Spotting Masonry Damage

Masonry damage can be devastating to your chimney, especially during winter time. Minor damage becomes major damage when water gets into cracks and voids where it freezes and expands. It’s important for homeowners to not only schedule valuable services that can prevent and identify masonry problems, but also be aware of signs of damage.

Common Masonry Problems

Spalling—Spalling describes mortar that is cracking and crumbling. It no longer supports the bricks and they begin to flake and fall. Factors such as neglect and water damage cause spalling. A well-constructed and well-maintained chimney will not sustain this type of damage through normal wear and tear.

Spalling masonry is repaired through tuckpointing or repointing, in which a certified professional removes the mortar and replaces it with new of equal consistency, strength, and color. Incorrectly made mortar actually weakens the masonry instead of strengthening it. Failing to match it in color causes the exterior of the chimney to be mismatched, and this actually brings down your “curb appeal”.

Chimney Leaks—When water penetrates the chimney system it can cause all kinds of damage behind the scenes. Water damage can include rusted parts, deteriorated and stained walls and masonry, weakened supports, settlement, and collapse.

Chimney leaks can be caught and repaired through a simple chimney inspection each year. By the time a homeowner notices a chimney leak, it has caused unseen damage that takes time and money to repair. Scheduling routine maintenance gives a certified chimney sweep the opportunity to assess the system regularly as well as apply periodic waterproofing treatments that prevent leaks. Our sweeps at Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep quickly repair any discovered problems. Most water leaks start with missing or damaged flashing, caps, crowns, or masonry. We offer repairs year-round for the convenience and safety of our customers in the Boston area.

Signs to Look For

When it comes to masonry damage, you definitely want to catch it early so that repairs can be made before real damage can occur. Pay attention to how your chimney is working, and note changes. Chimney experts should address any persistent problems.
–A drop in efficiency can mean a problem with your masonry. Leaks, liner damage, damper malfunction and more can cause a drop in efficiency.
–Pieces of mortar and bricks strewn on the roof and onto the yard means spalling. A professional should address this type of extreme damage immediately.
–Dripping, staining, or wetness inside fireplace interior. This means there is water penetrating the chimney system, so there is a masonry problem.
–Mortar and brick pieces inside the fireplace means spalling masonry. Clay tile pieces inside the fireplace means a clay tile liner is deteriorating and the flue needs relined.

If properly built and maintained, your chimney will last for years. Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep can help your chimney last, and will do our job each time with the professionalism and expertise that keeps our customers safe and warm year after year.

Call Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep today at 800-248-4900!


Tuckpointing Weatherproof Image - Boston MA - Billy Sweet Chimney SweepMasonry is long-lasting and beautiful. However, the very same materials that make it strong and porous also make it susceptible to damages. Brick, mortar, concrete, stone, and cast iron are just some of the materials that make up masonry. All of these materials are adversely affected by moisture. This means that no matter how well your chimney was built, you may experience deterioration sooner than expected. This will happen if you don’t take measures to prevent water damage.

Weather and Your Chimney

Water can affect every part of your chimney. From the inside out, rusting parts, rotting supports, cracking masonry, and more. The damage on the inside can be detected during a routine chimney sweep or inspection. However, you can often see damage occurring on the outside. When water penetrates the masonry, the water experiences a constant cycle of freezing and thawing. This can turn a hairline crack into a gaping crack as water expands. When it freezes, a widening a crack, allowing more water inside to freeze again. In addition to water from rain and snow, other natural occurrences can damage your masonry including sleet, wind, animals, and even some insects.

As the masonry is weakened, homeowners may begin to notice loose mortar. Even flakes and slivers of mortar, falling from the roof. If left unchecked, you might even find bricks falling from the roof, as mortar is loosened and the bricks become loose. This occurrence is called spalling, and should be a red flag for homeowners.

The Solution: Tuckpointing

The first thing to do when you notice a problem with your chimney is to contact a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep® (CCS). Only a certified chimney sweep can assess the damage quickly and correctly. Plus, has the expertise to complete your tuckpointing or repointing job to restore your chimney completely.

Tuckpointing should never be left to an amateur. This detailed process of masonry repair includes removing the damaged mortar piece by piece, and replacing it with new. A chimney sweep who is inexperienced, or uncertified, may not mix the mortar correctly. This is because some amateurs mistakenly believe tuckpointing is strictly for looks. This is not true, and can be dangerous for your chimney and result in a shorter life.

At Billy Sweet, our technicians will match the new mortar with the color of the existing mortar. This will leave a beautiful finished product. However, we also know the importance of matching the strength and consistency of the new mortar with the old. Only an experienced chimney sweep can complete this task. If the mortar isn’t matched precisely, your chimney will not last.

Billy Sweet is licensed and insured. In addition, we send a CSIA certified chimney sweep on every job, and our technicians are expert masons. We will repair your chimney. Whether you need the chimney restored to full use, or if you need cosmetic repairs for real estate sales. We do a beautiful job in a professional manner, every time.

