Troubleshoot a Leak Near Your Chimney
LESLIE: John in Massachusetts finds The Money Pit on WPRO. And you’ve got a chimney situation. What’s happening?
JOHN: Yes. Thanks for taking my call.
LESLIE: You’re so welcome. How can we help?
JOHN: I have a wood stove in my cellar and it goes out to an outside chimney. I’m having water coming through. When it rains real hard, I have water coming through my trap door in my cellar. Right now, I even have a gutter – a piece of gutter that goes to my sump pump from that trap door to catch the water. (Tom chuckles)
TOM: You have a whole little setup down there, don’t you?
JOHN: Yes, I do. It … (chuckles)
TOM: Alright. Well, a couple of things that you want to do, John. First of all, the most common place that water gets in around a chimney is at the chimney cap; that’s at the top. And it’s this little concrete shelf, so to speak, that goes between the edge of the brick and the middle of the chimney liner, so you need to check that first.
The second thing that you should be checking is the flashing around the base of the chimney, to make sure that the flashing is properly installed. In a perfect world, you’re going to have flashing and counter flashing so that the flashing comes up from the roof, lays up against the side of the chimney, then counter flashing that goes in the chimney mortar joint and then back down over that. So you have two pieces that sort of work together and can take the expansion and the contraction.
And then the third thing is to examine all of the mortar joints around the chimney itself to see if you have any deteriorated places where water is basically seeping in there and if you see those, then you need to repoint.
Lastly, you could consider putting a chimney cap on if you don’t have one already because that – some of those tend to be big enough that they sort of act like an umbrella on top of your chimney and sort of slow down the volume of water that gets to attack it directly. Does that make sense to you, John?
JOHN: Yes, it does. I have a cap and it seems that it only comes when it rains really, really hard. And I’ve diverted my downspouts away from the house because when I first bought my home, I had a problem with that and I was getting a lot of water in that area.
LESLIE: And that did the trick?
JOHN: And that did – you know, it helped some but when we have a lot of rain – like we just had some rain here in the northeast, you know, yesterday and today and I had some water coming down through that trap. And I’ve heard you before and it would probably have nothing to do with the water level. I mean, I’m to the point where I wanted to dig around the house, around the foundation …
TOM: Yeah, generally not needed.
JOHN: I’m sorry?
TOM: Generally not needed.
JOHN: Not needed. Right. OK.
JOHN: I’ll check the flashings, though. I didn’t really check the flashings on the crown.
TOM: Yeah. Start up and work down. Remember gravity.
JOHN: OK. (Tom chuckles)
LESLIE: And it could just be that the wind is moving the roofing material and causing something to unsettle with the flashing, so it could just be in circumstances like that. So look at all of the surrounding areas where the chimney comes out of the roof.
JOHN: Excellent. Very good.
JOHN: I appreciate it. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.