Winter in Minnesota arrives sooner, lasts longer, and is significantly colder than many other states. Because of this, fireplaces are often an integral part of keeping our homes – and our families – warm all winter.
While our fireplaces may be used heavily during the fall and winter, many chimney repairs cannot be made in cold weather. This sometimes leads homeowners to rush, hiring the first company they find instead of one that can provide long-term, quality repair.
How masonry damage affects your chimney
Bricks and mortar are built to withstand the elements. However, even the best-constructed chimneys may suffer due to Minnesota’s extremely harsh winters. Because of this, repairs may be necessary to keep the fireplace burning safely and efficiently.
One of the most common causes of masonry damage is the freeze-thaw cycle. The freeze-thaw cycle occurs when small amounts of water become trapped in the bricks and mortar of the chimney. When temperatures drop below zero the water freezes and expands; the creates progressively larger and larger holes and cracks in the chimney.
Finding the right chimney repair company
If the fireplace is not working properly or the chimney is starting to show signs of wear and tear, it is important to have these issues addressed as soon as possible – particularly in a part of the country where winter masonry repairs are often impossible. However, it is still worth the effort to spend time researching a chimney company before hiring. This can help ensure you hire a qualified, trained mason – even if it means waiting until spring to have repairs made.
Things to look for in a masonry repair company
Not all masonry repair companies or chimney sweeps are created equally. Because of this, it is important that homeowners do their research before jumping into repairs with a new company. Unfortunately, this sometimes means waiting until spring until repairs can be made. The following are a few of the things to look for before hiring a masonry repair company.
- Contractor’s license – A reputable repair company should hold a contractor’s license. Not only does this ensure they are qualified to make repairs, but it also protects homeowners; in the event, there is a dispute over the repairs, the state’s dispute resolution program may help compensate homeowners.
- Proof of insurance – Verifying proof of insurance before a chimney company starts making repairs protects both homeowners and workers. For homeowners, insurance ensures you will not be sued in case a worker is damaged as well as protecting you in the event damages are made to the home.
- Reputation and reviews – Most reputable companies are happy to provide potential customers with a list of reviews or referrals. Likewise, the Better Business Bureau or websites like Angie’s List can be helpful in vetting the reputation of potential companies.
In northern states like Minnesota, chimney repairs need to be made before Mother Nature drops the temperature below freezing until spring. However, it is still important to research the company you are hiring before trusting them to work on your fireplace or chimney. For more information on what to look for when hiring a chimney sweep company, contact the CSIA-certified chimney sweeps at Jack Pixley Sweeps today.
Fireplaces remain one of the most requested and sought after home features – across all ages and income brackets. A study by the National Center for Real Estate Research (NCRER) found that 40% of home buyers are willing to pay more for a home with a fireplace and that having a fireplace increases a home’s value by up to 12%.
Not all fireplaces are created equally, however. Open hearth masonry fireplaces are an impressive focal point, but most are inefficient and require serious upkeep and maintenance.
One way to modernize an open-hearth fireplace – while adding value to your home – is by installing a fireplace insert. Fireplace inserts are an excellent solution that can make your fireplace more efficient, allow you to switch fuel sources, save time, and avoid the hassle – and expense – of a major fireplace renovation.
What is an insert?
A fireplace insert is still a fireplace: it burns fuel to produce heat. Inserts, however, differ from open hearth fireplaces in that they operate using closed system combustion; in a closed system, less heated air is lost up the chimney and the fireplace can more efficiently heat a home. According to the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association (HPBA), installing a fireplace insert to an existing open-hearth fireplace can help reduce energy bills by as much as 40 percent.
Types of inserts
There is no one single size or style of insert. Instead, there is a wide variety of fireplace inserts to match the aesthetics of your home – as well as meet your heating needs.
Choosing the fuel source is often the most difficult choice when picking a new fireplace insert. Wood inserts remain popular as many homeowners want the look and feel of a real, wood-burning fire. Likewise, wood is considered a green fuel source; many are surprised to learn that burning wood is carbon neutral as trees over their lifetime absorb the same amount of carbon dioxide and the fire produces.
