The snowy season is your hearth’s time to shine. When the wind is blustery and the gray sky is spitting snow, it’s time to light up the fireplace. Unfortunately, the time of year that is best for using your fireplace may take the biggest toll on your chimney system. In fact, the worst thing that can happen to a masonry chimney is winter water damage.

Common Winter Damage

Water damage at any time can wreak havoc on the best chimneys, but the freezing effects of winter temperatures make it worse than most homeowners can imagine. The freeze/thaw cycle is a process that repeats throughout the entire burn season as water fills cracks and spaces in the masonry. This is no big deal if the right precautions are made, but more often than not, this water freezes when temperatures dip below freezing. As it freezes, it expands and damages the masonry further. This cycle continues until serious damage has occurred. The winter damage we commonly diagnose each spring fall into the water damage category every time: damage to the mortar, causing spalling masonry and chimney leaks; cracked chimney crowns; dislodged chimney caps; and damaged flashing. All of this winter damage is 100 percent preventable when you have your chimney serviced regularly and waterproofed after repairs are made.

The Importance of Waterproofing

The worst thing that can happen in the life of your chimney is a water leak. It doesn’t only damage the chimney itself, but it also damages other parts of your home as water enters by way of the chimney, but then runs through walls and flooring until it forms a leak. This leads to stains and ruins walls, ceilings, wall coverings, and furniture as well as serious damage to chimney parts and structure. All of these damages are preventable because the leaks are preventable.

You can prevent water from penetrating your chimney system by scheduling a waterproofing service with a certified professional. Water repellent products are popular in your home improvement stores, but none are more effective than the products which are only accessible through your local chimney professional. The Mad Hatter depends on industrial water repellant products that are only available to certified chimney professionals. Unlike other products that keep water out by forming a rubbery barrier, we treat chimneys with a vapor-permeable sealant that allows the chimney to breathe properly, venting as it should while preventing water molecules from getting in. This water repellant penetrates deeply so that even natural cracks and spaces in the brick and mortar will remain unaffected by winter water such as freezing rain and snow. Not only will this waterproofing service protect your chimney this winter, but every winter for at least four years. The service should be repeated every 4 to 5 years and following masonry repairs.

Preventing Chimney Leaks

Not all leaks occur because of the winter freeze/thaw cycle and the masonry. The most common cause of chimney leaks is the flashing, and that’s the first thing we’ll check if our customers suspect a leak. The flashing protects the most vulnerable part of the whole chimney system—the intersection of the room and chimney—and may often be installed improperly by amateurs or even licensed contractors whose expertise isn’t chimneys. A roofer, for example, may not have the expertise to install flashing correctly.

Other causes for water penetration and chimney leaks include:

  • A damaged, dislodged, or missing cap. The cap serves as a roof for the flue. Without it, snow, rain, and sleet can fall directly into the flue opening, damaging the chimney from the inside out.
  • A cracked or deteriorated crown. The crown is the ceiling that protects the chimney between the flue and the outside edge. It should be designed to a certain standard (4 inches thick at its center and 2 inches at its edge, slanted for water run-off, and with a drip edge). Unfortunately, many chimney companies will cut corners by custom-making the crown with leftover mortar which is not as strong as cement. A mortar crown deteriorates faster than it should and can take on water through winter, allowing it directly into the chimney.
  • Spalling masonry. Cracked or gapped masonry allows water into the chimney masonry year-round.

At The Mad Hatter, we install caps to protect our customers’ chimneys from water and animal intrusion. We also custom-make chimney crowns for chimneys of all types and styles. If your crown isn’t severely damaged we can likely repair it without recasting the whole thing. We use products like the industrial water repellent that works magic on a damaged crown and restore the protection and the beauty of the top of the chimney.

If you are a homeowner and have a fireplace in the Indianapolis area, you can benefit from water-proofing services we provide at The Mad Hatter. We want our customers to be safe and warm this winter, not worrying over chimney damage or safety. Services that we provide year-round will add years to the life of your chimney.

Ask us how by calling 317-596-0200 or schedule an appointment online.