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November 20, 2017

How to winterize log home chimneys

One of the joys of owning a log home or log cabin getaway is gathering around a toasty fire in the living room as you play games, visit with friends and family, or just enjoy your favorite beverage on a cold winter’s night. If you want those moments to continue, however, taking care of your chimney is critical. As temperatures drop and winter approaches here in the mountains of California, it’s a great time to take stock and take care of your log home’s fireplace chimney.

California weather can bring dramatic highs and lows within a 24-hour period, especially in the mountains where log homes are often located. This causes expanding and contracting of the chimney, which can result in gaps, cracks, and crumbling mortar that allow moisture to get into the chimney.  If these moisture issues aren’t addressed, using the fireplace and chimney could become a hazard. That’s why it’s important to keep up with winter chimney care each year.

An easy annual task is to have your chimney checked by a professional and cleaned if needed. Creosote, soot and ash buildup in the chimney can block ventilation and cause smoke and dangerous fumes to come back into the home.

While you are having your chimney inspected, ask them to check if it’s been sealed (waterproofed). Materials used to construct a traditional masonry chimney are usually porous and can absorb large amounts of moisture. This can cause rapid deterioration as water freezes and thaws. Water can also leak through to the walls and ceiling around the chimney, as well as cause rust on any metal components.

Waterproofing materials are available which allow the chimney to breathe and yet prevent water from entering from the outside.  Applying waterproofing should only be done to a unit that is sound; any repairs that are needed should be made before applying the waterproofing agents.

Chimneys will sometimes need additional protection against water leakage, such as when water run-off on the roof is channeled toward it. If that is the case, installing a cricket will help. A chimney cricket is a small peaked roof installed on the back side of a chimney to deflect water and debris from it. Made from galvanized steel, stainless steel, or aluminum, a cricket can be excellent protection against water infiltration of the chimney. Crickets are often installed to protect chimneys on the low side of the roof, chimneys on a steep roof, and those that are 30 inches wide or more.

One last bit of winterizing advice for your chimney really doesn’t have to do with the chimney itself, but with what you put in it – your firewood. Here are a few things to keep in mind when storing firewood during the winter. Store your firewood at least two feet away from the side of your home, keep it off of the ground and covered. This helps keep the wood dry and allows air to circulate throughout the pile. Also, be aware that wood stored outside is likely to have bugs inside of it. So when you bring firewood inside, only bring in as much as you plan to burn in a day. Keeping large piles of firewood next to the fireplace may sound like a good idea, but once logs warm up and bugs start to emerge, you may think otherwise.