How should I protect wooden trim that abuts a brick chimney from further water damage?


Exposing brick is one way to add character and visual interest to an otherwise plain space. It’s also a fairly simple project to undertake with the right tools and supplies.

While recently having some professional ceiling repair work done in an upstairs bedroom, we discovered what looked to be the top of a brick chimney hiding behind the old plaster walls. We tested a few spots along this wall, which revealed more brick, so we decided to expose the entire chimney for an all-over bedroom makeover.

Here’s a “before” look at the room we were working in, prior to exposing the chimney. You’ll notice where we had some ceiling damage in need of repair.

We’re so pleased with the transformation of this space, now with the full brick chimney exposed, ceiling repairs complete and a fresh coat of paint applied to the walls. The brick chimney really has been the star transformation of this room.

Note: When working in older...

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Causes of leaking chimneys can usually be narrowed down to five reasons. If your problem isn’t solved from addressing the items on this list, your leak probably isn’t from the chimney!

#1 The Simplest Cause of Chimney Leaking: Rain Going Straight In from the Top

Capless Chimney (source:

It’s not hard to picture that. Chimneys without covers get a lot of rain falling straight down into them. A chimney cover makes sense to most people. Not only does it keep the rain out, but keeps birds, animals and debris out. The greatest value of the chimney cover is really keeping these out because when chimneys get blocked at the bottom, people get sick (or even die) from CO poisoning. While it’s true that sometimes an uncovered flue is the source of water problems, most often this reason for a leak is only when the liner is metal. So do get a chimney cover and make sure it’s not just this simple.

#2 Many Chimney Leaks are from...

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I was recently asked by a client, "What part of a house requires the most repair work." My quick answer was the roof. Every house has one and a roof with the average quality shingle has to be changed every 15 to 20 years. However, after some thought, I have come to the conclusion that it is not the roof that is the most serious repair. The most costly and destructive repairs are caused by water and moisture penetration into the home in several different areas. In fact, water and moisture penetration into the home is not only destructive to the house, but can also cause some serious health problems. Unchecked water or moisture in the home sooner or later will cause wood rot and mold. For the purpose of this article, the Author will point out some of the common areas of water penetration into the home, and hopefully this article will give the reader an clear understanding about the danger of...

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We've sort of been all over the place with house repairs around the upstairs of our home lately — we've been tackling a few

plumbing issues

, repairing wall damage

in two rooms

and even opened up the plaster wall in Brandon's room to

expose the brick chimney hiding underneath

. While we've got a lot going on, the most solid progress has taken place in Brandon's room and we're finally at a point where we share a pretty substantial "before and after" progress update for this space! As you can see from the picture above, Basil asked if he could do the honors of revealing today's makeover.

Perhaps we should rewind a bit though and show you where we began...

We hadn't done much to this room (sorry Brandon) other than plop furniture down since moving in almost three years ago. We call it Brandon's room, but it functions as a guest room too since he spends the majority of time at JMU. Upon moving in, there were some pretty serious wall and...

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A loose or broken brick in a wall or chimney not only looks bad, and it can provide an opening (literally!) for further damage. Act quickly to prevent moisture from entering the wall or chimney. And don't worry -- the repair is an easy one.


safety goggles cold chisel sledgehammer bucket wide brick chisel wire brush garden hose mixing bucket and stir stick sharp trowel mortar jointer or thin metal rod stiff scrub brush


mortar mix mortar coloring corrugated cardboard scrap replacement brick

Time: 1 to 2 hoursWearing safety goggles, begin by using a cold chisel and sledgehammer to remove the mortar around the loose brick. Work carefully to avoid damaging the loose brick or surrounding bricks. Lift the loosened brick out from the wall or chimney and set it in a bucket of water to soak.If a loose brick cannot be easily removed, or if the brick is broken, break it up to remove it. Wearing safety goggles, chop out the damaged brick with a...

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Traditional chimneys typically are made of brick, and they can usually be found anywhere from houses to buildings, new or old. A brick chimney is also often referred to as a masonry chimney since it needs to be constructed on-site instead of purchased and shipped whole. Like chimneys made out of any other material, a brick chimney carries smoke and gas out of a home or building.

Since the typical brick chimney needs to be built on-site rather than at a factory, there are many variations available. Such structures can vary in size, height, and color, though they almost always include mortar between the bricks to hold them together. Brick chimneys are often built to complement the construction of the rest of the house, though both builders and homeowners often incorporate their own design ideas.

The bricks that make up a brick chimney often vary in type. Many brick chimneys on older industrial buildings have exteriors made of radial brick, which are curved and best for...

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When learning how to build your own chimney, knowledge will be your greatest ally. Fireplaces are a wonderful addition to any home. They provide warmth, a pleasant atmosphere, and are often a very inexpensive means of winter heating. They are not without their upkeep, however. Over the course of years, the elements can take their toll on your roof, and subsequently your chimney. Here are the codes, materials, and basic steps for either rebuilding or building a new chimney from scratch.

