There are many things that can go wrong with your masonry chimney over the years, and water is your chimney’s number one enemy. No matter how well-your chimney is constructed, time and weather can lead to damage called spalling. Many homes experience spalling, though not all homeowners know what it’s called, how to identify it, or what to do about it. At Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep, we can help!
When mortars crack, flake, and fall away, the bricks can become unstable and even loosen completely. This is called spalling, and it can eventually result in crumbling brick and mortar, which can become a serious hazard if you don’t address it timely. If you notice cracking mortar, gapped masonry, or brick pieces on the roof or yard below, you need to call a certified professional right away to address the proper repairs.
Repairing Spalling Masonry
The only way to properly repair spalling masonry is by carefully removing the affected bricks and mortar. A certified chimney sweep will mix new mortar to match the old mortar in strength, consistency, and color. This step is extremely important because failing to match the mortar exactly will result in a weak chimney. Once the mortar is mixed, the bricks are replaced and the result is a fully restored chimney that shows no evidence of a repair.
When the job is done improperly, it can detract from the look of the chimney and decrease your home’s value. This entire process is called tuckpointing or repointing. Only certified professionals should do it, and most amateurs don’t have the proper skills to do it. When you’re scheduling these important services, it’s important to choose chimney experts who have plenty of experience and knowledge of all types of masonry.
Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep Fixes Masonry
No matter the size of your chimney or the type of stone, we can help repair it. At Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep, we have the experience and the technique to get even the toughest jobs done. We know which materials to use and how so that your chimney will expand and contract as necessary. Do you think your chimney masonry needs some attention? Schedule a chimney inspection with our team so that your system is safe and ready for fall.
In addition to tuckpointing, we also repair crowns, flue liners, and leaks. Our team of expert technicians doesn’t just repair damage; we correct the problem that caused the damage in the first place. In order to prevent such damage before it starts, we also offer waterproofing services for all masonry structures.
Our vapor-permeable water repellent allows the chimney to breathe while keeping water molecules from getting through. This product penetrates deeply into the masonry, protecting it and preventing water leaks year after year. Don’t just repair masonry damage, let us help you prevent it. Call Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep at 617-469-4528 or request an appointment online.
Water penetration can cause some serious issues with your masonry and the working parts of your chimney. Among other things water in your chimney can cause flaking and crumbling of bricks and mortar called spalling. Spalling can lead to a host of problems and should be recognized and repaired before more damage occurs.
Signs of Spalling
The most obvious and common sign of spalling is flaking and crumbling bricks. It can be as minor as flakes of brick falling onto the roof, and as serious as whole bricks falling onto the ground from the top of the chimney. This is an obvious insurance risk aside from the chimney’s use and efficiency because the bricks can cause injury if they fall onto someone. You can sometimes tell there is a problem by cracking, discoloration, or chipping of the mortar between the bricks, but the easiest way to catch water penetration before it becomes a problem is to follow-through with regular preventative maintenance for your chimney system.
Chimney Sweeps and Inspections
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommend annual inspections of the chimney system as well as regular chimney sweeps to keep your chimney clean. Only a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep® (CCS) has the experience and expertise to notice the problems before they become a problem. By the time the average homeowner notices signs of a leaky chimney, there is extensive unseen damage. The easiest way to avoid the extra cost and headache is to remember these appointments.
When brick and mortar becomes damaged and crumbly and an expert catches the problem, he can remove the mortar and replace it with new mortar of equal strength and color-matched to the existing masonry. Only a professional with experience and training can properly match new and old mortar correctly. If they are matched improperly the integrity of the masonry is compromised and the repair will not last. You can count on Black Moose Chimney and Stove to get it done right the first time. This is a structural repair as much as cosmetic, and your money will bring you back to the safe, efficient, and beautiful chimney of your dreams.
The easiest way to preserve your dream chimney and to prevent water damage like spalling is to waterproof your chimney. This means installing, repairing, or replacing chimney caps, chimney crowns, and flashing. These three things are not optional. They are designed to keep water out of your chimney, and will only work when installed and maintained properly. This saves the homeowner money, while preventing water damage.
There are also methods of waterproofing the actual masonry. Our sweeps can apply an industrial strength waterproofing sealant that prevents water from entering the masonry. This specially formulated sealant actually allows vapors to escape through the masonry, while keeping moisture particles out as well.
To avoid the headache of water damage, spalling, and extensive repairs, call the professionals today. Call Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep today.
Did you know your chimney could sweat? Did you know that this process is actually very harmful to your chimney? Well now that it has been brought up, you must learn all the facts. When the bricks of your chimney sweat, spalling can start to occur. If you feel like this could be happening with your chimney, call the professionals at Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep.
What is chimney spalling and how is it caused?
