11 Chimney Problems Every Homeowner MUST Know!

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Many homeowners face chimney problems but do not take them seriously. Chimneys are built to last long but this doesn’t mean they are indestructible.

Over time, chimneys can develop various problems that negatively impact their performance and appearance. If you do not fix your chimney, you will have to deal with many problems, some of which put your family and home at risk.

Also, if you neglect chimney problems when they arise, you will have to spend a lot more on repairs.

So, you need to take action as soon as possible when you notice any damage to your chimney.

11 common chimney problems

Here are the top chimney issues and how to deal with them:

1. Soot and creosote

Soot accumulates because of the burning of wood or other material. It is typically black and can sometimes be oily or flaky in texture.

On the other hand, creosote is a sticky, tar-like substance that forms when burning fossil fuels. It’s basically condensed wood smoke. Creosote can be black, dark brown, or dark ashy gray.

Creosote and soot can both be found in chimneys and fireplaces. Creosote and soot are highly flammable and when they build up on the chimney walls, they can ignite and cause dangerous fires.

These chimney fires can cause further damage to your chimney and put your life and your loved ones’ lives at risk.

 If you notice creosote and soot build-up, have a professional chimney repair service eliminate these combustion byproducts.

You shouldn’t wait till the soot and creosote accumulate. Regularly remove the build-up to ensure your chimney is always in excellent condition. 

It is good practice to schedule chimney sweep appointments at least annually (as recommended by the NFPA) to avoid tragedies like dangerous chimney fires.


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2. Chimney flue problems

The chimney flue liner helps contain the heat and fumes produced by a fire. This ensures that the chimney is ventilated correctly and prevents the build-up of smoke.

The chimney flue can’t perform this function if it has an issue.

If smoke accumulates in the chimney, toxic gases like carbon monoxide can enter your home. Therefore, you need to check if your chimney flue is cracked or broken regularly.

You will know the chimney flue is damaged when you see pieces of flue tiles in the fireplace. However, this sign is not usually obvious.

With cameras and specialized equipment, chimney sweeps can check whether there are any holes or cracks in the chimney flue.

This way, you can fix any issue that you find and ensure that your chimney is properly ventilated.

3. Blocked chimney problems

Your chimney’s warmth usually attracts animals like bats, squirrels and birds.Some birds can even nest in your chimney which means leaves and other debris will build up.

Usually, the debris deposited by these creatures blocks the flue and causes dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide to enter your home.

You can find out if your chimney is blocked by looking out for the following:

  • Debris at the fireplace
  • Water leaks
  • Unpleasant odor at the fireplace, especially when you start a fire

At times, it is difficult to tell if your chimney is blocked; that’s why you need to hire a professional chimney sweep.

4. Chimney cap Problems

The chimney cap is one of the most important parts of the chimney. The first thing to do when inspecting your chimney is to check if it is missing.

High winds can loosen the chimney cap and cause it to fall off. Sometimes the chimney cap gets damaged, making it unable to perform its function.

A faulty or missing chimney cap means animals, moisture and debris like litter can get inside your chimney and cause more damage.

You will know the chimney cap is damaged when you see missing or cracked mortar joints, loose bricks, and deteriorating chimney crown.

A damaged chimney can also result from bad installation, so it’s vital to have chimney repair experts look at your chimney cap.

Ensure the chimney cap is correctly installed and do regular inspections to ensure problems are fixed early enough.

5. Brick and mortar

Chimneys are constantly exposed to extreme cold and heat, making the bricks expand and contract and cause cracks and breaks.

When the bricks are chipped or cracked, they allow water to seep into your chimney leading to further damage.

Mortar is normally long-lasting but can start deteriorating after two or three decades and let water into the chimney.

Also, extreme temperatures can make the mortar between the bricks crumble and fall out, weakening the chimney structure. Notable signs to look out for are chipped bricks, deteriorating mortar, and paint and wallpaper damage.

