Basic Chimney Sweep & Repair Blog
Water is a major contributor to the ruining of your masonry chimney. Your chimney is potentially one of the most taken-for-granted parts of your home. You know it’s there, but rarely pay it very much attention.
It’s one of those things that you expect to be there for you when you need it but may not give it much additional thought in the meantime. Not very many homeowners give much thought to keeping the chimney’s exterior in the best shape possible; “it’s all just cosmetic,” we think. This thought process isn’t one to be ashamed of, but it is one to be corrected as soon as possible.
Water and metal are not the best of friends…
It’s common knowledge that water causes rust. Water penetration can cause your metal damper assemblies and metal chimney liners to rust. For every bit of rust you can see, there is likely to be even more that you can’t see. Perhaps you haven’t seen any rust but haven’t been able to physically open your damper; it could be rusted because of water running down from the top (perhaps due to a missing or damaged chimney cap). In order to prevent water from wreaking havoc on your metal chimney components, a chimney cap is an absolute must have!
Water can cause your brickwork to flake…
Chimney spalling (the flaking off of the brick surface) is a sign of severe moisture penetration. Spalling bricks have cracks and breaks in the surface and often large, crater-shaped chips. These bricks need to be repaired or replaced. The best way to avoid brick spalling is to eliminate the moisture altogether. If the area around your chimney crown is cracked or the cap itself is defective, this allows water to seep into the brickwork below, thereby increasing the chances for spalling.
Water has a tendency to erode your mortar…
Your chimney is exposed to the elements on the outside and the heat from your firebox on the inside. As a result, the weathering process is increased. As such, it is common for the mortar to begin to crumble and fall away, leaving open areas between the bricks, thereby exposing more surface area to these weathering agents. Repointing your chimney might be your only option. During this process, the damaged, old and loose mortar on your chimney is removed from the joints between the bricks and replaced with new mortar.
Unless you’re just itching for a reason to get rid of your chimney, there really is no excuse for not taking better care of it. It’s time to have an experienced technician evaluate the condition of your chimney’s interior and exterior, get them repaired if necessary, and have your chimney coated with a waterproofing agent. So whether you have a leaky chimney or are simply looking to be proactive and prevent leaks before they happen, call the professionals at Basic Chimney Sweep & Repair today!
Spalling: An Explainer
When Basic Chimney technicians talk with our clients about their chimney systems, we wish we could always stick with the fun stuff: cozy fires, crackling logs, beautiful masonry design. But chimneys are hardworking systems that are under almost constant assault inside and out, from the heat of your fire to the pounding rain and beating sun outside. So, unfortunately, we need to talk about the less-fun stuff sometimes too, to help keep you informed about your system’s needs.
One of the more frustrating words that can come up when talking about a chimney system: spalling. Essentially, spalling refers to crumbling, cracking and/or flaking masonry — and that can take a variety of looks and forms.
What Does Spalling Look Like, And How Does It Happen?
Water is your chimney’s number one foe. Spalling is one negative result of excess moisture.
Depending on what led to your problem and the particular material (brick, mortar or concrete), your spalling masonry can have a few different looks — anything from surface chipping to bricks that look like they’ve more or less exploded from the inside out. You might see bricks that seem like their faces have completely popped off, leaving uneven, broken and receded areas on a once-straight chimney stack. You might see a chimney crown that’s crumbled and flaked, anything from a rough and ragged surface to looking almost like someone took a sledgehammer to it.
In particularly bad cases of spalling, your masonry has more or less burst from the inside out: Moisture gets absorbed into the chimney, and then as winter chills roll in, that moisture freezes and expands, putting serious, unrelenting pressure on your not-very-pliable bricks and mortar. Then, boom: spalling masonry.
But it’s not always the freeze/thaw cycle. Sometimes spalling is the result of age, and long-term wear-and-tear from weather on your masonry surface. Spalling can also be the result of do-it-yourselfer errors, like putting latex paint on your chimney (which ends up trapping moisture inside your chimney and doing far, far more damage than good). Whatever the cause, it’s a serious problem and an almost surefire contributor to chimney leaks (and the damage and potential mold that can come along with those leaks), so proper repairs need to be made as soon as possible.
