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Our Company Blog
by Billy Sweet | Jul 27, 2019 | Chimney Service
In our area of Boston, North Shore, and Portland, there is a lot of history. Our communities are filled with historical buildings and homes. If you’re a homeowner in the area, you may have a historical home and it’s likely that you also have an old chimney. If you have just acquired your home you may not know much about it! At Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep, we get a lot of calls about historic chimneys, and they get a bad rap. In fact, there are a lot of interesting features to old chimneys that many just don’t understand. Here are our favorites:
You may be surprised to find a trap door at the back of the firebox floor. This is not a secret escape or treasure trove, but a pit where past homeowners would shovel and scrape ashes. Many present-day homeowners still utilize this ash pit, and some may even have an easy-access clean-out door. These pits are usually constructed with the home’s foundation and are just as durable, When you use the ash pit, you can have it emptied periodically by your trusted chimney professional and never have to bother with bucket loads and storage of ashes.
In the past, the number of chimneys, or “stacks” was an indication of how many bedrooms were in the home. The more stacks, the more prestigious the home. Today, you may not want to use all of these fireplaces. In fact, you can update them all to a more efficient option when you plan with a professional. Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep can swap your old wood-burning fireplace with a new gas-fueled insert that will neither damage the existing hearth and chimney nor detract from the historical aspects of your home. Our inserts are top-of-the-line units that burn gas or wood, depending on our customer needs. When installed by a professional, you can bet it will add style and beauty to one or more old chimneys.
Many historic chimneys are topped with chimney pots. Though, not in use as much today, these chimney pots extend the height of the flue and narrow the stack, creating a better draft upward. These tops date back to the Tudor Dynasty in Great Britain and have been used on every continent and are designed for beauty and function. In addition to helping the chimney work better, it also protects the flue against water damage.
Do you have a historic chimney that needs a little TLC? We can help. At Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep we specialize in historic chimneys, and we love to help homeowners find the love and beauty in these old systems.
When you depend on us for your comprehensive chimney care, we will help to bring your chimney system up to code, work to make it as safe and efficient as possible, and do so at a price affordable to our valued customers.
Call Billy Sweet Chimney at 617-469-4528 and schedule your chimney assessment and maintenance today.
by Billy Sweet | Apr 29, 2019 | Winter Chimney Damage
Winter may be over and your fireplace closed down for the off-season, but that doesn’t mean it can’t cause problems for your home. It’s common for even a well- maintained chimney to experience winter damage. Like any system or appliance in the home, it should be serviced regularly in order to prevent serious damage and malfunction from time and use. Scheduling a chimney sweep and inspection in the spring can prevent further damage, allow for easier payment, and lead to a safer and more efficient chimney system.
Common Winter Damage
Your common winter damage can all be detected during a standard chimney sweep or diagnostic inspection. When we complete spring services to our customers at Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep, we often find masonry damage, damaged or missing parts, chimney leaks and water damage, and liner damage. Masonry damage and parts damage is most common after a long, bitter winter due to what we call the freeze/thaw cycle.
The Freeze/Thaw Cycle
When water penetrates the masonry, even small amounts of water, you can count on some winter damage when temperatures regularly cycle into freezing numbers. Water enters the system whether through rainfall, snow, or sleet and fills cracks and crevices. This water remains in these spaces as temperatures drop, causing it to freeze and expand. As the water expands, it breaks apart the masonry. When the temperature rises again due to sunlight on the chimney or a fire in the firebox, the ice melts and moves further into the damaged portions of masonry before the cycle repeats and it freezes again. This freeze/thaw cycle occurs all winter long, reaching into your masonry and devastating it if it isn’t corrected.
Spring Repairs and Leak Prevention
You can prevent chimney leaks even when your chimney has winter damage like masonry cracks and gaps. Scheduling services with Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep is your first step in chimney repair and leak prevention.
