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What Is A Chimney Crown?

A chimney is not simply one solid piece of masonry. Instead, it is a complex structure with a number of important components that work together to help the fireplace burn safely and efficiently.

What Is A Chimney Crown Image - Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley SweepsWhile many of us are familiar with interior fireplace components such as the damper or firebox, few are as familiar with the components that protect the top of the chimney. One of the most important, yet often forgotten, chimney components is the chimney crown.

What is a chimney crown?

The chimney crown is a slab of stone or masonry that sits on the top of the chimney, covering the top of the chimney and sealing the space around the flue. This helps protect against water entry while also protecting the masonry of the chimney structure.

Chimney crowns often suffer the worst exposure to the elements out of any chimney component. Because of this, it is important that the crown is built using quality materials and good building practices. Doing this will help extend the life of the chimney crown and protect the fireplace system.

While they may look flat from the street, chimney crowns are actually built with a slight slope. This prevents water from pooling on top of the chimney crown and encourages correct drainage. Likewise, chimney crowns also have an overhang known as a kerf. Extending several inches over the edge of the chimney, the kerf directs water onto the roof instead of directly onto the masonry of the chimney.

Chimney crown damage and repair.

Damage to the chimney crown can be difficult to immediately recognize, especially if you do not regularly climb onto the roof. Because of this, chimney crown damage is typically discovered during chimney sweepings or inspections rather than because of performance problems.

Chimney crown damage typically occurs due to a combination of overexposure to the elements and poor construction. Their location and purpose mean the chimney crown is exposed to more water than most other chimney elements; this makes it more prone to leaks and cracking. Likewise, poor construction or using improper building materials can also cause the chimney crown to prematurely deteriorate.

If damage to the chimney crown is discovered, it is important to have it repaired as soon as possible. The type of repairs needed while depend on the cause and severity of the damage; small, hairline cracks may be simple masonry repairs, whereas extensive damage could require a full chimney crown rebuild.

In addition to chimney crown repairs, a waterproof sealant may be recommended. Applying CrownCoat, flexible waterproof sealant, can protect your chimney crown against further water entry or water damage.

The chimney crown plays an important role in protecting your chimney system. Because of this, it is important to have it inspected regularly for signs of damage or deterioration. To schedule your next chimney inspection or for more information about protecting your chimney crown with CrownCoat, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!

When To Address Chimney Repairs

Spring has finally arrived; with increasingly warm temperatures outside, most homeowners have already stopped using their fireplaces for the season. However, it is important not to neglect your fireplace until the first cold snap of fall. Instead, have chimney repairs addressed now to ensure your fireplace will be ready to use next season.

What causes chimney damage?

The bricks and mortar used in chimney construction are one of the strongest and most durable building materials in the world. This makes them uniquely suited for use in chimney construction; in addition to exposure to the elements, chimneys must be able to withstand the heat and byproducts of combustion created while the fireplace is in use.

Despite their durability, there are a number of ways fireplaces can become damaged. When To Address Chimney Repairs Image - Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley Sweeps

Common Causes of Chimney Damage

  1. Water
    Water can be an extremely damaging force to your chimney system. Exterior masonry can crack, spall, or crumble due to long term water damage, especially when compounded with freezing temperatures in the freeze thaw cycle. Likewise, delicate interior fireplace components such as the damper or refractory bricks of the firebox are easily damaged by even small chimney leaks and water entry.
  2. Settling
    All homes settle over time; if a fireplace system is not built on a strong foundation, this settling can cause structural damage. Cracks within the firebox, large cracks in the chimney structure, or even tilting chimneys can all be caused by settling.
  3. Other causes
    There is no one cause of chimney damage. Chimney damage can even be caused by reroofing, painting the masonry, climbing plants, or even power washing the bricks and mortar. A chimney inspection by a certified chimney sweep is often the best way to discover chimney damage.

When should I have my chimney repaired?

If your chimney has been damaged in any way, it is important to address potential repairs as soon as possible. Delaying or putting off repairs can cause chimney damage to worsen, even to the point of affecting the safety and structural stability of the chimney.

Because it is an off season for fireplace use, spring is an excellent time to have chimney repairs completed. The following are three reasons to address your chimney repairs now.

