Homeowners living in the north and east can expect a colder and wetter winter, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The increased precipitation and freezing temperatures are not good news for masonry chimneys as there is a higher risk of water damage, especially during the freeze-thaw cycle. Homeowners should take precautionary measures to prepare their chimney in advance of any upcoming storms that may develop throughout the winter.
Get an Inspection and Cleaning
If you haven’t done so already, now may be your last chance to get your annual chimney inspection and cleaning before the busy winter season. A chimney inspection is vital to uncover any potential safety and repair issues. Even small cracks that may appear to be relatively minor can expand into more costly repairs with an increase in moisture. A Certified Chimney Sweep® should visually inspect the entire interior and exterior chimney structure from the chimney cap down to the firebox as well as any attached heating appliances like a fireplace or woodstove. The inspector will also advise if there is excessive creosote and needs chimney cleaning. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) strongly advises homeowners to have a chimney sweep clean the chimney yearly to reduce the risk of fire.
Make Any Necessary Repairs
The last thing you want to do is fix chimney leaks and other problems during a snowstorm. A winter storm will only make any existing chimney issues worse. It can even make it unsafe for you to use your fireplace or heating stove. So, make sure to repair any masonry damage, cracks in the chimney crown or flue liner, broken or missing chimney cap, and other components ahead of any potential winter storms. Also, it is crucial to repair or replace rusted or corroded dampers. Otherwise, moisture can leak inside the chimney and cause damage to the flue liner and firebox.
Install a Chimney Cap
Installing a chimney cap will help push rain and snow away from the chimney protecting the crown and flue from potential water damage. It will also help prevent pests and debris from obstructing the flue. When choosing a chimney cap, select one that has a spark arrestor. It will extinguish hot embers, so they don’t spark a roof fire.
Consider a Top-Sealing Damper
Most chimneys have a throat damper that is installed just above the firebox. Even when a throat damper is closed, moisture can still get inside most of the flue. A top-sealing damper is mounted on the upper part of the chimney and allows you to seal the entire chimney when you are not using the fireplace. It also has a mesh screen so that when the damper is open, small animals and debris can’t clog the flue.
Waterproof the Chimney
After you have made the necessary chimney repairs, you can ask your chimney professional to apply a waterproof coating.
A water-based solution that allows the bricks to breathe will provide the brick masonry with the moisture protection it needs to prevent water damage. For optimal performance, re-apply the waterproof sealant every few years.