Routine Chimney Sweeps – The safest and most efficient chimney systems are those that are cleaned regularly and inspected annually, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Sweeps not only keep your flue working properly and safely but during these important appointments, your chimney professional will notice and report any damage that should be repaired.
Annual Chimney Inspections – Like sweeps, inspections keep the system working properly, but an inspection is a thorough assessment of the entire system, including the interior flue. Most chimney damage isn’t noticed by the homeowner because it occurs behind the scenes. When you schedule an inspection with a certified expert, you can rest assured that no hazard has gone undetected.
Masonry Repairs – When your masonry has been damaged by winter weather, you can count on Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep for your masonry repairs. Whether it’s tuckpointing, crown replacement, or firebox repairs, we have got you covered.
Not only do we repair your winter damage, but we can apply a water repellent to help prevent recurrence next winter! Call Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep today at 617-469-4528 or request an appointment online.
by Billy Sweet | Dec 14, 2018 | Chimney Repair
As cold weather sets in around New England, families are moving indoors. This is a big time for home improvements and renovations–especially after the holidays are over. Before you embark on projects around the house this winter, make sure you know the law in your area regarding building permits, licenses, and insurance. These things may not seem like a big deal when you’re just making minor changes, but your city authorities may see it differently!
Chimney Repairs and Permits
Chimney repairs are some of the most important that you might make to your home. The chimney keeps your home safe from carbon monoxide exposure, smoke inhalation, and unsafe fires throughout winter, and can save you money in utilities through summer. If you don’t hire a professional for repairs, constructions, renovations, and installations, you may end up paying more than you intend–in municipal fines and damage repairs.
Certified Professionals at Billy Sweet
Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep has been operating in and providing exceptional chimney services to New England for over 30 years, and we do this by certifying our sweeps. Our chimney sweeps are certified through the National Fireplace Institute (NFI) and the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) which gives us the ability to obtain building permits for any chimney work you need or want done. Don’t DIY your way through chimney work, and don’t hire an amateur. Certifications are gold in this business because they take money, training, experience, and continued education. When you find a professional with certifications, you can count on expert services and professionalism every step of the way.
Common Chimney Work Requires Permits
You will not need a permit for certain types of chimney services. For instance, routine and preventative services such as chimney sweeps and annual inspections shouldn’t require a building permit. Many installations will not require a permit either, but any construction will. This means you can have a unit installed, but you cannot have a fireplace or chimney built without a building permit. You can have a part replaced, but if it requires access through masonry or removal of components, it will likely require a permit. Extensive masonry repairs will require a permit as well. The reason that permits are required by the powers that be are to keep the citizens safe. Improper installations, methods, and work can put not only your family, but the worker and your neighbors at risk.
Just like your homeowners insurance requires a certain standard of training and certification for home services and repairs, the municipal authorities do the same. Know that when you schedule with a certified and licensed professional who works within safety codes and standards, your safety will not be an issue.
Before planning out your projects for the new year, talk with a Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep, we have all the necessary permits and documentation to work in our service area and to provide the best services to our customers.
Call our Boston office at 617-469-4528.
Reach our North Shore office at 781-593-2333.
Portland residents can call 207-773-7933.
by Billy Sweet | Nov 30, 2018 | Chimney Masonry Maintenance
Your chimney is built to last. Professional chimney sweeps and master masons build chimneys that are both beautiful and durable, but even those that are well-made can deteriorate over time. The cause of deterioration can be a wide range of things, but it may be easy to diagnose and prevent with professional care.
Your chimney is most affected by water. Because masonry is made up of many materials (all of which are adversely affected by water), you can count on quite a bit of damage when water is allowed in the system. In fact, if water penetrates the system, it can lead to major deterioration, ranging from simple rust to gaps and voids in the liner and serious structural concerns. Water doesn’t just damage the chimney either, it can cause leaks and damage in all other areas of the home. If you have a leak in your bathroom or kitchen ceiling, you may assume it’s a roof problem and call a contractor, when you should be calling your chimney professional. The first thing we’ll check is your flashing. It’s the most common point of water penetration, and will be the best prevention of deterioration and damage.
