Our Company Blog

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 Parts of the Chimney System

Your chimney is a focal point for home decor and necessary for home heating. Without the chimney, your fireplace would not have proper airflow to burn well, and would allow harmful smoke and toxic gases into your living space. In order to work properly, it must be properly constructed from top to bottom. Understanding the anatomy of your chimney will help you notice changes, suspect damage, and maintain it properly.

Foundation

Like the house itself, the chimney must be properly supported from beneath. Without a proper foundation, the masonry can shift, leading to cracks, leaning, and eventually structural damage.
Look for: signs of settling or movement, especially inside the firebox.

Ash Dump

The ash dump leads from the firebox through a type of trap door which makes it easy for homeowners to clean ashes from their fireplace by scooping it into the space below. The ash dump is a safe place for the ashes to cool and collect until it is too full to use.
Look for: ashes spilling out of the outlet or clogging the door.

Firebox and Hearth

The firebox is the space where the fire burns. It endures the most abuse–the highest temperatures and often the least attention. The hearth is the floor of the firebox which extends out toward the room. It is durable and usually decorative.
Look for: stains or cracks that indicate water damage.

Chimney Damper

Installed at the base of the chimney or a top mount damper installed at the top of the flue, the damper is essential for proper chimney function. It allows for adequate airflow to light and maintain a fire. A top mount damper and a throat damper can also prevent airflow during the off season.
Look for: drafts that affect your heating or cooling, a smoky fireplace, and animals in the flue.

Smoke Chamber and Shelf

The smoke chamber is the space above the fireplace where the heat and gases mix before continuing up the flue. The slanted wall directs the smoke upward, and the smoke shelf keeps the smoke and gas from falling back into the fireplace.
Look for: a smoky fireplace, rough walls, and dripping noises within the chimney that aren’t visible.

Flue Liner

The flue liner extends up the entire chimney and is made of clay tile, stainless steel, slip casting, and even HeatShield cerfractory sealant. It helps to properly size the flue for optimum airflow, protects the home from heat and gases inside the chimney, and protects the masonry from corrosive chemical byproducts inside the chimney.
Look for: pieces of clay tile inside the fireplace, chimney hot to the touch.

Chimney Crown, Cap, and Flashing

In order to maintain the integrity of the chimney, it needs protection against water penetration year-round. The crown is a mortar ceiling placed on top of the chimney, extending outward from the flue. The cap protects the flue opening, and the flashing protects the vulnerable intersection of the chimney and roof.
Look for: signs of water damage.

Every part of the chimney is essential and should be intacted for the chimney to work properly. Schedule an annual inspection to make certain the chimney is in good shape.

Call Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep at 617-469-4528 or request an appointment online today.

We Service the Portland Area

If you’re looking for chimney services in the Boston, Northshore, and Portland areas, look no further than Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep. We’ve been servicing New England chimneys for over thirty years, and we’re proud to offer the highest quality of workmanship and customer service to all of our customers here in Massachusetts and Maine; offering service to Boston Massachusetts, Portland Maine, the North Shore, and surrounding areas.

If you live near us, and you aren’t certain we’ll cover you, call and talk with an associate today. It’s our goal that every family, home, and business is safe and warm winter after winter. That standard starts with chimney maintenance.

Our Portland Location

At Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep we don’t schedule teams to drive out and service Portland area. We actually have a location in Portland, Maine, and we continuously service Portland and surrounding areas and towns. Our Portland service area reaches as far north as New Gloucester, as far west as Limerick, as far east as Brunswick, and as far south as Biddeford.

Still not sure if we’ve got you covered? Check out our Portland service area page and find your city, town, or zip code. If you are close, but not listed, give us a call today.

Offering Expert Services in Portland, Maine

It’s no small thing to offer chimney services in Portland, Maine. Winters in this area can be harsh. We often see winter damage this time of year, and it’s important that inspections and repairs are completed before the next burn season. We don’t just do the bare minimum at Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep. When you call us for your chimney sweeps, inspections, and repairs, you get our full attention and comprehensive chimney care for the life of your chimney.

When you schedule with us, you will have CSIA certified chimney sweeps completing services according to CSIA standards, as well as state and local codes. Our sweeps live in the area, know the area, and understand the standards in the area. We’ll show up in uniform with company trucks, wear ID tags stating our name and company, and will show your home, family, or business courtesy and professionalism every step of the way.

Hiring Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep also means you’re part of the Billy Sweet family. This means you can expect 24-hour emergency services, speedy responses, and guaranteed work at the price and time you were quoted.

Let us help you stay safe this year. Schedule services now, and you can rest assured that your chimney is safe and efficient. Schedule services this spring, and you can be sure your chimney is ready for next burn season. Don’t stress! Let us handle the mess.

If you’re in Portland, Maine or surrounding areas, call our Portland location today at 207-773-7933 or request an appointment online.

Beat The Fall Rush & Schedule An Inspection Now

Your chimney system should be in good shape to be both safe and efficient through the winter. However, if your chimney is damaged during the off-season, it can result in higher electricity bills, cause warm drafts, and even leaks and other damage in your house! The best way to protect your home and chimney from damage year-round? Schedule annual inspections. It’s at these vital appointments that a chimney expert assesses your chimney system, taking note of weaknesses and damage – often diagnosing problems before damage occurs.

