Fill'r up! How to not clog your chimney and prevent damage.
Seems easy, right? Common sense? Of course everyone does it?
You would be shocked at how often I see chimneys that look like this.
The spider webs are a clear give away that this flue damper has been open like this for a long time.
How do I know?
Spiders only build webs near moving air.
They don't think like you and me. They have been given instincts.
Their instinct is to build a web in order to eat.
If there is moving air, food will fly by. When food flies by it gets trapped in the web. You know the rest.
What's happened here?
You can see rust, evidence of water, organic debris and clay chunks in the opening of the damper.
The damper is not even seated properly in its shelf. It cannot open, I tried.
This chimney is clogged and unusable.
But it is also damaged. Those chunks of clay aren't there by accident. The flue liner is spalling, or flaking, or chipping, or whatever you want to call it.
WATER IS THE KILLER OF CHIMNEYS.
You can take that to the bank. This chimney is having a very hard time. It needs a complete investigation and after that perhaps some work. It needs professional attention.
This house is surrounded by trees.
Leaves and debris can get into chimneys, and will!
Animals can get into chimneys, and will!
Water can get into chimneys, and will!
All of that damages chimneys and makes them unsafe to use. The photo above shows evidence of a damaged chimney, unsafe to use.
How can you prevent this?
With a simple flue cap! You can get a black galvanized cap like the one pictured. Or a stainless steel cap. Or a copper cap. Or even a spring-loaded cap. It doesn't matter.
But get a cap! A covered, screened, vented, anchored cap. The cap pictured anchors with four screws that bite into the ceramic flue liner. The screws hold tight, don't do damage, and hopefully wind won't pull the cap off. It allows for a good draft.
My recommendation: look at your chimney, inside and out. Check the damper operation and the condition of the interior flue, insofar as you can see it. Look outside to make sure the flue is covered. And if it isn't have a cap installed! It is a one and done proposition, for not a lot of money. Repairing a chimney after the damage has happened is a lot of money. Take your pick!
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560