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somewhat handy
water in my chimney

Hello everyone. Recently I have been having water dripping in my chimney. It is a brick clay lined chimney that runs through the middle of the house and originally had a cap on it. The water is only a drip and it comes in clean but when it hits the bottom of the chimney it mixes with the soot and leaches out into the basement and stinks. I first thought it was the smoke condensing on the cap and dripping back in so I removed the cap but the problem still persists. It is not related to the weather; we can go days without rain or snow (though rare in Newfoundland) and still get the drip.

The only thing that has changed is, as the woodstove is in the basement, I put a hood over the stove below the grate in the main floor to help draw the heat up. This has meant that I do not have to burn the fire as hot. I wonder if this has affected the draw in the chimney and the smoke is condensing once it hits the cold chimney in the attic and above the roof.

I am tired of the smell and cleaning up the mess all the time. Can anyone offer a solution or help pinpoint the problem.

Re: water in my chimney

After going thru this a number of times with my own brick/mortar chimney with clay liner, I recommend you focus on the exposed part of the chimney above the roof line; this includes the chimney cap, the concrete cap or top just below the chimney cap, the brick joints for any obvious deterioration, cracks, leaks, down to the flashing & counter flashing; there are so many tiny nooks & crannies that wind-blown rain can get into, that you have to take special care to closely examine everything; when you get up close to the brick chimney you may notice a lot of defects that are not so noticeable when the chimney is viewed from a distance.

I would strongly recommend you continue the practice of having a stainless steel chimney cap installed (must be stainless, the cheap painted steel ones will rust out in no time).

Wait for good weather if you want to diy, & never go up on a wet, snowy, icy roof, or when it's windy; always wear a safety harness, or tie a strong rope around your waist attached to the chimney or other secure tie-point; wear rubber-soled shoes/footwear; notice on some of the videos that the mason builds a nice, level temporary wood scaffold with 2 X 10 or 2X12 boards that makes it much easier to work, & move around, and is much safer than trying to work on a slanted roof surface; it's also a good place to place your tools, etc., while you're working on the chimney.

Google "masonry chimney repair" to get numerous sites on the components you have to examine; start at the top & install a stainless steel chimney cap, secured against the wind; check the concrete seal or cap at the very top of the chimney just below the metal chimney cap for a good water seal; next, check the mortar joints between the bricks; this is a prime place where wind-driven water can get in to the inside part of the bricks & follow the clay chimney liner down to the cellar; if you see any corroded or obviously worn joints, you will have to remove the old corroded mortar & install fresh mortar (called "pointing" or "tuckpointing"); use a circular saw fitted with a masonry or diamond blade to quickly remove the old mortar & completely seal with new mortar.

Closely check the area where the chimney goes into the roof structure/shingles; the Google/You Tube sites will explain how the metal base roof flashing has to be installed to prevent water entry; also important is the presence of the metal counter-flashing, which is fastened with stainless steel/copper nails & mortared into the lower part of the chimney joints, so as to cover the base roof flashing, to provide a watertight seal--quite often the wind blows away some parts of the counter-flashing & causes a leak; notice how the base flashing and counter-flashing is installed in "steps" going up the lower side of the chimney to the upper side in "fan-fold" fashion so that rainwater flowing from the upper base of the chimney will be diverted down to the next piece of flashing, then off the roof without entering the seams of the flashing; the video also provides an alternative mastic system that is used in place of the time-consuming flashing system.

Quite often, the chimney, which is anchored to the cellar floor/foundation, moves up or down a fraction of an inch in relation to the flexing or settling wood roof structure, which is also a common source of leaks.

After making your needed repairs, take a garden hose up to the roof & spray water on all parts of the exposed chimney from top to bottom; if you still have a leak, perhaps it's time to call in a pro.

Click onto the videos below, entitled "chimney flashing repairs--how to fix leaks"; also view any of the other videos on chimney repair on the You Tube site for any that pertain to your particular style of chimney & specific issues you uncover.


somewhat handy
Re: water in my chimney

Thanks for the very indepth reply. I have regrouted in places along the chimney and the concrete cap and gone mad with roofing cement along the flange to no avail. The chimney is in good shape over all and it was informally inspected.
In the mean time I will persevere. I have also had a hard time finding a suitable chimney cap. It appears that in Newfoundland there is only one type available. The trials and tribulations of living on an island.

Re: water in my chimney

You might also investigate sealing the bricks this summer after you do all the needed repairs. We have a real problem in Pacfic NW with saturated bricks. As I write my own chimney is covered in plastic till the summer and the Chimney guy told me we need to have the bricks sealed. Have heard of this problem from other homeowners here as well. He said brick needs to dry out so it is a summer repair. They put a clear sealer on which keeps water out, but also breathes.

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