What Can I Do About Spalling Masonry?
There’s no two ways about it: Spalling masonry needs to be repaired properly by experienced, knowledgeable chimney technicians like the ones at Basic Chimney Sweep & Repair. We can assess the level of damage and recommend the right repairs — anything from rebuilding your chimney crown to restoring your chimney stack. And once those repairs are made, we can also recommend some ways to help you avoid similar problems in the future, like adding a specially formulated waterproofing sealant to your chimney to help your masonry repel moisture and protect it for years to come.
The best thing you can do, though, is to try and avoid spalling to begin with. And keeping up with your annual chimney inspections is a good start toward that goal. If Basic Chimney technicians are able to examine your system closely every year, we’ll find small problems (and make the necessary repairs) before those problems become a big headache, like a spalling, crumbling chimney crown.
Do you have any questions or concerns about spalling or other kinds of masonry damage? We’re always glad to help our valued clients. Just give Basic Chimney Sweep & Repair a call!
What You Need to Know About Mold
Taking care of your chimney isn’t easy. It requires a lot of time, materials, skill and constant attention. We need to constantly monitor and maintain our chimneys in order to ensure our home and our family’s safety.
Every year, there are a number of homeowners from all over, emailing and calling our friendly team at Basic Chimney Sweep & Repair to inquire about each of their chimney concerns. From tips on prevention up to simple how-to’s, we’ve made sure to respond to as many of your questions as we possibly can.
You have questions about the growth of mold in your chimney? We have answers.
We are frequently asked about one concern – it’s about chimney mold and its impact on our safety.
So, we’ve decided to come up with a compilation of a few important facts and helpful information that you might want to know regarding chimney molds.
Water is the Enemy
Aside from water being known to cause damage in your chimney’s mortar and brick, and not to mention the risk it has on potentially damaging your chimney’s structural integrity, water is our number one enemy because it is the key ingredient in mold proliferation.
Signs and Indications
What are the early signs to look out for that are indicative of mold growth? To be able to detect mold growth without actually going up your chimney to take a peak would require you to be very observant. First, you need to take note of the season and the weather. Since the potential for mold growth greatly increases with the presence of water, you need to be more alert whenever it’s warm, rainy or humid. Second, you need to take note of the smell. If you notice a musky odor circulating, then that is definitely a tell-tale sign of mold growth.
Every person has a different reaction to certain substances. The same is true with a person’s reaction to molds. Here are a few of the common physical reactions attributed to mold growth:
- Breathing problems
- Flu-like symptoms
- Memory loss
- Weakened immune system
Of course, these reactions vary depending on the severity of the mold growth and exposure and the person’s physical state upon contact.
In order to prevent the possibility of mold growth, the best thing for you to do is to waterproof your chimneys. A waterproofing sealant can be applied on the walls of your chimney. Another preventive measure is to install a chimney cap. Chimney caps cover the opening so that little or no water at all can enter. Eliminating the possibility of water also eliminates the possibility of mild growth in your chimney.
According to the CSIA, problems in your chimney’s flue can present serious risks to your home and family, because it’s no longer able to perform its primary function: to safely contain and vent the products of combustion to the outside of your home.
Give Basic Chimney Sweep a call to schedule an inspection to determine the current condition of your chimney liner.
We at Basic Chimney Sweep use a vapor-permeable waterproofing agent, which allows your chimney to breathe.
Your chimney is potentially one of the most taken-for-granted parts of your home. You know it’s there but rarely pay it very much attention. It’s one of those things that you expect to be there for you when you need it but may not give it much thought in the meantime. Not very many homeowners give much thought to keeping the chimney’s exterior in tiptop shape; “it’s all just cosmetic,” we think. This thought process isn’t one to be ashamed of, but it is one to be corrected.
Your Chimney’s Inherent Flaw
Chimney materials – brick and mortar – are, by nature, porous. As such, they experience hastened deterioration as a result of prolonged exposure to and contact with water and the elements. The freezing and thawing process—during which time water that has penetrated the various chimney materials freezes and expands—quickly deteriorates the overall construction of your chimney.
