Our house built in 1902. Multiple moisture problems, need fixing.

Cindy Kelley
by Cindy Kelley
Our chimney comes up through master bedroom. Has been fixed multiple times, on the inside in our bedroom, plaster redone, reprinted. Only lasts a season before it begins to bubble, peal and fall off in chunks. 2 story house, roof has been examined, but apparently not roof, but outside of chimney. House is stucco, with vine on outside. Don't know where to start again for spring. Any help,would be appreciated. We live in NE, cold, cold winters, wet springs, and hot summers.
Outside chimney, after vine taken off.
Outside chimney with vine removed. Our bedroom window is on left.
Inside wall of chimney that goes up through our bedroom. Was repaired last spring. This is now January and has been bubbling and peeling ever since. I scraped this all off yesterday. Mess on floor daily.
Further away picture. Plaster walls, more open spot is chimney under, which may be concrete, unsure.
  7 answers
  • You definitely have a moisture issue. This happens a lot in stucco homes. do you use your chimney? This may be something to look at~removing the chimney and repairing the outside of the home. If you need a chimney, it may be a matter of rebuilding a new one. Vines on a stucco or brick home are not a good idea at all. vines will eventually ruin the mortar and finish. I know it looks cool but vines are the death of anything they climb on whether it be a tree or a house. The roots get into the cracks along with moisture and will grow and expand and contract with the seasons. You need to remove the vines and their suckers and scrape down any sticking to your home this spring/summer. Repair the cracks and fill them and paint with a good paint. Fireplaces and woodburners do not need a brick chimney and may be better suited to install a new one for fire code and safety. If the home is that old the fireplace probably has cracks inside and moisture will continue to seep in and ruin your home. I hope this helps. Good luck
  • Cindy my suggestions are as follows. The chipping of the interior plaster walls is caused by moisture that is entering from the upper areas of the chimney and seeping through the surfaces of the interior walls. From the photo of the 2nd floor area shows me that the flashings on the roof have failed or are in the process of failing. The ivy has little to do with leakage unless its worked its way under the flashing allowing more moisture as well. I assume the plaster covers the chimney also above the roof line? No photo so I am guessing this. The cement chimney cap that surrounds the chimney liner may have also failed. This allows moisture to seep into the bricks and cement surface which then exits out of the masonry and brick wall areas when it gets into the living areas of the home. I would also think that the finished walls is part of the chimney as well. Very common to plaster directly over the bricks and blocks to create a finished wall that matches the rest of the interior of the home. Re-patching this area will be an on going issue until you stop the moisture from getting behind the bricks and or blocks that make up the chimney. From the outside: Check the chimney masonry cap. If its cracked, filled with tar or silicon, remove it and replace it with a properly pitched cement one. Remove the flashings around the chimney on the roof areas and replace with new. Ideally copper. These flashings should be cut into the chimney and counter flashed to prevent moisture from getting behind them. Get a professional chimney inspection done. The liner needs to be evaluated well. This may take the requirement of a camera being sent down. Although this may only be a fireplace, it may also be part of the chimney system for your heating system. Not sure because of lack of information. In any case, If the liner is faulty or cracked, water that often runs down the inside of the chimney liner can enter into these cracks and openings causing moisture to seep out causing the issue you currently experiencing. From the inside, you cannot simply re-plaster over the existing surfaces and expect them to last. You need to remove these offended areas and replace everything with new materials. This is a dirty dusty and possibly hazardous job. Plaster materials can contain asbestos, silica, lead paint so if you decide to go it alone, be sure to wear personal protection such as masks and eye protections. Also seal the area tight with plastic. Ideally incorporate a window in the sealed off area where you can bag the debris and throw it out the window as well as install a fan to help keep the area dust free while you work. Once removed you will be exposing many of the answers to the questions on why this happens. You may find cracks, soft bricks and failures that over the years have simply been masked over with all the patching that had gone on. In any case its moisture, this moisture comes from two places, rain or interior humidity from leaking flue pipes if its connected to a gas furnace. Stop the moisture, you stop the damage. But if I was to make a guess on what is causing this with little information provided, I would say combination of leaking flashing and poor condition of the masonry cap on top.
