chimney yearly and create a chimney maintenance checklist to make sure you’re able to enjoy your fireplace safely.

A clean and clear chimney is an important step for home safety. For more ways you can keep your home safe, see Holiday Safety Tips.

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