During the winter, our fireplaces work hard to keep us warm and comfortable no matter what the weather outside is like. Unfortunately, the same snow and ice that our homes protect us from can have a serious negative impact on your chimney system.
As temperatures begin to rise again and spring is finally on the horizon, now is a great time to have your chimney inspected for signs of damage from this winter’s snow and ice. Even if your chimney has been damaged, identifying and repairing the damage as soon as possible can minimize the effects of the deterioration and keep your chimney in peak condition.
How winter weather damages your chimney
While bricks are mortar are tough building materials that are made to stand up against the elements, many homeowners do not realize that bricks are actually permeable. This means that small amounts of water from rain, ice, and snow can be absorbed by the masonry. And while undamaged bricks may only absorb a droplet or two at any time, masonry that has cracks, holes, or is otherwise deteriorating is at significantly higher risk of water damage.
One of the most common ways masonry is damaged during the winter is by the freeze thaw process. As outside temperatures drop, the water absorbed into the brick freezes and expands; as the water melts, it leaves behind a larger hole or crack through which even more water is absorbed. The freeze thaw process can cause bricks to crack and spall in as little as one year depending on the level of damage.
Preventing snow and ice damage
Living in Minnesota, it is inevitable that our chimneys will be exposed to snow and ice every winter. Because of this, it is important to have preventative maintenance done to help protect your chimney against winter water damage.
Having your chimney professionally waterproofed is often the most effective way to prevent water damage all year long from ice, snow, and rain. Our professional-grade sealants produced by SaverSystems are specifically designed for use on masonry; these permeable barriers allow gas and smoke to pass through the bricks and mortar safely while still keeping water out. Even if your chimney is already showing signs of masonry damage such as cracking or spalling, applying a waterproof sealant can help slow the progression of damage and protect the rest of your chimney.
The importance of a chimney inspection
Whether you use your fireplace every day during the winter or simply use it for the occasional special occasion, an annual chimney inspection is one of the most important things you can do for your chimney in terms of preventative maintenance. Chimney inspections allow problems or areas of deterioration to be identified early, long before they turn into serious damage. This kind of preventative maintenance not only protects your chimney, but can also help save you money; a chimney inspection and minor repairs is significantly less expensive than major fireplace or chimney reconstruction.
Our harsh winter weather here around Minneapolis can be particularly hard on chimneys. Contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today for more information on preventing snow and ice damage and to schedule your next chimney inspection.
At Jack Pixley Sweeps , we pride ourselves on not just providing our customers with excellent fireplace and chimney services, but also helping to educate homeowners about their heating appliances. However, many of our customers often have the same questions!
Below are some of the most common chimney questions we are asked, as well as their answers and solutions.
“How often do I really need to have my chimney swept?”
According to the National Fire Protection Association , fireplaces and chimneys should be cleaned and inspected annually. This recommendation is a general guideline for most homes and fireplaces that is designed to keep your fireplace system in safe working condition. However, if you use a heating appliance such as a wood burning stove as your home’s primary heat source, your chimney may need to be swept more than once per year!
“What is creosote?”
Creosote is a tarry black substance that is a naturally occurring byproduct of fuel burning fires – as well as the root cause of many chimney problems. Excessive creosote buildup is the primary cause of chimney fire. Likewise, creosote can also create chimney odors or cause the flue liner to deteriorate.
“How does a chimney sweep clean a chimney?”
Chimney sweeps certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America are highly trained professionals who follow specific guidelines and procedures designed to leave you with a clean – and safe – fireplace system. Using specialized tools including brushes and vacuums, the chimney system is cleaned and inspected from the top of the flue to the bottom of the firebox. Likewise, our chimney sweeps take care to ensure that your home does not get messy or dirty during the cleaning by using tarps and drop cloths to cover interior furnishings and floors.
“Do I need to worry about carbon monoxide?”
