Help Chronic Wicking Chimney
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dotrad



Joined: 14 Dec 2008
Posts: 3
Location: Mass

PostPosted: Sun Dec 14, 2008 11:15 pm    Post subject: Help Chronic Wicking Chimney Reply with quote

I have had a chronic wicking, or saturation of old bricks on my chimney. I have this large 10 foot by 10 foot center house chimney sealed every 3 years with Silpro or Silock for over 20 years without a problem. The last time I had it sealed it with this product, 4 years ago, suddenly the product no longer works. The bricks were taking on so much moisture, I had to place buckets in each of the 4 corners on the interior of the house. A contractor put on a stucco-like material, which actually ended up acting like a sponge and was still absorbing water. Since, this contractor put on several coats of UGL (?) masonary latex sealer over the stucco, and this chimney is wicking again. Each product only lasts about a year (seems until the first frost) before the bricks wick water again. This problem has been going on 4 years now, and the damage to the interior with lime run and water stains on the wood trim are very evident. This chimney was constructed in 1980 using used brick. Now, I know, that there is a combination of "soft" brick and the clinkers in this chimney. The problem is that not all hard brick was used on the exterior. Now, I would like to cover the entire exterior of the chimney with some sort of vapor shield and exterior wood siding as the sealers have not stopped the water absorbtion. I live in a very windy spot, so this would have to withstand wind as well as water. Any ideas would certainly be appreciated. Thank you for your time.
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john



Joined: 04 Feb 2008
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 11:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

First you have to understand that these old chimneys were designed and built of materials that require the ability to release moisture into the air surrounding the chimney and that they need to have heat in the mass of the masonry to dispel the moisture. Your strategy of sealing up the exterior with sealant and coatings goes against this need. Further sealing up by enclosing it follows the same strategy that you have found does not work and may cause even more damage to the chimney.

First you have to identify the source of the moisture. It might be rain coming down the flues or condensation and moisture migration from interior sources such as a damp cellar, plumbing leaks, interior high humidity, etc.

Tell us more about your chimney, moisture in your house, how you use your chimney, what it is made of, etc.
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dotrad



Joined: 14 Dec 2008
Posts: 3
Location: Mass

PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 1:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you so much for your reply John. I know this is a lengthy reply, but may help in determining this situation. I live in a converted dairy barn that I converted in 1979 with a very open floor plan. This dairy barn was built in 1898, chestnut wooden post and beam constuction. The walk-out full basement foundation is a combination of brick, field stone and concrete. The North-East side of the barn is surrounded by all dirt. The North and East side of the basement is all Throughsealed waterproofing. In rains, I do get some seepage particularily where the old silo was on the east side. The rest of the basement is dry. This barn is 80' long by 40' wide and has approx. 6,500 sq.ft of living space. The barn itself is insulated with 4" of R-Max on top of the rafters, leaving them exposed. The interior walls as well as the finished basement walls consist of 6" or an R-19 insulation factor. Windows are triple glazed Anderson units and 2 E-glass 12' by 12' wiindows one on the West and one on the East. House is designed for passive-solar with hot air return ducts, one of which is in the chimney from basement to third floor peak. There are 6 42" ceiling fans for air circulation and heat movement. There is plenty of air movement in the interior. I did have the furnace replaced last year and now just run on forced hot oil heat, where before had a combination wood/oil furnace. Really haven't used wood for heat in about 10 years though. The chimney itself is in the center of this barn measuring 10' by 10' and housing 10 one foot flues. There are 4 fireplaces, one barbeque pit, 2 flues for 2 wood stoves, and the furnace flue. The height of this chimney is approx. 35' tall from the basement to the top of the chimney. The flues all have a top flue cap, so all the flues are caped with the same clay material and are one piece. All bricks are exposed interior and exterior. There are 2 bedrooms on the third floor with just the 2 walls of each bedroom abutting the chimney. So, 4 2x4's and all else is the natural exposed bricks. Rafters and chimney are all visible from the 1st floor to the rafters, seeing all the brick. As far as moisture in the house, it actually is quite dry (and dusty!). The fireplaces and wood stoves are hardly ever used at this point in time. Just the furnace flue at work. The seepage appears only when it is raining. At one point in time throughout this ordeal, I had the chimney tarped with just the furnace flue exposed and this did work in keeping the chimney dry. Maybe I do have too many layers of sealer and should scrape down to the old brick. I am told motar joints look good, getting a little sandy though, flashing looks good. But at that height, I am only going by what I told. At this point in time I am seeing the mortar and bricks on the interior saturated with water. The south side lime runs down about 6' on the brick and the other 3 walls about 3' down from the roofline. I can send pictures if you would like. This has been really a problem that no one has been able to solve. Your ideas are the first ones that make sense! If you need more information let me know. Thank you so much!
Forgot to add that the entire chimney from the first floor up to the chimney cap is faced entirely with old used brick that is shoe-blocked into cinder block all the way up. I will check all the clean-outs in the basement to see if they are dry. Again, my thanks for all your help.