Stopping the Dreaded Freeze-Thaw Cycle
One way to limit the impact the freezing and thawing cycle has on your chimney is to prevent as much water as possible from penetrating the materials as possible. Water in your chimney can also cause rust on steel and cast iron parts, ultimately weakening or destroying them over time. The exterior of your chimney is constantly getting battered from the weather. Harsh weather conditions can have a negative effect on your chimney.
Should I Consider Waterproofing?
By waterproofing your chimney, it will repel up to 99.9% of the water that would otherwise penetrate the brick and/or other materials. Waterproofing is a true preventative measure that can add years to your chimney’s life. Because it’s not a requirement, many homeowners de-prioritize it; this is a big mistake! There are many issues that can develop as a result of water being on and getting in to your chimney, and, as such, swift and immediate action should be taken to ensure that you’re not faced with unnecessary and avoidable repairs bills.
Unless you simply want to get rid of your chimney sooner or later, there really is no excuse for not waterproofing it. This one simple thing can help ensure that both the water outside won’t enter your house through the chimney and that you are able to enjoy your fireplace for many years to come. It’s time to look at the condition your chimney’s exterior is in, get it repaired if necessary, and have it coated with a waterproofing product. Contact the certified service professionals at Basic Chimney Sweep & Repair today for more information or to schedule an appointment!
Your fireplace is the focus of family gatherings and a great way to take the chill off during the coldest winter nights. For many, it is a basic necessity. It can also be a source of danger to your home and family. A fireplace that is improperly cared for may start a fire where you don’t want one, namely inside your chimney. Although you remove them often, ashes indicate energy efficiency, showing that the fire completely consumed the fuel source. It’s what doesn’t turn into ash that puts your home at risk. Creosote is nothing more than unburned wood energy that builds up on your chimney’s inner surface.
Preventing Chimney Fires
No one can promise you that you’ll never experience a house fire. We can however, minimize potential problems with chimney maintenance.
According to the NFPA, the second leading cause of house fires is heating equipment, and two out of three heating equipment fires result from heating appliances, which includes fireplaces, chimneys and wood stoves. Of the fires that start in the chimney or fireplace, most are a direct result of creosote deposits. Sadly, most are preventable with regular inspections and maintenance. Prevent your home from becoming part of these statistics by scheduling routine chimney inspections to catch dangerous creosote before it catches you.
Cleaning Your Chimney
Regular chimney cleanings will remove the inevitable buildup of creosote and soot. Unfortunately, there’s no simple rule of thumb for when to do it. Don’t rely on the standard advice of having it done once a year or at some other set time. Clean your chimney when it needs it—when the creosote is thick enough to warrant cleaning. You’ll never be able to keep your chimney 100% creosote-free, but if left to sit, it will eventually harden into a stubborn glaze that’s even virtually impossible to remove without the proper tools.
Monitoring Your Chimney
Obviously, if you notice smoke flooding into your house, soot covering your furniture, even dark smoke constantly flowing from your chimney, you should suspect creosote issues. Unfortunately, creosote may not make itself so readily known. Until you know how much creosote your burning habits creates, check your chimney regularly to monitor the accumulation so you can catch it before it gets out of hand.
Inspecting your chimney is critical to ensuring your house doesn’t join the growing list of house fire statistics. The chimney is inspected from inside the fireplace and then again from the top of the chimney. The entire process takes less than an hour or two for even the most cautious and painstaking inspection. The best course of action is to hire a professional to inspect your chimney prior to the beginning of the heating season and clean or repair as necessary. The payoff for ensuring that your chimney is in prime working condition is priceless—peace of mind every time you build a fire.
With sunshine and warmer temperatures approaching, the home improvement lists are in the works. When taking notes, you must not forget your chimney’s annual maintenance. While many household repairs are easy enough to be done yourself, chimney maintenance is different. If not done correctly your home could experience draft problems or even a chimney fire. Some repairs can be unsafe if left untouched for a long period of time. To schedule your appointment with an experienced professional call Basic Chimney Sweep and Repair today!
How often should my chimney be swept?