Carbon monoxide is created in all fuel burning fires, including gas, wood, kerosene, propane, and even charcoal. This colorless, odorless gas is sometimes referred to as the “silent killer” because it is nearly impossible to identify without special carbon monoxide detectors. While the risk of a well maintained fireplace system having a carbon monoxide leak is relatively low, it is important that all homes are equipped with carbon monoxide detectors and that the alarms are tested regularly.
“Can anything be done about my smelly chimney?”
Chimney odor can be a major nuisance, affecting the air quality in your home particularly in the spring and summer months. However, a smelly chimney is often an indicator of a bigger chimney problem. A chimney inspection can be used to identify the root cause of the chimney odor, repair it, and create a plan to prevent it from coming back.
“How long have you been in business?”
Jack Pixley Sweeps has been in business since 1977. Located in Spring Lake Park, Minnesota, we are a local company dedicated to providing our friends and neighbors quality chimney and fireplace services. For more information on what we can do for your chimney, contact us today!
Jack Pixley Sweeps uses a chim-scan camera on each chimney flue 6″ or greater
When one of our Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA)-certified technicians from Jack Pixley Sweeps visits your home to perform your annual chimney inspection, we are certain you will be impressed and very satisfied with our special touch to the inspection: the Chim-Scan Closed Circuit Internal Evaluation System. Without this video technology, the inspector cannot see every inch of your chimney’s interior. Nor can he show you exactly what is wrong with your chimney. With the Chim-Scan camera, we can examine every area of your chimney, and we will show you the video footage after the inspection and explain our findings to you. We would like to tell you more about this phenomenal technology and why an inspection using the closed circuit Chim-Scan camera is so much better than one without this technological tool.
What Is a Chim-Scan?
According to the Estoban Foundation, the company that developed and manufactured this product, a Chim-Scan is a remote imaging apparatus designed to be raised or lowered into a chimney that provide the viewers, such as the chimney inspector and the homeowner, the ability to see every inch of the interior of a chimney up close. Via the Chim-Scan Closed Circuit Internal Evaluation System, the inspector and the homeowner have a view of areas that cannot be seen by regular visual means.
Why Is Using a Chim-Scan During a Chimney Inspection So Important?
Since the Chim-Scan camera can see every inch of your chimney’s interior, we may discover damage that would have been missed without a Chim-Scan. Damage to the inside of your chimney typically needs repairing before your fireplace can be safely used. Cracks in any part of your flue allow the toxic gases from combustion to leak out into your home. If you continue to have fires when your flue is cracked, you run the risk of further cracking due to parts of the flue not being protected from the heat of combustion. A Chim-Scan can also provide you with photographic and/or video evidence of damage if needed for insurance purposes.
What Are Other Benefits of the Chim-Scan Closed Circuit Internal Evaluation System?
Not only does a Chim-Scan find “hidden” flue damage, but it can also be used to diagnose chimney fire damage, find “patch” jobs done by amateurs, and indicate the presence of animals and/or their nests inside a chimney. Especially important after a chimney fire, it can help indicate the cause of the fire, how much damage occurred in the fire, and thoroughly document the situation for an insurance claim. After the scan has been conducted, there are different types of media you may receive including written reports, pictures, and video recordings.
Are you interested in the most thorough chimney inspection you can have? Contact Jack Pixley Sweeps to schedule your annual chimney inspection with the benefits of a Chim-Scan camera.
Use only a certified chimney sweep like Jack Pixley Sweeps to work on your chimney system
Fireplaces are an important part of our homes. In addition to serving a decorative or aesthetic purpose, they add value to a house and can serve as a reliable heat source during cold winter months. Despite the importance of proper fireplace and chimney maintenance, many homeowners neglect to complete necessary annual cleanings or attempt to do it themselves.
While DIY projects are a great way to save money on many household projects, cleaning a chimney system is not a project that should be undertaken by the average weekend warrior. By hiring a certified professional, homeowners can guarantee that their chimneys and fireplaces will last for years to come.
