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Prevent Chimney Leaks

5 Ways to Prevent a Leaky Chimney

5 Ways to Prevent Chimney Leaks

A leaking pipe, a leaking roof, a leaking window, a leaking chimney – none of them is good. Here are 5 ways make your chimney leak-proof and prevent chimney leaks. See  how to fix chimney leaks and prevent them  in, through and around your chimney.

#1 Way to Prevent Chimney Leaks: Install a Chimney Cap or Top-Mount Damper

The first place water can get into the chimney is the hole at the top, the flue opening. Preventing rain and snow from entering your chimney flue is the most basic of ways to keep your chimney and fireplace dry. There are two ways to keep water from leaking into your chimney through the flue hole:

The first way is a chimney cap. Most chimney caps attach onto or into the metal or masonry flue or they attach to the cement top of the chimney (the crown.) Its lid or roof extends beyond the edges of the open flue, thereby keeping rain and snow from entering the flue. The screen sides of the chimney cap are there to keep animals from entering your flue.

In high wind situations, rain or snow can sometimes be blown through the mesh screening and into the flue. If you have a chimney cap but still have chimney leaks that you think are the result of water coming in through the flue opening, use a top-sealing damper. Such dampers have a gasket seal: When they are closed, no rain or water can enter. The dampers are only opened when you are using your fireplace. You can get a top-sealing damper alone or also get the chimney cap that fits over it.

top-mount fireplace damper

Top Sealing Lyemance Damper without Chimney Cap


 #2 Way to Prevent Chimney Leaks: Waterproof the Cement Crown

Water can enter through the cement chimney crown in two ways:

  • Cracks in the concrete chimney crown can lead to chimney leaks.
  • Concrete is porous, so water can even leak through a chimney crown without cracks.

First repair chimney crown cracks. We recommend CrownSeal for such cracks. A similar product, CrownCoat, can only be used for horizontal and not vertical surfaces. CrownSeal works on both horizontal and vertical surfaces. In addition to repairing the cracks, it creates a flexible, waterproof coating.

Prevent chimney leaks by repairing crown cracks with CrownSeal.

Chimney crown with cracks that can cause chimney leaks.

Prevent chimney leaks by repairing crown cracks with CrownSeal.

Prevent chimney leaks by repairing crown cracks with CrownSeal.

Even if you have no cracks in the chimney crown, apply CrownSeal as a water repellent for the chimney crown.

#3 Way to Prevent Chimney Leaks: Repair Mortar Cracks

Water can leak into even very small gaps and holes in the mortar between chimney bricks and stones. Repair those mortar cracks with Crack and Joint Sealant. It just brushes on, almost like paint, but it is clear. It not only repairs the mortar, it also waterproofs it.


Crack and Joint Sealant

Crack and Joint Sealant ends chimney leaks coming in through the mortar.


#4 Way to Prevent Chimney Leaks: Waterproof the Bricks

Just as concrete is porous and allows water to seep in, bricks are also porous.  Every ten years, you need to waterproof the part of the chimney that is exposed to the elements.

Use a vapor permeable water repellent like ChimneySaver’s V.O.C. Compliant Water Repellent. Why vapor permeable? Because you want a sealant that will not trap water vapor inside the bricks and mortar. You want a product that will allow water vapor to escape out of your bricks while simultaneously preventing moisture from entering the bricks. The V.O.C. Compliant formula complies with the V.O.C. regulations in states that prohibit a solvent-based chimney water repellent.

As an added bonus, this products protects you chimney from mildew and fungus stains.

Bricks with Water Repellent to prevent chimney leaks

Bricks with Water Repellent applied to let water vapor escape while at the same time keeping water from entering the bricks.


#5 Way to Prevent Chimney Leaks: Keep Water from Entering at the Base of the Chimney

A common source of chimney leaks is at the base of the chimney, where the chimney intersects with the roof. The flashing is supposed to protect the transition, but if it is cracked or split or not sealed well, it will allow in water and melted snow. We recommend FlashSeal as it lasts significantly longer that tar-based sealants.


FlashSeal prevents chimney leaks at the flashing.

FlashSeal prevents chimney leaks at the flashing.



