Water Pouring From My Basement Fireplace. Need HELP!

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Old 02-09-17, 10:01 PM
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Water Pouring From My Basement Fireplace. Need HELP!

I am at a loss here and dont know where to turn. I cant find an answer for what is happening and I have had 5 contractors out with differing opinions but everyone said they have NEVER seen this before.

I have owned this house for 4 years. Never had a water issue. Its a brick house with 2 gas fireplaces, 1 in the basement and 1 above in the living room. Neither has been used by me and are off. I dont think the basement one was ever used. The foundation is clay tile. Its a colonial and has a basement, 2 floors, and an attic.

We got a thaw and a bad storm on Monday night and Tuesday morning I discovered water pouring by the gallons out of my fireplace in the basement. There was no water coming from the fireplace on the 1st floor. Video:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjcYgDGEd9M
This lasted for about an hour with me noticing and I would assume 1-3 hours before I noticed. The carpet was soaked and water was building up on the floors. After getting everything out of the room and catching all the water we pulled the carpet up and noticed that there was no water coming from the floor up, the corners were dry, no water anywhere else.

I called my insurance company and contractors right away. I didnt know if this was a chimney issue or a foundation issue. Chimey guys came out and after seeing the video said that its nearly impossible for the chimney to be the issue. Especially because of no water anywhere else and the 1st floor one no water and the amount of water was too much. I have a cap and it was recrowned 2 years ago and tuck pointed. The chimney runs on the inside of the back of the house so there is no chimney brick exposed outside. All my tuckpointing is kept up as well so I dont have any obvious large holes or gaps. And no water in the attic or walls where the fireplace runs.

Foundation guys came and said that I must have a hole right behind the fireplace and I need to waterproof. I started to agree. Well today I went and started digging to find this hole. It was 20 degrees and snowing but I got down 48" which is the height of the fireplace. The whole backside was waterproofed previously and it looks to be in great condition. I didnt see any cracks or openings at all and for sure nothing big that stands out. I dug the whole backside of the house which is the width of the room (my house then kicks out and there is concrete) and it is all waterproofed.

The downspout is newer with PVC and is in tact 3' down. I couldnt go much more today. The downspout is at the back corner and about 6' to the center of the fireplace. My downspouts go straight down and under the basement floor and tie together under the center of the basement floor. These were cameraed and dye tested this summer for another city sewer issue and all were in great shape.

I dont know about drain tile because I didnt get far enough down. I assume its PVC but I dont know. I dont know how much that matters either because water was coming in 3-4' higher than the footers (or more).

The water stopped and I havent got a drop since. The fireplace does have a couple wet areas still. I dont know if these are always there or not because there were logs covering it before.

Is this a foundation issue or a chimney issue? Pics attached are looking up into the fireplace. You cant really see anything.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTdrYaN3k3M Pic of what I dug up so far.

https://postimg.org/image/gdm1mumaz/



I am going to cross post this with the waterproofing forum too.
 
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Old 02-10-17, 04:04 AM
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First, there is no need to post the same question in different sections of the forums, this one is fine.

Has anyone sent a camera up [or down] the chimney to see where the water is coming thru?
If it is the foundation you probably need to dig deeper maybe wider.
 
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Old 02-10-17, 05:46 AM
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No cameras but I am going to call another chimney company today.

I understand I need to dig more and will but I haven't seen a hint of a hole yet and I'm down 4' behind the chimney/fireplace now and 4' below ground level is the top of the fireplace opening. What I mean is that water doesn't travel up and I'm at the right height now. But yes since I am this far I am going to dig more.

The quantity of water and the clearness of the water just has me confused.

A waterproofer I know came back after I dug this hole and said that even though it looks ok, it's old and a pin sized hole could allow water in. I agree, anything is possible but this waterproofing looks to be in good condition and I don't get water coming anywhere else. It's also hard to think a small hole would allow that much water. And the water wasn't coming down the back side wall but the front.

What would a camera show? Just the flu? If that's the case the flu is clean and dry. When looking out there the flue is on the side and water would have come down the side where the hole and flue is. So if it's coming from the brick would the camera show that?
 
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Old 02-10-17, 05:50 AM
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Hopefully a camera would let you know at what point the water is entering the flue and dripping down. You'd then have a starting point. Has anyone checked the top of the chimney?
 
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Old 02-10-17, 06:06 AM
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Yes but nobody spent much time up there because there is so much snow. They have both told me that with the video and that amount of water it's not my chimney and it has to be my foundation. Now that I've dug up some of it and see it looks good the chimney idea is back on the table.

Is it possible for that much water to come down the chimney. Not through the flu. And not disturb and walls, ceilings, upstairs fireplace at all? It would travel 30'.
 
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Old 02-10-17, 06:14 AM
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A lot depends on how the chimney was constructed. While it's not likely the water would travel 30' before finding an exit, it is possible. Each fireplace has it's own separate flue.
 
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Old 02-10-17, 06:36 AM
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Chimney

Post a photo of the outside showing the chimney and roof. We need to see how the chimney is positioned in relation to the roof. I am thinking snow melt where the roof meets the chimney and the flashing is leaking.
 
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Old 02-10-17, 06:56 AM
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I cant get up there but I will ask for pics of whoever goes up.
 
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Old 02-10-17, 07:00 AM
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I want to be clear about what I am talking about inside the basement fireplace. I took another video and some pics. It shows where the flu is and how if water was coming in there it would run down the side, not the middle.

I also bought a handheld 3' camera and ran it up the flu but it looks undisturbed (I know 3' is nothing) and I tried to look above the bricks but its solid under there.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5SpOs2zhYM











 
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Old 02-10-17, 07:10 AM
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Hi cap, what you are experiencing is most likely not coming from the sources you are looking at. Here are the symptoms: Long cold spell followed by a warm spell. The source (my guess) is lots of warm air leaking up through the chimney or the spaces around the chimney where it contacts a cold surface. I've personally seen 3 or 4 inches of ice accumulate and then flood when it warms up.

