Our Company Blog

Winter Damage to Your Chimney

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.

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.