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Basic Chimney Sweep & Repair Blog

What is Spalling?

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.

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!

All About Chimney Liners

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.

Give Basic Chimney Sweep a call to schedule an inspection to determine the current condition of your chimney liner.

By Ronald Caillais on May 18th, 2014 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment

Keeping Water Out

We at Basic Chimney Sweep use a vapor-permeable waterproofing agent, which allows the chimney to breathe. Water is prevented from entering from the outside while still allowing water that has penetrated along with the vapors produced during usage to escape as well.

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!

Signs You Need a Chimney Inspection

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.

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.

Is Your Chimney Ready for Spring?

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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