  1. Fireplace use is not affected. Warm outside temperatures in the spring mean the fireplace is rarely used. Having repairs done during the spring and summer keep you from missing out on using your fireplace when you most need it.
  2. Shorter wait time. Fall is the busiest season for chimney sweeps as homeowners scramble to get their fireplaces repaired and ready to use. By having your chimney repairs addressed now you are more likely to avoid a long wait before your appointment – as well as be able to schedule an appointment time that is convenient for your schedule.
  3. Fewer delays. Some chimney repairs cannot be done when the weather is too cold; by having repairs done during the spring you can help avoid weather related delays.

If your chimney needs repairs, don’t delay; contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today to have your chimney repairs addressed as soon as possible this spring.

Dangers Of A Leaky Chimney

While water in the fireplace can be easily cleaned up, it should never be ignored. Chimney leaks, even minor ones, can cause serious damage throughout your fireplace system.

Signs of a Chimney Leak

While chimney leaks are often discovered by the presence of water in the firebox, there are a number of other signs that water entry may be affecting your chimney. The following are just a few of the signs of a chimney leak.Dangers of a Leaky Chimney Image - Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley Sweeps

  • Moisture, dampness, or water in the firebox
  • Rust on the damper
  • Masonry spalling
  • Sounds of dripping inside the chimney

What Causes a Chimney Leak?

Because chimneys are complex structures there are a number of ways that water can get into the chimney system. The following are three of the most common areas where water can enter your chimney.

  • Chimney cap. A chimney cap is a metal top with mesh sides that protects the top of the flue from animal, debris, and water entry. A damaged, sized or incorrectly installed chimney cap allows water into the unprotected chimney.
  • Chimney crown. Made of stone or cement, the chimney crown is a slab that covers and seals the top of the chimney. Because of their location, chimney crowns are prone to overexposure to the elements; chips and cracks from repeated exposure can create chimney leaks.
  • Chimney flashing. Flashing is when metal strips and other waterproofing materials are layered on the joint between the roofline and the chimney. This watertight seal can be damaged by weather, overexposure, improper installation, or even roof repairs. Leaky flashing can damage not just the chimney, but also nearby walls, ceilings, and building materials.

Repairing a Leaky Chimney

Before repairing a leaky chimney, the source of the water entry must be identified. Identifying and repairing the source of a leak before repairing the damage ensures that the leak will not return in the future. A chimney inspection is often the best way to identify the source of a leak as well as evaluate the damage a leak has caused.

Once the source of the leak has been identified, the damaged caused by the leak can be repaired; repairing a leaky chimney as soon as possible prevents serious masonry or structural damage from occurring. There are a few of the ways your chimney can be repaired after a chimney leak. One option is to replace damaged bricks and mortar through tuckpointing. Another option is to install a new chimney cap.

Preventing Future Chimney Leaks

One way to protect your chimney against future leaks is by having the masonry waterproofed. In the waterproofing process, a water repellent specifically designed for masonry is applied to the bricks and mortar of your chimney. Our SaverSystems products help prevent leaks by repelling water from the masonry and can used to stop additional water damage from occurring.

A leaky chimney is more than just a minor inconvenience. You should repair leaks as soon as possible to prevent dangerous chimney damage from occurring. For more information on preventing or repairing chimney leaks, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today.

When Your Chimney Needs Sweeping

For homeowners who own a fireplace system, deciding when to have it swept can sometimes be a mystery. Most of us know our chimneys need regular maintenance. The guesswork often determines when and how often we have our chimneys swept.

When Your Chimney Needs Sweeping Image - Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley SweepsMost chimney sweeps recommend having your chimney swept at least once per year. However, there may be other reasons to call the chimney sweep. Below are some signs that your chimney needs sweeping!

Heavy use.

Do you use your fireplace as a primary heating source for your home? If so, it may need to be swept several times during the burning season. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, chimneys should be swept any time there is 1/8th of an inch of buildup in the flue. In normal burning conditions, this amount of buildup occurs after a full cord of wood is burned. Do you burn more than a cord of wood each burning season? Consider having a mid-season chimney sweeping done.

Before burning season.

