If you regularly use your fireplace, you may have started noticing lately that your chimney is showing some wear. If so, look for the following signs that your chimney is damaged enough to warrant professional attention.
Wall and Ceiling Stains Around the Chimney
One sign that your chimney has sustained some damage is the appearance of stains on the interior walls and ceiling surrounding the chimney. These stains are usually caused by moisture.
If your chimney's bricks are cracked, or the mortar is crumbling, the gaps created are letting water seep around the structure. Another possible cause of these moisture stains is that the flashing around the exterior base of the chimney has broken loose or become bent.
Presence of Efflorescence on Bricks
Another sign of possible damage to your chimney is the presence of efflorescence on the bricks. You may see a white powdery residue either on the chimney stack or on the interior of your fireplace.
Efflorescence is created when excessive moisture pushes through the bricks, carrying with it any minerals and salts contained in the material. If you see this residue anywhere on your chimney, there is a good chance that water is running alongside the exterior of the chimney.
While efflorescence itself is not harmful, it is an indicator that there may be extensive damage inside the bricks. If the minerals are being pushed out, the bricks are left weakened and could start crumbling, eventually causing your chimney to collapse.
Excessive Smoke When Fire Is Burning
If your fireplace has started producing excessive smoke whenever you burn a fire, this could be a sign that there is a serious structural issue with your chimney. It is no longer able to perform its job of carrying the smoke up and out of your home, leaving the smoke to build up inside your rooms.
When the fireplace starts producing too much smoke, make sure you have the flue fully open. If you do, and you still have a lot of smoke, the flue may be stuck or the bricks have shifted within the chimney, which blocks the smoke from escaping. If this is the case, do not use your fireplace until you can have it looked at by a professional.
If your chimney is showing any of the above signs, there may be damage that needs immediate attention so that you can safely use your fireplace. To find out to what extent the chimney is damaged, contact a roofer who offers chimney cleaning and inspection services so they can find the problem and offer suggestions for fixing it.