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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!

Cold Weather And Your Chimney

Like most regions of the country, New England is experiencing a slow start to winter. Your chimney, even when not in use, is still affected by the weather. Our customers in Boston, North Shore, and Portland can expect temperatures to drop toward winter lows by the end of November. In order to avoid winter damage, homeowners should understand how the chimney works, and how water affects masonry.

Winter Damage

Most winter damage is actually water damage. Water simply acts differently in the winter, causing more damage, and wreaking havoc on masonry.

The Freeze/Thaw Cycle

When water penetrates the masonry, it seeps into cracks and voids. As the chimney cools or temperature drops, the water freezes, expanding and breaking apart the masonry. When the chimney warms up again, the water melts and moves further into the damaged masonry. This process continues throughout winter, damaging the chimney itself, and the rest of the system.

Water Damage

Water will ruin a masonry chimney from the inside out. It causes rusted parts and components, stained walls, deteriorated flue lining system, and more. A chimney leak can even cause a leak in any other part of the house when water runs through floors and walls, costing in repairs and even causing respiratory issues when bacteria grows in walls and flooring.

Spalling

Common winter masonry damage includes spalling bricks and mortar. Spalling masonry is when the mortar between bricks cracks and falls away. Homeowners might not notice spalling masonry until pieces of mortar or whole bricks fall into the yard! This is not only a hazard, but allows water into the system to cause damage. A certified chimney sweep can repair spalling masonry through a process called tuckpointing, or re pointing. First, the technician removes the affected mortar, then replaces it with new mortar. This job must be done meticulously, because if the new mortar is not the same consistency and strength as the old, it can result in weakened masonry. If the color is off, it can also affect the visual aesthetics of your chimney.

When you have a chimney, it’s important to protect it from winter damage, including spalling and water damage. You can prevent this occurrence by scheduling your annual chimney inspection with Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep. When your chimney is inspected, your technician can report weaknesses and repair them before cold weather hits. You can also schedule chimney waterproofing to protect your masonry against water damage. This industrial water repellent forms a barrier that keeps water out, while letting vapors escape. When it comes to prevention, waterproofing is a great investment, and is long-lasting.

To schedule you inspection, preventative services, or repairs, call Billy Sweet today. Call 617-469-4528 and talk to a chimney expert about protecting your chimney from the cold.

How Winter Hurts Your Chimney

Your beautiful fireplace has always come through for you. It faithfully heats your home during brutal New England winters and creates a tranquil setting on a snowy evening. Even during the summer, the fireplace acts as a majestic focal point in your home. In fact, the fireplace may be credited with helping to convince you to purchase the home in the first place.

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If you want to enjoy your fireplace for years to come, it will need proper maintenance. Most people have the chimney swept every year, which is a good practice but often not enough. The majority of homeowners neglect one piece of chimney care that might result in thousands of dollars in damage: winter effects.

With a masonry chimney, the exterior construction will consist of any material such as brick, stone, mortar or concrete. Additionally, the internal materials may include steel, cast iron or flue tile. Your chimney has some combination of these and each one, except stone, can experience damage after years of exposure to cold, snowy winters.

Brick, mortar and concrete are all very porous materials and will readily absorb water, which includes melted snow as well. When these waterlogged materials go through the freeze and thaw cycle of winter, they also undergo needless distress. This stress inevitably expands and weakens the structure, which leads to cracks or even collapse. While stone is immune to the freeze and thaw stress, if your chimney is made of stone, you still need to watch for water damage. The mortar securing the stones experiences the damages of freezing and needs inspection and repairs even if the stone is unharmed.

The melted snow can also leak inside the chimney, where the steel flue will rust. Now, water can infiltrate the inside of the masonry, which means further damage. If the water travels down the chimney, the damper apparatus eventually rusts, so the fireplace may fail to vent properly. The water may go on to cause more damage such as rusted fireplace face and doors, deteriorated hearth, and soaked ceilings or walls around the fireplace.

The cost of preventing these damages is much more reasonable than paying for the repairs. To properly prevent water damage from melted snow, you have a few options.

Water will first enter the chimney through the top. Having a chimney service install a chimney cap is a great, inexpensive way to prevent interior water damage. Some masonry chimneys also have a structure known as a crown. This concrete slab acts as a roof for the chimney to prevent water from leaking inside. Over time, the concrete will crack, so the crown may require patching or complete replacement to ensure proper water resistance. Another part of the chimney that may leak is the flashing, or the aluminum cover that seals the seam where the chimney protrudes through the roof. The flashing is sealed with tar, which may simply need to be redone. A good way to protect the outside of the chimney is to have a chimney service apply a sealant. The vapor-permeable sealant allows moisture to escape but prevent exterior water from entering the porous materials.

If you live in the areas of Boston, Massachusetts; Portland, Maine, or North Shore, contact Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep for a professional consultation. These experts will ensure your chimney and fireplace will hold up for many more winters to come.

The Appalling Truth about Spalling

Did you know your chimney could sweat? Did you know that this process is actually very harmful to your chimney? Well now that it has been brought up, you must learn all the facts. When the bricks of your chimney sweat, spalling can start to occur. If you feel like this could be happening with your chimney, call the professionals at Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep.

What is chimney spalling and how is it caused?

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Spalling is what happens when the bricks or stones on your masonry chimney start to come off in flakes or start to go missing because of water penetration. One of the first signs is when you find random bricks on the ground or on your roof. Often times the main cause of spalling is when the water absorbed in the bricks from precipitation freezes and thaws. This can be worsened by the condensation of flue gases in liners that are not the right size, or gaps and cracks in the interior mortar joints. Also, spalling is made more prominent when extra water enters the interior by way of the chimney chase. Softer types of bricks are more likely to have moisture penetration, but are often used over harder types of bricks because they are more cost-friendly.

The chimney will be one of the first places that will show that it has damage since it is constantly exposed to the elements. The spalling will start with the top portions but once one part of the chimney starts to spall the whole inside has already been damaged. These bricks must be replaced since they are permanently damaged.

How can you prevent spalling?

There is no complete way to protect your chimney from water damage, but there are a few things that you can do to help. First, you need to have your chimney waterproofed. Your chimney technician can do that on any dry day after they sweep. The layer of sealant will need about six hours to dry so it is important to plan ahead. If you live somewhere where it rains often, you might look into having a second coat applied. Chimney caps are also another great way to help keep water out, as well as animals and leaves, but must be properly installed to be safe.