Our Company Blog

Building Permits and Chimney Repairs

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.

Why Does My Chimney Deteriorate?

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.

Water Damage

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.

Winter Damagecauses of chimney deterioration

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.

How Cold Weather Can Damage Your Masonry

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.

Freeze/Thaw Cycle

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.

Replacing Parts

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.

Is Your Chimney Ready for Santa This Year?

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the housePreparing Your Chimney for Santa Photo - Boston MA - Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
I heard St. Nicholas let out a horrible sound.
He was stuck in the chimney, I could only see his foot!
Dangling out of the chimney, blocked with ashes and soot
I knew once he got loose, there’d be no presents for me
Why didn’t I just call Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep?!”

The most important time to have your chimney inspected and swept is before the wintertime. This is when you will use it most. Not only will it help Santa deliver your presents, but it will also keep your home safe and your chimney working efficiently!

Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep offers a variety of services to keep your chimney in tip-top shape:

  • Chimney Sweeping

It may sound like a simple task, but it’s not. When it comes to clearing your chimney of ashes, soot, and debris, hiring a professional is your best bet. This will keep your home safe and warm. According to Enlightenme.com, “Dirt can block your chimney’s flue, causing smoke to back up into your home and make your fireplace noxious. Excessive creosote can potentially ignite and cause an uncontrolled fire hazard.” Having your chimney swept annually can not only keep you safe, but will save you money in the long run. In addition, it helps prevent the buildup of creosote and damage beyond normal use.

  • Chimney Inspection

It’s important to have a professional check for cracks in your chimney. This is because they pose a safety hazard, and can even leak harmful gases into your home. According to Home Advisor, “ The smoke from a fire can contain dangerous gases, among them carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless gas that can cause illness, or even death, in large amounts. Cracks in a chimney can leak heat into the surrounding walls, and lead to structural damage or even house fires.” Annual inspections will help you know whether or not your chimney is in a good state, or if it needs to be serviced, repaired or restored. Knowing is half the battle, and Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep is here to help!

  • Chimney Lining

Your chimney liner helps prevent damage to your chimney’s masonry or mortar joints. It helps prevent emissions of harmful gasses, and keeps heat away from flammable materials in your home. Whether your chimney doesn’t have a liner and needs one installed, making sure your liner is in good shape helps extend the life of your chimney and keeps your home safe.

  • Chimney Leaks

If your chimney is leaking, three common areas to check are the cap, crown, or flashing. The chimney cap, or protective cover at the top opening of the chimney, helps keep water and debris out of your chimney. In addition, sometimes this part may be damaged or missing. Below the cap is the chimney crown, which is built to keep the elements away from the chimney opening. The crown may also have cracks or spalling, which could result in water leaks. Lastly, damaged flashing, where your chimney meets the roofline, is another common area for water to sneak into the chimney. Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep can inspect your chimney for leaks and even waterproof your chimney by applying a protective sealant to ward off the elements.

 

If you haven’t gotten your chimney ready for Santa yet, what are you waiting for? Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep is here to help with all of your chimney needs whether you need a sweep, inspection, new liner, or all of the above! Contact us today to keep your family safe and warm this winter.

The Dangers of Creosote

If you have a fireplace, you likely know that creosote can be a hazard to your home and family. You probably also have your fireplace swept by a certified chimney sweep each year to remove any creosote buildup from your chimney, and perhaps you even burn the occasional creosote sweeping log to help maintain your chimney. But how much do you know about creosote, how it forms, the dangers it poses and how you can keep it at bay? We’ve put together some basic information on creosote so you can better protect your home and family.

creosote-blog-image-boston-ma-billy-sweet-chimney-sweep

What is creosote?

As smoke from your fireplace makes its way to the top of your chimney, it cools. As the smoke cools, it causes condensation of the chemicals and water vapor created when wood burns. The substance left sticking to your walls is creosote. All forms of creosote — whether black or brown, sticky or shiny, hard or tar like — can be found sticking to the insides of most chimneys.

Why is creosote dangerous?

As little as a quarter inch of creosote buildup on the walls of your chimney can be dangerous, putting your home at risk of a chimney fire. Highly combustible, creosote can burst into flames if it is touched by a stray spark from your fireplace, or if chimney temperatures exceed 1,000 degrees. If creosote builds up enough in your chimney, it also can prevent the gases created by the fireplace from exiting your home, which can force dangerous carbon monoxide back into your home.

How can I avoid the dangers of creosote?

Using the right wood in your fireplace can slow the buildup of creosote in your chimney. Only burn dry hardwoods that have been seasoned for a minimum of six months. When wood is improperly seasoned and contains moisture, it produces more water vapor when burned and burns at a cooler temperature, which causes the formation of creosote. Make sure that your fire is large enough for your fireplace. If your logs are too small, the fire won’t burn hot enough for your chimney. Your flue also should be fully opened when you’re burning a fire, as a partially closed flue will cause smoke to remain in your flue longer, encouraging creosote buildup.

Of course, the best way to keep your home safe from a creosote fire is to have your chimney swept and inspected each year by a certified chimney sweep. Your chimney sweep will make sure that your chimney is entirely creosote free. During the sweep’s inspection, he also will make sure your chimney does not show any signs of damage from a past creosote fire, which can weaken your chimney and put your home at danger for a future fire.

If you’re overdue for a chimney sweeping and inspection, don’t wait! Putting off your chimney sweeping puts your home and family in danger of a creosote-caused chimney fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. Call the certified sweeps at Billy Sweet to have your chimney ready for the fire-burning season.