The cold months of winter are the heaviest use period for your fireplace; unfortunately, these are the same months that can cause the most damage to your chimney. The combination of moisture from rain, snow, and ice along with freezing temperatures can cause damage to your chimney through what is known as the freeze/thaw cycle. However, there are steps that homeowners can take to protect their chimneys and minimize damage.
What is the freeze/thaw cycle?
The freeze/thaw cycle is a process of repeated chimney damage caused by the combination of moisture and freezing temperatures. Damage from the freeze thaw cycle can show up in as little as one winter, but is commonly seen when the chimney deteriorates year after year.
The freeze/thaw cycle begins when your masonry absorbs small amounts of water. Because bricks are naturally porous, this water can be absorbed from a number of sources including rain, snow, ice, and even sprinklers and hoses. While brick in good condition will only absorb a miniscule amount, masonry with any sort of cracks or chips can absorb significantly more.
As the temperatures outside drop, the water trapped inside the masonry will freeze. The freezing water then expands, creating a larger hole or crack in the bricks. When the ice melts, the brick will now be able to absorb more and more water, creating larger and larger holes with each freeze. This freeze/thaw process can cause masonry to crack, chip, and spall.
Preventing freeze/thaw damage
Since none of us can control the weather, it is important to find other ways to prevent or minimize the effects of freeze/thaw damage on the chimney. One of the best ways of preventing this kind of damage is by having your chimney waterproofed. Special masonry sealers are applied to the chimney, allowing it to retain its naturally porous properties while creating a waterproof barrier on the masonry. While waterproofing is good preventative maintenance for any chimney, it is especially recommended for homes that have begun to show signs of water damage from the freeze/thaw cycle as it can protect the chimney against further deterioration.
Regular chimney inspections are another way to minimize the effects of freeze/thaw damage to your chimney. Because chimney cracking and spalling caused by freeze thaw damage starts of small and gets progressively worse over the years, it can often be spotted in its early stages during annual chimney inspections. Identifying freeze/thaw damage early can allow preventative measures – such as waterproofing – to be taken, as well as for bricks and masonry to be repaired before they damage the structure or stability of the chimney.
Don’t let your chimney suffer negative effects from the freeze/thaw cycle. Contact Coopertown Services today to learn more about how moisture and freeze/thaw can affect your chimney structure or to schedule your next preventative maintenance appointment today!