Company Blog

Does Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Water Damage to my Chimney?

Keep in mind that homeowner’s insurance covers SUDDEN events. In the case of your chimney, homeowner’s insurance does generally cover damages caused by events like these:

  • Chimney Fires / House Fires
  • Flash Floods
  • Wind (such as a tornado or hurricane)
  • Earthquakes
  • Lightning Strikes

 

However, homeowner’s insurance generally DOES NOT cover damage resulting from poor maintenance. We’re most commonly asked if insurance will cover water leaks or water damage, and the answer is usually no.masonry chimney with metal chimney cap

 

Water damage can quickly multiply into expensive repairs, damaging adjacent framing, attic flooring, sheetrock walls, and paint finishes. It can cause expensive and dangerous mold buildup leading up to wood rot that can attract termites, ants, and rodents. Never delay addressing water issues involving your chimney!

 

The exterior of a brick chimney has several areas that are vulnerable to water damage, or areas where water damage can lead to further damage to your home.

Chimney Caps

Chimney caps are your chimney’s first line of defense against water penetration and damage. Besides keeping birds, squirrels, and other wildlife from entering your chimney, a chimney cap helps prevent rain from coming into the chimney. The most common type of chimney cap attaches to the flue tile liner of the chimney and has a roof lid that extends a few inches around it, and is referred to as a single flue chimney cap. However, while this cap will keep out birds, squirrels and various other varmints, it can sometimes make water problems worse.  A better option would be a larger that covers the entire top of the chimney, with an overhanging lid that offers greater protection by covering the chimney’s mortar crown as well as the flue opening.

 

Mortar Crownmasonry chimney with concrete crown

The mortar crown — or wash — is the bed of mortar at the top of your chimney. The mortar crown should be laid with a slope, as it helps shed rainwater away from your chimney. In this photo (compliments of RichmondChimneySweeps.com) it’s easy to see that the deteriorated mortar crown has allowed additional damage to the chimney. Note that the top row of bricks is missing mortar between them, thereby making those bricks unstable. While a chimney is built from the ground up, it deteriorates from the top down. Left unrepaired, these bricks would start falling off, perhaps onto the roof (causing further damage), into the chimney itself causing a blockage, or possibly onto people or cars below. The chimney’s mortar crown should be repaired or replaced long before it reaches this condition. Mortar crown repair is a service we provide, but it will not be covered by homeowner’s insurance.

 

Roof Flashing

Another area related to water damage on chimneys is the roof flashing, which is a metal installed where the roof adjoins the chimney to form a barrier to water entry. Improperly flashed roofing where it joins the chimney can allow water to leak into the attic and down the face wall of the chimney. Flashing problems are common; they are difficult to install properly and to seal correctly, making them susceptible to rusting out over the years. If you see water on the face wall of the chimney inside, above your fireplace opening, this generally indicates a problem with the flashing and can often be confirmed by a trip to the attic to inspect the underside of the roof adjacent to the chimney. Roof flashing repair is a maintenance issue and is  .

Chimney Waterproofing

The exterior walls of your chimney are also vulnerable to water damage. Bricks are manufactured with a hard outer coating to help prevent water damage, but some bricks are made better than others and some bricks can begin to fail sooner than expected. If you see flaking bricks, called spalling, it’s past time to take action. Additionally, the mortar joints between the bricks can begin to deteriorate and need tuckpointing or if left unaddressed long enough the chimney may need to be rebuilt entirely. Waterproofing a brick chimney with a specially made clear coating will help prevent this type of water damage, and is a maintenance issue that should be addressed every 5-10 years.

 

Prefabricated metal chimneys and fireplaces are even more vulnerable to water damage than a masonry chimney is.

 

A prefabricated wood or gas burning fireplace is generally enclosed on the outside of your house with siding. They can be installed a number of ways but suffice it to say that most water damage related to a prefabricated fireplace is due to improper construction of the chase that surrounds it, it’s chase cover, or to improper installation of the fireplace or its venting system. In the case of a prefab fireplace, water damage can spread to adjacent walls and framing of your home.   Additionally, water intrusion often leads to damaging the metal fireplace itself — thereby posing a fire threat as well.

Don’t neglect the care and maintenance of your prefabricated fireplace simply because you think it’s superior to a masonry fireplace. An important aspect of our service includes inspecting the visibly accessible areas of your fireplace installation and chase construction.

Please call Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps | Bless Your Hearth today to have your chimney and fireplace inspected, and we’ll carefully inspect for existing or potential water damage conditions.

