Help! My Fireplace is Leaking Water: What Should I Do?

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: December 6, 2023

If your fireplace is leaking water, you have to act fast: a leaking chimney can quickly cause structural damage and mold, and lead to thousands of dollars’ worth of expensive repairs.

Don’t worry, though – you’re not in it alone.

Here at ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba, we’ve been helping repair water damage in Chicago-area homes since 2008, so we understand what it takes to fix the mess caused by a leaking chimney. 

In this blog, we’ll share our top tips for fixing a leaking chimney and repairing the damage caused by water intrusion. 

Before You Get Started

Before you dive in to repair the damage, follow these tips:

1. Document the damage

Take detailed photos of the water damage caused by the fireplace leak. These photos will be critical when you go to file an insurance claim and will help you prove the extent of the damage in your home. 

2. Inspect the chimney

It’s easier to fix water damage if you know where it’s coming from. With this in mind, inspect your chimney to determine the cause and source of the water intrusion.

3. Consider hiring a pro

Depending on the severity and origin of the chimney leak, it may or may not be a DIY job. 

If you’re reasonably handy, the damage is minimal, and the leak is in an obvious, easy-to-reach place, you may be able to repair it on your own. 

If you’re not sure where the leak is coming from, or the damage was extensive, it may be wiser to hire a professional for assistance. 

A pro can repair hard-to-reach leaks and fix things like wet flooring or drywall, so your home doesn’t develop mold, mildew, or further moisture problems. 

4. Call your insurance company

Before you repair the damage (or have it repaired professionally), contact your insurance company to file a claim and get a claim number. 

Your insurer will be able to help you understand what steps to take to file a damage claim and what you’ll need to do to secure reimbursement.

Why Chimney Leaks Happen

While there are dozens of causes of fireplace or chimney leaks, here are a few of the most common:

  • There’s no chimney cover. If your chimney doesn’t have a cover at the top of the chimney pipe, rain will travel straight down the chimney, through your fireplace, and into your home. 
  • There’s a crack in the chimney crown. The chimney crown is the cement part that sits at the top of the chimney. The purpose of the chimney crown is to keep rain, snow, and moisture out. When the crown gets cracked or broken, though, water seeps through the cracks and enters your home.
  • The chimney is leaking from condensation. If you live in an older house with an unlined chimney, your leak may be caused by condensation within the chimney.
  • Your chimney’s flashing is installed incorrectly. Chimney flashing sits at the juncture of your chimney and the roof, creating a barrier that keeps rain and snow out of the gap between the chimney and the roof surface. Flashing is usually made of aluminum sealed at the edges with tar. However, these materials don’t last forever, and chimney leaks may develop over time. 
  • Your chimney bricks are leaking. If your chimney is made of bricks, they’re secured with mortar. Over time, bricks and mortar freeze and thaw, shift and settle, and develop tiny cracks that allow water to be absorbed into the joint between the materials and leak into the home. 

Additional causes of chimney leaks include an open or damaged damper, a deteriorating flue liner in the chimney, a leak in the attic, or a clogged gutter. 

Signs of Chimney Leaking

If you think you may have a chimney or fireplace leak, look for signs like pooling water around the fireplace, stains on the exposed chimney surface or in the attic, stains on the rafters close to the chimney, and water-damaged insulation on the floor of your attic. You may also notice damaged paint, wallpaper, or drywall near the chimney or a persistent musty or damp smell. 

How to Fix Water Leaking From the Fireplace

How you fix your chimney leak depends on the source of the leak. That said, here are a few of the most common solutions:

1. Add a chimney cover

If your chimney leak is caused by rain and moisture traveling straight down an uncovered chimney pipe, add a simple chimney cover to the top of the unit.

2. Fix cracked chimney crowns

How you fix a cracked crown depends on how severe the damage is. If you have a small crack, you can use a crown coating material to cover the damaged masonry and make it waterproof again. If you have a larger crack in the chimney crown, you may need to remove and reapply the masonry around it. 

3. Line unlined chimneys

If you live in an old home and your chimney is leaking because it’s unlined, adding a chimney liner can keep the bricks from becoming moist and creating condensation in your house. 

4. Re-seal flashing

If your chimney flashing is leaking, re-seal it with a store-bought sealant. If the flashing is rusted, bent, or broken, you may need a chimney professional to replace and reseal the flashing. 

5. Waterproof your chimney

If your chimney’s bricks are leaking, contact a chimney specialist for a Masonry Absorption Test (MAT). This test determines whether the bricks are absorbing water and if waterproofing your chimney will help stop moisture intrusion problems. 

When to Call a Professional Restoration Company

While a leaking chimney is inconvenient, it can also be a significant danger to your home! 

Over time, chimney leaks can cause various issues, including damage to your roof and attic (including deterioration of support structures), structural damage in your house, mold and mildew formation, stains, water spots, discoloration, and more!

Because chimney leaks can be so destructive, we recommend contacting a professional at the first sign of chimney-related water damage

A professional will be able to identify the source of the damage and provide comprehensive repair so you don’t run into more issues down the road. 

How to Prevent Fireplace Leaks

Want to prevent fireplace leaks before they happen? Follow these tips:

  • Inspect masonry annually. Water leaks can occur anywhere there’s masonry around your chimney. With this in mind, inspect your chimney at least once a year and repair cracked, missing, or damaged bricks and degrading mortar joints. While you inspect the masonry, look at the chimney crown and flashing to ensure they’re in good shape, too.
  • Add a chimney cap. If you don’t already have a cap on your chimney, add one. In addition to keeping water out of your firebox, it can help prevent debris from clogging the flue. 
  • Replace your fireplace damper. The damper is a metal or aluminum cover inside your chimney’s flue. It keeps outside elements out and protects the fireplace when you’re not using it. Over time, though, flues warp, break, and wear down. To prevent leaking, inspect your chimney flue regularly and replace it when you notice signs of wear and tear. 
  • Stay up on your waterproofing. If your chimney is made of brick, reapply waterproof coatings every 5-10 years to prevent leaks and keep your home dry. 
  • Hire a professional to maintain the chimney. The best way to prevent chimney leaks is to hire a professional to provide annual maintenance and inspection. While you may be able to spot apparent damage to your chimney, other problems are challenging to spot with the naked eye. An experienced professional can identify and repair damage before it causes a leak. 

Are You Dealing With Water Damage In Chicago Or Suburbs? We Can Help! 

If your chimney is leaking and has damaged your home, you’re probably wondering what to do. 

Fortunately, you don’t have to navigate this challenging situation alone. 

Here at ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba, our team can help you deal with the water damage caused by your leaking chimney. 

Contact us today to learn more about our services or how we can help restore your home and your peace of mind.