Nashville's Chim Chimney Offers Good Advice for a Long Wet Summer

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Middle Tennessee's long wet summer is a mixed blessing for homeowners: Increased rain makes chimney leaks easier to find, but more costly to ignore.

We've had a lot of rain this spring...but this year, we've had spring all summer long!

With all the rain we’ve had this spring and summer, it is no wonder that there’s been a noticeable increase in the number of reported chimney leaks. “This year,” says Gene Kaposy, of Nashville’s Chim Chimney, "I would say that our leak estimates are up by probably 20-25%."

It’s not that more chimneys are leaking this year; it’s just that the sheer amount of rain is making even the smallest leaks easier to spot. "The biggest issue with leaky chimneys,” says Kaposy, “is that when you get moisture in there, it breaks the lining down on the inside, or causes rot on the inside of the chimney face, depending on the type of chimney it is." He continues, “If it's masonry, it can loosen the brick and the mortar joint, letting more moisture get inside, causing further damage, potentially to the walls or the ceiling of your home, to the fireplace lining, to the firebox, or even to the home’s foundation."

Any kind of water leak can be a homeowner’s worst nightmare, but chimney leaks can be not only expensive, but also downright deadly. "Once fall and winter come and that moisture freezes and expands,” explains Kaposy, “that’s when you get cracks, mortar spalling and chipping away, and if the mortar on the inside of the flue lining erodes, you end up with gaps where sparks and gasses from burnt fuel can come back into the home. And that’s a real problem.”

This amount of rain is a mixed blessing in that homeowners are a lot more likely to notice and report chimney leaks, but, with this amount of water, unchecked leaks often get worse much more quickly than normal. Signs that you might have a leak include wet spots in the attic or basement, dampness on the brick of the fireplace and hearth, drips in the fireplace, and even dripping sounds that are hard to locate.

"Sometimes this weather is a real eye opener,” according to Kaposy, "You don't always have to see the water inside for it to be coming in. It could be confined within the walls of the masonry or the brick chimney itself and you wouldn't be able to tell from inside the home or looking at the chimney from the ground outside.”

Homeowners should pay attention if they think they hear water dripping and they can't identify the source, and it is critical that homeowners who discover a chimney leak do something about it. “Typically, when we get this type of call,” says Kaposy, “a more in-depth, or 'level-2' inspection is necessary.” “In those cases," he continues, “we do a visual, inside the home, in the firebox, looking up the flue, and putting a camera all the way up the flue, all the way to the cap, and then we physically get up on the roof and check the exterior of the chimney."

The rainy season is always a good time to catch chimney leaks. “But this year,” says Kaposy, “we've had spring all summer long!”

Important information and safety tips for homeowners are freely available on the Chim Chimney Blog.

For questions or concerns about fireplaces, chimneys, or dryer vents, visit Chim Chimney online or the FAQ section. For more information call at (615) 364-8987.

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Cole Evans
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