The weather here in the Washington DC metro area can change quickly. Mild autumn temperatures can turn bitterly cold overnight and then back to normal. During the winter, the temperature often rises above freezing. These big temperature shifts are hard on your home’s chimney. The freezing and thawing cycle they cause can weaken its structural integrity. There are steps that you can take to prevent your chimney from being damaged by the wear-and-tear of our winter weather.
Why Freezing and Thawing Damages Chimneys
Bricks and mortar are naturally porous. They absorb moisture—from rain and melting snow—much like a sponge. When temperatures dip below freezing, the water that’s seeped into the masonry expands as it freezes. When the temperatures rise, the masonry contracts as the water thaws. This process of expanding and contracting weakens the bricks and mortar causing it to crack, splinter or break. If failing bricks aren’t replaced and broke mortar isn’t repaired, your chimney can begin to tilt or lean. It could, eventually, collapse if too much of the masonry is weak and damaged.
How to Prevent Weather Damage
There are three ways that you can prevent your chimney from being damaged by the freezing and thawing cycle.
Invest in a Chimney Cap
A chimney cap is an affordable investment in your chimney that you’ll benefit from for years. The primary purpose of a chimney cap is to prevent rain, sleet, and snow from falling down the chimney. It acts like an umbrella, covering the chimney’s opening. It prevents water from running down the chimney and seeping into the masonry from the inside. An added benefit is that it has metal mesh around the sides. The mesh barrier prevents stray sparks from landing on the chimney and animals from flying in or making a nest inside.
Have the Masonry Waterproofed
Treating the exterior of the chimney with a waterproofing sealant prevents water from seeping into the masonry from the outside. It’s important to choose a waterproofing sealant that’s designed for chimneys. It should be 100% vapor permeable so that condensation produced by the fire can pass through the masonry instead of accumulating inside the chimney.
Schedule Annual Chimney Inspections
The National Fire Protection Association recommends a professional inspection of the chimney every year to prevent a house fire and carbon monoxide exposure. Another benefit of a chimney inspection is that a certified chimney technician will look for signs of water intrusion and water damage. During their inspection, they will notice cracked bricks or broken mortar that have been damaged by the freeze-thaw cycle. They will determine how the water go in. After the inspection, they will recommend the best solution to repair the damage and prevent future water damage. The sooner water damage is discovered, and future damage is prevented, the more money you will save.
Repairing a crumbling chimney is expensive. You can avoid that cost by taking these steps to protect your chimney from our erratic weather. The CSIA- and CCP-certified chimney technicians on our team are experts at chimney maintenance and repair. We are trusted by residents throughout Washington, DC, Virginia, and Maryland.
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