Total Chimney Care's Blog

What causes chimney leaks?

Chimney leaks tend to spring up in the winter, when snow, rain and ice attack your roof lines. If you see water in your firebox, rust forming on your damper, fireplace grate or fireplace doors, or ominous dark spots on your ceiling or walls, water has found a way through your chimney. When you see water coming into your home, you must identify and address the source of the leak before the water causes major damage to your home. To help you identify the source of your chimney leak, here are some common reasons for chimneys leak.

Missing or damaged chimney cap

metal chimney capA chimney cap is essential for keeping water out of your chimney. A chimney cap covers your chimney’s exterior opening, to prevent water from flowing down the chimney flue. Water in the chimney can cause damage to chimney flue tiles and rust on metal chimney and fireplace components.

Freeze-thaw masonry damage

Damaged chimney masonry causes water to seep in through your chimney. Masonry materials are highly porous, and they absorb moisture from rain, sleet and snow very easily. When the temperatures drop, the water trapped inside the masonry freezes and expands. This causes the masonry to crack or crumble. Once the masonry is damaged or weakened, more water can find its way into the chimney. Over time, this can lead to extensive water damage that can threaten the structure of the chimney itself.

Damaged chimney crown or chase cover

If you have a masonry chimney, the top of the chimney should be protected by a chimney crown. The chimney for a prefabricated fireplace or heating stove is protected by a chimney chase cover. Crowns and chase covers divert water away from the chimney opening. Both are subject to breaking down over time, which can allow water to flow down into your fireplace and chimney, which causes rust or water damage.

Faulty flashing or roofing

Sometimes the cause of a chimney leak isn’t the chimney itself, but rather the flashing or the roofing. Damage to the chimney flashing, which is meant to keep water from coming in where the chimney meets the roof, is especially damaging to your home. If your chimney flashing is failing, water can pour into your home, damaging ceilings, walls and your home’s structure.

No matter what the cause is for your chimney leak, a chimney leak can cause extensive water damage. Don’t wait to have the cause of your chimney leak identified and addressed! Call Total Chimney Care to schedule an appointment today! We’ll identify the source of water damage and prescribe a course of repair to reseal your chimney.

By Steve Sobczak on February 6th, 2019 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

Chimney swifts and your chimney

Do you hear chirping and rustling in your chimney? Do you notice birds flying in and out of your chimney around dusk each evening? Then chances are you have chimney swifts inside your chimney.

Chimney swifts are migratory birds that spend summer in the northeastern United States before flying to Peru for the winter. Chimney swifts build their nests on protected vertical surfaces. Their preferred nesting location — hollowed out trees — is a scarcity in many areas. So they have adapted to make their homes on the inner walls of masonry chimneys, which is the perfect surface for constructing nests from twigs.

How can you tell if you have chimney swifts?

Chimney swifts and your chimney - Fairfield & New Haven CT - Total Chimney CareChimney swifts are really noise. You will hear the rustling of wings and movement in your chimney as adult birds construct their nests. That noise will eventually be followed by chirping of baby birds. If you think you’re hearing chimney swifts in your chimney, the best way is standing outside your home near dusk. This is when they leave their nest to feed on insects. They have dark gray cigar-shaped bodies, squared-off tails and a wingspan of about a foot.

Chimney swifts don’t cause any damage to your chimney, as long as you take precautions while they are inside your chimney. You should also make sure to clean your chimney thoroughly once they leave.

What do you do if you have chimney swifts in your chimney?

If chimney swifts have taken residence in your chimney, they are staying for the summer. They are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Act, which makes it illegal to remove them or harm their nesting. If you have swifts in your chimney, close your chimney damper to prevent them from entering your home or becoming trapped. Once they leave their roost for the winter, which usually happens around November, have your chimney swept and inspected to remove the nest and debris left behind by them.

How can you help chimney swifts?

Many bird lovers look for ways to protect and aid chimney swifts. Some homeowners will even have their chimneys swept in early spring to create a welcoming habitat for chimney swifts. If you’re not willing to throw out a welcome mat for chimney swifts, there are still things you can do to help nurture chimney swifts.

