75 year old chimney leak problems

mstanleygOctober 7, 2009

I have a 75 year old cape cod home located on the south shore of long island, ny, with a brick chimney & slate roof. We have a second floor bedroom that has always leaked where the chimney is attached. The leaks appear by the ceiling at the roofline and spread as time progesses. Besides the continuous leaks, the chimney is badly spalling (large pieces of brick facing chipping off) above the roof line only - the rest of the brick on the front of the house require little maintenance.

We have attached the problem from two fronts: the roof was re-flashed and tarred several times to a point where the roofers point to the brick chimney as the problem, plus rebuilt the caps; the chimney was painted, waterproofed, and sealed several times (it has always been painted) - yet the problem persists with the brick deterioration and leaks. We have gas heat (converted from oil 15 years ago), gas hot water, and have converted our fireplace from wood-burning to gas logs. Some contractors have suggested replacing our clay chimney liners as well with steel - something we haven't done. Based on what I've read, rebuilding the chimney above the roof line appears to be one of the better options available.

Given this, I would appreciate advice on how to approach fixing this problem and the types of contractors I should call.

thank you for any help in this frustrating and damaging problem


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It's not clear whether your chimney is exterior or interior, but some possibilities:
The leaks are most likely due to faulty flashing. Even if the flashing was redone, there's no real guarantee it was done properly. The flashing needs to be set into the mortar joints; this usually means using a diamond blade to create a groove in which to seat the flashing.

Most old time masons would say that paint is the worst thing for a brick chimney. The paint inevitably traps moisture which then freezes and causes the spalling. Left alone, brick forms its own weather resistant surface - there's lots of brick in excellent shape after centuries of exposure. Anything added to the brick such as paint or sealer prevents the formation of the protective layer and is counter productive.

Burning gas does produce chemicals which can attack masonry. This might be a good reason for installing a stainless steel liner but such a liner would not have anything to do with the leaks or spalling.

I'd look for a mason who specializes in historic restoration. He/she should have the knowledge and experience to evaluate your chimney.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2009 at 7:04AM
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