Ask the Carpenter: Fix a leaky chimney; get rust off the driveway

Ask the Expert Home Improvement
reader is dealing with a slow leak where hischimney and metal roof meet. Handout

Q. We have a small leak where our chimney and rafters meet. Water consistently comes in from one corner, but can also be seen on rare occasions around the chimney/rafter perimeter depending on how hard it is raining and the direction the wind is blowing. The photo I sent you focuses on one area that leaks regularly during a steady rain. It is a slow leak, building up first to soak through, then coat the top of the rafter. It then begins to bleed onto the concrete skin of the chimney (inside the attic) and work its way down to the attic floor.

We had a roofer check it, but that company doesn’t usually handle metal roofs. The roofer didn’t remove the flashing; he added silicone to the exterior of the chimney where the brick and flashing meet the roof. But that didn’t work. I was then able to track down the company that installed the roof for the previous owners, but they were slow to get back to me. We then hired a fellow who did a fantastic job repointing the chimney mortar. Sadly, this also did not fix the problem. I reluctantly went back to the metal roofer and, after many attempts, got them to come out. They said the flashing was good and that water would need to rise as much as 4 inches before it could get above the flashing to seep into the attic. They added more silicone, but we still have the leak.

The roof is about 10 years old now, and the warranty is no longer valid. I tried contacting other metal roofers. Some would not return calls, and others tried to offer helpful advice; none wanted to inherit a problem that did not mean a big sale.

The leak rarely makes it to our living area ceiling, but we don’t want to keep running up into the attic to check on it and swap out wet towels. What should we do?


A. I have two thoughts:

1. Check the condition of the mortar on the very top of the chimney, where the stainless-steel cap is. This horizontal shelf, if not intact, can let water in. Seal the grout and brick.

2. Completely replace the counter flashing. While it is off, inspect the underlayer of flashing. There is no way to examine the flashing underneath without taking the counter flashing off, so the comment about the 4-inch rise only holds water (pun intended) if the underlayer is intact and doing its job.


Q. My son did car repairs on our driveway and sanded off a lot of rust. A seriously large amount is on the asphalt driveway, and nothing we tried has gotten rid of the stain. We’ve used a water and vinegar solution, CLR, and a leaf blower. Is this a lost cause? Should we seal the driveway?


A. In hindsight, you should have vacuumed up the rust particles, but now they’re embedded. Try applying a rust-removal product like CLR again but spraying it with a pressure washer.


Q. I raised my timber frame barn in October. The second floor will be my woodworking shop; the lower level will be used as garage space. I have kiln-dried, random-width cherry tongue-and-groove that I got from a reputable source. The space is watertight but not conditioned yet. The lower level slab will have radiant heat, and the upstairs shop will have a split system. In the interest of moving forward, I want to put my cherry floor down this weekend. My theory is that the wood is in maximum shrinkage due to the cold, dry air and can only expand from this point. I live in Connecticut and picked up the wood last Sunday in Vermont, where it was being stored in a conditioned space. Now it’s upstairs on the cold, dry second floor. I really need to get it down. I am worried about the floor moving and cracks opening. Your thoughts?


A. It’s ideal to have the area heated to room temperature before the flooring is delivered, but it’s too late now. I’d install it now, while the outside temperature is still cold, and the humidity is low, before the wood gains much moisture, but allow the hardwood to acclimate to the room conditions for three to five days first.

Rob Robillard is a general contractor, carpenter, editor of, and principal of a carpentry and renovation business. Send your questions to or tweet them to @robertrobillard. Subscribe to our free real estate newsletter at