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What the Cold Winter Can Do to Your Chimney

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As the temperatures outside drop, we use our fireplaces and stoves to heat our homes and keep us and our families warm and comfortable. But while our fireplaces are keeping us cozy inside, the harsh winter weather may be damaging our chimneys outside.

Cold Winter and Your Chimney - Ann Arbor MI - Clean Sweeps of MIThe cold, snow, and ice during winter can create chimney problems, as well as exacerbate any existing issues. Below we’ve listed several ways that winter affects your chimney system along with ways you can prevent them from happening.

Water damage

Although water damage can affect chimneys any time of year, it is often the worst during the winter months. If water is able to enter the chimney, it can damage everything from the bricks and mortar all the way down to the flue and damper. Additionally, finding the source of the leak can be difficult as most chimneys are complex structures.

The most common – and most damaging – source of water entry is through the bricks and mortar of the chimney structure. Even the smallest cracks can allow water to be absorbed into the masonry. As this water freezes it expands, causing the crack to get larger and allowing more water in. This freeze/thaw cycle continues indefinitely, causing significant damage to the chimney structure. In extreme cases, it can even cause the bricks to crumble and fall apart.

The best way to protect against water damage is to prevent it. Regular maintenance and inspections of your chimney will let you know if there is any existing damage; repairing damage quickly prevents it from getting worse.

Animal entry

Just like people tend to stay indoors during the winter, many animals also seek out a warm place to hide as the temperatures drop. This may lead to birds, raccoons, or other small mammals attempting to nest in your chimney structure. This is extremely dangerous for both the animals and homeowners. For animals, once they get in they may not be able to get back out. Chimneys have slick walls that are impossible for most animals to climb; likewise, the dark chimney structure is often difficult to navigate. For homeowners, animals in the chimney leave a fireplace or stove unusable until the animals and their nesting materials have been removed.

Most commonly, animals are able to enter a chimney structure through a chimney with a damaged or missing chimney cap. Having your chimney swept and inspected annually is one way to ensure that there is no damage to your chimney cap – and no way for animals to get in.

The Stack Effect

The Stack Effect is caused by a difference in air pressure inside and outside a home. Warm air from inside your home can rise up your chimney, causing the cold outside air to rush in to replace it. Called a backdraft, it can even negate the heating effects of the fireplace itself if too much cold air is allowed to enter.

The easiest way to prevent backdrafts is to keep your damper closed when the fireplace is not in use. If you notice that cold air still seems to be seeping in, your damper may have lost its seal. Dampers should be professionally installed to ensure a tight seal that will keep hot air in and cold air out.

If you have questions about the health of your chimney system, contact Clean Sweeps of Michigan today!