Most of us have an affinity for chimneys, even if we don’t think of them all that often. It’s a centerpiece in the Mary Poppins story, and they are even included in a memorable dance scene. There are countless fireplaces and chimneys in Hogwarts, the school in the Harry Potter series, mainly used for warmth and for transportation. And our favorite jolly guy in a red suit uses them near the end of December every year. In all 3 instances, they are rather magical, to say the least.

So if we have chimneys in our own homes, there are steps we can take to make sure they stay magical, or at least practical, for as long as possible. It’s worth exploring if your chimney needs inspection, cleaning, repairing, replacing, or… nothing at all. Let me show you what I mean.

How Often Do Chimneys Need to Be Cleaned?

In Milwaukee, chimneys normally only get used 4 to 5 months out of the year. Because of this, we may not consider how often they need cleaning or maintaining. It is possible you’ve never considered the dangers involved in a neglected chimney.

National Fire Protection Association states that:
It’s recommended that you clean your chimney once a year. However, the frequency of cleanings also depends on how much use your chimney gets.

Perhaps you have a fireplace, but you never really use it. Then you probably don’t need to clean it every year. You should, however, still get it inspected for other blockages from animals that cause improper venting. Overall, the cliché that works best for most homeowners is “better safe than sorry.” Truly, the cost of cleaning is minuscule compared to the costs of repair or complete replacement.

Why Do Chimneys Need Cleaning?

A chimney needs to be clean to ensure proper operation of the heating system. If you don’t clean your chimney as often as you should, you increase the risk of a chimney fire. The best way to prevent a chimney fire from starting is to remove any soot and blockages. Blockages often occur from animal nests, the usual culprits being squirrels and birds. Also, burning wood creates a residue called creosote which collects on the walls of the chimney. After a season of constant fireplace usage, the residue can build up to several inches thick. Creosote is highly combustible and very dangerous if left unattended.

If You’re Unsure, Schedule an Inspection

It’s been over a year since your last chimney inspection, you’ll need to schedule one before winter. Perhaps you can’t even remember the last time you’ve even considered a chimney inspection. In that case, you should schedule one today, regardless of the season. Chimney fires are no laughing matter. They often cost people their chimney, roof, and sometimes, their entire home.

It’s important to remember other heating systems like stoves and furnaces because they too can become compromised. Don’t discredit the importance of these areas of your home. A professional chimney inspector can tell you if you’re due for a cleaning or not.

What about Moisture?

Whether it’s happening in the basement or the attic, moisture is your home’s worst nightmare. Moisture from a leaky chimney is especially alarming as the problem is often difficult to detect and costly to repair. Excess moisture from a leaky chimney can also result in:

  • General damage to wallpaper, paint, and special finishes such as plaster
  • Wood rot, which attracts pests such as rodents, ants, and termites
  • Spread of the leak throughout your home
  • Dangerous mold growth
  • Ceiling stains

So what causes a chimney leak? Deteriorating mortar, missing chimney caps, or even insufficient venting are common culprits. But in our over 40 years of business in the roofing industry, we’ve found that faulty or improperly installed chimney flashings are the most common.

What is Flashing?

Flashing forms a waterproof seal between your roof and your chimney. With proper installation and regular inspection, flashing can last for up to 30 years or more. Types of flashing vary but typically depend on a few different factors, including where you live, the size of your chimney and your roof’s material. Common flashing types include:

  • Aluminum – Relatively inexpensive, aluminum can be installed on any type of roof. Aluminum is also a popular choice for contractors because it can be cut to fit any roof.
  • Vinyl and PVC – Vinyl or PVC flashing is lightweight and common in areas of warm weather. Vinyl is brittle and susceptible to cracking, so it’s not recommended for areas that experience a lot of wetness or humidity.
  • Steel and Galvanized Steel – Because of its durability and anti-corrosive properties, steel or galvanized steel flashing is a popular choice.
  • Copper – Lightweight and durable, copper is one of the best types of flashing available. However, copper is expensive and can be cost-prohibitive to the average homeowner.

How is Flashing Installed?

When you hire a roofing company such as Community Roofing to install chimney flashing, the process may look like this:

  1. Clear the chimney of any tar and existing flashing.
  2. Inspect the deck around the chimney for loose wood and rot. If found, these are repaired.
  3. Build a “cricket” or small peak at the back of the chimney. The cricket prevents water from hitting the chimney head-on by diverting it to either side.
  4. Grind out all mortar joints needed to secure the counter flashing.
  5. Secure the chimney with a moisture leak barrier.
  6. Step flash the shingles around the side and back of the chimney.
  7. Install counter flashing and mortar all joints.

Though the process may seem straightforward, proper chimney flashing installation requires the care, skill, and attention to detail that only an experienced mason can provide. At Community Roofing & Restoration, we employ several gifted masons who have installed thousands of chimney flashings and are experts in their field. If you’re experiencing leaks due to faulty or improperly installed chimney flashing, then give us a call.

Now you should be able to teach a class on chimneys; just kidding. We believe that you should be armed with all the information possible to make great decisions. We approach every project with true professionalism. Visit our estimate page for your free estimate. And fill out our contact form today with any questions.

Need A New Roof? Contact The Experts.

We’ve been working the residents of Southeastern Wisconsin since 1975. Contact us today for a quick quote on your roofing project.