As the weather becomes mild and spring slowly makes its appearance, you may find yourself outside more and more. While you’re out there, take a look at your chimney. Look for signs of discoloration on the outside, and pay attention to any discoloration on the inside. Seeing discoloration can mean many things—but all of them need your attention. Paying close attention to changes in your chimney’s appearance and performance is one of the best things you can do to prevent problems, keep it working well, and help it to last a lifetime.
Types of Stains and What They Mean
Black Stains – On the interior of your chimney system you might find black stains—particularly on the inside of the firebox. These unsightly stains take away from the look of your beautiful fireplace but are often easy to remove and correct. The black stains are soot, or carbon, stains and indicate a problem with the fire itself. The fuel you’re burning is not ideal for your fire or burning improperly. If you burn trash, cardboard, or unseasoned firewood, carbon stains can appear in the back of your firebox. If you have a gas fire appliance, soot stains may appear at the top of your chimney exterior and mean that the gas isn’t burning correctly.
White Stains – White, powdery stains that appear on the chimney exterior or interior are called efflorescence and indicate a water problem. When water penetrates the masonry, the minerals in the water are left behind on the surface of the chimney. These stains are easily removed but may mean there is a chimney leak.
Green Stains – Sometimes confused with black carbon stains, green or dark green stains in the firebox or on the chimney indicate an algae or mold problem. This is usually caused by a chimney leak that exists long enough for bacteria to form and thrive. If you notice green staining or the smell of mildew or dirty laundry near your fireplace opening, it’s time to call a professional. There are many factors that can contribute to a chimney leak.
Stains at the Chimney Top – Black or brown stains at the top of the chimney, just below the flue opening indicate a creosote buildup in the chimney system. With nowhere else to go, the creosote is forced out of the flue, but on the inside, there is likely a major buildup and dangerous obstruction. Red and brown stains at the top of the chimney also mean trouble, but not because of creosote. Rather, these stains mean water is affecting the factory-built chimney parts of a prefabricated or metal chimney. Brown and red stains mean rust, so these unsightly stains also mean there may be more water damage behind-the-scenes.
No matter how well-constructed your chimney, no matter how well-maintained, when a problem arises or there are signs of a problem, it’s time to call in the professionals.
Why Schedule Professional Services
Not only can a certified professional properly diagnose a chimney problem, but scheduling routine services with an expert can PREVENT many major chimney problems. Additionally, using the system correctly and burning the proper fuel can also prevent major chimney problems. Oftentimes, the chimney isn’t working well because something is working against the chimney.
Common Troubleshooting Factors to Consider
Check your Fuel – If there are stains in your fireplace or on your chimney, it may be caused by burning green wood instead of properly seasoned wood. Switching to the right wood can fix other problems with your chimney also! You’ll find you’re burning less wood. Your fire will produce less ash and more heat. Your flue walls will collect less creosote because the fire will produce less and the chimney will be more efficient.
Waterproof Your Chimney – By having your chimney professionally waterproofed, your chimney cap, crown, flashing, and masonry will get a once-over to ensure water isn’t penetrating your system. The Mad Hatter takes it one step further and actually protects the masonry with a vapor-permeable water repellent. It penetrates deeply, preventing water molecules from entering the masonry while allowing gases and heat out.
Schedule Preventative Maintenance – Chimneys that are inspected annually and cleaned regularly see less damage throughout the year. A well-maintained chimney system will actually need less maintenance and when there is a suspected problem, it is caught early and corrected immediately. This means that when there is a problem, early detection means cheaper repairs.
Fixing Stains and Fixing Chimneys in Indianapolis
When it comes to chimney repairs and maintenance, residents in and around Indianapolis count on The Mad Hatter.
During spring we get frequent calls regarding chimney stains as well as chimney odors. Oftentimes the root cause is the same. A stained, smelly, or smoky fireplace is not a well-working fireplace. Since winter is winding down, you may be tempted to wait to have your chimney system diagnosed and repaired until the next burn season. We don’t recommend this! If your chimney is experiencing a problem, waiting to schedule the repair usually results in more damage and higher costs.
Call the trusted professionals at The Mad Hatter so you can rest assured your system is sound. Call us at 317-596-0200 or contact us online.