The chimney flue liner is vital for protecting your home against fire and preventing toxic gases from spilling back into the house when using your fireplace. Depending on when your chimney was constructed, it may have a clay tile lining, which can crack, putting your family and home at risk.
Let’s look at what causes flue liners to crack, how dangerous this problem can be, and how to fix it.
How Do Flue Tiles Crack?
Clay flue liners are standard in many chimneys across the country because they’re inexpensive to install. However, compared to metal or cast-in-place liners, they’re not durable.
The most common cause of cracked clay tiles is uneven heat distribution through the chimney. Uneven heat causes the tiles to buckle and crack because clay doesn’t absorb heat as well as other materials.
Dangers of Cracked Flue Tiles
Flue liners are mandatory in new fireplace construction because they’re the first defense against chimney fires. So, if your liner is cracked, the longer you ignore the issue, the greater the risk to your home and family.
Broken or missing flue tiles can lead to the following issues.
A properly functioning chimney system shuttles toxic gas from combustion up the flue and out of the house. If your flue liner is cracked, this gas can seep back into the house, putting your family at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. According to the CDC, During 2010-2015, a total of 2,444 deaths resulted from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, with the highest numbers of deaths each year occurring in winter months. Carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, and many people don’t know they have a problem until it’s too late.
Loss of Efficiency
Think of your chimney like a straw; if the straw is cracked, it’s more difficult for the liquid to flow. The same is true for the chimney. If flue tiles are broken, the smoke and gas produced by the fire won’t flow out of the house as intended. Poor airflow causes your fireplace to burn inefficiently, and you won’t get the heat output you would if your chimney liner was intact.
A cracked chimney liner also puts your home at risk of a fire. The high temperatures in the chimney can contact your home’s combustible materials through the cracks, causing a fire to erupt. Experts say that woodwork exposed to an unlined chimney or damaged liner can ignite in as little as 3.5 hours. If your family is asleep or not at home, the loss could be devastating.
Finally, a damaged chimney liner allows the gases to penetrate the brick-and-mortar chimney components. These gases are corrosive and can cause the masonry materials to break down, leading to chimney leaning or collapse.
How to Fix a Damaged Flue Liner
As we discussed, clay flue liners aren’t good at absorbing heat, more prone to damage, and are less durable than other materials like metal. If you have a few damaged tiles, it’s safe to replace them, but keep in mind that it’s only a matter of time before the problem rears its head again. Clay liners have a lifespan of about five to ten years, depending on the quality. If your clay tile liner is cracked, you’re better off spending a little more money to replace it with a more durable material like stainless steel or a cast-in-place chimney liners. Both liners can last for your entire life with regular maintenance, making either a better investment than clay.
How Do I Know When My Flue Liner Needs Replacing?
It’s difficult for the average homeowner to know something’s wrong within their chimney until a catastrophe happens. The best way to stay in the loop about the state of your chimney is to schedule an annual inspection by a certified professional. A professional chimney technician can detect minor damage and repair it before it gets out of hand—furthermore, routine chimney inspection and cleaning guards against creosote buildup, another cause of chimney fires. If your flue liner is damaged, a pro will recommend whether it’s more cost-effective to repair or replace it.
Call the Fluesbrothers!
Our founder started Fluesbrothers Chimney & Fireplace shortly after receiving his degree from the NCSG Chimney Sweeping School. Every technician is certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America and the National Fireplace Institute. They undergo continuous education to stay abreast of the latest technologies and techniques to keep families safe.
We’re a full-service chimney service company, which means that regardless of what problem you have with your chimney or fireplace, we’re the only company you need to call. Whether you need flue liner repair, chimney cleaning, inspection, or maintenance, call us at 913-236-7141 or make an appointment online.