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Old 12-14-2010, 04:03 PM   #1
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Chimney leaking


Hi all,

I'm in the middle of a new construction project and, as part of that contract, the subs finished up the fireplace/chimney within the last couple weeks.

This past weekend, after a particular nasty rain storm, I had major water issues at the bottom of my chimney in the basement, as well as above and into the firebox of the first floor fireplace.

Here is a picture of the base of the chimney:



Now, this chimney goes down the outside of the house (i.e., it's not a middle of the house chimney), so there are three sides of brick for about 28 or so feet (2 ft x 5 ft x 2 ft) up the side of the house, and then another 8-10 feet of a full four sides above the roof.

I have confirmed that all caulking along the chimney and the house was done appropriately (vinyl siding). All roof flashing was done correctly. Also, based upon how this leak manifested itself, it's almost impossible for it to have been caused by a problem with flashing/caulking. The crown appears to be sealed and there is a very good chimney cap in place.

I also inquired with our brick supplier and, based upon the type of brick we purchased (high end Belden Brick), he said he believes that the brick should not be that porous.

The bricks away from the house (mainly the 5ft width, and then half way down both sides towards the house, but not against the house) were the ones that were drenched.

I opened up the damper and looked up inside and the cement for the firebox was fairly dry, the flue was dry, but just the brick was soaked.

Has anyone had an experience like this before? Despite my supplier's comments about the porous nature of the brick, I'm going to attempt to prove or disprove his statement by filling a bucket with water, marking a water line, and then submerging two perfectly dry bricks. After 24 hours, I'll pull the bricks out and see where the water level is. I could be completely wrong but, I would assume that, if the brick is indeed porous, I would notice a significant reduction in the water level when removing the brick (based upon the original pre-brick water level).

Assuming the supplier is right, and the brick is not porous to the extent that it would cause that kind of water intrusion, what would be some other points of failure on a brand new chimney that I have not yet looked at?

Any and all ideas are welcome.

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Old 12-14-2010, 11:09 PM   #2
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Chimney leaking


That's certainly ALOT of water to be leaking in. My first guess, w/o seeing alot more pictures, would be that the flashing into the chimney is leaking. Hard to guess from that one picture though.

As far as the porosity of the brick, I would find that somewhat unlikely. A porous brick can soak up a vast amount of water before it would actually leak into the inside like your picture. As for the test, an hour should be more than enough to determine how soft the brick are. Fairly soft brick will clearly "bubble" when submersed into water.

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Old 12-15-2010, 06:54 AM   #3
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Chimney leaking


Is there even a cap between the flue and brick???? That is a lot of water.
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Old 12-15-2010, 07:24 AM   #4
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Chimney leaking


silicone siloxane for the brickwork. dig down outside & fine where t6he water's coming in ( use your hose ),,, roofing cement over the hole(s)
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Old 12-15-2010, 09:07 AM   #5
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Chimney leaking


Quote:
Is there even a cap between the flue and brick???? That is a lot of water.
Mentioned in the post. Yes, there is a good chimney cap and, when opening the damper and examining up the flue, the flues were almost bone dry. Not a chimney capping issue.

Quote:
My first guess, w/o seeing alot more pictures, would be that the flashing into the chimney is leaking.
Mentioned in the post. I inspected all of the flashing and it was done correct and is not the culprit. The location of the water (outside of the chimney, almost two feet away from the house), also rules out the flashing.

Quote:
As far as the porosity of the brick, I would find that somewhat unlikely. A porous brick can soak up a vast amount of water before it would actually leak into the inside like your picture. As for the test, an hour should be more than enough to determine how soft the brick are. Fairly soft brick will clearly "bubble" when submersed into water.
That's what I thought. Although, we have approximately 342 sq. ft. of brick exposed to the elements and, in this particular storm, that side of the house was experiencing ridiculous amounts of horizontal rain, banging against the chimney.

When I put the brick in water, I did indeed notice air bubbles percolating to the surface, which is definitely something that tells me this may be a very porous brick.
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Old 12-15-2010, 11:26 AM   #6
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Chimney leaking


High porosity bricks often perform better than low porosity bricks, known as the overcoat/raincoat effect. Most of the water comes in through the mortar joints and low porosity bricks send more water into the joints, whereas high soak it up and then it evaporates before reaching the inside.
All the chimneys like yours that I've built were cavity walls ( brick/2-4inch air gap/brick) so water could not reach the inner wall.
There could be a design fault with the stack.
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Old 12-15-2010, 11:34 AM   #7
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My mindset is certainly along the same lines as stu's.


