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The Damage Water Can Do to a Masonry Chimney

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Water is essential for human life, but it can severely damage a chimney. Most homeowners assume that their chimneys will last forever without any regular maintenance and in some cases, a chimney will last a long time. However, exposure to harsh weather can cause deterioration that turns the chimney into a safety hazard.

Water damaged masonry chimney

Despite its simple appearance, a chimney is actually quite complex. Transporting air to and from the fireplace is just one of its important functions. Brick, concrete, stone, mortar, cast iron, and steel are some materials used to make masonry chimneys. Most of these are adversely affected when they come in direct contact with water or are penetrated by water. Loose masonry materials, damaged lining systems , and flue obstructions make the chimney a hazard for home occupants.

Prolonged contact with water causes accelerated deterioration of all materials used to make a masonry chimney, except stone. Seasonal freezing and thawing allows moisture to contract and expand, creating stress on masonry materials. When water creeps into the chimney, it can rust cast iron or steel. This weakens or destroys the metal areas of the chimney.

Water penetration may damage both the interior and exterior of a masonry chimney. It can decay exterior mortar and deteriorate or crack the flue liner. Water can rot wood adjacent to the chimney and deteriorate a masonry or metal firebox. It can even rust the damper and deteriorate a central heating system. Water may travel through the chimney and into the home, staining ceilings and walls.

Installing a chimney cap is one of the least expensive ways to prevent water damage to a chimney. Per specifications from Underwriters Laboratories (UL), a UL-listed chimney lining system must have a chimney cap. This cap prevents rainwater, snow, and other airborne moisture from entering the flue and traveling into the chimney interior where it can cause damage.