HomeFix: A hip roof leads to chimney leaks

Dwight Barnett

Q: My house has a hip roof with a large chimney at the end of the house. No matter how much goop I put on the roof at the chimney, it always leaks after a year or two. Can you help me?

A: What you need is a cricket, sometimes called a saddle, built behind the chimney to force runoff rainwater around the chimney to the gutters.

If I remember correctly, the codes are vague on whether or not a cricket is required on the end of a hip roof that is perpendicular to the ridge. The codes I have read state that any chimney that is wider than 30 inches and is parallel to the ridge must have a cricket installed.

With a hip roof, the chimney can be on the end of the house that is not parallel with the ridge, so the question is, “Is a cricket required?" My answer is yes because without the cricket, the roof will leak where it meets the chimney.

A bit of explanation is required to understand what's happening. A hip roof has four sides, much like an ancient pyramid, only with a ridgeline parallel to the longer side of the house. A gable roof has a ridgeline the entire length of the house, with the gable ends of the home forming triangles.

There are no gable ends on a home with a hip roof, so all four sides of the roof drain to gutters.

No matter where you place the chimney on a home with a hip roof, the roof will drain toward the chimney and no amount of flashing material will hold back the torrents of rain and snowmelt.

A cricket is simply a small roof built behind the chimney to direct water around the chimney instead of damming up behind it. The cricket is flashed and counter-flashed to prevent leaks and can be covered with roof shingles to match the house or with metal roofing that will last for many years. The size of the cricket is dependent on the pitch of the hip roof and the width of the chimney. A professional carpenter can build the cricket and install the roof covering, the flashing and counter-flashings.

Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors. Write to him with home-improvement questions at C. Dwight Barnett, Evansville Courier & Press, P.O. Box 268, Evansville, Ind. 47702 or email him at d.Barnett@insightbb.com