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The Problem With Old Chimneys

Here in our community, we have beautiful, historic homes lining streets and neighborhoods. These homes are some of the oldest buildings in the United States, some dating back to the early 1800s, and they are well-worth saving. At Billy Sweet, we take safety seriously, and we think it’s important to preserve and protect these beautiful fixtures in New England. That’s why we strive to offer professional and affordable chimney services and specialize in historic chimney care.

Historic HomesHistoric homes need chimney services too!

Many systems in historic homes need to be updated, for comfort and efficiency, but also safety. You might have a home that was updated with electricity, gas, or central heat and air, and most likely has had the plumbing updated in recent years as well. This is because old systems are less efficient and may be unsafe. Your national and local safety codes may require updates in order for the home to be insured or zoned properly. They may need to be updated in order to work with new water or waste systems, or in the case of the chimney, to reflect new knowledge of chimney and fire science.

It’s important to hire a professional when your home needs work, and a certified professional has a responsibility to report code violations, safety hazards, and any damage observed. This presents a problem where chimneys are concerned. Though chimney fires account for 25,000 house fires per year, homeowners continue to neglect professional chimney care, believing it a waste of money.

Historic Chimneys

All or nearly all chimney fires are preventable with routine chimney care and swift repairs when necessary. The problem with historic chimneys is that when fire safety codes are updated, it may require an update to old chimneys. When a homeowner purchases a historic home with an old chimney, and updates haven’t been made for many years, it may not be code-compliant. It’s our responsibility to bring the chimney system up to code. This is required by your municipal government, HOA, fire marshal, and homeowners insurance.

At Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep we take safety seriously, and it’s our goal that all our customers and neighbors are safe and warm this winter. That is why we offer routine chimney sweeps and annual inspections year-round, so you aren’t surprised by a repair in the fall. We recommend all systems be up to date and the chimney code-compliant before burn season, so we’ll complete your inspection and provide a report, so that plans can be made for repairs and updates.

Common Updates to Old Chimneys

We often see historic chimneys that have minor problems and need minor repairs, however, there may be major compliance issues with your chimney. Many historic chimneys have old and broken clay tile liners–or no liner at all, making it a fire hazard as well as a carbon monoxide safety risk. Smoke chambers are often missing or ill-shaped, and must be updated to reflect new standards. Your historic chimney may need to be rebuilt, restored, or renovated, and we specialize in this work, keeping the integrity of your historic home in mind.

These services cost money, take time, and require planning and patience, but in the end, your home will be more valuable and your family will be safer after your historic chimney is serviced.

Schedule chimney services with Billy Sweet by calling 617-469-4528.

The History of the Chimney

Chimneys may be the best feature of your home. They are not only beautiful and add to the architectural integrity of the home, but they also keep your family safe while using a fireplace while making it more efficient. The chimney, its parts, and industry professionals have evolved over time to always improve safety and efficiency. Homes are safer with chimneys, and safer still when those chimneys are properly constructed and maintained. Taking care of your chimney is also an investment in your property, and your future! The History Of The Chimney Image - Boston MA - Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep

Historic Chimneys

While historic chimneys in our region of New England may go back to the 1700s, chimneys themselves go back as far as 12th century Europe. Before this, ventilation occurred in Rome when bakeries installed tubes in the walls to let smoke out. It wasn’t until the 15th and 16th centuries that chimneys took on a cosmetic appeal with ornate carvings and tall structures that could compensate for larger homes and multiple fireplaces. Simple chimney structure, though decorative and complementary to the home’s architecture remained the norm in Europe until the 18th century. At this time, coal was introduced as a domestic fuel source and this is when chimneys became the focus of serious study.

Chimneys Then

In the 18th century, Sir Benjamin Thompson identified the forms and relationships of the chimney’s parts. They consist of the throat, the smoke chamber, and the flue. The throat is the entrance of the flue where the smoke and heat passes into the smoke chamber and mixes to rise up the chimney. The smoke chamber includes a smoke shelf that prevents the smoke from falling back into the fireplace. The flue is the lengthy portion of the system, which carries the smoke out through the roof. Early chimney flues were masonry, and sometimes lined, though many flues even in the 1900s went unlined. Read more about chimneys here.

Chimneys Now

Chimneys today are made up of many parts that work together to keep the chimney working safely and efficiently. Some parts offer convenience, others are for cosmetic affect. Overall, the chimney has become more than a means to vent a fire. Families that don’t need fire heat still have a fireplace and chimney because they want them!
Chimneys today MAY include an ash dump which helps homeowners manage ashes. They may have a mantel, glass doors, or fireplace screen. The parts of the chimney that are recommended and/or required are: dampers, caps, crowns, and flue liners. What type of part you choose, is up to the homeowner, though some parts and brands offer benefits and convenience. For instance, you can save money by choosing a top-mount damper instead of a throat damper. The type of liner or liner repair you choose offers benefits as well. For instance, clay tile liners only work for wood heat, but stainless steel or HeatShield liners work with all fuel types.

Though chimneys have evolved over time, one thing is the same: chimneys keep homes safer than without. Chimneys that are maintained keep families safer than those that are neglected.

Call Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep today at 617-469-4528 today and ask a professional about chimney services.