There are masonry fireplaces and chimneys and there are pre-fab fireplaces and chimneys. Masonry fireplaces and chimneys are made for mortar and bricks, block, or stone, while pre-fab fireplaces are made of metal and steel. Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep has specialized in maintaining chimneys and fireplaces for over 30 years and reiterates the recommendations of the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and Hamon Corporation.
The CSIA explains why proper maintenance of masonry chimney is so important. “All masonry chimney construction materials, except stone, will suffer accelerated deterioration as a result of prolonged contact with water. Masonry materials deteriorate quickly when exposed to the freeze/thaw process, in which moisture that has penetrated the materials periodically freezes and expands causing undue stress. Water in the chimney also causes rust in steel and cast iron, weakening or destroying the metal parts. Read more at the CSIA’s website.
Chimneys in New England are exposed to many months of constant freezing and thawing, along with exposure to rain, and intense heat, even lighting. Damage to your chimney structure means that the chimney cannot function properly and therefore exposes homeowners to fire risks, seepage of toxic gasses. Damaged masonry weakens the integrity of your home’s structure. Water causes more damages to chimneys than fires. It can cause both interior and exterior damage.
Out of Sight–Out of Mind
With such great risk caused by masonry damage, why is the proper maintenance of masonry chimneys so often overlooked by homeowners? Out of sight out of mind…until there is a problem.
Yearly inspections are the first step to maintaining your masonry chimney. During the inspection the chimney technician will look for cracks, missing bricks or blocks, water staining, and deterioration. If there are any signs of weakening, gaps, or damage, repairs can be made before small cracks become major issues.
During the inspection special attention will be paid to ensuring the chimney crown, also known as the chimney wash, is fully functional. As the CSIA explains in the homeowner’s resources section of their website, “Most masonry chimneys are built with an inadequate crown constructed from common mortar mix that is not designed for years of weather abuse without cracking, chipping or deteriorating. A proper chimney crown should be constructed of a Portland cement-based mixture and cast or formed so it provides an overhang projecting beyond all sides of the chimney by a minimum of two inches. The flue liner tile should also project above the crown a minimum of two inches.
When masonry issues are found, proper repairs should be done by a trained professional. The outside of the chimney needs to be thoroughly cleaned and all masonry repairs done before any waterproofing materials are used. Your chimney professional will know the best waterproofing agents to use to seal out water. Homeowners should not attempt to make the masonry or waterproofing repairs themselves and using paint or clear sealants instead of professional products will cause further damage by trapping the wetness rather than elevating it.
Commercial Masonry Chimneys Need Care Too.
From an industrial point of view, when it comes to maintenance, the chimney stacks at commercial and industrial sites are just as overlooked as they are on residential sites. Hamon Corporation is a group of international companies dedicated to providing “high quality innovative solutions to meet customer needs for energy efficiency and a clean environment”. Hamon urges plant and commercial maintenance teams to recognize that proper maintenance means “extended life for chimney and stacks. These passive structures are often over looked in maintenance schedules.” In an article by Arun K. Bhowmik from Hamon Custodis, Bhowmik cautions, “Chimneys are basically passive structures with few mechanical parts that require maintenance attention to keep them functional. Because of this, it is easy to overlook them – but doing so can be costly.” He goes on,” Chimneys and stacks have only one function: dispersing flue gas into the atmosphere. In the process of fulfilling that function, (chimneys) are exposed to harsh environments, both inside and outside. Flue gas, with its abrasive and corrosive characteristics, can damage the structural materials of the chimney or liner. Climatic conditions, ranging from high winds to extreme cold, place extreme stress on the structure.” To read his entire article on proper industrial chimney maintenance, click here.
When is the last time you had your masonry inspected? Are you guilty of the out of sight out of mind mentality? Don’t delay any longer; contact Bill Sweet Chimney Service today.