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Steel Fireboxes Can Rot

Many homeowners believe that their prefabricated metal fireplace systems are virtually indestructible. While these fireplaces are well built to survive the heat and gasses produced when burning wood, there is one force that they cannot withstand – water.

Long term exposure to moisture – or even water damage that is not quickly repaired – can cause metal fireboxes to rot. Unfortunately, this type of damage often necessitates part or all of the refractory panels in the firebox being replaced. Luckily, firebox rot can be prevented by keeping water out of the chimney.


What causes chimney leaks?

Water can be one of the most damaging forces to both prefabricated and masonry chimneys. While chimneys are designed and built to withstand the elements, they are still susceptible to deterioration over time. Metal prefabricated chimney systems, especially those built using steel, are particularly susceptible to water damage.

For prefabricated metal chimneys, the leading cause of chimney leaks is a damaged chimney chase cover. The chase cover is a piece of metal that is specially fitted over the top of the chimney chase, sealing and protecting the top of the chimney against the elements. Unfortunately, chimney chases can deteriorate over time; some of the most common causes of chimney chase deterioration are long term exposure to the elements, improper installation, damage from storms or weather, or subpar building materials.

One common sign of a damaged chimney chase cover is the presence of rust on the side of the chimney. Chase covers – especially older models or those that are built with less expensive materials – can deteriorate over time, especially if water is allowed to pool on the metal. This causes the chase cover to rust, leading to rust stains on the side of the chimney. While this may seem like a merely cosmetic problem, it is actually indicative of a much more serious chimney issue.

If the chimney chase cover has deteriorated to the point of the presence of rust stains on the chimney, there is a good chance that there is water damage inside the chimney, too. While water damage may not be immediately noticeable, it can cause problems throughout the chimney system – such as causing steel fireboxes to rot.

How is a chimney leak affecting my firebox?

A leaky chimney doesn’t just cause damage to the chimney itself; oftentimes, water entry can affect the entire chimney system – including the firebox. If a chimney leak is not noticed right away, is not quickly repaired, or the fireplace suffers long term exposure to moisture, firebox rot can occur.

Even chimneys that have not had a major leak can still experience rot caused by moisture. Older prefabricated chimneys were often constructed using regular steel instead of stainless steel or aluminum; this means that even small amounts of moisture accumulation from humidity or changes and temperature can damage the metal. Likewise, many interior fireplace pieces are treated to withstand heat – not water. This means that they can become quickly damaged when even small amounts of moisture are present.

If your steel firebox has begun to show signs of rust damage or rot, contact Guaranteed Chimney Service today. Our expert technicians can help repair or replace any water-damaged refractory panels in your prefabricated fireplace – as well as keep the moisture from coming back.