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kevenjoo



Joined: 11 May 2010
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PostPosted: Tue May 11, 2010 11:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

dotrad wrote:
Thank you so much for your reply John. I know this is a lengthy reply, but may help in determining this situation. I live in a converted dairy barn that I converted in 1979 with a very open floor plan. This dairy barn was built in 1898, chestnut wooden post and beam constuction. The walk-out full basement foundation is a combination of brick, field stone and concrete. The North-East side of the barn is surrounded by all dirt. The North and East side of the basement is all Throughsealed waterproofing. In rains, I do get some seepage particularily where the old silo was on the east side. The rest of the basement is dry. This barn is 80' long by 40' wide and has approx. 6,500 sq.ft of living space. The barn itself is insulated with 4" of R-Max on top of the rafters, leaving them exposed. The interior walls as well as the finished basement walls consist of 6" or an R-19 insulation factor. Windows are triple glazed Anderson units and 2 E-glass 12' by 12' wiindows one on the West and one on the East. House is designed for passive-solar with hot air return ducts, one of which is in the chimney from basement to third floor peak. There are 6 42" ceiling fans for air circulation and heat movement. There is plenty of air movement in the interior. I did have the furnace replaced last year and now just run on forced hot oil heat, where before had a combination wood/oil furnace. Really haven't used wood for heat in about 10 years though. The chimney itself is in the center of this barn measuring 10' by 10' and housing 10 one foot flues. There are 4 fireplaces, one barbeque pit, 2 flues for 2 wood stoves, and the furnace flue. The height of this chimney is approx. 35' tall from the basement to the top of the chimney. The flues all have a top flue cap, so all the flues are caped with the same clay material and are one piece. All bricks are exposed interior and exterior. There are 2 bedrooms on the third floor with just the 2 walls of each bedroom abutting the chimney. So, 4 2x4's and all else is the natural exposed bricks. Rafters and chimney are all visible from the 1st floor to the rafters, seeing all the brick. As far as moisture in the house, it actually is quite dry (and dusty!). The fireplaces and wood stoves are hardly ever used at this point in time. Just the furnace flue at work. The seepage appears only when it is raining. At one point in time throughout this ordeal, I had the chimney tarped with just the furnace flue exposed and this did work in keeping the chimney dry. Maybe I do have too many layers of sealer and should scrape down to the old brick. I am told motar joints look good, getting a little sandy though, flashing looks good. But at that height, I am only going by what I told. At this point in time I am seeing the mortar and bricks on the interior saturated with water. The south side lime runs down about 6' on the brick and the other 3 walls about 3' down from the roofline. I can send pictures if you would like. This has been really a problem that no one has been able to solve. Your ideas are the first ones that make sense! If you need more information let me know. Thank you so much!
Forgot to add that the entire chimney from the first floor up to the chimney cap is faced entirely with old used brick that is shoe-blocked into cinder block all the way up. I will check all the clean-outs in the basement to see if they are dry. Again, my thanks for all your help.


I guess everything in your chimney is working now. I'm happy to know that you made a good renovation in your new furnace. As I believe it is just a matter of patience.

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Last edited by kevenjoo on Mon May 17, 2010 7:40 am; edited 2 times in total
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dotrad



Joined: 14 Dec 2008
Posts: 3
Location: Mass

PostPosted: Tue May 11, 2010 7:00 pm    Post subject: Follow up on chronic wicking chimney Reply with quote

Hello John, I have to tell you that your answer to my chronic wicking chimney problem was absolutely 100% right. You said that water is coming in for this to happen. Turns out because no one could pin point the problem, I had the entire chimney rebuilt from the roof line up. Unfortunately, the original contractor, Robert Boido from Western Mass Chimney Services in West Springfield, MA totally messed this project up. He left me with an almost 1/2 way done chimney exposed to the elements for the winter. He nailed the copper flashing flat back on the new bricks, he did not tuck the flashing into the mortar joints. Left me with at least a 3" hole from the top row of bricks to the cement cap. And turns out he nailed all his staging on my roof through the top of the shingles. So, more water was coming in and more damage was occurring, I had to hire a roofer the end of January to net a heavy tarp over the chimney to prevent more damage to the large chestnut exposed beams of my antique barn. I had to hire 2 talented masons to repair and finish Rob's work. In doing so, it was determined that the problem first occurred because the cap had several hairline cracks that were not at first noticed because of all the sealers, stucco and paint. So, I have to let you know that you were right, the water was still coming in somewhere despite the sealers. Apparently the layers of sealers on the exterior brick just prevented these bricks from breathing as you stated. The water and moisture was coming inside the house at the path of least resistance. I thank you and your site so much for the replies and help to resolve. Now, I just have to figure out how I can fix the water stained beams to look nice and I have a roofer coming to fix the numerous nail holes in my shingles. I have also had to replace bent and broken gutters from this first mason. I am truly heart sick at the nightmare I have in finding contractors who can work on these old lovely buildings and barns and have a respect for these old structures of which survived. The talent of these early builders of these post and beam structures truly amaze me. It is comforting knowing that people like you who strive to maintain the integrity of these old buildings exist and are willing to devote your time to help others. You have done the world a good service and I will keep your site bookmarked! To date, it is too early to detect any more wicking problems. Hopefully all is ok.
Thank you very much, Dottie

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