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Chimneysweep finds more than just creosote trouble

Thursday, December 1, 2016by  Jon Osterberg

rusty chimney chaseDid you know? Homeowners should have their chimneys inspected and cleaned regularly, and not just to prevent creosote fires.

Yesterday I found out my chimney leaks rainwater that drips into the fireplace far below, requiring repairs. More on that in a minute.

If you’re like me and burn wood only occasionally, like during the holidays, you may not need your chimney cleaned each year. PEMCO advises annual chimney cleanings if you burn more than half a cord a year.

Because we light just a handful of fires each winter at my house, I hadn’t hired a chimneysweep in ages. Yesterday, a helpful fellow named Oscar came for our overdue cleaning. He climbed down from the roof with bad news.

I knew that the chase – the metal roof on top of my chimney – was rusty. But Oscar said it’s rusted clear through, with pinholes in several places. Rain is seeping through the holes, down the flue, and into my fireplace.

Once there the water finds its way into cracks and crevices. On super-cold nights that water freezes, expands, and opens big cracks in the masonry.

crack at back of fireplace At the back of my fireplace, there’s a quarter-inch crack splitting the wall.

So not only do I need to replace the chimney chase (I’ll choose stainless steel, which doesn’t rust like galvanized steel), I need the brick walls of the fireplace repaired. It all adds up to around a thousand bucks.

I could have avoided this by hiring a chimneysweep years ago, someone with a trained eye to spot trouble as well as rid my flue of flammable creosote.

Oscar said leaky chimneys are common in the Northwest with all of our rain. So learn from my mistake. If you’ve put off having your chimney cleaned, schedule it now. For safety’s sake, and possibly to avoid a big repair bill.

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