Take these five steps and you will have leak-proofed your chimney! Do you have other questions about chimney repair?

Posted in Fireplace and Chimney Maintenance Tagged with: ,

Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Safety Tips: Prevent Carbon Monoxide Posisoning

When is a headache, nausea, and fatigue not “just the flu” and, instead, carbon monoxide poisoning? And how can you prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your home?

Every year 20,000 Americans are treated in emergency rooms for carbon monoxide poisoning. But many of those at first thought they were dealing with a run-of-the-mill bug. Those who received treatment at the hospital quickly enough were the lucky ones: Annually, 400 people in the United States die from exposure to odorless, colorless, toxic carbon monoxide.

The only way to know for sure whether your symptoms are the result of carbon monoxide exposure, short of being tested for CO poisoning at the hospital, is to have working carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

Every home that has a gas-fire appliance, charcoal or gas grill, attached garage, or wood burning fireplace or furnace or woodstove needs one or more carbon monoxide alarms with an audible warning signal.

Carbon monoxide alarms measure levels of CO over time and will sound an alarm if levels are reached at which a normal adult might experience some symptoms. Your CO alarms should be ones evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratory. Either battery operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery backups will do the job as long as you replace the batteries according to the manufacturer’s directions. Combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarms do double duty. Remember, carbon monoxide alarms should be replaced every six years.


Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning with a Battery Powered CO Alarm
Battery Operated CO Alarms

Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning with a Plug-In CO Alarm

Plug-In CO Alarms

Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning with a Combination Smoke and CO AlarmCombination Smoke & CO Alarms


 Where should you install your carbon monoxide alarms?

  • You need at least one CO alarm on each level of your home.
  • Make sure a CO alarm is within 10 feet of each bedroom.
  • Install a CO alarm inside your attached garage.

Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning with a CO Alarm

More safety tips to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

Other than installing CO alarms with functioning batteries, there are a few additional things you must do to protect yourself and family and prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Do not use a range or oven to heat your home, even in a power outage.
  • Only use grills and hibachis outside and never in a garage or other enclosed area.
  • Do not keep a car running in your garage. Even if you have the garage door open, there is not enough air circulation to prevent a dangerous buildup of carbon monoxide.
  • Have a qualified technician install fuel-burning appliances and inspect them annually.
  • When buying a new home, have the fuel-burning appliances inspected as well as the seal between the garage and the house.
  • Do not rely on your pets to act as carbon monoxide “alarms.” Pets will not necessarily show symptoms of CO poisoning before the human inhabitants.
  • Carbon monoxide alarms need replaced every six years. Keep a record of when you installed your CO alarms in a manner that will alert you when they are six years old so you will remember to replace them. (Some write the month and year of initial installation on a sticker on the outside of the alarm and, each time the batteries are changed, note if the six years are nearly up.)

Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen to anyone, even people with new homes and new fuel-burning appliances, but infants and children, pregnant women and their unborn babies, people with heart problems or lung conditions , and the elderly are especially at risk for dangerous or even deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.

Most people think of fireplace screens, fireplace tools, firewood holders and fireplace grates as the essential fireplace accessories, but smoke alarms and CO alarms–or combination smoke and CO alarms– are also important. These alarms can prevent carbon monoxide poisoning of your family, friends and pets.

Posted in Fireplace and Chimney Maintenance, Safety Tagged with:

Will Fireplace Ashes Melt Ice?


Will fireplace ashes melt ice or just improve traction on ice? Are there advantages or disadvantages to using ashes instead of rock salt or other chemicals on snow and ice? What are the pros and cons of other de-icers compared with using fireplace ashes on icy surfaces?

Will Fireplace Ashes Melt Ice and Snow?

Fireplace ashes primarily provide traction on icy and snowy surfaces. As a secondary function, fireplace ashes melt ice and snow by darkening the area. Dark areas absorb more of the sun’s heat, thereby speeding up the melting process on sidewalks, driveways, streets and steps to which ashes have been applied.

fireplace ashes melt snow and provide traction

 Advantages of Fireplace Ashes

Fireplace ashes are a natural abrasive, so they provide good traction in winter conditions.