If you use your fireplace excessively, it may be beneficial for you to have two sweeps annually. You want to have one closer to burning season so that there is less time for anything to build up inside of the chimney, but you also want to make sure whatever is inside from the burning season is taken care of. You should make sure that whoever you hire for sweeping is Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) certified. Springtime is also a slower time for chimney sweeps so you should have no trouble getting an appointment.
Once the cold weather is gone, it is a good time to call your chimney sweep and get an appointment.
What are some common chimney repairs?
Winter storms and weather can be detrimental to your chimney’s overall structure. Early spring is the best time to do these repairs because it is starting to warm up outside, but the spring showers have not kicked into full gear. Flashing and rain caps are two common things that your technician will check when they examine your chimney.
Another repair that will need to be looked into is the how well the chimney is sealed. After many freezing and thawing of the unit, it will eventually begin to have small cracks for and the caulking may become loose. After the repairs are finished, you should look into having your chimney waterproofed. This is especially good for anyone who lives in a wet environment.
What do you do about the animals?
When left unattended your chimney can begin to house the wildlife. While this may seem cool to your kids, your home will thank you for getting someone to come remove whatever animals may be inside. To keep both you and the animal safe, this removal should only be done by a professional – we’d be happy to help. Animals of all sizes often use the home for nesting, but also for storage. This will not combine well when warm temperatures combine with the animal’s nests.
Are you constantly worried about creosote buildup, carbon monoxide poisoning, and house fires? Well, if you know the basics in the combustion process, you wouldn’t have to.
Maximizing the heating potential of your fireplace or heating system can save you energy dollars as well as keep your whole household safe.
A chimney’s job is to exhaust combustion gases from your home. However, when a chimney gets excessively dirty or clogged (by any number of things—debris and animal nests are common culprits), when your chimney damper is closed, or a part of your chimney is broken that prevents carbon monoxide and other combustion byproducts from venting, then you and your family may become at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. When carbon monoxide can’t access the outside of your home through your chimney it will “backdraft” into your home.
Carbon monoxide can put you and your family in harm’s way. Be sure to have your chimneys inspected and swept to avoid such accidents.
In high levels, carbon monoxide can become deadly within a matter of minutes, while low-level does can sicken people with flu-like symptoms. (Unlike the flu, carbon monoxide poisoning won’t cause a fever or glandular swelling.) Carbon monoxide poisoning is even sometimes mistaken as seasonal depression. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, [link to ] over 200 Americans die each year and 10,000 injuries are diagnosed—all from carbon monoxide poisoning related to venting problems with their heating systems.
The best way to prevent chimney-related carbon monoxide poisoning is to have your chimney inspected and swept annually. This is a recommendation shared by the Chimney Safety Institute of America, as well as most all other national fire safety organizations. A professional chimney cleaning can have many other benefits as well, including providing you with a safer, more efficient heating appliance that’s less likely to smoke in your home and create unpleasant odors. Beyond prevention, installing a carbon monoxide detector inside your home will be able to alert you to the presence of the deadly gas inside your home. Those of us at Basic Chimney Sweep & Repair are happy to inspect and clean your chimney so you can rest easy knowing you and your family are safe.
How Can I Tell If My Chimney Is Allowing Carbon Monoxide in My House?
Only a professional will be able to truly determine—via an inspection and/or cleaning —whether or not your chimney is allowing CO to vent into your home. Although many causes of chimney-related carbon monoxide poisoning are tucked away from view, there are sometimes visible signs that something may be amiss with your chimney, including:
- Rust or water streaks on your vent or chimney
- Loose chimney masonry
- A loose or missing furnace panel
- Loose or disconnected vent or chimney connections
- Debris or soot inside your home or falling from your chimney, fireplace, or appliance
- Moisture inside your windows
- Internal appliance damage or malfunctioning components
- Improper burner adjustment
- Hidden blockage or damage in chimney
If you’ve noticed any of these issues with your heating appliance, call us right away to schedule an inspection.
Physical Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
The trickiest part about this sometimes-deadly gas is that it can be very hard to detect, as it is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. This is why the call it “the silent killer.” Unfortunately, when our bodies are given the choice between carbon monoxide and oxygen, our blood protein hemoglobin will choose carbon monoxide over oxygen, replacing oxygen in our blood stream with carbon monoxide. Too much carbon monoxide in the blood will kill us.
