If you've never owned a home with a fireplace, you may not know how to spot problems with the chimney. Since you can't always see problems by looking up at the chimney from the ground, understanding how to spot an issue is important. Here are some tips to help you identify possible problems and keep your chimney safe.

Cracked or Damaged Mortar

The mortar between the chimney bricks is designed to hold the bricks together and contribute structural stability to the chimney itself. If the mortar joints start to crack or crumble, it can threaten the integrity of the chimney. It may also be a sign of internal damage that needs to be addressed.

Another problem with cracks in the mortar is that moisture inside can actually cause expansion from freezing. This can cause small cracks to expand, creating much larger cracks. If you don't address it right away, your chimney may eventually collapse.

Damaged Flue Tile

Damaged flue tiles can be a serious concern. If you're seeing thin pieces of flue tile at the base of the chimney, it may mean that your chimney liner is damaged. Since the chimney liner provides an important barrier to protect the inside of your chimney, it needs to be in good condition before you can use the fireplace. You may find that a stainless steel chimney liner is the best option in this case, because it will provide lasting protection.

Although the flaking is typically visible, other cracking and internal damage is less evident. If you have any reason to believe that there is damage inside your chimney, call a chimney sweep such as A1 Everlast Construction to inspect the inside of the chimney with a camera system. This will help you spot potential problems that you may not have seen otherwise.

Wrinkled or Bubbled Wallpaper

When the wallpaper around your chimney starts to bubble and wrinkle, it's a sure sign that you've got moisture building up around the chimney. Whether the moisture is caused by an obvious crack from outside or an internal problem, it's something you need to address with a chimney sweep right away.

First-time fireplace owners are often caught by surprise when there's a chimney problem. With the tips presented here, you'll know what to look for. This can save you from the potential surprises that can come from either a chimney fire or collapsed chimney. If you want to save yourself the cost and stress of chimney damage in the cold winter months, have your chimney cleaned and inspected once a year before the cold weather comes in.