Why use a certified chimney sweep?
Just as you would not go to a dentist for a broken leg, it is not recommended to hire a regular renovation company to clean, update, or repair a broken fireplace or chimney. Hiring a certified chimney sweep ensures that the person servicing your chimney system is a trained professional who is up to date with the latest technology, standards, and techniques in the industry.
Most reputable companies will have chimney sweeps certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America, or CSIA. With over 1,400 CSIA certified chimney sweeps in North America, it is easy to locate one of these highly trained professionals to service your chimney system. The technicians from Jack Pixley Sweeps are certified by both the CSIA and the National Chimney Sweep Guild.
What can I expect from a certified chimney sweep?
CSIA certified chimney sweeps are held to a higher level of knowledge and professionalism than others working in the industry. Because of this, you can expect your chimney sweep to be knowledgeable about the most recent advancements in chimney, fireplace, and venting safety along with the local building codes and manufacturer’s instructions for newly installed appliances.
Certified chimney sweeps should also act in a professional manner, including taking the time to explain how the cleaning process works, answering any questions you may have, and ensuring that furniture, carpets, and any other home décor is properly protected before beginning. Sweeps will evaluate both the interior and exterior of your chimney system, employing tools like the traditional chimney brush along with more modern technology such as vacuums, cameras, and other electronics.
Why is an annual inspection important?
An annual chimney inspection or cleaning is a chore that many homeowners tend to put off or ignore. Because of this, many small problems that could be easily and inexpensively fixed are not found until they become much bigger, more expensive, and more labor intensive problems.
“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.” Additionally, the National Fire Protection Association Standard 211 says, “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.”
A certified chimney sweep will be able to not only clean and maintain your fireplace system, but will also be able to identify any areas in need of repair or those that many deteriorate in the future. Sweeps are also able to diagnose the causes behind common issues such as drafty chimneys, water leakage, or animal entry.
Contact us to learn more about how to protect your home’s masonry
Proper chimney care is something that’s often neglected by a lot of homeowners. What they don’t realize is the importance and benefits that a properly maintained chimney can bring to your home. In our many years of experience here at Jack Pixley Sweeps, we’ve been asked more times than we can count about the effects water can have on one’s chimney. So here’s a short guide that might be really helpful.
Water is your chimney’s enemy
According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, water damage is the number one most common cause of majority of the reported chimney damages. Direct contact with water or even minor water penetration can increase the likeliness of damaging one or several of the materials in your chimney (i.e. metal, brick, stone, cast iron etc.).
The following are examples of the damage in your chimney and home’s interior and exterior structures caused by water penetration:
Water stains in the ceiling and wall
Rusting of the damper assemblies
Decaying of the exterior mortar
Cracked or damaged flue lining system
Water damage: Classified
There are three significant types of water damage that may occur in your home. Identifying which of the three is important in repairing and preventing the recurrence of the same damage.
Spalling – this type of water damage refers to the chipping, flaking or crumbling of your masonry chimney as a result of water penetration or contact. Your chimney would show flaking on the surface of the bricks and chimney crown. This is usually caused by the freeze/thaw cycle of water wherein the moisture present in the chimney area would freeze when there is a significant drop in temperature, and would begin to thaw again once temperature starts to go up.
Rust or Corrosion – this usually affects the metal parts and materials used for your chimney (such as the chimney flashing and cap). This is the first thing that chimney experts look for during an inspection because this is one of the most common water damage out there.
Mortar Joint Damage – this part of your chimney is highly susceptible to cracking. Because of this, it is also one of the common places to absorb moisture. Moisture content with the ideal environmental conditions can be a breeding ground for molds which would pose a health risk to you and your family.
What are you still waiting for? Now that you know the damages that water may cause, you should give Jack Pixley Sweeps a call and have your home and chimney checked before it’s too late.