You should find a professional to fix these issues before they worsen. Damaged brick and mortar are some of the common chimney problems in old houses.


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6. A broken or cracked  chimney crown

The chimney crown is the cement at the top of the chimney and it protects the chimney from weather damage. It also prevents water from entering the chimney structure.

Although the chimney crown is made of durable material (usually concrete), it can become chipped or cracked over time. This leads to chimney problems like mold growth and leaks.

If a chimney crown is not fixed, it causes damage to chimney parts such as the lining, masonry, damper, and firebox. Note that the water leaking through the chimney can also damage walls and ceilings.

Obvious signs of a damaged crown include chipped bricks, cracked mortar joints, rusted damper or firebox, and water leaks to the walls.

Aside from preventing leaks, the chimney crown keeps away animals and debris. Get in touch with a professional as soon as you notice signs of damage on the chimney crown.

7. Damaged Chase Covers

This problem is unique to prefabricated chimneys that are typically made of wood and are quite different from masonry chimneys. A chimney cover is designed to keep water and debris from the prefab chimney. It does more harm than good if it doesn’t fit in properly.

Water seeps in around the edges of the cover and damages the chimney structure.

The debris that builds up can clog the flue lining and cause dangerous fires which can destroy homes in severe cases. Some signs of damaged chase covers include water leaks, spalled bricks, and rust stains on the cover.

Note that a poorly fitting chimney cover can allow animals into the chimney leading to unpleasant odors and potential health hazards.

8. Rotten wood

Prefab chimneys have wood framing above the roofline. This means the chimney structure is constantly exposed to moisture from rain or snow.

When moisture gets into the chimney structure, it dampens the wood and causes it to rot. If you don’t handle the problem early, the damage will be extensive and the repairs costly.

The most common signs of rotten wood include fungal growth, cracks or discoloration of the wood, and crumbling as the wood gets destroyed.

9. Chimney Flashing problems

Flashing is the metal strip that seals the gap between the chimney and the roof. It prevents water leaks into the chimney.

However, the chimney flashing is damaged by weather, age or animals with time. A leaking chimney flashing causes damage to the chimney structure, ceiling, and walls.

Look out for the following signs of chimney flashing issues:

  • Discoloration of the bricks due to water leaks.
  • Water stains on walls and the ceiling.
  • Gaps in the sealant around the flashing.
  • Puddles or dripping sounds.

Frequently inspect your chimney flashing to ensure it’s in perfect condition.

10. Damper problems

Chimney dampers that do not close or seal properly are a common chimney issue. It lets in cold air, making it difficult to heat your home properly.

In addition, it can allow the hot air to escape through the chimney, making the fireplace less efficient. What’s more, a damaged chimney damper can allow water to enter the chimney leading to issues such as rust.

You can identify a damaged damper by checking for the following:

  • Damper doesn’t close.
  • Damper doesn’t let smoke escape through the chimney.
  • You notice that cold air enters your house.
  • The damper plate is broken, cracked or has fallen off.

11. Chimney draft problems

Another issue homeowners deal with is chimney draw problems.

If your chimney doesn’t draw properly, it can cause all sorts of problems-from smoke entering the house to fire not burning efficiently. Factors that facilitate fireplace draft problems include:

  • Obstruction in the chimney
  • A poorly designed chimney
  • High winds

Chimney drafting problems can cause toxic gases in the chimney to get back into the house, putting your health at risk.

If you are experiencing chimney draft problems, get in touch with an expert who will provide the appropriate solutions.

Final Thoughts

You now understand the common chimney problems and their signs. Damaged chimney components can cause further damage to the chimney and your home.

If you notice that any part of your chimney needs fixing, contact a professional chimney sweep to inspect and fix it before it’s too late.

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Thomas Green

Thomas has worked in the Chimney & Fireplace field for over 12 years. He is an expert in his trade and loves to help People with their needs. Thomas Write helpful articles so that homeowners can make the most informed decisions about their fireplace and chimney.