Spalling is what happens when the bricks or stones on your masonry chimney start to come off in flakes or start to go missing because of water penetration. One of the first signs is when you find random bricks on the ground or on your roof. Often times the main cause of spalling is when the water absorbed in the bricks from precipitation freezes and thaws. This can be worsened by the condensation of flue gases in liners that are not the right size, or gaps and cracks in the interior mortar joints. Also, spalling is made more prominent when extra water enters the interior by way of the chimney chase. Softer types of bricks are more likely to have moisture penetration, but are often used over harder types of bricks because they are more cost-friendly.
The chimney will be one of the first places that will show that it has damage since it is constantly exposed to the elements. The spalling will start with the top portions but once one part of the chimney starts to spall the whole inside has already been damaged. These bricks must be replaced since they are permanently damaged.
How can you prevent spalling?
There is no complete way to protect your chimney from water damage, but there are a few things that you can do to help. First, you need to have your chimney waterproofed. Your chimney technician can do that on any dry day after they sweep. The layer of sealant will need about six hours to dry so it is important to plan ahead. If you live somewhere where it rains often, you might look into having a second coat applied. Chimney caps are also another great way to help keep water out, as well as animals and leaves, but must be properly installed to be safe.
Your chimney may be the biggest system in your home besides the central air and heating unit and there’s a lot that can go wrong with it. Because it’s so big and can cause big problems for your home, it’s important to understand just what makes up the chimney system, how it works, and how it can go wrong.
Parts of the Chimney
From bottom to top, there are many parts and materials that make up a fireplace and chimney system. The terms ‘fireplace’ and ‘chimney’ are often used interchangeably, and they work together to get the job done. What we know as the fireplace is actually called the firebox, and what we know as the chimney is actually the flue. These are only two parts of a very large system that must be built and maintained properly. Only then will the system work efficiently and safely.
Foundation – Just as the house itself sits on a foundation that holds it up and prevents settlement and shifting as seasons and weather change the soil, the chimney requires a foundation. Oftentimes this foundation is built when the home is built, but not always.
Ash Dump – Some, but not all, chimneys have an ash dump. This is a space beneath the firebox where ashes can be pushed and stored to cool and collect over time. A chimney sweep can remove these ashes as needed through a cleanout door near the foundation—a service that usually isn’t required for several years.
Hearth – The hearth is the floor of the firebox which usually extends from the back of the fireplace out into the room a bit and is made of a particular firebrick and refractory mortar that protects against heat transfer from the fire.
Firebox – The space where the fire sits and burns is called the firebox. It endures the highest temperatures for the longest periods but receives the least attention. The firebox is constructed of firebricks and refractory mortar.
Damper – The damper is a mechanism, usually made of metal, installed at the top of the firebox and opens and closes the flue opening. When the damper is closed, very little air moves through the chimney system. When the flue is open, air flows freely.
Smoke Chamber – The space above the firebox is called the smoke chamber—so named because this is where the particles and gases mingle with the heat to rise up the chimney. It is shaped like an inverted funnel to direct smoke upward and into the flue. Beneath the smoke chamber, there is a shelf (called the smoke shelf) designed to prevent smoke from falling back into the firebox and into the home. The walls of the smoke chamber should be at certain angles and smooth.
Flue – The flue is the interior vent by which smoke and gases travel out of the home. The surface of the flue should be covered with a liner that keeps heat and corrosive chemicals from damaging or moving through the masonry and gives it a seamless, smooth surface for optimum airflow.
Masonry Crown – At the top of the chimney there is a ceiling that extends from the flue opening to the edge of the chimney. The crown is made out of durable material that can withstand harsh temperatures, sunlight, and precipitation. It is also made at a slant so that water runs away from the flow and onto a drip edge, where it drips down onto the flashing at the roof instead of running down the masonry.
Chimney Cap – The chimney cap is the roof of the chimney system. It keeps water, animals, wind, and weather out. The cap is necessary to prevent chimney water damage and animal intrusion. It is often made of copper or stainless steel.
Common Chimney Problems
Even a well-constructed chimney can become damaged over time—especially through particularly rough winters or when subjected to coastal air and moisture.
- Spalling masonry can be particularly devastating to chimneys that stand in coastal regions. This is when the mortar cracks and falls away, causing bricks to loosen and take on water.
- Leaky chimneys can lead to damaged parts of the chimney, but also water damage throughout the house. A chimney leak can occur in any season and cause damage year-round.
- Smoky fireplaces are usually caused by an obstruction, draft issue, or even the wrong firewood being burned in the fireplace! A smoky fireplace doesn’t always require a repair but should always be troubleshot and a professional should be called if the problem persists.
- Liner damage is most often due to an old clay tile liner becoming worn out and breaking apart. You might find pieces of clay tile in your firebox or notice problems like masonry that is hot to the touch. Liner damage can also be caused by a dirty flue or a flue fire.
Whether your system is old or new, whether you have a fireplace, a stove, or an insert, whether you burn wood, pellets, or gas, your chimney is important. It can be a great asset, but can also be very dangerous. Make sure you know the ins and outs of chimney function and maintenance. Make sure your chimney system is safe and efficient. It will work better and for longer.
Call and schedule services with Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep today by calling 617-469-4528