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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!

By Ronald Caillais on July 12th, 2014 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on What is Spalling?

Water in Your Chimney Means Mold

Why Do I Need To Worry About Mold?

Mold has its uses — there’s penicillin, which has proved to be a positive enough thing, then there’s letting you know where north is when you’re lost in the woods, or letting you know that its time (or, well, past time) to toss that leftover lasagna. We’re all pretty aware at this point, though, that mold in your walls, ceilings or chimney can cause some serious dangers to the people in your home — particularly folks who suffer from respiratory conditions. As mold spores spread through the air, inhaling them can cause allergic reactions, sinus problems, congestion and flu-like symptoms (headaches, coughs and throat irritation), even, in rare cases, more serious problems. And unless the mold problem is taken care of, those symptoms can continue. Toxic black mold, or Stachybotrys, is particularly worrisome, and commonly occurs when water gets into building materials.

Water in Your Chimney Means Mold - Baton Rouge LA - Basic ChimneyBasic Chimney techs will find any mold issues that might be hiding in your chimney masonry during your annual chimney inspection. But if mold starts to grow in between inspections, a few things will tip you to its presence.

Telltale Signs Of Mold

Foul odors

Mold has a musty, dusty smell that’s hard to miss. So if you’re noticing a foul odor coming from your fireplace, it’s worth giving Basic Chimney a call — your problem may not be mold, but chimney odors are a consistent indicator of some kind of problem in the system, and we can tell you what that is and recommend the best ways to solve that problem.

Leaks and stains

It’s usually easier to see mold in walls than on chimney masonry, but often enough, moisture issues that are significant enough to cause mold growth in your masonry will carry over to the surrounding drywall. If you notice the signs of a leak around your fireplace or chimney — particularly if you see dark stains — you may have a mold growth problem.

Preventing Mold Growth

The real key to preventing mold growth is the same key to taking good care of your chimney system overall: Do everything you can to keep water out. That means having your chimney inspected every year, to make sure leaks aren’t popping up in any common trouble areas (chimney crown cracks, flashing damage, degraded masonry); having a properly sized and correctly installed chimney cap protecting the flue; and keeping the chimney damper closed when the flue isn’t in use.

Waterproofing sealants can be a great preventative measure, too, helping the masonry itself stand up against rain and other kinds of precipitation.

If you think you might have a chimney mold problem, give Basic Chimney a call – our experienced technicians are here to help!

By Ronald Caillais on October 8th, 2013 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Water in Your Chimney Means Mold

Chimney Mold and Its Dangers

Water always finds a way. And when that water gets into your chimney, it can cause real damage. In addition to damage of your chimney, water also produces mold – and those dangers can spread to your physical health. Never touch mold anywhere in your home without first protecting yourself with gloves and a ‘surgical mask’.

Chimney Mold - Baton Rouge LA - Basic Chimney Sweep

Mold can cause reactions that range from irritation of eyes and skin to severe infections and if not treated, long-term health issues. Common indicators of mold exposure are congestion, cough and headache. Since these indicate so many other things, avoiding contact is recommended. Sometimes mold in your chimney produces a musty smell, but regular chimney maintenance can remove and prevent mold.

Keeping Mold Out

Homeowners can contribute greatly to its prevention with some really simple measures that make systems maintenance easier. Before you paint, use a mold-killing primer, especially on ceilings, bathroom walls.  Outer interior walls around deck doors and windows are also key areas to monitor. Mold grows fastest in dark damp places, like water-compromised chimneys or ductwork, but “damp” is all it really needs.

Dehumidifiers can help to reduce the dampness in the air.  Check with certified HVAC professionals to see whether this might work for you. Do not carpet damp areas like bathrooms and laundry rooms, as the moisture in this area is a tempting breeding ground for mold. Keep your supply registers and return vents vacuumed out and free of obstruction.  Resist the urge to hide baseboard registers with furniture; give them room to breathe and keep them clean. All of these measure are particularly helpful in areas of high humidity.

Removing mold from your chimney is a job best left to a professional chimney sweep. Where there is mold, there is water, so the system needs cleaning, inspection, and repair. Wherever water and fire meet, chimney sweeps go. Mold is a danger for you and your pets. Protect those you love by securing annual chimney maintenance.

By Ronald Caillais on June 15th, 2013 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Comments Off on Chimney Mold and Its Dangers
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