The flue liner in your chimney protects you and your home from the dangerous byproducts of burning a fire indoors. While clay flues generally last for decades, they can fail due to old age or due to a sudden event such as an earthquake or lightning strike. A crack or missing tiles should be repaired as soon as possible. Here is why a damaged flue should be repaired and the options for having it done.

The Dangers Of A Cracked Flue Liner

Liners are usually made of clay or metal. Traditionally, they were made of clay, so if your fireplace is old, it could have an aging clay liner in it. A clay liner can crack, or some of the tiles can work loose. When this happens, the intense heat from the fire can get through the flue to nearby parts of your house. The heat can be high enough to cause a fire in a window frame or other building materials. The reason clay was once a popular chimney liner is that it is slow to absorb heat, and it protects against house fires as long as it isn't damaged.

Cracks in a clay liner can also allow gases from the fire to escape into your home and make the air toxic. In addition, the acidic nature of the fire and the fumes it gives off can leak through the crack and affect the mortar holding the chimney bricks together. When the mortar is damaged, the chimney can shift and crack. It's difficult to know when a flue liner has damage until signs such as cracks in the bricks begin to show. That's why an annual inspection and cleaning of your chimney is important. Part of the process is examining the liner to make sure it is intact.

The Options For Repairing A Damaged Chimney Liner

If the damage to the liner is minimal, such as a few loose tiles, then it may be possible to replace the tiles and save the liner. You'll need to discuss the safety of that decision with the chimney expert. If the liner is failing due to old age, it may be time to replace it. If you need to replace it due to age or extensive cracking, then you can insert a steel liner rather than a clay liner. A new clay liner will last for many years if installed properly, and it is a traditional choice. However, steel liners are often used today because they are safer and less prone to damage.

Since you can't see damaged clay tiles when they are out of sight in a chimney, switching to a steel liner gives you peace of mind that the liner is intact since steel is a sturdier material. A third option for replacing a damaged chimney liner is to have a cement liner cast in place. This is an expensive option that is more difficult to install, but it might be recommended if your chimney needs the additional stabilization that a concrete-like liner can provide.

Contact a company like Allstate Chimney Service for more information and assistance.