If even a small amount of water is allowed into the masonry, the freezing temperatures in winter can cause serious masonry damage. This winter damage is caused from a freeze/thaw cycle in which water enters through small cracks and gaps, then freezes–expanding and breaking apart the mortar around it. When the chimney warms up again, the water melts and moves further into the damaged masonry, repeating the process all winter long. A minor leak or small amount of damage in the fall can become serious damage by the end of burn season.
Natural Occurrences and Fires
Over time your chimney can become deteriorated on the outside because of sunlight, weather, storm winds, and seismic activities. On the inside, your chimney system can become deteriorated when regular maintenance is neglected. The system should be cleaned on a regular basis to prevent corrosion caused from soot, creosote, and moisture. If left in the flue, the liner can become damaged, putting your family and home at risk, allowing carbon monoxide into the living space, and igniting combustibles.
Chimney and Masonry Repairs
No matter what the problems is, big or small, we can repair it at Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep. Whether your chimney is new or old, even if it’s historic, we are experienced and trained in repairs and restorations. We complete crown repairs, repointing, relining, and more.
For all of your chimney repairs and preventative needs, Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep has the expertise and materials to get the job done and to get it done right. We stay abreast of fire safety codes and industrial advancements, and all of our techs are CSIA certified chimney sweeps. Call Billy Sweet at 617-469-4528.
by Billy Sweet | Feb 13, 2017 | Chimney Maintenance
There are a few factors that can quickly destroy a chimney. Water can wreak havoc on a masonry chimney, penetrating it, causing rust and weakening the mortar. During cold weather the damage can be catastrophic.
The masonry of your chimney is especially sensitive to moisture penetration due to what is called the freeze/thaw cycle. First, water penetrates the chimney system by way of cracks in the chimney, damage to the crown, improper flashing, or a broken or missing cap. Once water is inside the system it is subject to the temperature of the chimney. When the chimney cools the water freezes, expands, and breaks the masonry further. The chimney warms and the water melts, flowing through the damaged masonry further until the water freezes and expands again. The process can repeat over and over throughout winter if leaks are not repaired.
Common Winter Damage
At Billy Sweet we often see leaks due to snow accumulation around the flashing and on top of the chimney crown. It’s also common to find spalling.
Repairing Winter Damage
You don’t have to wait until spring to have repairs completed. In fact, we recommend repairing damage sooner rather than later, so that the repairs will take less time and materials, and will cost you less money. Fixing the damage now prevents the freeze/thaw cycle during cold weather as well.
If your leak is due to a damaged or missing part like the chimney cap, flashing, or damage to the crown, these parts can all be repaired or replaced. A chimney cap is a fairly simple part to replace. The flashing is more tedious, but an experienced chimney sweep is able to get the job done quickly and satisfactorily. The chimney crown can be more complicated to replace, but if it only has some cracks or holes a certified chimney sweep can actually seal it with an industrial water proof sealant. Of course, it may be necessary to recast the chimney crown, replacing it completely. When done properly a new chimney crown should last the lite of your chimney and prevent water, debris, and more from entering the chimney.
Repairing the Damage
If water has penetrated your masonry, especially in winter, you probably have damage including spalling. Spalling is when mortar cracks and masonry crumbles, resulting in holes and structural problems. This can be repaired by tuck pointing, a procedure when the chimney technician removes the existing, damaged mortar, and replaces it with new, equally strong mortar, and replaces the bricks for a beautiful finished product. This process takes an experienced professional because if the new mortar doesn’t match in consistency and strength, the structure will be weakened. The mortar should also match in color so that the finished job looks like nothing every happened to the chimney.
During any time of the year it’s best to avoid and prevent damage. You can do this by scheduling chimney sweeps and inspections. The key is to prevent chimney leaks during winter especially.
You can schedule with a Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep today to discuss your winter damage and prevention.