Carbon Monoxide / Stucco Chimney Problems / Leak From Ice Dam

In Miscellaneous, Smoke/CO Detectors on March 20, 2012 at 9:30 am

To all my followers: Please pass along my blog address to all your friends and family. I’d appreciate it!


Dear Readers,

This question comes from me. It is: how many of you have a carbon monoxide detector, and if so, is it working properly?


Carbon Monoxide (CO) is also known as the “silent killer” because it is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas.

CO is a by-product of incomplete combustion. It doesn’t just originate from a cracked furnace heat exchanger.

Countless numbers of people have died because of exhaust gasses. More than 20,000 Americans go to the emergency room or died from using space heaters, ovens and barbeques and from CO seeping into their houses when they are warming up their cars.

There is a solution. CO detectors are available at any home, hardware and box store. They do exactly what they claim, detect carbon monoxide to save you and your families lives.

In spite of that, only half the homes in our area have a CO detector. Some of those units are older and not even working. If your carbon monoxide detector is older than five years, it’s time to replace it. It is important now more than ever to install CO detectors in your house. Please do it this weekend.


We have a two-story house. In the winter a large frozen waterfall develops from the upper roof corner to a first story roof. That section has been completely ice shielded running up the adjoining wall. I installed an electrical heat cord and the frozen waterfall still develops.

When we have a sudden thaw, we sometimes get a leak to the first floor room under the bottom of the waterfall.


If you did install ice shields under the entire first floor shingles and up the adjoining wall you should not have a leak. It’s possible that you did not go up the adjoining wall far enough or the leak is originating under the second floor shingles and running down between the exterior and interior walls until it gets to the addition.

I have inspected hundred of homes where a second floor ice dam runs down through the walls and ends up in the basement.

My recommendation is to install ice shields all the way up all valleys. Add more insulation and ventilation.


My chimney is constructed of block that has white cement that has been troweled onto the block to give it a stucco-like appearance. The problem is the cement is cracking and chunks are falling off. The cracking is in the upper third of this 2-story chimney. What do you think the proper way to repair this chimney so I don’t have this problem again in a few years?


There are just a few issues that could be causing the problem. The chimney “wash” or cap is damaged allowing moisture to get behind and loosen the stucco. In that case, repair/replace the wash and all loose and missing stucco.

If the wash is intact you have a bigger problem since the stucco may have been improperly installed and not bonding to the block. If that’s true, you’ll probably need to take it all off and start over.

Finally, in the past, was your furnace replaced with a high-efficiency furnace that now vents through the wall? If so, was the chimney relined to reduce the interior opening to accommodate just a gas water heater?

If you only have a gas water heater exhausting into a large older chimney, the unburned gasses, carbon monoxide and condensate cannot go up and out the chimney, which causes those gasses to condense within the chimney. In cold weather those gasses, which contain moisture, migrate through to the cold exterior. That is what causes spalling bricks and failing stucco.

The problem was so severe the industry calls it “orphaned water heaters”.

If that’s the cause, relining the chimney before it completely fails is necessary.


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