For six years, the roof around my chimney leaked. People must have thought I was having an affair with my roofer since he was at my house so often. No matter what he did, that darn roof leaked. In fact, it got so bad that the leak started to drip through the second floor ceiling. The drywall was ready to collapse. But we later found out it was the chimney that was the culprit.
Read on, to learn how to prevent chimney leaks so you don’t end up in my mess.
How Did Your Leak End Up Going Through Your Ceiling?
So, you might be thinking, how come you just didn’t put containers to catch the water? Unfortunately, the water would run down the beam of the roof. No matter how many containers I would put under the beam, I could never catch the water.
Now, before I go any further, I just want you to know this chimney is a fake chimney. It houses my gas fireplaces flues.
What is a fake chimney? It is made out of plywood and surrounded by brick or stone. It is an aesthetic chimney.
Could it Be the Bricks?
Every time I would ask my builder or the roofer if the brick surround was absorbing the water or there was a leak in the mortar, I would hear the following:
“No way. The mortar around the bricks won’t leak for years. Your chimney is brand new.”
As the problem kept getting worse, I started researching why that chimney leaked. I was so desperate that I almost rented a smoke machine to see where the smoke would seep out. Then, I would know where the roof was leaking. However, the fire department wouldn’t have been very happy with me.
The Masonry Chimney Started Leaking Too.
Yep. Lucky me. When it rained there would be wet spots on the masonry part of the other fireplace in the attic. It was only a matter of time before that chimney started leaking too.
Now, I was in “put the covers over my head and whine mode.”
The Chimney Man Cometh
There was only one culprit here. The chimney. The roof told me he was sick and tired of being the scapegoat for the chimneys’ antics. (Didn’t you know that I am the roof whisperer?)
It was time to bring out the big guns and I called two different chimney companies. I planted my feet firmly on the ground and braced myself to hear the worse. I anticipated hearing the following:
“Ma’am (since I am no longer called Miss *sniff*) whoever built your chimney had no idea what they were doing. We are going to have to rebuild that chimney one brick at a time.”
As they gave my chimney its last rites, oddly, dollar signs would flash in their eyes. Does this happen to anyone else besides me?
Okay, I am being a teensy bit dramatic here, but I swear I am a magnet for contractors to tell me the worse possible scenario.
The verdict? Both said they didn’t see any structural issues. (Whew, that’s a relief. Dodge a bullet.) But, the bricks need to be sealed. (Come again?) See, Ma’am, the bricks are like sponges. They get water logged and then you have a leak.
But this is my third house and I never had to seal any bricks as I questioned both companies.
They both further explained that a masonry chimney absorbs the water so a homeowner won’t know for awhile if her chimney is leaking. How many people go check their chimneys in their attics when it rains? (Notice, my hand is raised since I am totally neurotic. I even check for roof leaks when it rains hard. I told you. Totally neurotic.)
Why was the plywood chimney leaking? The water had nowhere to go. The plywood only could absorb so much and then the balance of the water would puddle on the attic floor.
The Big Debate
On one side I had the roofer and my builder saying no way. Then on the other hand, both chimney companies saying seal your chimney and hopefully it will solve the problem. Then to throw in another opinion, I brought out another roofer, who told me the mortar was cracking everywhere and the mason did a crappy job. See, I attract those contractors.
What Did I have to Lose
The leak just kept getting worse and worse as if it was taunting me to do something. (I swear when the wind would blow, I would hear, “come on. Try and take me down. I will only go down with a fight.”)
So I bit the bullet and had one of the companies spray the chimneys with a product called ChimneySaver Water Repellent.* (For those of you in NJ, I used Certified Chimney Service in Denville.)
Chimney Saver is a water repellent product. The company chose to seal the brick with ChimneySaver V.O.C Compliant Solvent-Base* since they felt it lasts longer and works better.
However, the gentlemen who sprayed the solution reeked of a strong solvent (mineral spirits) smell. I didn’t smell it in the house.
There is a water based product too but I went with the company’s recommendation. If I didn’t protect that plywood, it would have rotted. Then, I would have to deal with rebuilding that darn chimney.
According to the chimney service, the product only lasts about five years and then I need to reapply. (Note, both products have a 10 year warranty. I wondered about why the “five year rule.”)
Did it Work?
So far, so good. Not one lick of water on the attic floor, nor any water marks on the masonry chimneys. At the fourth year mark, the company said they can come back and spray water on the bricks to see if the repellent is still working.
Promise me that when it rains that you check around your chimney for wet spots. They look like darker spots on the masonry. The last thing you need is the leak to drip down into your living area.
Join the Conversation
- Have you sealed your chimney brick? If so, with what product?
- Has your chimney leaked? If so, how did you fix it?
- Do you have a fake chimney and if so, have you had problems with it?
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