Older homes are often filled with original architectural details that give them a unique and charming appeal. One feature that is especially sought after in older homes in fireplaces; with sturdy construction and materials that have already lasted for years – as well as beautiful original details – an older fireplace can serve as a beautiful focal point in a home. Unfortunately, these fireplaces may be hiding underlying chimney problems. In the past few decades, building and safety standards have continued to change as fireplace technology has evolved. Because of this, many older homes have fireplaces that are no longer up to code or comply with current building standards. Older fireplaces may also have their own maintenance concerns. Because they were built using different materials and in different styles, they often face problems that modern fireplace units simply do not have.
None of this is meant to scare homeowners with older properties. In fact, when properly maintained, older fireplaces can work just as well – if not better – than their more recently built counterparts. However, homeowners should still be aware of the special maintenance considerations that come with owning an older fireplace system.
How can I tell if my fireplace is up to code?
When it comes to dealing with fireplaces, old is a relative term. Because chimneys are made to last, a well-built fireplace system can last for 80, 90, or 100 years – or longer! – when properly maintained. However, if your fireplace system is more than 60 years old, it may no longer be up to code.
Most fireplaces built and installed after the 1950s use either prefabricated or block chimneys. Because these are still in use today, there is little risk of it being out of date. Older homes, especially historic homes built before the turn of the century, have a much higher chance of having fireplaces and chimneys that no longer meet current standards.
If you own a historic home, fireplace and chimney maintenance is an important part of keeping your home safe and in good condition. In addition to an annual chimney sweeping and inspection, below are some common maintenance concerns that come with older fireplace systems.
– Unlined chimney: Because chimney liners were not used with any regularity before the mid-20th century, many older chimneys are unlined. While your unlined chimney may be working well, it comes with safety risks; unlined chimneys have greater risks of chimney fires, operate less efficiently, and can expose the building materials surrounding the chimney to heat, smoke, and gas. Relining the chimney can help the fireplace burn more safely and efficiently.
– Masonry damage: Long term exposure to the elements may damage the exterior masonry of an older chimney. This can lead to spalling, cracked, or missing bricks. Likewise, because the mortar joints tend to deteriorate before the rest of the chimney, they may need to be reinforced. The tuckpointing process can be used to replace the damaged masonry; this process can also help improve the structural stability of the chimney.
If you have an older fireplace, have the chimney inspected is an important part of your home’s fireplace safety and maintenance. To schedule your fireplace inspection, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!