Gas is an equally popular fuel choice for fireplace inserts. Gas inserts provide heat at the press of a button with little cleaning or maintenance. While less environmentally friendly, gas is an inexpensive fuel source that provides consistent and controllable heat.
Three benefits of installing a new insert
There are a number of benefits to installing an insert.
1. Better efficiency. Open-hearth fireplaces tend to be inefficient and lose lots of heat up the chimney. Inserts with closed-circuit combustion, however, are significantly more efficient.
2. Fewer emissions. Because open-hearth fireplaces are individually built, their emissions cannot be regulated or controlled; this leads to open-hearth fireplaces being considered as a major cause of air pollution. Inserts of all fuel sources must be regulated, tested, and certified by the EPA. Minimum standards that produce significantly less particulate emissions must be met in order for an insert to be sold.
3. Avoid masonry repairs. A damaged fireplace must be repaired before it can be safely used. Some masonry repairs can be avoided, however, by installing a new insert. Because inserts can be installed into existing fireboxes, a flue resizing may be all that’s needed to begin enjoying the new fireplace.
A fireplace insert is an easy to install, energy-efficient way to upgrade your existing open-hearth fireplace. For more information on the benefits of fireplace inserts, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!
A chimney cap is more than just a decorative accessory. This important chimney component protects the entire fireplace system. Without a chimney cap, fireplaces can suffer from moisture damage, animal entry, and more. Investing in a quality chimney cap can help keep the chimney and fireplace in good condition for years to come.
What is a chimney cap?
A chimney cap is a covering for the top of the chimney. It sits at the top of the chimney crown. The chimney cap is a fitted metal hood with mesh or wire sides. This allows the chimney to vent and draft properly while protecting the flue from moisture, debris, animals, and more. Chimney caps come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and metals. This allows homeowners to choose one that is both functional and decorative. Custom chimney caps can also be designed to create a unique chimney component.
Reasons to invest in a chimney cap
A quality chimney cap is an important investment. The chimney cap protects the flue and fireplace against animals, the elements, debris, and more. It is important to have a chimney cap that fits, installed correctly, and made with quality materials. The following are three reasons to invest in a chimney cap.
- Chimney caps help prevent leaks. Moisture is one of the most damaging forces to the interior and exterior of the chimney. Chimney caps prevent water from entering the chimney by covering the top of the flue. This keeps water from rain, and snow from entering the chimney. While bricks and mortar are designed to withstand exposure to the elements, interior fireplace components are made to withstand heat. If a chimney leak occurs, even minor amounts of water can cause major damage. Cracked clay tiles in the liner, rusty dampers, or mold and mildew growth are all symptoms of a leaky – or uncapped – chimney.
- Chimney caps keep animals out. For animals including birds, raccoons, squirrels, and more, the chimney is a safe, cool, enclosed space to build a nest or hide from predators. Unfortunately, animals in the chimney can be extremely damaging to the fireplace system – and even hazardous to your health. Chimney caps help keep animals out; while the mesh or wire sides of the chimney cap allow proper drafting to occur. The tiny holes also prevent even the most intrepid birds or raccoons from entering the flue. Without a chimney cap, animals can freely enter the chimney. Animals trapped in the chimney can build nests, leave behind droppings, create blockages, and even expose your family to pests and parasites.
- Chimney caps reduce the risk of fire. Chimney caps are sometimes known as spark arrestors; this is because the mesh or wire sides can stop stray sparks and embers from traveling out of the flue and onto the roof. Keeping stray sparks off of the roof can help reduce the risk of accidental fire to the roof or other nearby structures when the fireplace is in use.
Invest in a new chimney cap today!
A quality, well-fitting chimney cap is an important chimney component that protects the fireplace from the bottom of the firebox to the top of the flue. For more information on the importance of investing in a quality chimney cap, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!
Chimneys are designed to withstand mother nature’s worst. Unfortunately, overexposure to the elements can cause damage – particularly when regular maintenance and upkeep are not performed. However, homeowners have a number of options when it comes to extending the life of their chimneys. At Jack Pixley Sweeps, we are proud to use SaverSystems products. These products can help extend the life of your chimney by protecting it against water damage – and may even be able to stop existing damage from getting worse too.
SaverSystems products can save your chimney!