How to Select, Store and Use Firewood

Old-timers will tell you the best firewood comes from most any tree that has been cut into logs and well dried or “seasoned” before use, then stacked under covered storage. You really can burn most any tree wood so long as it’s been cured under cover and if you learn to recognize the properties of various wood types so you can burn them most appropriately.

You may have heard the term “green” firewood. Just like firewood that’s been rained on, “green” refers to freshly cut wood. Both green wood and wood that’s exposed to the elements contain excessive moisture, and what happens when this green/wet wood is burned is a primary cause of chimney fires.

A tree has small tubes in it that deliver water from the roots to the trunk and branches. Months after the wood has been cut, there is still water in these tubes. “Seasoning” refers to storing the wood properly to help dry out this moisture.

 

3 STAGES OF CREOSOTE

First Degree: Lighter soot that can be brushed out of the chimney. A sign of using good quality firewood and good burning habits

Second Degree: Shiny flakes of hard tar; still fairly removable with chimney brushes is most cases. Commonly found with chimneys venting a wood stove, or a fireplace that’s been burned with the glass doors closed

Third Degree: A consistency much like sticky tar on a road, evolving to a hard, thick and shiny consistency like peanut brittle. Cannot be cleaned with chimney brushes. Commonly found where one or more of these burning conditions: (1) Burning unseasoned or wet wood (2) Burning wood stoves with a very slow fire (3) Uninsulated chimneys or chimneys built on an exterior wall of the home (4) Chimney is too large for the fireplace or wood stove that it’s venting (5) A tightly constructed home that provides insufficient air to burn the wood efficiently

 

When wood burns, not all of the chemicals produced are actually burned. Chemicals in the wood combine with moisture and create smoke. When smoke cools down and becomes solid, it leaves a solid residue in your chimney known as CREOSOTE. Creosote is defined in STAGES (see side panel for further description.) Removal of soot and creosote is the objective of sweeping a chimney.

Before wood can actually begin to burn, the water must be boiled off during the combustion process. This water rises up the chimney along with the excessive smoke it produces, creating a nasty tar-like buildup in your chimney. Over time this sticky tar dries out and becomes hard; similar to the consistency of peanut brittle, it’s very difficult to clean out of the chimney without using either harsh chemicals or specially made mechanical devices. This type of buildup is known as “Stage 3” creosote; besides being devilishly difficult for us to remove from your chimney it also tends to cause the most devastating type of chimney fire when this type of residue catches fire inside your chimney.

Prepare in spring and summer for next year’s wood burning

As soon as you stop burning your wood stove or fireplace, please call us to come inspect your chimney and clean it if it’s needed.

Cut or purchase your firewood right away. A tree cut down before February, when the sap begins to flow, is the best choice. Cutting it into logs right away helps the firewood season – or dry out – much faster.

When purchasing firewood, look for wood that’s gray or dark colored and that has small cracks in the ends, a sign that it is seasoned. Wood with bark falling off is the most seasoned because bark requires moisture in order to adhere to the wood. You’ll usually get a price break if you buy your firewood in the off-season.

A CORD OF WOOD is a pile 8’ x 4’ x 4’. A “Face Cord” or a “Rick” is roughly half that; it’s a pile 8’ x 4’ x the length of a log

 


Cover the top of your wood pile so it can’t get rained on, but leave the sides open to promote air drying. Stack your firewood so it’s not touching the ground, which helps prevent your firewood from absorbing rainwater. Wood pallets will last a couple of seasons for this purpose. Your woodpile should be loosely stacked to help air flow.stack of firewood

What Type of Wood Should I Burn?

Trees are defined as Softwoods or Hardwoods. Softwoods are good for a quick, hot fire and are ideal for getting a fire lit because they ignite quickly. Hardwoods are denser so they burn longer and slower, and are a good choice for a longer, slower fire. Ideally, once the fire is established, try to burn only hardwoods in your wood stove.

Soft Woods Include

  • Pine
  • Douglas Fir
  • White Spruce
  • Cedar

Hardwoods Include

  • Oak (White Oak or Red Oak)
  • Ash
  • Birch
  • Beech
  • Hard Maple
  • Hickory
  • Pecan
  • Dogwood
  • Almond
  • Apple

What Not to Burnmatch lit against black background

Of course, you should only burn natural firewood in your fire pit, fireplace or wood stove. However, the items below deserve a special mention as far as what to avoid.

  • Salt treated or chemically treated wood
  • Wood with paint or varnish on it
  • Plywood or particle board
  • Christmas Trees
  • Cardboard, especially pizza boxes!
  • Waxy paper or paper with colored print
  • Driftwood