First, you should install a chimney cap surrounded by a wire cage. This will keep swifts out of your chimney. You can also install a chimney roost to provide an alternative home to swifts. Look for swift roosts in your area and work to make sure those roosts are protected during the nesting season.

If you’ve had chimney swifts in your chimney this fall, call Total Chimney Care at 203-874-6772! Once the swifts have left, we can clean and inspect your chimney to make sure it is safe for use this fall, and we can also install a chimney cap to prevent future nesting.

By Steve Sobczak on August 16th, 2018 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

Keeping Animals Out of Your Chimney

If your chimney isn’t protected, you could find it playing home to an animal. Whether they enter the chimney by accident or are tempted into building a nest by the warmth and shelter of the chimney, birds, bats, raccoons, and squirrels are common intruders in chimneys. Those intruders can cause some serious problems, which is why you should take measures to prevent animals in your chimney.

Keeping Animals Out is Important

Once inside your chimneys, animals can bring a host of problems. At the very least, you can’t use your fireplace if the chimney is blocked by a trapped animal or an animal nest. And having animals removed from your chimney by a professional can be expensive. Some of the other problems animals in chimneys can cause include:

  • Chimney damage. A trapped, frantic animal can damage your chimney with clawing and scratching. A nesting animal can damage the chimney as it enters and exits, and as it builds the nest.
  • Fire hazard. Animal nests are usually constructed of flammable materials. If you have a nest in your chimney that you’re not aware of and you light a fire, the nest could ignite and start a chimney fire.
  • Carbon monoxide hazard. If your chimney is blocked by an animal or an animal nest, gases generated by your fireplace, including carbon monoxide, can’t exit the chimney. That can cause the gases to build up to dangerous levels within your home.
  • Foul odors. If a trapped animal can’t escape the chimney, it can die and decay, filling your house with a horrible smell. Nesting animals can leave behind smells from droppings, rotting food or rotting nesting materials.
  • Diseases. Animals carry diseases. When they enter your chimney, they carry a risk of spreading those diseases to your family or your pets.

Prevent Animals From Entering Your Chimney

There are three primary ways to protect your chimney from animal intrusions:

  • Chimney caps. Chimney caps are perhaps the most common method for keeping animals out of your chimney. Chimney caps cover the chimney opening, and a proper chimney cap is surrounded by a metal cage to keep out animals and debris.
  • Top-sealing dampers. Top-sealing dampers close off your chimney entirely when the chimney isn’t in use, keeping out water, animals, and debris. When the chimney is in use and the damper is open, the damper opening should be enclosed with a wire cage to keep animals out.
  • Chimney sweepings and inspections. A chimney sweeping and inspection won’t keep animals out of your chimney, but a chimney sweep can spot a trapped animal or signs of an animal nest. A chimney sweep can clear away any signs of an animal nest or animal droppings, and he can help with any repairs needed due to damage caused by animals.

If your chimney isn’t protected from animal intrusions, call Total Chimney Care to schedule an appointment today! We can install a chimney cap or a top-sealing damper to keep animals out. If an animal does enter your chimney, we can clear out a nest, clear away droppings and debris left by the animal, and make sure that your chimney is safe for use.

By Steve Sobczak on August 3rd, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , , | Leave a Comment

Chimney crown, chase cover, chimney cap: What’s the difference?

Three of the most common, and the most commonly confused, words when discussing chimneys are chimney crown, chase cover and chimney cap. Often these words are used interchangeably, but in fact, they represent very different components that sit atop chimneys. It’s important to know the difference so you can communicate effectively with your chimney sweep — It’s difficult to describe or understand a problem if you’re unsure what the terms are referring to!

Chimney crownDifference between Chimney crown, chase cover, & caps - New Haven - Fairfield CT - Total Chimney Care

Chimney crowns are a masonry component at the very top of a chimney’s structure. Made of concrete, the chimney crown seals the top edge of your chimney. It slopes away from the chimney flue to help divert water downward, and it should extend a few inches beyond the edges of the chimney itself to help shield the chimney structure from water.

