What I'm Seeing Now


When Flashing Isn't Good Enough

When you see something for the first time, you can wonder about it and understand it in the same moment.  When I showed this to my client the other day, and his Realtor Justin Dibbs, it was looked at for the oddity it is, but the big question remains.


This is just one aspect of a fireplace chimney where it bisects the roof.

Lifting things up and looking around I simply couldn't find any evidence of flashing.

Best practice, instead of this mortar parging, would have two types of flashing.  A step flashing, against the brick work, under each shingle, would prevent water from getting into the cavity between the chimney and roof sheathing.  And over the step flashing would be a counter flashing, sealing things up so no water can get anywhere.

This is an older house.  Was this chimney original, or added later?  And was it every flashed?  Is this parging, which extends up three or four feet, what was done at the outset?

Certainly it has been added to over the years.  There are depths of cracking, where one appears to be over another.  And at the bottom is a later of additional flashing, almost a counter flash (!), which itself is coming loose.  The decorative, cake icing, bead of caulking all around the bottom, and very thick, is certainly pretty.  BUT THAT BEAD INDICATES THAT SOMEBODY KNOWS THIS IS A PROBLEM AND IS TRYING TO SOLVE IT WITH MINIMAL EFFORT.

All said, this is a mess.   The roof sheathing is sagging around the chimney, indicating the likelihood of rot.  This is not visible from inside.  There is moisture inside in the ceiling all around the fireplace not far below.  The flue has not been taken care of.  There is a newer flue cap on top of the chimney, but still, the evidence of moisture inside the flue is present. 

This chimney is a problem.  But you already knew that.

My recommendation:  sometimes you see something weird and can be impressed.  But when things are done in ways that simply are not correct and unprofessional, you know it will be a problem.  The real issue for the buyer is to try to determine what to do about it.  Or even if anything can be done at all.  The seller may not be interested in caring about it anymore!



Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560


Comment balloon 13 commentsJay Markanich • July 12 2011 08:19AM


Jay...you caught our interest with the title, but once again you provided interesting and helpful information.

Posted by Howard and Susan Meyers (The Hudson Company Winnetka and North Shore) over 9 years ago

Thanks guys.  This might not be the best way to do this!  Yes, it is leaking, even now!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago


You hit on a very good point. Sometimes there is really no good answer without some major investigation. These type of issues are best addressed when any new roof covering is installed. But more times than not the issue is kicked down the road like an old tin can.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

We'll see what happens.  Should be and interesting phone call today to discuss it.

Posted by Justin Dibbs, REALTOR® - Ashburn Virginia Homes for Sale (Pearson Smith Realty) over 9 years ago

Jay, it is often difficult to determine what is underneath a do-it-yourself fix like this.  Your explanation of the proper way to use flashing around a chimney is very informative, and I will re-blog it as I have seen many people attempt to fix chimney leak issues improperly.

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) over 9 years ago

Jay - The chimney looks like a perfect application for some of Billy Jay's "Goop."

Posted by John Mulkey, Housing Guru (TheHousingGuru.com) over 9 years ago

Jay, you gotta love houses without chimneys---wish mine didn't have one :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 9 years ago

Don - this chimney is a problem all around.  Hard to tell what needs to be done to address this!

Justin - I feel for you!  The situation is difficult, the house is difficult and I bet the other agent is a peach.

Chris - this is too important a place for a homeowner, or otherwise unprofessional, fix!

John - he is already on it.  I'm told the product is called "Mound Yer Mortar!"

Probably true Charlie.  And I don't think this chimney is original to the house.   Which makes the situation more difficult.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

This type of issue exists in so many homes. The problem is not solved, just bandaids put onto it. If the water issue had been addressed correctly the first time, the problem would be small compared to what they face now.

Posted by Charles Hendricks (The Gaines Group, PLC Architecture and Design) over 9 years ago

For sure Charles.  Who knows what was done the first time!  But for many times since things have not gotten better!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

I have to agree with Charlie. A house with a chimney almost always means writing up something to do with that brick & mortar monstrosity.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 9 years ago

They are fun Jim!  Especially when they are handled with so much care.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

I love the white caulking. It screams, "Hey look at this!" Obviously something is going on here. Thanks for your observations.

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366) over 9 years ago

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