Brown liquid dripping from a chimney is one of the most common and frustrating problems homeowners can encounter. Not only can it be ugly and smelly, but it can also lead to costly damage if left untreated.
The three most common causes of the brown liquid coming out of a chimney are creosote buildup, damaged chimney crown or chase cover, and worn-out brick and mortar joints. These issues can be caused by accumulated soot, age, weathering, and improper installation.
This article will discuss these issues in more detail and offer some tips on what you can do to fix them.
1. Creosote Build-Up
A chimney leaking brown liquid is usually the result of a buildup of creosote. This oily substance forms when partially combusted wood and other combustion byproducts condense inside your chimney, forming a layer of creosote.
When this blackish-brown deposit builds up over time, it can become thick and sticky. It may drip down the sides of the chimney, leaving an oily residue behind when they come into contact with moisture from condensation or rainwater.
This buildup can be caused by the following:
- Burning wet or unseasoned wood
- Burning at a low temperature
- Simply using the fireplace or stove frequently
The amount of creosote produced depends on several factors:
- The type of wood being burned
- The moisture content of the wood
- The efficiency of the appliance being used
The buildup of creosote in the chimney is a severe problem for several reasons:
- The accumulation of creosote can be a significant fire hazard. The oily substance is highly flammable and can easily ignite and cause chimney fires if it builds up to a sufficient level. Chimney fires can be hazardous, putting your home and family at risk.
- Creosote buildup can make it more difficult for smoke and other gases to vent properly from the chimney. This can lead to reduced efficiency of the fireplace or wood stove, as well as increased air pollution.
- Once the buildup starts flaking off, it can corrode metal components, damage masonry joints, and cause rusting. This reduces the efficiency and safety of your chimney, leading to costly repairs.
- The deposits make chimney exteriors look unsightly. Creosote sticks to the outside of your chimney, giving it a grimy or sooty appearance. Your home may require more frequent cleaning to maintain its appearance.
How To Fix It?
While creosote buildup may be a normal part of using a fireplace or wood stove, there are some steps you can take to reduce the amount of creosote that accumulates in your chimney and stop it from dripping down your chimney walls:
1. Clean and Maintain Your Chimney Regularly
The most effective way to prevent creosote buildup and the associated problems is to regularly clean and maintain your chimney. This typically involves using a chimney sweep to remove the accumulated creosote from the chimney’s walls. Chimney sweeps are trained professionals who have the equipment and expertise to safely and effectively remove creosote from your chimney.
The National Fire Protection Association recommends having your chimney and fireplace inspected and swept at least once a year or more frequently if the fireplace is used heavily. You should also check the chimney after any fuel type or appliance changes.
2. Burn Only Dry, Well-Seasoned Wood
Another critical step to prevent creosote buildup is to burn dry, well-seasoned wood in your fireplace or wood stove. Freshly cut wood or wood with a high moisture content will produce more gases during the burning process, which can lead to increased creosote buildup.
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By using dry, well-seasoned wood, you can reduce the amount of creosote produced and prevent buildup on the walls of your chimney. The wood should have less than 20% moisture content to burn optimally.
3. Burn at Higher Temperatures
Burning at higher temperatures can help reduce creosote buildup by lowering the amount of smoke produced and allowing smoke to move up and out of the chimney more quickly.
When burning wood in a fireplace, let the fire burn hot before adding more wood. For wood stoves, ensure the air intake is open and adjusted correctly to ensure the fire is burning hot. This will help to reduce creosote production and make it less likely for liquid deposits to form on the walls of your chimney.
4. Never Burn Artificial Logs
Never use artificial logs, such as sawdust and wax, in your fireplace or wood stove. These products produce more smoke than natural wood, which can result in increased creosote production.
If you use an artificial log, make sure it is the type that has been designed explicitly for fireplaces or wood stoves. These products contain less wax and produce less smoke, making them a better choice than the standard artificial logs.
2. Damaged Chimney Crown or Chase Cover
The chimney crown or chase cover is a protective layer at the top of the chimney. It helps to keep water, debris, and other elements out of the chimney, and it also helps to prevent structural damage to the chimney itself. If the chimney crown or chase cover is damaged, it can cause several problems, including dripping a brown liquid from the chimney.
One of the main functions of the chimney crown or chase cover is to prevent water from entering the chimney. If the crown or cover is damaged, water can seep into the chimney, causing damage to the brickwork and other structural elements. Water can also cause creosote and other substances to dissolve and drip down the chimney’s walls, leading to the dripping of a brown liquid.
How To Fix It?
To fix a damaged chimney crown or chase cover:
- Remove the damaged crown or cover: The first step in repairing a damaged chimney crown or chase cover is to remove the old one. This can typically be done by prying it off with a crowbar or other tool designed for this purpose.
- Clean the chimney: Once the old crown or cover has been removed, it is important to clean the chimney to remove any debris or other substances that may have accumulated. This can typically be done with a chimney sweep, brush, or other cleaning tools.
- Repair or replace the chimney crown or chase cover: Once the chimney is clean, you will need to repair or replace the chimney crown or chase cover. If the damage is minor, you can repair the existing crown or cover using a patching compound or other repair material. If the damage is more extensive, you may need to purchase a new crown or cover and install it.
- Seal the chimney: Once the crown or chase cover has been repaired or replaced, it is important to seal it to prevent water and other elements from entering it. This can typically be done with a waterproof sealant or other protective material.
3. Worn Out Brick and Mortar Joints
A chimney’s brick-and-mortar joints are critical components that help hold it together and keep it structurally sound. Over time, these joints can become worn out due to weathering, wear and tear, and other factors, leading to several problems, including the dripping of a brown liquid from the chimney.
When the brick and mortar joints of a chimney are worn out, water and other elements can seep into the chimney. This can damage the brickwork and other structural elements on the chimney’s walls. These substances can dissolve and drip down the chimney’s walls, leading to the dripping of a brown liquid.
Worn-out brick-and-mortar joints can also create a fire hazard. If the joints are significantly worn, it can weaken the chimney’s structural integrity, making it more susceptible to collapse or other damage.
How To Fix It?
To fix worn-out brick and mortar joints:
- Inspect the chimney: The first step in repairing worn-out brick and mortar joints is to inspect the chimney for damage. This can typically be done with a flashlight or other lighting tool. If you notice any cracks, crumbling mortar, or other signs of damage, you will need to repair the joints.
- Remove the damaged brick and mortar: Once the damage has been identified, you will need to repair the joints. But first, you will need to remove any damaged brick and mortar. This can typically be done by chipping away the damaged brick and mortar with a hammer, chisel, or other tools.
- Clean the chimney: Once the damaged brick and mortar have been removed, it is important to clean the chimney to remove any debris or other substances that may have accumulated. This can typically be done with a chimney sweep, brush, or another cleaning tool.
- Repair or replace the brick and mortar joints: Once the chimney is clean, you will need to repair or replace the worn-out brick and mortar joints. If the damage is minor, you can repair the existing joints using a mortar mix or other repair material. If the damage is more extensive, you may need to purchase new bricks and mortar and rebuild the affected joints.
- Seal the chimney: Once the brick and mortar joints have been repaired or replaced, it is important to seal the chimney to prevent water and other elements from entering it. This can typically be done with a waterproof sealant or other protective material.
So there you have it – three main causes behind brown liquid dripping from a chimney along with steps towards fixing each one individually should this become problematical later down the line!