Schedule a Chimney Inspection to Catch Winter Masonry Problems

The cold months of winter are often the heaviest use periods for fireplaces. Unfortunately, this time of heavy use also coincides with the time that chimneys are most likely to get damaged.

Winter Chimney Inspections - Minneapolis/St. Paul MN

The combination of rain, ice, sleet, snow, and frigid temperatures can wreak havoc on chimney systems. However, this damage often goes unnoticed until the spring or summer as many homeowners believe they should not or do not need to have their chimneys inspected during the cold months of winter.

To ensure that your chimney system makes it through the winter undamaged, schedule a winter chimney inspection now. An inspection now may help you identify minor damage before it turns into a major issue.

How can winter weather affect my masonry?

While all water can be detrimental to the masonry of chimneys, it can have catastrophic effects when combined with winter weather conditions. Bricks and mortar are naturally porous, meaning they absorb small amounts of water. As this moisture freezes it expands, creating larger and larger cracks and gaps. As the frozen water melts, more water is able to enter the brick. The process of deterioration is called the freeze thaw cycle, and can cause extensive damage to masonry in as little as one winter season. Previously damaged brick is especially susceptible to the freeze thaw cycle.

When should I have a chimney inspection?

The purpose of a chimney inspection is to evaluate the overall health of your fireplace and chimney system. Certified technicians will look for signs of damage to the bricks, mortar, damper, flue, and other parts of the chimney and fireplace structure.

Chimney inspections are often performed as a routine part of a chimney sweep or cleaning. They can also be used as a way to pinpoint the cause of ongoing chimney issues such as strong odors or recurring leaks. Likewise, it is recommended that homeowners have a chimney inspection done after purchasing a new home to establish a baseline for their chimney’s condition.

What is done during a chimney inspection?

The National Fire Protection Association created nationwide standards for chimney inspections in 2000, designating the criteria for three levels of inspections.The level of inspection performed will depend on the condition of your chimney system, whether it has been damaged, or if any parts have been modified or replaced.

If you are not experiencing any significant fireplace issues, your chimney has not been damaged, or you have not had any parts replaced you will most likely receive a Level I chimney inspection. During this level of inspection, certified technicians will evaluate all accessible portions of the interior and exterior of the chimney and fireplace including the masonry, firebox, damper, and flue.

If you are experiencing ongoing issues such as a leak or fireplace odor, your chimney or fireplace has been damaged, or problems are discovered during the Level I chimney inspection, a more in depth Level II or Level III inspection may be recommended.

Why are chimney inspections important?

“A chimney inspection is like an annual dental check-up,” says Ashley Eldridge, Director of Education for the CSIA. “It’s preventative maintenance that helps minimize potential hazards.”

An annual chimney inspection, especially when performed during the winter, is a great way to ensure the overall safety and stability of your chimney system. Contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today to schedule your chimney inspection so you can enjoy your fireplace with peace of mind for the rest of the year.

How Winter Impacts Your Chimney

As the temperatures drop outside, people come indoors to work, play, and spend time with friends and family. Oftentimes during the winter, this time is spent in front of a fireplace enjoying its warmth and ambiance. Unfortunately, what some homeowners fail to realize is that winter weather can have a negative impact on your chimney over time.


While winter means the coming of the festive holiday season, it also brings frigid temperatures, freezing rain, ice, and snow. Because the winter is typically the heaviest use season for fireplaces, it is important to have an annual sweep and inspection done as early as possible to ensure that your heating appliance is working efficiently, has not been damaged, and is safe to use all winter long.

How water damages chimneys

One of the most common – and most preventable – ways that chimneys are damaged is through long term exposure to moisture. Water can wreak havoc on a chimney and fireplace system, affecting everything from the bricks and mortar to the flue and damper.

While chimneys may appear to be simple structures, they are actually surprisingly complex. Because of this, finding the exact cause of water entry may be difficult. Here are two common ways that water enters a chimney.

Chimney cap: A chimney cap, sometimes known as a rain guard, covers the top portion of the chimney. This allows smoke out while keeping sparks and embers in. If damaged, water, debris, and even animals can get into the chimney.

Masonry damage: The bricks and mortar of a chimney are constantly exposed to the elements. Because of this, absorbed water constantly freezes and thaws, creating cracks that allow more water to enter. Over time, the freeze-thaw process can cause major damage to the chimney as bricks crack and crumble.

Preventing water damage

Although it is inevitable that chimneys are exposed to water from rain, ice, and snow, there are steps that homeowners can take to prevent and minimize water damage. Preventative maintenance is the most effective way of preventing water damage. During an annual sweep and inspection, a trained technician will inspect the chimney for any signs of damage to the masonry, chimney cap, or other parts of the chimney. When spotted early, many minor problems can be fixed before they turn into major concerns, saving both time and money.

In addition, the trained technicians at Jack Pixley Sweeps can apply a variety of protective sealants to existing masonry structures to prevent water from seeping in. These professional grade products can provide as much as ten times the water prevention of standard brands. These sealants can greatly extend the life of your chimney and prevent any existing damage from getting worse.

Animal entry

Just as people tend to stay inside more during the winter, birds and other small mammals seek shelter as the temperatures turn cold. Because of this, uncapped chimneys or those with un-repaired openings often become hiding places for wildlife. In order to continue safely using your fireplace, it is important to have the animals safely removed as quickly as possible. Following removal, repairs can be made to make sure the animals cannot reenter the chimney structure.

If you have questions about preparing your chimney for winter, contact the experts at Jack Pixley Sweeps today!