What are Some Common Chimney Problems and What Causes Them?

Keeping a chimney safe and efficient requires periodic maintenance that includes sweeping, inspections and timely repairs. But even the best-maintained chimneys occasionally experience problems. Fluesbrothers Chimney & Fireplace of Kansas City, KS, would like to outline five of the more common chimney problems and why they happen.

Chimney Fire, Overland Park KS1. Chimney fires

Most chimney fires are started when creosote ignites inside the flue. Creosote is a byproduct of smoke condensation and can be solid, sticky or puffy in form. Big chimney fires are obvious, but smaller ones may not be.

Many chimney fires start and go out on their own, usually resulting in some level of interior flue damage. The first and best step toward reducing the chances of a chimney fire at your home is to have your flue professionally inspected and swept once a year.


2. Smoke backing up into the house

There are several possible causes of smoke backing up out of the fireplace.

  • Your house is too airtight to allow enough air to reach the firebox and create an upward draft
  • Exhaust fans, such as in the kitchen or bathroom, are running and drawing air away from the firebox
  • The fireplace damper is closed or only partially open
  • The air inside the flue is cold and heavy, which hinders the rise of warmer air
  • The flue is obstructed

3. Animals and debris in the flue

Squirrels, birds, rodents, raccoons and other small animals like to get into chimneys for shelter and to give birth. Tree debris, such as leaves and twigs, also can find its way into a chimney. These obstructions narrow your flue and prevent smoke from drafting properly. In most cases, the reason for this problem is a severely damaged chimney cap or no chimney cap at all. A secure full-width cap will keep debris out of the chimney.

Chimney Brick Water Damage, Prairie Village KS

4. Chimney leaks

Chimney leaks can start in many places within the chimney system, including the chimney cap, chimney crown, flashing and masonry. Damage to any of these parts of a chimney can lead to ongoing water intrusion and widespread damage to other areas of the system as well as nearby home building materials.

Watch for these signs of a leaky chimney:

  • Water in the firebox
  • White staining, or “efflorescence,” on the exterior chimney bricks (this means water is penetrating the bricks)
  • Rusty or squeaky fireplace damper
  • Wet patches on the ceiling or walls near the fireplace
  • Damp, musty odors coming from the fireplace

5. Smelly chimney

Excess moisture in the flue, which is usually the result of a chimney leak, can cause strong musty odors in the flue. The smell will be worse when moisture mixes with large amounts of soot, oily creosote and nesting materials. Dead animals can also cause an odor in a chimney. Certain species regularly become trapped inside flues and die, unable to get back out. You can prevent most smelly chimney problems with regular chimney sweeping and a quality chimney cap.

Help for your Kansas City chimney

Fluesbrothers is ready to help with all these common chimney problems and any other issues that might arise with your chimney or fireplace. We provide expert chimney cleaning, chimney repairs and thorough chimney and fireplace inspections. Speak with a chimney professional today at (913) 236-7141 or reach out with our simple contact form.