Check the Codes

Before you do anything, you should have a detailed drawing of your plans and measurements and then check the code for chimneys in your local area, making sure your plans are legal. In general:

The chimney will need a minimum of four inches space around the flue opening. Outside wall chimneys are usually only allowed to extend past the house wall one inch. Note: outside located chimneys do not draft (flow) as well as when they are built completely on the...
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The chimney is one of the most taken-for-granted parts of a home. Typically it tends to receive neither the attention nor the concern usually accorded other household service systems. The fact that chimneys may do their job reasonably well, even when abused or neglected, contributes to this atmosphere of indifference. Chimneys are far from the passive black holes that most people assume them to be. They perform several vital functions, and their simple appearance misrepresents their complex construction and performance requirements. A chimney deteriorated by constant exposure to the weather can be a potential safety hazard. Weather-damaged lining systems, flue obstructions and loose masonry materials all present a threat to residents. Regular chimney maintenance is essential to prevent damage, deterioration and future high-cost chimney repairs.

Masonry Chimneys

A masonry chimney is constructed of a variety of masonry and metal materials, including brick, mortar,...

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Finding a water problem is not easy, and is always a process of elimination. Water may be coming in from more than just one area. We suggest not doing any drywall repairs until you are positive that you have found the water entry points.

To help in finding leaks entering into your home, it is suggested that you start with outside controlled water testing starting at the lowest possible point of logical water entry. Do water testing only on dry days so that you can create a very controlled artificial rain situation.

Instead of soaking the entire chimney, only apply water on a specific area of the ground or chimney. We recommend that you journal your soaking times, such as 20-30 minutes, 1 hour, etc. Think which way the down spout water is flowing into the storm drains, or the curb cut at the street. It is important to list the locations where the water was tested on the ground, chimney or shingles.

A couple of hints we have found that may help you are to...

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Download .mp3

This podcast series is excerpted from a two-day class called "Building Science Fundamentals" taught by Dr. Joe Lstiburek and Dr. John Straube of Building Science Corporation.

For information on attending a live class, go to

In our last episode, Dr. Joe Lstiburek compared air barriers and vapor barriers, and explained how airtightness helps keep homes free of mold and rot. This week Dr. Joe explains how water and salt move through masonry by osmosis, often causing serious damage to foundations. He also offers some solutions to this common problem.

Osmosis isn’t a problem everywhere
In new construction, it’s real easy: you coat the top of the footing, you’ve got your stone (capillaryForces that lift water or pull it through porous materials, such as concrete. The tendency of a material to wick water due to the surface tension of the water molecules.) break, you’ve got your dampproofing. You don’t have to worry about...

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Don’t forget to take care of the house brick chimney, even if your furnace, water heater or fireplace doesn’t require it any more!

House brick chimney is one of the most important, and at the same time neglected components of our homes, and I think… for a very simple reason; because we don’t understand them, and they are not blocking our way to the kitchen or bathroom, we just take them for granted and forget about them… just like many other things.

Because majority of problems I’ve encountered during inspections have been associated with older, usually masonry / brick chimneys, first section will cover this particular type.

Huge number of the Chicago-land properties have been equipped with brick chimneys (I’m pretty sure that also applies to other parts of US), and many of those are dating all the way back to the late 1800 and early 1900. With properties exterior maintenance and improvements, brick chimney walls often received nice dressing, or maybe...

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The process of chimney removal not only requires that you understand the amount of rectification work needed, but also that you prepare fully. By undertaking some preliminary work, you can do everything possible to help the project go smoothly.

Step 1 – Extent of Removal

The first thing you must do when thinking abut chimney removal is to decide whether you want a full or partial removal. It is possible to remove the chimney stack while retaining the chimney breast, which you may want to do if it is particularly decorative or is a feature of your home. However, removing the entire chimney will create more space in your home though it will require more labor.

Step 2 – Permits

Before beginning any chimney removal work, you must get the necessary permission to do so. The local authority should be contacted to make sure that the work is allowed in the zoning area that your property falls in. As the removal of the chimney will affect the structure of the...

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If you have soot or creosote build-up in your fireplace or a bird’s nest in your chimney, be sure to have it professionally cleaned by a chimney sweep before building another fire. However, if you have cracked or deteriorated brick or mortar, you may need Brick Doctor’s services.

We are masonry repair experts, and can inspect your fireplace and chimney for problems related to cracks or deterioration, lightning damage, water leaks, or smoking problems. For fireplace repairs, you have found the experts—Brick Doctor craftsmen restore both beauty and function to masonry fireplaces across the metroplex.

Please be aware that our free initial inspection may not include a complete analysis of potential problems, particularly if your chimney is tall (two-story) and/or the roof is a steep pitch, nor does it ever include leak-testing.

The water stains in this brick fireplace firebox testify to a water penetration problem at the chimney level.


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