After several months of sitting idle, your chimney may need to be cleaned before using the fireplace again. Sweep the chimney in the late summer or early fall before the burning season begins! This ensures that there are no debris or blockages in the flue. Also, it is especially important in areas where migratory birds are present or other animal entry into the chimney may have occurred.

New home.

Have you recently purchased a home? If you have, you may want to have the chimney swept before using the fireplace. Most home inspections include a cursory inspection of the fireplace system. Consequently, many inspectors may lack the knowledge to truly diagnose chimney problems. In addition, they typically will not clean the chimney. Having the chimney swept allows you to assess the condition of the fireplace system before you use it.

Performance problems.

Leaks, drafts, and odors – oh my! Is your chimney experiencing burning or performance problems? If so, a chimney sweeping and inspection may be necessary to discover the root cause of the problem. According to the National Fire Protection Association, “Chimneys, fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances. Cleaning, maintenance, and repairs shall be done if necessary.”

Annual maintenance.

Unless you are experiencing any of the reasons above, an annual chimney sweep is recommended for all homes. Having annual maintenance allows your chimney sweep to keep your chimney free from buildup or debris. Plus, it allows them to regularly assess the condition of your chimney. This allows the sweep to identify and address any areas of new or worsening deterioration. Also, as well as recommended any changes or improvements that need to be made to your fireplace or chimney system.

Regular chimney sweepings can keep you and your family safe an extend the life of your fireplace system. So, let your family continue to enjoy your fireplace for years to come. If you need to schedule your next chimney sweeping, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!

Having Chimney Draft Issues?

Our fireplaces are meant to be enjoyed. They warm our homes and create a welcoming atmosphere. Unfortunately, a drafty chimney can do the opposite. Do you have smoke blowing back into your home, lingering odors, or more? If so, draft issues can make it difficult to fully enjoy your fireplace.

Draft Issues

Having Chimney Draft Issues Image - Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley SweepsThese can appear because of several different potential underlying problems. Therefore, a chimney inspection is often needed. This is in order to uncover the cause of a draft.

The following are four of the most common causes of chimney draft issues:

  1. Air tight house.
    Keeping your home air tight might seem like a good way to reduce energy waste and lower utility costs. However, an air tight home can actually negatively effect fireplace use. When the fireplace does not have enough fresh air to draw from, it will “pull” cold air down the chimney. This causes smoke, gas, ash, and soot to blow back into your home. Opening a nearby window as little as 1-2 inches can provide the fire with enough oxygen to burn. In addition, correct the draft without effecting the air temperature in your home.
  2. Partially opening the damper.
    The fireplace damper should be opened completely the entire time the fireplace is in use. At the time from lighting the kindling, down to when it naturally extinguishes. Even leaving the damper partially closed can cause smoke – as well as dangerous gas – to back up into your home. If cold air seems to be coming in through the chimney even when the damper is closed, it may have lost its airtight seal. This can be caused by damage from use, exposure to heat, water damage, or simple wear and tear. Replacing the damper can prevent outside air from coming inside your home and affecting the inside air temperature.
  3. Improperly sized flue.
    Many homeowners believe that all chimneys and flues are created equal. In fact, the type of flue your home needs depends on the size of your fireplace. Furthermore, it depends on the kind of fuel it burns and more! Having an improperly sized flue can also lead to potential drafting problems. If the flue is too large, too much cold air in the chimney can cause excessive creosote buildup. Likewise, if the flue is too small, the byproducts of combustion will not be able to properly vent up the chimney.
  4. Chimney blockages.
    Blockages in the chimney can constrict air flow and lead to drafting issues. Anything that falls down an uncapped chimney – or a chimney with a damaged chimney cap – can cause drafting problems; animal nests and debris such as sticks and leaves are the most common causes of chimney blockages. Having an annual chimney sweeping and inspection is often the best way to prevent a buildup of soot, ash, creosote, or other blockages. If your chimney has not been cleaned in some time, creosote buildup may be to blame for your smoking issues. To prevent this, have your chimney swept each year. This will remove creosote, ash, soot, or other blockages that can impact chimney performance.

Don’t let a drafty chimney keep you from enjoying your fireplace! Contact us at Jack Pixley Sweeps today for more information on diagnosing chimney drafting issues or to schedule your next appointment.

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