Too often, chimney crowns are improperly constructed from masonry mortar, which leads them to crack and wear away quickly. Even properly constructed chimney crowns will crack or deteriorate over time. A crack in your chimney crown can lead to water damage, so it’s important to be aware of its condition. Your chimney sweep should update you on the health of your chimney crown during your annual inspection.

Chase cover

A chase cover offers a similar function to a chimney crown, but it is made from metal and sits atop factory-built chimneys. Chase covers are used on non-masonry chimneys, such as vinyl, wood, or aluminum sided chimneys. Like chimney crowns, they seal around the edges of the chimney to help keep water away from the flue.

Even though chase covers are made from metal, they are break down over time. The metal corrodes, and can lead to rust dripping down the sides of your chimney or water leaking down the inside of your flue. Every so often, your chimney chase cover will need to be replaced. As with a chimney crown, your sweep should give you an idea of the condition of your chase cover during your annual inspection.

Chimney cap

A chimney cap works in conjunction with your chase cover or chimney crown to keep water from penetrating your chimney. A chimney cap fits atop the opening of your flue to keep rainwater, snow or ice from flowing freely down the walls of your chimney. Most chimney caps are elevated from the main chimney by a wire cage. This case allows smoke to exit your chimney while keeping birds, rodents and debris from entering your chimney.

Chimney caps, too, are subject to break down or become displaced over time. You’ll want to make sure your chimney sweep reports on the health of your chimney cap, as it’s your chimney’s primary defense against water damage.

Chimney crown, chase covers and chimney caps are the most crucial elements to protect your chimney and your home from water damage. Be sure you know the health of your chimney crown or chase cover and your chimney cap, and make sure you communicate with your sweep to know when a repair or a replacement is needed!

If you have questions about your chimney crown, chase cover or chimney cap, call the experts at Total Chimney Care at 203-874-6772.

By Steve Sobczak on January 31st, 2016 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , , , | Leave a Comment

Common Blockages

What’s Up Your Chimney?

Every homeowner owes it to themselves to become aware of the condition of any part of their house. And like every appliance or piece of furniture, a chimney requires just as much attention. There always has to be proper and regular maintenance to ensure the safety and continued functionality of your chimney.

Now, here’s the thing: a chimney is one of the more exposed features of a house. And it can be easily susceptible to certain objects getting in and blocking the chimney. This is already a problem in itself, but it can cause even bigger problems to arise—making it harder for you to balance the necessary expenditures at home. We, at Total Care Chimney would like you to understand what could cause these blockages and how we can absolutely help you with solving that problem.

It is completely expected that something will get in and muck up the ventilation in your chimney system. Annual cleaning and inspection is meant to prevent and clear any obstructions.

It is completely expected that something will get in and muck up the ventilation in your chimney system. Annual cleaning and inspection is meant to prevent and clear any obstructions.

There are a number of things that can cause a blockage in your chimney. Here are some of the very common ones:

  • Leaves and debris. These items are all around and can rapidly fall and accumulate in chimneys during any season. At first they will seem insignificant but once there’s too much already, there is a risk for incomplete combustion and negative air pressure to occur, driving smoke into the house
  • Bird nests. Birds want to nest in open chimneys to breed and hatch their eggs because it gives them added protection from the environment. They surround chimneys during winter – the time for them to breed and make babies.
  • Spider webs. Lastly, these are the most underestimated and one of the most common blockages in the chimney. Spider webs are typically soft, easy to reach and easy to take out but are hidden most of the time and appear only when the problem becomes grave. One spider web is nothing, but thousands of webs will give you a problem.

There is Only One Solution

So these are the common blockages in the chimney and the best way to solve this is to have a chimney cap installed. This can help prevent anything from entering your chimney. This will allow you to truly enjoy your chimney all four seasons of the year, hassle-free. This does not only prevent blockages but can also lessen the chances for fires to start, carbon monoxide poisoning to happen and negative air pressure to occur. Total Care Chimney can definitely help you with that.