  • They are free! Your fireplace produces them during the cold seasons when ice and snow are an issue.
  • Fireplace ashes do not cause damage to lawns, shrubs or trees.
  • The ashes are actually beneficial for plant growth as it contains 13 essential nutrients soil supplies for plant growth.
  • Conveniently, hardwoods, which are best for fireplace and woodstove burning, produce about three times as much ash and five times more soil nutrients than softwood.
  • Fireplace ashes will not corrode concrete or metals (as some de-icers will.)
  • The ashes from your fireplace will not injure the pet paws.

Disadvantages of Fireplace Ashes

While they are both free and won’t damage plants, there are some disadvantages of using fireplace ashes on ice and snow.

  • Because fireplace ashes are alkaline, use the same caution with them as you would when handling other highly alkaline materials: Use gloves, eye protection and (if the ashes are very fine) a dust mask.
  • Ashes can get tracked into the house. They are, therefore, best used on driveways, roads and areas away from the house such as by barns and garden composts.
  • You don’t want to use ashes from fire pits or grills if you use fire starting fluids with these fires. These added chemicals are not good for your lawn.
  • Fireplace ashes melt ice more slowly than chemical solutions. If you want to speed up the process, mix vegetation- and pet-safe ethylene glycol de-icers (like Safe Paw Ice Melter) or calcium magnesium acetate de-icers (like Snow Joe Melter) with the ashes. Mixed this way, fireplace ashes melt ice and snow more quickly and thoroughly. While these de-icers can be a bit pricey, by mixing them into your ash bucket with the ashes, you can stretch your dollar.

    Safe Paws and Snow Joe Melt

    SafePaws and Snow Joe Melt – Mix either one with fireplace ashes to get a more effective ice or snow melt.

Pros and Cons of Other De-icers

While we think fireplace ashes melt ice and snow well enough and provide good walking and driving traction, they are not the only de-icers available.

  • Sand – Adds traction but is not a de-icer per se. Not harmful to plants, and in the amounts used for de-icing, sand is safe for pet paws. A natural product like fireplace ashes, it is nonetheless less of a problem if it gets tracked inside.
  • Rock and Table Salt – The most common of de-icers, it is also known as sodium chloride. This inexpensive de-icer, works well on snow and ice, but it damages plants, soil and paved surfaces, and it is highly corrosive on metals (think cars and snowmobiles.) Chemical formula: (NaCl)
  • Calcium chloride  – Most chemical de-icers are effective to 15 or 20 degrees Fahrenheit, but calcium chloride is works down to negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit, so it is preferred in super cold climates. Its disadvantages are that it can leave a slippery reside, is expensive, and is highly corrosive to concrete and metals. Chemical formula: (CaCl 2 )
  • Potassium chloride – This is used as both a de-icer and as a fertilizer, so it is better than salt for plants. Over time, however, it can pollute lakes and streams through runoff. It can also corrode metals such as concrete reinforcement bars. Chemical formula: (KCl)
  • Calcium magnesium acetate – Made from a type of limestone, as a de-icer it is harmful to neither plants nor animals. It is less corrosive than other de-icers. Its major drawback is its expense. Chemical formula: (CMA)
  • Urea or carbamide –  This is an organic compound synthesized from natural gas (not urine!) It is a moderately effective de-icer more useful it light winter than heavy winter situations. Runoff can be a pollution problem. Chemical formula: (NH2)2CO
  • Manual – If you’d rather skip the gym and get a workout while you remove the snow, a heavy duty ice chopper-scraper can make ice removal not only possible but also much easier than your would expect.
  • De-Icing Heat Mats – For those who never want to deal with ice or snow on sidewalks or steps again, de-icing mats such as HeatTrak are the way to go! They are designed to stay outside all winter, and, when one or a series are turned on, they safely melt ice and snow. With a wireless control switch, you can even turn them on without going outside. These are a great gift for older relatives living in cold climates.

    De-icing Mats

    De-Icing Mats remove the need have fireplace ashes melt ice and snow.

Note of Caution

“Fireplace ashes” means cold ashes. Don’t be tempted to think warm embers and fireplace ashes melt ice and snow more effectively than cold ones. A stray hot ember is a good way to get to know your local firefighters way too well.

cold fireplace ashes melt ice

The Fire Department warms: Do not use hot fireplace ashes and embers as de-icers this winter.