For more information about your spalling chimney, call Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep today or request an appointment online.

Common Masonry Damage

There’s more to masonry than meets the eye. A masonry chimney is made up of masonry materials and metal materials, including brick, mortar, concrete, stone, flue tile, steel, and cast iron. These materials are damaged significantly by water penetration and other natural occurrences. This damage can range from cosmetic to structural, and all is better prevented than repaired.


Chimney leaks are preventable with routine inspections and maintenance. Home owners should make it a top priority to schedule these routine checks because a professional will see a problem long before it presents itself to the untrained eye. Often times, by the time a leak is noticed by the homeowner, it’s already caused extensive water damage. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) water penetration can cause serious damage, including: rusted damper assemblies, fireplace accessories, and glass doors; deteriorated metal or masonry firebox assemblies, and central heating system; rotted adjacent wood, ruined wall coverings, and decayed exterior mortar; water-stained walls and ceiling; clogged clean-out area; stained chimney exterior; cracked or damaged flue lining; collapsed hearth support; tilted or collapsed chimney structure; and chimney settlement. These problems can be avoided by scheduling your waterproofing appointment today.

Common Masonry Damage - Boston MA - Billy Sweet Chimney


Cracks are often due to expansion and structural settlement, but can also be due to issues with the mortar. When mortar is the problem a professional may need to repair the mortar joints, repoint, or tuck-point the masonry. Preventative measures for cracking would be to hire a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep® (CCS) during construction or remodel to insure the chimney is of proper proportions and standards.


Spalling means bricks are falling from your masonry, or they are missing. This is caused when water penetrates the masonry and worsens by a process of freezing and thawing. Spalling can also be caused by structural stress. It is a hazard when bricks fall from the chimney, as a falling brick can injure a person or damage the exterior of your home. There are other kinds of masonry damage that is more cosmetic than dangerous.


The most common cause of staining is water damage. Excessive amounts of water traveling through the masonry can cause staining on the exterior of the chimney. This can be undesirable, especially if a homeowner is interested in selling. A professional can correct these stains by refacing the bricks.


Displacement is a structural problem that is caused from inadequate anchors for lateral support, freezing action, and corrosion of steel support. Displacement causes the masonry to essentially shift. This can be a costly fix, as it is a structural problem, but like spalling, displacement can be prevented by working with a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep® (CCS) during construction. Extensive damage may call for a chimney rebuilt.

Your whole chimney system is made up largely of masonry. It’s an intricate system, dependent on a very specific science of gases and temperature. This wouldn’t work without an adequate masonry chimney. It’s important to get the most out of your chimney by keeping up with routine chimney sweeps and annual chimney inspections. Contact Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep for yours today.

Common Problems with Masonry Chimneys

The autumn weather has arrived in full force. The chilly wind has colorful leaves falling from the trees and has everyone digging up their cozy jackets. This time of year also has homeowners thinking about how to heat their homes. In the frigid New England winters, this is a big concern. Many homes utilize fireplaces for some or even all of their heating needs. With a fireplace, however, comes some maintenance responsibilities. Fireplaces with masonry chimneys, in particular, are prone to specific types of issues, so you need to keep an eye out for the safety of your home and family.


A major issue that masonry chimneys face is water damage. Many homeowners never even consider that their strong, robust chimney could ever succumb to damage from a little water. Chimneys are built to live outside, after all. Unfortunately though, water can cause serious problems. The materials used to build a masonry chimney like brick, mortar, and concrete are all very porous, meaning they readily absorb water. While stones do not absorb water, the mortar holding them together does. The trouble with a masonry chimney filled with water occurs during the freeze and thaw cycles of winter. The water expands as it freezes, which means the bricks, the mortar, and the concrete all expand as well. Over time, this expansion causes damage.

You may see water damage in several different forms. The first clue is cracked or missing mortar. The constant movement of the materials during freezing weather loosens the bonds of the mortar. Thus, the mortar wiggles its way out from between the bricks, appearing as a crack or as a decent sized hole. A mason can usually fix isolated mortar cracks or holes using a process called tuckpointing.

Another sign of water damage is a cracked chimney crown. This concrete slab on top of your chimney acts as an umbrella to keep water from entering the flue. If it has cracks from water damage, water is entering your chimney, which leads to a whole new set of problems. Ask your mason if he can patch the cracks. Otherwise, the chimney crown may need to be completely replaced.

The most devastating sign of water damage to the chimney is partial or total collapse of the structure. This most likely occurs after years of exposure to water and freezing temperatures, but a poorly built chimney could suffer from collapse in less time. Chimneys are very heavy, meaning a collapse could be a danger to anyone on the ground and to the structure of your home. Any signs of a collapsing chimney must be addressed by a mason right away.

Luckily, you can take some steps to prevent water damage, like sealing your chimney and adding a chimney crown. Ask your mason what can be done to protect your chimney. If you live in the Boston or North Shore area or around Portland, Maine, contact Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep for a professional consultation. The experts at Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep can help make your chimney last for many more years.