What You Need to Know About Chimneys in the Winter
For all the good things a chimney can do, it’s not invincible during cold weather. Cold affects the structure of a chimney. Animals and blowing debris can create flue obstructions. Backdrafts of cold air can happen at the most inopportune times. Luckily, our expert chimney sweeps offer tips for how to help.
Chimney structural damage from rain
Under the best of circumstances, bricks and mortar will last a very long time. Under Houston circumstances, that’s not always the case. Plenty of rain means plenty of opportunities for chimneys to be damaged if areas within the chimney have even the smallest cracks.
Wager finds its way into the cracks where it freezes and expands, opening more space for the next inflow of water. It doesn’t take long with a cycle like this for crumbling to begin, which will let in significant amounts of water, and that can cause big problems.
This situation can be prevented by annual chimney inspections and immediate repair work when necessary.
The “stack” effect
This is a fancy name for a backdraft that happens when the chimney damper is left open, allowing cold air from outside the house to charge down the chimney. This phenomenon occurs because the warm air inside the home isn’t strong enough to block the cold outside air that exists within the flue and outside.
Keeping the damper closed is an easy way to solve this problem when there’s no fire going in the fireplace. When you do start a fire, if you get an initial backdraft, it means that the heat rising into the flue isn’t yet hot enough to push the cold air out. If this is a common problem, light a little kindling torch and hold it under the open damper for a few minutes to heat up the flue before starting your fire.
Animals in the chimney
Animal intrusion and debris buildup can be prevented by having a chimney cap installed. Operating a chimney that’s open to the elements is asking for problems.
Little animals look for shelter in the winter, and if they can get into your chimney, that’s a good place as far as they’re concerned. If you know or suspect that there are small critters like squirrels, birds or raccoons in your chimney, step one is don’t try to get them out yourself. Don’t light a fire and hope to smoke them out, because some of them may be dead and will obstruct the draft.
The thing to do is call in your local wildlife agency to have the animals and bodies safely removed. Then bring out a professional chimney service technician to install a cap and perform a thorough cleaning and inspection of your chimney.
Guardian Chimney Sweep of Houston can help keep your chimney performing optimally throughout the winter and at all other times of the year. We offer full-service cleaning, inspection, repair and maintenance across the greater Houston region. Call us today at (713) 401-2011.