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Chimney Masonry Repair is Seasonal

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.

Insert Benefits

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 Regency HRI4E-A Gas Inserthome 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!

Spring and Summer are the Best Time of Year to Schedule Chimney Services and Inspections

Warm weather has finally arrived. The warm temperatures and longer days mean many homeowners have finished using their fireplaces until fall. While many of us tend to forget about our fireplaces until the first cold snap of fall, now is actually the perfect time to have chimney maintenance completed.

Spring and summer are the perfect time for chimney repairs!spring home in suburbs

With hot summer days just around the corner, few homeowners are using their fireplaces. Because of this, spring and summer are the perfect time to have chimney maintenance and repairs completed. Whether it is an annual sweeping, repairs to the masonry or major chimney construction, summer is the perfect time of year to have your fireplace and chimney repaired. Below are three reasons that this is the perfect season for chimney repairs.

  1.  Fireplace use is not disrupted. When chimney repairs are done in the fall or winter, the fireplace cannot be used until the repairs are done. This can be a problem, particularly if cold or inclement weather leads to delays. Having repairs done in the summer does not disrupt fireplace use. The warm temperatures and mild weather mean that repairs can be done on schedule.
  2. Get an appointment that works with your schedule. Because fireplaces are in heavy use during the fall and winter, they are extremely busy seasons for chimney sweeps. This can make convenient appointment times hard to get or cause weeks-long waiting periods. Spring and summer are slower months, making it easier to get convenient appointment times that work with your schedule.
  3. Make sure your fireplace is ready for the next burning season. There is no worse feeling than wanting to use your fireplace and realizing it is damaged, dirty, or in need of repairs. Having chimney maintenance done during the summer ensures your fireplace is ready to use when the first cool days of fall arrive.

Schedule your next sweeping or inspection today!

You don’t have to wait until you’re ready to use your fireplace to have it swept and inspected. Spring and summer are the perfect time for chimney maintenance; having your chimney swept after a long burning season ensures it is clean, free from blockages and debris, and ready to use once fall arrives.

A chimney inspection can also be done during the summer to check for any signs of damage or deterioration to the fireplace, flue, and other chimney components. If you are experiencing any fireplace performance problems such as drafting issues or ongoing leaks, a chimney inspection can also be used to diagnose the underlying cause of the problem.

While your fireplace may be the last thing on your mind, this is the best time of year to fix it. To ensure your fireplace is ready to use when fall arrives, contact the chimney experts at Jack Pixley Sweeps today!

We Are A One Stop Shop For Insert Installation And Masonry Needs!

When it comes to taking care of your fireplace and chimney, many homeowners feel like they have to make a choice: go with a company that can sell you a fireplace, or go with a company that can service and repair your chimney. At Jack Pixley Sweeps, we can do both!

Whether you want to purchase and install a new insert or need the masonry of your existing chimney repaired, Jack Pixley Sweeps is a one stop shop for all of your fireplace and chimney needs. Avoid shopping around or working with multiple companies; trust our expert staff to get the job done right the first time!

Benefits of a new fireplace insert

If your home has an old fashioned masonry fireplace, you may want to consider upgrading to a more efficient fireplace insert. In addition to burning fuel more efficiently and producing less smoke and soot, fireplace inserts can also help you save on your energy bills. According to Leslie Wheeler of the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association, converting an existing masonry fireplace to an energy efficient insert can save as much as 40%.

While an open hearth fireplace can only be used for burning wood, inserts that burn several different fuel sources are available. Whether you want the look of real wood, the efficiency of pellets, or the ease of gas, there is an insert for you! Likewise, inserts come in styles ranging from the traditional to the contemporary, allowing you to find a fireplace unit that blends in with your home’s décor.

We can fix your masonry, too!

Whether you have a new insert on the mind or are happy with your existing fireplace, masonry maintenance is an important part of making sure your chimney is safe to use. By having your chimney regularly swept, inspected, and repaired, you can enjoy your fireplace without worry.

Likewise, although installing an insert can be a way to avoid repairing a damaged firebox, an insert still needs a functional chimney to operate safely and with maximum efficiency. Because of this, it is important to have masonry repairs made as soon as possible – no matter what kind of fireplace you have.