A smoke test (incense stick or something safe) might identify the air flowing into the fireplace. But it could be leaking in through unintended gaps somewhere. A temporary patch might be to cover the front of the fireplace with plastic. Were these gas fireplaces always gas or converted from wood to gas?

Bud
 
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Old 02-10-17, 07:41 AM
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I think always gas. The basement fireplace is just 2" red brick all the way around. The upstairs one is the larger wood brick so that may have been glass.

Your theory is interesting for sure and makes sense. I'd be chasing a ghost if that's the case. Where would this ice build up? Not in the flu because water wasn't coming from there. And I have a cold draft from the flu that I assume is normal.
 
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Old 02-10-17, 08:15 AM
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Many variables. A gas fireplace should have a smaller chimney liner to keep the flue gasses from condensing because they move so slowly on their way out. Does either gas fireplace have a liner?

The cold draft you feel confirms that it is a cold chimney and since you are digging it is on the outside, even colder.

The air carrying the moisture can be coming from the fireplace above. melted water wouldn't necessarily follow the same path out.

have you changed anything recently?
Are you using a humidifier?
Do you have/use any non-vented gas heaters?

headed out, will check back this afternoon.

Bud
 
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Old 02-10-17, 09:18 AM
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Nothing changed recently besides a heavy storm.

I run a dehumidifier. Always have.

I don't think there are flu liners but I don't know.

We don't use either fireplace. The 1st floor fireplace was used by the previous owner but we have lived here for 4 years. Gas is turned off to it.



A chimney guy came and wants $300 to spend some time looking around or $600 to look around and then install a flu liner 3" on my other chimney on the other side of the house for the hot water tank. He seemed like a good guy but I don't know. He said that it could be under the flashing and then going inside. But we looked in the attic and there isn't a hint of water around the chimney
 
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Old 02-10-17, 12:39 PM
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You said dehumidifier always. Normally a home will use a dehumidifier in the summer and a humidifier in the winter. What are you using and when?

The more common place for ice to form due to condensation is on the bottom of a cold roof. But any place where there is a specific air path from house to a cold place there will be condensation and if cold enough an accumulation of ice. The key observation that tells you your leak is from condensation is the warm spell. Now, if the thaw were accompanied by heavy rains then my guess may be wrong. Was that storm rain or more snow?

Bud
 
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Old 02-10-17, 01:04 PM
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I use a dehumidifier mostly because I have guitars in the basement and it's a humidity control thing. It's clay tile and I get effervescent on the walls so I run it to control it. I do run it in the summer more bc it is actually humid. I should clarify this too... I run a humidifier in my furnace in the winter time. I have a stand alone $300 dehumidifier that I run for the basement only. Not the whole house.

It was a heavy rain. Probably 45+ degrees that morning. Rain stopped and the leak stopped. I caught the leak at 10:45 and at 12:15 it was done. I assume it leaked for a while before but I don't know if 1 hour or 3. My carpet was soaked.

I have now had 8 contractors out and all are baffled. 3 seem like the really want to help and 2 have made multiple trips. Each one has said they have never seen this.
 
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Old 02-10-17, 01:45 PM
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Since you also had rain while it was warm the melting ice theory is less definite, but worth keeping in mind, especially if all other possibilities draw a blank.

Another issue that arises with sudden amounts of rain when the ground is frozen is that the ground next to the foundation is not frozen, giving that water a place to drain. Just info to consider.

But, 45 is rather warm. With those fireplace units not being used there is nothing to keep the chimney space above freezing. And if there has been any air flow up into those cold areas it surely would have formed ice.

Do both gas fireplaces use the same flue?

Bud
 
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Old 02-10-17, 01:53 PM
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We believe both use the same flu. That's what a chimney sweep said today.
 
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Old 02-10-17, 03:32 PM
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Photo

I cant get up there but I will ask for pics of whoever goes up.
Shoot from the ground. .........
 
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Old 02-10-17, 03:41 PM
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Ground up thanks.

Question... does the camera only go in the flu? I have to assume yes. And we just hope to see a crack that goes out to the brick right? And if that's the case how is this fixed? Seems hard to work in an area that you don't have access to.
 
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Old 02-11-17, 04:00 AM
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The pic requested in post #7 is for one showing the exterior of the chimney and how it interacts with the roof. A camera that is sent down the flue should indicate at what point the water is entering the flue .... so you'd know to look there or higher for the leak.

Modern day houses are required to have both a flue liner [metal or terracotta] and a separate flue for each device being exhausted.
 
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Old 02-14-17, 09:18 AM
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I was busy all weekend. I dug around more and found a small 1/2" hole in the clay tile right where it meets the brick on the corner. I thought this was the issue and sprayed water (was worried about doing this) but it didnt show up in the fireplace or anywhere else. There was also a crack right under ground level on the brick. No water showed up. But there were small puddles there when it was raining. I am pretty sure this is my issue. The foundation is in great shape and no signs of issues with the old waterproofing.

So I had a contractor come over to look at it. At this point I was done. I bought all the materials but I didnt want to dig or tar or plaster so I gave him the job. I also wanted a french drain to catch water against my house higher up and to stop the puddles. This is what I had him do:

-Fill holes
-Plaster wall
-Tar and visqueen
-French drain with a dry well
-Wrapped w fabric and sock
-Tuckpoint the chimney (s) where needed and replace the crowns
-Touch up the flashing joints

Then I decided to widen the back driveway for a pull up area 25x5 with rock.

I hope this solves the problem.
 
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