Avoid The Fall Rush

If you schedule your inspection now, you will have time to make necessary repairs, preventative measures, and cosmetic changes before the fall rush. The “fall rush” refers to the months between October and January when chimney companies are busy, so it can be difficult to get an appointment. During this time chimney sweeps are busy with emergency calls and repairs. Due to the tight schedule during the fall rush, waiting to schedule your inspection can mean you don’t get the appointment time, technician, or even chimney sweep company you’d like. Don’t settle for second-best. Choose the best company and schedule today!

Allow Time For Repairs

By scheduling your chimney inspection now, you still have over two months to complete necessary repairs before cold weather returns. It’s a nuisance to make repairs during burn season. This is because you can’t light a fire safely until repairs are made. Efficiency will be down, and fire and health risk will be up.

Get your inspection, chimney sweep, and repairs completed during the off season! Then you can rest assure knowing your fireplace and chimney is ready for fall. In addition, you don’t have to worry about an unexpected issue. This is because our technician will diagnose and assess any potential hazards in the system and deal with them, before burn season. Making necessary repairs before the fall means you don’t have to dip into holiday shopping funds for chimney repairs. When you schedule your inspection during the summer, you also have more time to come up with the money for any necessary repairs.

Preventative Measures

The sooner you have your chimney system cleaned and inspected, the sooner you can close it out for summer. If you haven’t done this already, you need to! First schedule a chimney sweep and inspection with your trusted and certified chimney expert. Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep offers both services, paying attention to the likely problem areas. When our technician is finished with your chimney, it won’t be accessible to critters, won’t stink, and will be ready for fall in a few short months.

For more information about preventative measures that can prolong your chimney’s life, click here. We are always looking to help our customers stay safe in Eastern Massachusetts, Southern New Hampshire, and Portland, Maine. Find out how we can help you by calling now. Speak to an expert by dialing 617-469-4528 or schedule an appointment using our online scheduling tool.

Ways Water Ruins Your Chimney

Water should't be allowed to seep inside your chimney. Many chimney-related problems start with water intrusion.

Water should’t be allowed to seep inside your chimney. Many chimney-related problems start with water intrusion.

A lot of what we do for our clients at Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep roots in prevention. We sweep your chimney regularly to prevent excess creosote build-up and potential fire hazards. We install chimney caps to prevent rain and snow from diving right into your flue opening. We apply waterproofing sealant to your masonry to prevent excess moisture intrusion and moisture damage. We inspect your chimney system every year in part to prevent lots of things: draft issues, water or carbon monoxide leaks, even just to prevent small problems from becoming larger, more troubling and more expensive problems.

If it seems like a big part of our preventative efforts are focused on fighting water, you’re right, and there’s good reason for that. Left unchecked, moisture intrusion can cause extensive damage to your chimney system and the exterior and interior building materials around them.

Want a deeper look into how much trouble water can be? Here are three ways water can ruin (or at least significantly damage) your chimney:

“The Freeze/Thaw Cycle”

We all know that water expands when it freezes — you only have to forget you put a glass bottle of soda or beer in the freezer once to brand that messy lesson into your mind. Let’s think about how that can pertain to a chimney. Over years of being exposed to the elements, your masonry can develop some small cracks, whether that’s in your mortar joints or chimney crown, or in your bricks themselves. Moisture can make its way into those small cracks and sit there as the temperature drops. Once it reaches freezing temperatures, that water freezes and expands, straining against the masonry material — and more often than not, the ice wins, causing your masonry to crack, flake and crumble (called spalling). Over time, that can leave you with enough damage to need your whole chimney crown rebuilt, or extensive repairs on your chimney stack.

To avoid extensive spalling and other damage related to the freeze/thaw cycle, Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep technicians aim to repair all cracks and imperfections while they’re still small, whether that means applying a crown coat seal to your chimney crown or tuck pointing your damaged mortar joints. It’s one of the many benefits of keeping up with your annual chimney inspections — we’ll be able to keep on top of issues before they turn into huge hassles.

Corrosion And Rust

We know what happens when metal and moisture collide, too: dark red rust and crumbly corrosion. Since several components in your chimney system are made of metal, rust and corrosion are a concern too. If, say, your chimney cap is missing and moisture is making its way into your flue, it might repeatedly soak your metal throat damper — the part that lets you open and close your flue when you are or aren’t using your fireplace. A rusted throat damper can get stuck, or its plate can corrode and break. Rusted chimney flashing or chase covers can allow moisture to damage the interior of your chimney and your home too.

Chimney inspections are another important part of preventing this kind of damage. But beyond that, we also recommend that clients with galvanized metal components look at replacements made with more durable materials — like stainless steel and copper — which won’t have that kind of vulnerability to rust and corrosion.

Chimney Mold

Mold growth doesn’t really “ruin” your chimney, but it’s absolutely a problem you need to be aware of, since exposure to mold is linked to a variety of health issues, from respiratory problems and allergic reactions and triggering asthma episodes. Mold feeds on moisture, so if a leak develops in your chimney, mold can get a chance to grow and proliferate. Mold remediation is a two-pronged process: We need to get rid of the mold, and we need to repair the leak that was feeding the mold. Billy Sweet technicians are trained in the safe and proper removal of mold, and we can also find and repair any damage that’s leading to leaks. We can also talk with you about some preventative measures that can help you avoid leaks, like chimney waterproofing.

If you have any concerns or questions about water and its relationship with your chimney, we’re always here to help. Give Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep a call!