Below are some of the physical symptoms that accompany low-level carbon monoxide poisoning. These are especially important to pay attention to during the colder months when you’re using your heating appliance:
- Red coloration of the skin
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dizziness, light-headedness, or loss of consciousness
- Fatigue or weakness, including muscle fatigue
- Chest pain
It is important to note that CO poisoning symptoms manifest differently for each person.
Other Causes of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Did you know that your clothes dryer can also cause carbon monoxide to leak into the home? The best way to prevent this problem is to have your dryer vent professionally inspected and cleaned. This is a service we at Basic Chimney Sweep & Repair are happy to provide to our customers. A dryer vent cleaning will also help your clothes to dry quicker, which will cost you less energy dollars and may even prevent a dryer fire, as lint tends to get clogged in dryer ducts, especially when your dryer is located in the center of your home and the duct has to travel a long distance to vent outdoors.
Contact us today to schedule an inspection of your chimney and/or your dryer duct. Keep your family safe and put your mind at ease, all while helping your appliances run more efficiently.
When Basic Chimney Sweep & Repair technicians come to your home for a chimney sweeping appointment, you’ll probably hear us talk a lot about byproducts, and creosote, and the combustion process. Those topics are kind of the basic building blocks of why chimney sweeping is so important — combustion in your fireplace creates byproducts, including creosote, which build up on the flue walls, affecting draft, potentially damaging your flue liner and, if left unswept, leading toward a fire hazard.
It’s good to know about the combustion process and how draft occurs so that you can prevent accidents related to your chimney
If you’ve ever wondered how the combustion process works inside your fireplace or flue, you’re not alone — we give a fireplace and chimney combustion rundown to a lot of clients, because it helps to have a sense of how things work when you’re trying to make informed decisions about the care of your chimney system.
Here are some of the basics:
Combustion In Your Chimney System
Combustion, at its most basic, is burning — or, if we’re talking the dictionary definition, a speedy chemical process that results in heat and light. When we’re focused on your chimney system, by referencing combustion, we’re talking about the process of burning fuel inside your firebox — be it wood, wood pellets or gas. You start your fire or hit your gas ignition switch, the fuel burns, heat and light result, and you get what you’re looking for out of your fireplace or stove.
Heat and light aren’t all that follows, though, and as chimney technicians, our job has a lot to do with keeping up with the other stuff — namely, byproducts and draft.
Draft And How It Occurs In Your Chimney
Draft is the force that pulls heat and byproducts up your flue, and out of your home, so proper draft is key to your chimney’s function. It occurs in your flue because of a principle we all know well: hotter air rises, and cooler air sinks. Air always moves from an area with higher pressure to lower pressure, and aressure difference occurs while combustion is happening in your fireplace or stove — hot air rising in your flue creates a lower-pressure area below, and that pulls in cooler air near your firebox opening, and draft moves along as it should.
What Can Impede Draft?
Issues with smoke, stains, odors and improper burning in your combustion appliance often have something to do with impeded draft. The specific culprits behind that impeded draft, though, can vary.
It could be something simple, like a failure to open your chimney damper all the way, or a lack of sufficient combustion air (that lower-temperature air getting pulled into your firebox). The latter happens a lot in homes with well-sealed energy-efficient windows and doors, and if cracking a window when you have a fire clears up the issue, you’ve found your culprit.
Draft problems could also be due to a size issue. A chimney that isn’t the correct height won’t achieve the right level of draft, and a flue that’s too big or too small in diameter will lead to draft issues, greater byproduct production and less efficient burning, among other issues,
Often enough, Basic Chimney techs find that draft issues are the result of flue liner damage. If your flue liner is cracked, or spotted with voids or gaps, it limits the force of your draft. Think of it kind of like a straw: Apply some force to an intact straw, and your drink comes right up; try with a straw that has a hole in it, and you’ll struggle and struggle with little success. That’s why it’s key to have your chimney inspected annually, and to have flue liner damage taken care of as soon as possible.
If you have any questions about combustion or draft in your chimney, Basic Chimney Sweeps is always here to help – just give us a call!