Our Company Blog

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 to Prepare Your Fireplace for Dangerous Winter Storms

In Boston, we are used to heavy snowstorms and blizzards during the winter. In January and February of 2015, we experienced a blizzard that lasted over six weeks and dumped a record 108.6 inches of snow in our area. Even though long-time residents know how to be ready for these types of storms, Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep would like to remind you of how you can prepare your fireplace so that you will not have to worry about being without heat when the power goes out during a blizzard.

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Schedule a professional chimney sweeping and inspection before winter arrives.

This maintenance task will take care of removing all of the accumulated creosote from the inner walls of your chimney, which increases fireplace safety and reduces fire hazards. During the inspection, our Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA)-certified chimney sweeps will examine the condition of your fireplace and chimney to be sure everything is working safely. If we find any damage, we will make recommendations of the repairs that are necessary for you to use your fireplace safely.

Check the gaskets to see if they need to be repaired or replaced.

You want to ensure that the gaskets on your fireplace doors, damper, and ash dump are providing an effective seal. According to Cabin Living, without a proper seal, too much air can leak into the firebox and cause overfire and permanent damage to your fireplace.

Have the blower cleaned.

If your fireplace is equipped with a blower, you should clean off the dust and dirt from it to protect the balance of the blower. When the blower has too much dust accumulation on its blades, the balance can change and cause the bearings to wear out prematurely. Your fireplace blower typically will not have a filter to keep dust off, so you need to check it regularly to be sure it is clean.

Replace broken or deteriorated bricks in the lining.

When the brick lining is so damaged that it has deteriorated so much that the steel body of the firebox is exposed, the high temperatures can lead to permanent damage. Be sure the bricks are in good shape so you will not have to worry about damage occurring that could make your fireplace unsafe.

Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep is here to help you prepare your fireplace for dangerous storms this winter. Contact us to schedule an appointment for a chimney sweeping and inspection so that you can stay warm and safe this winter.

Chimney water damage and the freeze-thaw cycle

You’re likely familiar with the damage the freeze-thaw cycle can do to the roadways; it’s what causes pot holes to appear each year! Water makes its way into the tiny cracks in concrete, asphalt, or stone. When the temperature drops, that water freezes and expands, causing the concrete, asphalt, or stone to crack or crumble. If you have a home with a masonry chimney, you should be aware that the freeze-thaw cycle can cause the same damage to your chimney’s bricks, concrete, and mortar.

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Water damage and your chimney

Water can cause many problems with your chimney. The freeze-thaw cycle can cause the mortar between your chimney to crumble; it can cause parts of your brick to flake off, which is referred to as spalling; and it can cause your chimney crown to crack and crumble. Over time, if water damage goes unaddressed, it can mean major problems for your chimney. Your chimney’s overall structure can fail, causing it to lean and become unsafe. A damaged chimney also will let water into the rest of your home, leading to water stains on your ceiling and walls, rotting wood on adjacent structures, collapsed hearth support, a damaged firebox, rusted fireplace accessories, and failing hearth structure.

Repairing water damage

The first step in repairing water damage is to find that damage. This is one reason your annual chimney inspection is so important. Your certified chimney technician can find signs of damage early, so that it can be repaired before minor water damage becomes major water damage. In many cases, it will take the work of expert masons, like those at Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep to repair your chimney’s water damage. We provide services such as tuckpointing, chimney crown repair and replacement, and removing and replacing spalling bricks.

Preventing water damage

When it comes to water damage and your chimney, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Taking steps to prevent chimney damage now can save you from costly repairs later. Having a chimney cap installed atop your flue can help keep water from running down the interior walls of your chimney. Repairing a damaged chimney crown will keep water from running down the exterior sides of your chimney. It’s important to make sure the flashing around your chimney is secure, and if your chimney is located on a part of your roof that experiences a lot of rainwater or snow, a cricket — a tent-shaped piece of metal — can be installed to divert water away from the chimney. There also are waterproofing sealants that can be applied to your chimney. Those sealants keep water from seeping into your chimney’s masonry while still allowing your chimney to expel the gases created by your fires.

Ultimately, the key to protecting your chimney from water damage is working with your certified chimney sweep to make sure that any problems are caught and addressed early before you have major chimney damage. If you’re overdue for an inspection, or if you’ve noticed cracking masonry on your chimney, call the experts at Billy Sweet today. We also can talk to you about waterproofing applications to protect your chimney.

Common Masonry Problems in the Winter

Around this time of year, the chimney often goes unnoticed. With everyone headed inside the escape the chilly winter weather, the chimney is left in the cold to fend for itself. While the robust brick structure may seem able to withstand any weather, masonry chimneys can actually suffer irreparable damage during the winter months. Fortunately, there are some measures that can be taken now to prevent more damage in the future.

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Masonry chimneys are chimneys constructed using masonry materials, which include brick, mortar, concrete and stone. All of these materials, aside from stone, have a very porous nature, which means they easily absorb any water that touches them. Similar in function to a sponge, the bricks and other materials can soak up moisture until they reach complete saturations. While the absorption of water does little damage by itself, the trouble begins when the temperature drops below freezing. In sub-freezing temperatures, water begins a freeze and thaw cycle in which it continuously expands and contracts as it freezes and melts, respectively. When the water inside the masonry materials starts this cycle, the materials also experience that same shrinking and swelling movement. Over time, this motion degrades the strength of the materials. The first signs of a weakened chimney include cracked mortar or missing bricks, but eventually the entire structure could fall. To prevent this, a chimney specialist can patch the mortar by tuckpointing and apply a certain permeable sealant to the outside of the chimney to prevent water from entering the structure.

The other winter problem that occurs with the chimney also revolves around water damage. The warmth of the chimney can melt snow and ice at the top of the chimney, permitting water to leak inside. If the flue lining is made of metal, the water can rust out the lining, leading to cracks and holes. This break in the lining exposes the combustibles in the house to the heat of the fire, and it allows the toxic fumes to leak back into the home. Potential hazards of this include house fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. In addition, the water can rust out the damper, which may prevent proper ventilation of the fumes. Water damage may encroach further, as well, which would be evident by the presence of water stains on the walls and ceiling surrounding the fireplace. A chimney specialist can stop this damage from happening by repairing or replacing the chimney crown, if one is present, and installing a proper chimney cap to stop water from entering the chimney.

Prevention is key to avoiding these costly damages, so take the extra time to ask your chimney sweep or inspector about protecting your masonry chimney. For a professional consultation in the Boston or Portland areas, contact Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep.

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.