Why choose Jack Pixley Sweeps

Buying and installing a new fireplace insert can be complicated: one company sells the unit, another one installs it, and yet a third services and repairs it! If finding one trustworthy fireplace company is difficult, finding more than one can be next to impossible!

At Jack Pixley Sweeps, we eliminate the need to work with multiple contractors or companies. Our one-stop shop can handle all of your chimney and fireplace needs. From sales and installation to service and masonry repairs, we do it all! Only having one company to work with can save you the time and trouble of finding and coordinating several different companies.

Taking care of your fireplace and chimney shouldn’t be complicated. At Jack Pixley Sweeps, we are a one stop shop for all of your fireplace and chimney needs! Whether you’re ready to have your chimney serviced or are looking to purchase a new fireplace insert, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!

Common Masonry Repairs

Types of Masonry Restoration

Masonry materials are remarkably durable — it’s why we can go to Europe and see masonry structures that are still standing (sometimes standing strong) after hundreds and hundreds, sometimes thousands of years. It’s also why chimney professionals like Jack Pixley Sweeps have been using bricks, mortar and other masonry materials to build chimneys for hundreds of years too.

The truth is, though, masonry will degrade and sustain damage at some point. That damage can come from many directions, whether it’s a fire or seismic event or the simple but damaging wear-and-tear of rain, snow and other forms of moisture (including the freeze/thaw process, during which moisture makes its way into small imperfections, then expands with freezing temperatures and busts open the masonry from the inside out).

Still, in a lot of cases, masonry can be repaired or restored. And at Jack Pixley Sweeps and Masonry, we’ve been bringing minimally and majorly damaged masonry chimneys back to beauty and function since 1977. If your masonry needs expert attention, we can help.

Some Of The Masonry Restoration Work We Can Do For You

Whether you have a historic home with a historic chimney to match it or a nearly new chimney, Jack Pixley Sweeps and Masonry technicians can take care of the work you need — we blend modern tools, technology and processes with techniques that have carried through from the early days of our trade. Some of what we can do:

Repairing And Restoring Damaged Chimney Crowns

Your masonry chimney crown’s placement — horizontally, at the very top of the chimney, directly open to baking sun and pounding rain and collecting snow — means it has a key job, but takes a beating. Its role of diverting moisture away from your flue can’t be accomplished well when sun and rain make cracks or spalling masonry develop. We can bring your crown back to proper function, whether we’re dealing with small cracks or a major breakdown.

Refacing A Lackluster Or Damaged Fireplace

Over the years, your chimney needs repair and replacement just like other appliances. Here is some more information.

Over the years, your chimney needs repair and replacement just like other appliances. Here is some more information.

If your fireplace is showing its age — with stains or damage — or if you just feel its look isn’t working in your home, we can help. We specialize in fireplace front redos that can bring a freshened look or a totally different aesthetic to your fireplace, while ensuring that it functions as effectively and safely as it should. Talk to us about what you think your fireplace needs!

Rebuilding A Failing Firebox

Since it holds the fire itself, your firebox has to stand up to some serious heat, time and again. And if the masonry begins to weaken — crumbling bricks, cracked masonry — it’s not just an eyesore, but a danger.

If your firebox needs an overhaul, we can remove the damaged brick and replace it with strong, new firebricks and refractory mortar. When we’re finished, you’ll have a beautiful firebox that’s built with care, experience and attention to detail, so you can enjoy your fires with the peace of mind that comes with knowing you brought in experts to handle its rebuild.

Rebuilding Chimneys From The Ground Up

When chimney damage is too extensive to make repairs a safe bet, a teardown and rebuild is necessary. It’s an extensive process, but here’s the particularly good news that comes with hiring Jack Pixley Sweeps and Masonry technicians to handle the job: We use time-tested methods to construct our chimneys in a way that provides a beautiful look and vastly extends their service life. We’ll be glad to tell you more about the way we work and how it’s different — just tell us about your project, and we’ll tell you what we can do for you!

If you need masonry restoration work done, or just have any chimney care questions you’d like help with, give Jack Pixley Sweeps and Masonry a call. We’re always here for our valued clients!