Your fireplace is an important part of heating your home throughout the colder months. However, as snow and ice accumulate and build up over the months, it could increase the vulnerability of your chimney. You’ll need preventive measures to keep water out of the structure. Don’t allow this to get out of hand before permanent damage sets in—protect your chimney immediately with Chimcare’s advice.
How Snow/Ice Can Damage Your Chimney
During the winter months, snow and ice can become a major problem for your chimney. The masonry of your structure is porous and permeable. It soaks up water and moisture like a sponge. This can damage your brick because as freezing conditions set in place, the water inside the masonry will freeze, causing it to expand within the brick. Once the water begins to thaw, the masonry shrinks again, which can make the material collapse into itself.
After constant freezing and thawing, cracks will begin to form throughout the masonry. This creates the perfect path for water to leak into your chimney and flue. Excess water will leave the bricks vulnerable to other elements. Do not let this damage set for a long time because it can lead to other extensive issues like attic or roof damage—even interior ceiling deterioration.
One tiny crack could lead to a huge slew of expensive problems. While winter is the perfect time to use your fireplace, you must also be mindful of the weather conditions and their effects on the structure. The brick and mortar is an integral part of a healthy chimney structure; you must take care of it in order to prevent leaks and cracks.
The Dangers of Ice Dams
While snow can pile on your roof and accumulate near the chimney, ice dams can form, leading to larger issues. Ice dams are when ice builds up on the eaves of your slopped roof, preventing melting water from running off into the gutter. It instead accumulates on the shingles. These dams could be more damaging to your roof than anything, but if your chimney structure is near the same area, it could also become affected by the water.
Using a hammer and shovel or salt could damage your roof more than help. To keep melted ice from pooling in vulnerable areas of your roof and chimney, you can place a box fan in your attic pointed toward the ice dam. Now, when the ice melts, the fan will help cool and re-freeze the water so that it doesn’t have the potential to leak into your roof, attic, or chimney.
You could also try a strategy that involves calcium chloride. Consider filling a pantyhose with this compound and placing it vertically on your roof towards a gutter, creating a direct path for water to run off. This creates an exit for the melting ice—preventing snow and ice build-up near your chimney from pooling and melting into unwanted areas.
How To Keep Snow & Ice Out of Your Chimney
Now that you understand how snow and ice can become detrimental to the structure and masonry of your chimney, you can begin to learn the techniques to prevent it. Below you can find exterior components to add to your chimney as precautionary measures and other strategies for keeping water out. Be mindful of how you care for your chimney to ensure unnecessary and avoidable damage does not occur.
A chimney crown is a cap you place on the opening of your chimney outside the house to keep debris and moisture from entering the flue. Because this component is constantly in the outdoor element, it will go through damage as it ages.
If there are cracks or breaks in the chimney crown, it cannot effectively perform its job. This is the first defensive tactic to keep snow and ice from pouring down inside the structure and entering your home. When you’re inspecting the chimney at the start of the season, ensure you’re also checking the crown for damage—replace this component if you do find breaks so you can protect the structure better this winter.
A chimney cricket is a peak installed at the back of your chimney where it connects to the roof so that snow and water exit away from the structure. This is essential for deflecting water from pooling near the flashing for roofs with steep slopes or angles.
We recommend adding this peak to your roof if your chimney happens to be more than 30 inches wide. Larger structures might accumulate more snow and ice because there is less room for runoff. Consider installing this before winter hits to prepare your fireplace better and prevent damage.
Chimney flashing is the metal component that seals the brick and mortar of your chimney with the roof to prevent moisture or water from leaking into the area where the two structures meet. Oftentimes damage to the flashing is the main culprit for allowing water to leak into the fireplace or roof. This component must be installed correctly to thwart off snow and ice.
The brick and mortar is another integral part of holding your chimney together. The mortar connects each individual brick. While a chimney can last an extremely long time, the mortar has a shorter lifespan. If this starts to flake away or crack, it creates paths for moisture and water to seep into the brick and chimney.
If you find cracks in the mortar, you don’t necessarily need to rebuild a portion of the structure. Chimcare offers chimney repair services where our technicians will tuckpoint or repoint the brick and mortar that cracked or damaged to save you money on a rebuild.
When the original structure of the chimney was built, the contractor may have put a waterproof substance on the brick to prevent water from entering. However, throughout years of wear and tear, this waterproofing can diminish. You may need to reapply the substance to keep the structure in a healthy condition.
All in all, keep up with your maintenance tasks to fully protect your chimney against snow and ice. Inspections will allow you to spot cracks and leaks. Inspections are vital in maintaining the structure’s health. Contact Chimcare today with questions, and remember to take preventive measures to protect your chimney this winter.