People are always concerned about getting birds in their chimney. We receive calls at all times of the year to extract them and keep them out. That is easily done but many overlook another much greater danger, water getting in to the chimney system. Water enters through cracks in the crown or a missing cap.
We see way too many chimneys that have just a screen over the opening to keep out birds. Birds are a nuisance but water in the chimney can be terribly destructive.
Here’s why-Water gets in the chimney and drips down the chimney walls collecting on the smoke shelf which is just above the damper. Ashes and creosote collect there too and they mix to make acids similar to lye. Remember your ancestors made lye soap by mixing water and ashes? It is the same principle here. The strong acid is also mixed with creosote and leaches into the fire box through the mortar joints in the back of the fireplace.
This all occurs out of sight and you won’t notice it until you see the bricks in the back of the fireback inching forward. Perhaps a brick will fall out and the damage grows. The first thing that happens is the mortar or fireclay holding the fireplace together crumbles out and it soon appears that there is none.
Some handymen patch these situations with mortar and sand and temporarily it is fixed. However it will not last long as the mortar will not hold up to the fireplace’s high heat. It has to be a high solids mortar, called refractory cement.
We make the repairs with the proper material for long lasting fixes.
But it is much easier and less expensive to prevent the problem in the first place.
The first defense is to get a good chimney cap installed. We sell the longest lasting caps in the industry. It is hard to find any locally and if you do find any they are going to wimpy and hard to attach. They also will will have no warranty. While it will not keep all the water out it will go a long way toward that end. In addition it will also keep out birds and animals and make life a little less exciting in a good way. A wild bird or animal covered in ashes and soot loose in your clean house is never a good thing. Sooty footprints or wing prints on the walls and ceiling are not easy to remove.
Our chimney caps come with a 6 year warranty and we attach them to where you will not have any problem with them. Others like the slip in caps that makes their job real easy. But the first strong wind that comes along and you find your cap in your yard bent out of shape….that quick installation is not going to look so great. We do it right the first time and everyone is happy.