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Winter Weather and Your Chimney

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With the official start of the winter season just a few days off, most people are utilizing their heating appliances but few are thinking much about them. Specifically, homeowners with fireplaces or wood stoves often forget about the chimney. Many assume the chimney was built to withstand the harsh elements all year round, and while the chimney is pretty robust, it does need some special protection from the weather.


Winter weather in particular can have serious negative effects on a chimney, and it all stems from water exposure. Masonry chimneys have a special susceptibility to water damage because of the materials used to construct the chimney. Brick, mortar, concrete all have a very porous nature, which means they easily absorb water upon contact. Absorbing water causes little damage by itself, but as the temperatures dip below freezing, the chimney starts to suffer. In subfreezing temperatures, water begins to cycle through expansion into ice, contraction back into water, and then expansion back to ice. The water absorbed by the bricks and other materials also undergoes this cyclic heaving, which degrades the strength of the materials over time. At first, the damage may only extend to cracked bricks and loose mortar. A mason can fix this temporarily with tuckpointing, but if the water damage is allowed to continue, the entire chimney could collapse. To avoid this costly mess, ask your chimney specialist about a special permeable sealant to protect the outside of the chimney.

Another problem, one that all chimneys face, is water leaking inside the chimney. Snow or ice atop the warm chimney can melt and seep right down the flue. If the flue lining is made of metal, the water may rust cracks and holes into the lining. These holes then expose the interior of the chimney to the corrosive acid in the smoke, which quickly eats away at the structure. The woodwork in the house also becomes exposed to the heat of the fire, potentially leading to a house fire. The water might also leak into the house, which can be identified in water stains on the walls and the ceiling around the fireplace or stove. A rusted damper is another sign of water damage, and this can prevent proper ventilation of smoke and other harmful fumes. You can prevent this costly and dangerous damage by having a chimney specialist install a chimney cap and check the condition of the chimney crown. This directs water away from the chimney and can save you thousands of dollars in water damage.

If you live on the western side of Colorado near the town of Carbondale, you can get in touch with Bulldog Chimney Sweeps to speak with an expert. The professionals at Bulldog can help keep your chimney dry and strong for many years to come.