    • See 1 previous
    • @3D Your exactly correct on that point. Now with the 80% furnaces running even closer to a condensing point coupled with exterior chimney walls that tend to cool the flue gases down more this acidic moisture is destroying more and more chimneys as well as resulting in failures such as this poster complained about. In our area it is now required to line all chimneys when installing a new gas furnace if it is not already lined. With those costs, most are going for condensing units with PVC venting out the side of the home.
  • Buster Evans Buster Evans on Jan 28, 2014
    Im not a professional, dont claim to be, when they installed my double wide/modular home they put a "foundation" under it the home doesnt actually sit down completely on the foundation but the foundation is built "UP TO the bottom of the home... It wa placed on the site where my parents old home was and butted up against where the garage use to be. The water off the roof has no where to go but down and against the foundation.. They elevated the dirt slightly when they backfilled against the foundation but BEFORE they did the backfill they "painted on" a product to seal the back foundation of the home, which had a cement stucco facing.. It is a white paint like substance you can buy it at home depot or maybe lowes they will know what you are needing. You could try applying this to the outside of the chimney to stop moisture there and them once you patch the inside again apply it there as well. I cant promise that it will "FIX" the whole situation but I would start there before I tore out the chimney and wall. Hope this helps, It would be much less expensive than a tear out, and if it works there you could gradually coat the entire house with it.
  • Annette C Annette C on Jan 28, 2014
    I had a stucco home in a totally different climate, however I was getting something similar, tho not to this degree. For me it was the earth grade had risen above the foundation and was covering the stucco about 8 to 10 inches up the outside wall. This allowed the stucco to wick the water up & inside the house, once I had removed all the extra soil from around the house my problem was solved. Some very knowledgeable post have been made, but I didn't see any questions about the earth grade on this side of your home, could this be an issue?
  • Buster the paint your talking about is water proofing paint. It comes in various types some of which are much like a thinned cement that takes a heavy brush to apply. The issue with any water proofing paint regardless of type on a stucco surface it the surface needs to breath. Its not like a wood surface that must allow moisture to escape. They make a special paint called elastomeric that allows for water vapor transmission but does not let physical water through. Think of it like a window screen. Small enough to prevent the water vapor through, but to small to let the larger water droplets through. Using the wrong product on a stucco surface can destroy it. This also is applicable to the brick surfaces found on chimneys and walls of homes. Never ever seal the surface. You will prevent the natural vapor transmission through the surface causing spalling and flaking often seen on older homes that have had this material installed. Annette, your correct that moisture wicking can be an issue with stucco surfaces, but based upon the post this peeling was much higher up on the wall surface as in the 2nd floor bedroom area. Even if its was on the first floor, this wicking would not go all the way around, unless the chimney was sitting in a pond of water for a very long extended period of time.
  • Peggy Hill Peggy Hill on Jan 31, 2014
    I would get rid of the vines they are known to cause problems. think about it. they are digging into your wall to support it self. by letting in moisture into the home. they cause so much damage to the outside of the home. they make tiny cracks that let in water. and the roots cause damage to the foundation of the home. after you remove the vine look at every spot it was clinging to your home and fill them in with chalking. and repaint. that might solve the problem.
  • Marion Nesbitt Marion Nesbitt on Apr 06, 2014
    My first thought was to check the flashing - exactly the same prob happened with the chimney in my friend's dining room due to damaged flashing. Then I read the Woodbridge reply - very knowledgeable and professional - with suggestions from easiest to most difficult in helping to track the moisture source. I, too, had a prob around a chimney running through a bedroom. Turned out insulators had installed a roof vent near it with the fins facing upward instead of down, and water was being diverted inside and running toward the chimney! Luckily, an observant friend went up on the roof and spotted the source. Then there's ice damming, condensation issues between insulated-noninsulated areas, eavestroughing - notice you have a spout running right down the face of your chimney, etc. These water/moisture issues are very upsetting. I'd follow Woodbridge's process of elimination. Hope it's just a matter of replacing the flashing and maybe the cap.