Winter Weather and Your Chimney

Fall is almost halfway over since the arrival of November. Most of the leaves have fallen and the sunlight seems to shrink by a few minutes every day. Sandals and shorts are a distant memory, as most folks have exchanged them for cozy coats and scarves. Everyone has the impending winter on their minds, but homeowners are particularly focused on it, making sure the house and family can stay warm throughout the next several months.

For homes that utilize fireplaces or wood stoves over the winter, right now is the time to have the appliances and their chimneys serviced. The annual chimney sweep and inspection help keep everything running smoothly, safely and efficiently. These practices are especially crucial before the winter because the cold, wet weather can wreak havoc on an unprotected chimney.

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A common misconception about chimneys is that they were built to live outside, so they are resistant to the elements. While chimneys generally have construction that reflects their outdoor nature, every chimney needs special attention and care to keep it functioning properly winter after winter. Masonry chimneys, specifically, are threatened by winter weather. To start off with, masonry materials – like brick, mortar, and concrete – all have a very porous makeup. This means they readily absorb any water that comes into contact with them. While the absorption of water does relatively little harm in itself, when the temperatures start to drop, the trouble sets in. The freeze and thaw cycle of winter causes water to continuously contract and expand, meaning the brick and mortar holding the water also undergoes this upheaval. Over time, this constant movement degrades the materials, and the structure can start to crack or even collapse. To prevent water damage like this during the winter, ask your mason about sealing the outside of the chimney. A special permeable sealant can be applied to protect your chimney from water absorption and freezing.

Just because winter affects masonry chimneys, in particular, does not mean that nonmasonry chimneys are in the clear. Another frequent winter issue involves water entering the inside of the chimney, and this can happen to masonry and non-masonry chimneys alike. With a warm fire heating up the flue, any accumulated snow will melt and drip into the chimney. This can rust out a steel flue lining, which in turn exposes the house to the heat of the fire and exposes the inside of the chimney to water damage. The water may also travel down the chimney to rust out the damper assembly or even soak into the interior walls and ceiling around the fireplace. All of this expensive damage can be avoided by having your mason install a chimney cap on the top of your chimney.

Winter can be deceptively ruthless toward your chimney, but you can prevent costly damages by taking the necessary steps to protect it right now. If you live in the Wichita area, contact Home Safe Hearth and Chimney, Inc. for a professional consultation.

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