In November 2015, the Met Office in the UK began giving names to our storms. It even ran contests to gather ideas for the monikers that these meteorological events would be known by. Why? It wanted to raise public awareness about the dangers of extreme weather conditions, and that means giving people chance to react when a storm is likely to be approaching.
Stormy weather in the UK may not reach the extremes we see on nature documentaries, but a bad winter can certainly do damage to our houses and cause all kinds of hidden problems. The chimney stack is the highest point on your entire house, so it’s no surprise that it’s prone to the most problems.
How chimney damage takes hold
The chimney on your house is probably made up of two parts: the stack, and the pots that sit on top. The stack got its name from the days we had a fireplace in each room and the various fireplaces were stacked on top of each other.
Around the chimney stack, flashing makes sure that the structure is watertight. On top of the pot, you may have a wire mesh to stop birds from getting inside.
Sources of damage
It’s normal for one side of a chimney to be more damaged than the others, due to the direction that wind and rain tends to originate from. Over time, you’ll notice that the pointing has worn away, and this is a common source of leaks into the roof.
Bricks can also break away from the chimney when water between them freezes and expands. These bricks can then fall inside the chimney and block it, and loose bricks can cause pots and TV aerials to come loose. There’s no way to patch broken bricks; we have to go up and replace them, one by one.
The flashing can also come away from the stack, letting water in through the tiles underneath. If water is coming down through the chimney itself, you might notice that the walls inside the home are becoming damp.
Why repair a chimney?
If you have a fire in your home, the chimney serves an important purpose in removing gas, and keeps the occupants safe. If your chimney isn’t working as it should, or is blocked by mortar and pieces of brick, the build-up of heat and gas may cause serious risk to your family. Poor alignment may also cause soot to catch fire if a spark should set it alight.
A chimney that is damaged, on one or more sides, is clearly at increased risk of collapse. If you notice that your chimney is leaning, the situation is urgent and your chimney is almost certainly unsafe.
Get it inspected
Whether you use your chimney or not, be sure to inspect it from the ground, and watch out for signs of internal damp or falling debris. If you have any concerns, it’s best to get your chimney inspected by a professional before the next winter storm rolls into town.