We need alot more info on how and wear this thing is built, and more pics certainly wouldn't hurt either. From what I can see from the one pic, this is anything but a typically constructed chimney chase.
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Old 12-15-2010, 12:29 PM   #8
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Chimney leaking


Thanks, guys.

I'll see if I can get more pictures. Unfortunately, I don't have any more o the leaks, but can only describe where it's coming in. I do have these pictures available for what the chimney looks like. I can get more specific pictures to add as well. Here is an exterior picture:



Here is the interior firebox (ignore the window leak, I'm already dealing with that BS):

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Old 12-15-2010, 12:32 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stuart45 View Post
High porosity bricks often perform better than low porosity bricks, known as the overcoat/raincoat effect. Most of the water comes in through the mortar joints and low porosity bricks send more water into the joints, whereas high soak it up and then it evaporates before reaching the inside.
That makes sense. My question though is, what about the freak rainstorm where massive amounts of rain and, specifically horizontal driving rain, saturate the brick. Is it possible to saturate the brick to a point where it cannot hold water any longer and then leaks into the inside of the brick? I mean, a normal rainstorm I can see the brick just soaking it up and then letting it evaporate after it ends. But what about extremely heavy rains? Same thing?
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Old 12-15-2010, 01:31 PM   #10
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Chimney leaking


I would imagine that the entire chase is concrete block backing with brick veneer? Why they used brick for the first 4' is beyond me, but this really should be flashed & weeped to the exterior. Have you tried to get in touch with the mason so he can have a look?

BTW, it's a common mis-conception that masonry veneers are waterproof on their own, they are not. The back-up wall, whether it be wood or masonry, should be water proof BEFORE the veneer goes on and there should certainly be some sort f drainage plane in place (in the wall cavity) that allows any water to exit to the exterior.
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Old 12-15-2010, 01:56 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AgentW View Post
That makes sense. My question though is, what about the freak rainstorm where massive amounts of rain and, specifically horizontal driving rain, saturate the brick. Is it possible to saturate the brick to a point where it cannot hold water any longer and then leaks into the inside of the brick? I mean, a normal rainstorm I can see the brick just soaking it up and then letting it evaporate after it ends. But what about extremely heavy rains? Same thing?
Yes, it's possible in heavy, driving rain to penetrate the brick veneer. Thats why we have a 2,3 or 4 inch air gap cavity and then the inside masonry wall.
This is a drainage system as jomama mentioned. Any new construction should be waterproof whatever the weather throws at it.
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Old 12-15-2010, 02:48 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by jomama45 View Post
I would imagine that the entire chase is concrete block backing with brick veneer?
Nope, this is not a brick veneer. What you see in that first picture (just brick) is how it's built all the way up (other than the firebox/smoke chamber areas, obviously).

I was concerned, when this was being built, that they were just building with brick and not veneering over a cement blocking. However, I was assured by both my GC and mason that this is how chimney's are built.*

*NOTE, now that I think about this, there may have been some brick veneering as well, because he did mention using cement block backing in the chimney. I'm not 100% sure. I apologize if I'm confusing anyone.

Last edited by AgentW; 12-15-2010 at 02:58 PM.
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Old 12-15-2010, 02:59 PM   #13
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Chimney leaking


I am not surprised it's leaking if it's only 4 inches thick.
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Old 12-15-2010, 03:24 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by stuart45 View Post
I am not surprised it's leaking if it's only 4 inches thick.
Nor am I, but I think I'm confused yet to the actual construction.

I was assuming the first picture posted was from the inside of the basement??

If so, that's at least a 8" wide wall, and the brick are flush with the interior & exterior, according to the following picture..........
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Old 12-15-2010, 03:41 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by jomama45 View Post
Nor am I, but I think I'm confused yet to the actual construction.

I was assuming the first picture posted was from the inside of the basement??

If so, that's at least a 8" wide wall, and the brick are flush with the interior & exterior, according to the following picture..........
The first picture was indeed taken in the basement.

You make a excellent observation and now, my memory is failing me. I will have to get more detailed pictures. Though the picture looks exactly as you describe, I'm pretty sure there's a lip both on the outside and inside of the foundation wall where the chimney brick rests. I know he did not use cement block there, and I'm pretty positive he did not double up the brick either. There is a huge amount of excess mortar sitting on that ledge of the interior, so it's possible (probable) that is what is making the brick look flush with the interior of the wall.

The foundation, in that particular area, is indeed 8" wide (rest of house is 10").

I'm at work now, so I cannot get any more pictures today. Hopefully within the next day I can get more detailed pictures.

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