Also, store ashes in a metal ash bucket with a lid. A cardboard box will not cut it!

Reference: Oregon State Extension Service

Posted in General, Safety Tagged with:

New Year Fireplace Banners

New Year Fireplace Banners

Proclaim “Happy New Year” with banners or garlands or pennants hung from your fireplace mantel. Your options for messages on New Year fireplace banners range from the new year’s numerals to “Happy New Year” and more novel expressions such as “Cheers!”

New Year Fireplace Banners with Year’s Numerals

The classic way to decorate your fireplace mantel for the New Year is to display the numerals of the new year. Depending on  your point of view, that means each year you “have to” or you “get to” buy a new banner.

The following two New Year Fireplace Banners have big (15 inch tall) numbers and come on a six foot line, long enough for even large fireplace. Each jazzes up the number with stars and glittery colors. Choose from classic Silver and Black Sparkle Year Streamer or the more vibrant Multi-Color Sparkle Year Streamer.


For a smaller fireplace, these strung Gold 8 Inch Tall Year Numbers with printed-on glitter work well. Use it alone, or get three of them: One to hang toward the left of the fireplace, one to hang in the middle, and the third to hang toward the right of the fireplace.


Want a short-cut way to make your own New Year Fireplace Banner with the year? These twenty sturdy cut-outs , below, of the year’s number each measure 7 inches wide and 5 inches tall. The glitter looks like sparkly glitter, but is actually printed on the cards, so it won’t flake off onto your hearth or rug. Simply hang or string these on a ribbon of your choice, and you have a great fireplace banner to welcome the new year.


New Year DIY Fireplace Banner Year Numbers

Create a DIY New Year Fireplace Banner with these 20 pre-made year cards.


New Year Fireplace Banners That Say “Happy New Year”

Go straight to the message with a fireplace mantel banner or garland with those three magic words for January 1st: Happy New Year!

With large, 8 1/2 inch by 8 1/2 inch letters, the Beistle Happy New Year Streamers are a great size. The letters can be spread out more if you are using them with especially large fireplaces.  The Beistle Streamers come in sparkly Gold and Black, Silver and Black, and Multi-Color.


Prismatic New Years fireplace banners give the illusion of 3-D prisms and are designed to reflect light from the fireplace and the room. They come in Silver and Black or Gold and Black Banners as well as a New Year Individual Letters Streamer with Prismatic Dots.


These New Year fireplace banners below have one letter on each pennant – whether the pennant is a triangle, square or circle.

Triangle, square, and circular individual letter New Years banners.

Triangle, square, and circular individual letter New Years banners.


Jointed or hinged Happy New Year fireplace banners are another option.

Jointed or Hinged New Year Fireplace Banners

Hinged Happy New Year Fireplace Banners come in a 5 foot long Silver and Black or in a 4 foot long Multi-Colors.


Foil fringe New Year banners work well over a lit fireplace because the waves of rising heat will gently flutter the fringe!

Foil Fringed New Year Fireplace Banners

Foil Fringed New Year Fireplace Banners flutter as the heat rises from the fireplace.

If you want the best of both worlds for you fireplace mantel – the New Year’s numerals and the words “Happy New Year,” you are in luck with these Bunting Banners:

Two-piece New Year Fireplace Banner in Silver or Gold

Two-piece New Year Fireplace Banner in Silver or Gold

Reuse them next year by just taking off the pennants with the year.


New Year Fireplace Banners That Say “Cheers”

Banners that say “Cheers” are versatile. They can be used for New Year’s and encourage a toast. They can also be displayed for weddings, anniversaries, graduations, and promotion parties.


Cheers Banners

Cheers Banners Work for New Years as Well as Other Events


No matter which option you select to welcome the New Year, whether banners or pennants on the fireplace mantel with the new year’s numerals, the words Happy New Year, or the single word Cheers, have a happy and safe New Year’s Eve.

Also, see more ideas for New Year’s Mantel Decorations.

Posted in Decorating, Holidays Tagged with: ,
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