Company Blog

Winter Weather and Your Chimney

Fall is nearly halfway over with the beginning of November finally arriving. For New Yorkers, this means winter and plenty of snow is just around the corner. Sandals and shorts are a mere memory now, and most people are starting to dress warmly with scarves, hats and jackets. Homeowners with fireplaces have started prepping them for a long, bitter winter, if they have not already started using them already. Most people know their fireplaces and chimneys should have the basic maintenance of a sweep and an inspection done every year, but they may not know the special care needed to help their chimneys stay safe from the brutal New York winters year after year.

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A common misconception about chimneys is that they are built to withstand being outside and need little care aside from a regular sweep. While chimneys are constructed with the outdoor elements in mind, they are not weather proof and certainly not winter proof. The main concern with chimneys during the winter is actually with water damage, which may come as a surprise to many homeowners.

Water can cause severe and costly damage to a chimney, particularly to masonry chimneys. Masonry chimneys generally consist of materials like brick, mortar, stone and concrete. With the exception of stone, all of these materials are porous, so they readily absorb any water that comes into contact with them. The absorption of water may not be so bad in and of itself, when it combines with the freezing temperatures of winter, it spells big trouble. During the freeze and thaw cycle of winter, the water trapped inside the brick and concrete causes everything to continually expand and contract. This constant swelling and shrinking deteriorates the materials, and eventually leads to cracking and even collapse of the structure.

Water can also cause damage to the inside of your chimney if freezing rain or melted snow can enter the flue. The flue lining is generally made of metal, so any exposure to water can cause cracks or holes to form in the lining. In turn, the inside of the chimney also becomes a victim to water damage, and your home is no longer effectively protected from the heat of the fire. Water can also rust out the damper assembly, making it impossible to vent the fire properly, and you may even see water damage in the form of water stains on the ceiling and walls surrounding the fireplace.

You can avoid all of these costly issues with a few simple fixes. Ask your mason about applying a permeable sealant to the outside of your masonry chimney, which allows any trapped moisture to escape and prohibits any exterior moisture from being absorbed. An inspector can check the condition of the chimney cap and the chimney crown, if you have one, which helps keep water out of the inside of the chimney. Before the snow starts to fall and icy roofs make an inspection too difficult, set up an appointment to winter proof your chimney this year. If you live in the lower Hudson Valley area, contact All Seasons Chimney for a professional consultation.

Seal Your Chimney Flashing Before It’s Too Late

Summer has officially come to an end, and now it is time to look ahead to the exciting change of seasons. The colorful leaves and chilly weather has everyone in the season spirit. The upcoming holidays are also on a lot of people’s minds as the end of the year approaches. This is usually a happy time of year, and no one wants to think about keeping their roofs from leaking, or even about a roof that is already leaking. However, now is the best time to take care of any roof leaks because the frigid winters in the Hudson Valley make roof conditions too dangerous to work on until spring comes around again.

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Chimneys are responsible for a surprising number of water leaks into the house. Without a chimney cap, water can enter directly through the top of the chimney. If the masonry is improperly sealed, water can travel through the brick and mortar, right into the house. While these issues deserve a column of their own, leaky flashing is the topic of today.

Flashing is a covering used to stop water from leaking beneath the roof shingles. It can be found anywhere the line of the roof ends, such as around dormers or sky lights. Chimney flashing prevents water from leaking in where the chimney protrudes from the roof. Generally made of aluminum, the flashing on a chimney is much more complex than flashing on other areas of the roof. It consists of four woven layers of flashing all sealed with mortar to prevent premature decay.

While the mortar that holds the flashing together holds up longer than other materials some nonprofessionals use on their flashing, it is not indestructible. If not maintained properly, mortar will eventually deteriorate. It is a porous material, so when exposed to water, the mortar absorbs it readily. Then, around winter time, the saturated mortar expands and contracts during the freeze and thaw cycle. This inevitably results in cracks, and in turn, a leaky roof. In order to prevent a leaky roof and to maintain the integrity of the flashing, you can have your mason seal the flashing around the chimney.

Applying a sealant to your flashing keeps the aluminum and the mortar out of direct contact with the elements. The waterproof sealant prevents water from seeping into the mortar or even into your home. For the ambitious do-it-yourself types, be aware that poorly serviced flashing will not last as long as properly maintained flashing, and it could even cost you thousands of dollars in water damage repairs.

If you live in the Hudson Valley area of New York, contact All Seasons Chimney for a professional consultation. Take care of your home and chimney before it is too late.