Tips & Tricks for Common Problems

Chimney Leaks

Chimney leaks are a common and easily fixable issue that many homeowners face. There are three main causes for this issue: improper flashing, furnace condensation, and masonry issues. We will discuss these three, and what we can do to stop leaks in the future.

Sometimes, it is simply improper flashing that causes chimney leaks; often times the caulking between a chimney and the roof cracks from contraction and expansion due to the temperature and humidity changes in our climate. In order to fix this type of issue, we would replace the existing flashing with a proper flashing, which generally requires cutting into the masonry to ensure that no leaks will occur.

Another common reason that chimney leaks occur is from an improper venting of high efficiency furnaces. Often times, a HE furnace is vented into a preexisting chimney. This, however, can cause condensation when the vented water and air condensates before it evaporates and weeps through the chimney. This poses additional problems, as the chemical makeup of the vented air further deteriorates the mortar of the chimney, possibly causing it to fail over time. In order to fix this issue, we would need to install a properly sized vent from the high efficiency furnace to vent it properly.

The last main reason that a chimney leaks is that the masonry absorbs water when there is long term, soaking rains – rain that lasts for a day or longer. This happens relatively frequently in this climate, causing the masonry to become saturated and the water to leak beneath the flashing. Using a breathable masonry sealer, we can fix this problem and prevent future rain from causing leakage.

Damp Basements

It is the rainy season again, spring has sprung and everything seems to be smiling again. We are starting to open up windows to let the fresh air in and put winter wears away. As we get into the basement we notice wet concrete, maybe even standing water or just a musty smell. Here are just a few simple tips to help keep your basement dry:

1.  Make sure all your gutters are clean, properly hung, bottom connections back together and most of all have a long enough leader on the bottom of the downspouts to shed the water downhill away from the house.

2.  If you see low spots or standing water, back fill with top soil or fill to help promote water run off away from your house.

3.  If you have window wells, make sure they are free of debris and leaves. That way, if moisture or water gets into them they can properly drain.

4.  Consider window well covers that are not tight fitting so air can circulate but water stays out.

5.  If all of this fails you may want to talk to somebody about exterior drainage or a strategically placed sump pump.

Gutter Cleaning

By far one of the most important and maybe one of the least thought of roof and house maintenance items that there is. Not cleaning gutters, or having gutters that do not properly work can lead to many different problems:

1. Water in the basement or damp basements
2. Rotted window sills or siding
3. Possible wall leakage from window or door exposure (a lot of times this goes unnoticed until major damage occurs)
4. Unsightly dirt splashing on the house
5. Additional ice build up in the gutters
6. Many times due to the weight of the debris the gutters can fall off and many times bring the fascia and soffit with it.

Gutters and downspouts should be cleaned out at least twice a year. Once in the fall when the last leaves have fallen, sometimes this is a very short window of opportunity before the winter comes and freezes everything up so they can’t be cleaned. Second, we like to clean at the end of May or the beginning of June, right after the maple seeds (helicopters) fall.

You can’t clean gutters too often and sometimes after a big wind or storm they might fill and plug at the least expected times.