If water has damaged the masonry of your chimney, SaverSystems products may be able to help. These waterproofing products are specially designed for use on chimney systems. Waterproofing the chimney can help prevent further damage and avoid expensive chimney repairs such as tuckpointing or chimney rebuild. Whether the bricks are beginning to crumble, the flashing has lost its seal, or the chimney crown has a crack, SaverSystems has a product to save your chimney!
- ChimneySaver: ChimneySaver is a penetrating, waterproofing product that is made to stop water penetration and prevent further damage to the freeze-thaw process. This product provides long-term protection against water damage, forming a strong bond with both masonry and concrete. When it is applied, it can penetrate as deep as ¼ inch in most areas of the chimney.
Because traditional paints and sealants are non-permeable, painting the chimney traps any existing water inside the bricks. When this occurs, damage under the surface can continue to take place. ChimneySaver is a vapor-permeable product, meaning that while it keeps water from rain, snow, and other sources of moisture out. It also allows any trapped water in your chimney to evaporate.
- CrownCoat: CrownCoat is a flexible, waterproof sealant that is designed to be applied to the chimney crown and chimney wash. The chimney crown is particularly vulnerable to water damage because of its location. Because it is a flat surface that seals the top of the chimney around the flue, the chimney crown is often exposed to significant amounts of water and pooling snow or rain.
For chimney crowns with minor damage or those that simply want to do preventative maintenance, CrownCoat is an easy and cost-effective way to prevent water damage. When it is applied by a chimney professional, it carries a 15-year guarantee against further water intrusion.
- FlashSeal: Flashing is the strips of metal and plastic that seal the joint between the chimney and roof. When incorrectly installed or damaged, leaky flashing can damage the chimney and the surrounding roof, walls, and ceilings. FlashSeal is a rubber membrane that can be applied over existing flashing to create a waterproof barrier. When it is applied with reinforcement fabric, FlashSeal is guaranteed to last seven years.
Don’t let water ruin the bricks and mortar of your chimney. Instead, keep your entire system looking beautiful for years to come with SaverSystems waterproofing products. For more information about waterproofing your chimney or SaverSystems products, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!
Fireplaces are an extremely popular home feature. According to a report by the Hearth, Patio, & Barbecue Association, more than half of the homes in the United States have chimneys. Although many homes have a fireplace, most of them are inactive.
Many homeowners mistakenly believe that they do not need to service their chimney if they do not regularly use them. This is simply not true. Whether you use your fireplace once or 100 times per year, every chimney needs regular sweeping and inspections. These regular maintenances ensure your chimney is free from damage, deterioration, buildup, and other performance problems.
How often should I get a chimney sweeping?
The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends all chimneys – regardless of fuel source or how often they are used – swept at least once per year. The National Fire Protection Agency also advises that “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.”
Why should I have a chimney sweeping if I don’t use it?
Fireplaces that are not frequently used are in the highest risk category for undetected damage. Because they are not regularly used, homeowners may miss small performance problems that indicate the presence of a bigger chimney issue. A rarely-used fireplace may have less soot and ash to remove, but it still needs professional inspections annually to ensure it is safe to use.
What could be causing my chimney damage?
There are a number of things that can cause chimney damage – even if you do not regularly use your fireplace. The following are three common types of damage that are often seen in infrequently used fireplaces.
- Chimney damage – Damage to the exterior masonry of a chimney can occur regardless of how much you use the fireplace. Both severe weather and normal exposure to the elements can cause wear and tear to the chimney’s bricks and mortar. Without repairs, a small crack can quickly turn into a large chunk of missing masonry.
- Moisture – Water is extremely damaging to both the interior and exterior of a chimney system. Moisture from rain, snow, and even sprinklers can cause damage to the bricks and mortar of the chimney over time. Interior fireplace components are designed to withstand heat, not moisture. It can also rust or get damaged by water from a leaky chimney.
- Nests and pests – Unused chimneys provide prime real estate for birds, bugs, raccoons, roof rats, and more. In addition to causing damage to the fireplace and chimney, an animal entry can expose you and your family to a variety of bacteria, pests, and parasites.
No matter how often you use your fireplace, it is important to have annual inspections to keep your chimney system – and the rest of your home – safe. For more information on annual chimney inspections or to schedule your next appointment, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!