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Common Problems Found During Chimney Inspections

During the cold months of winter, homeowners rely on their fireplaces to work day in and day out in order to provide warmth and comfort in their homes. However, few us of truly understand the inner workings of our chimney and fireplace systems; because of this, small damage or performance problems may go unnoticed for months – or years – at a time.

Because few of us spend much time on our roofs or looking up the flue, chimney damage often goes unnoticed until a chimney inspection. A chimney inspection done by a certified chimney professional can assess the state of your fireplace system, identify areas of damage or deterioration, and allow recommendation for repairs to be made.

Levels of chimney inspection

The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA)] and the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) created three standard levels of chimney inspections; the type of chimney inspection your home needs will depend on its condition, time since last maintenance, or performance problems it may be experiencing.

  • Level 1: Level 1 chimney inspections are standard and all that is needed for most homes. During a Level 1 inspection, the chimney sweep will check the accessible interior and exterior portions of the fireplace and chimney for signs of damage or deterioration.
  • Level 2: Level 2 chimney inspections are more in-depth, typically involving the use of technology such as closed-circuit cameras. Level 2 inspections are often recommended in real estate transactions or when the fuel source of a fireplace has been changed.
  • Level 3: Level 3 chimney inspections are the most in-depth and only recommended when the structural stability of the chimney is in question, such as after a chimney fire or natural disaster. A portion of the masonry or walls may need to be removed during a Level 3 inspection.

Common issues uncovered in chimney inspections

  • Every fireplace system and every chimney inspection are unique; however, there are a number of common issues that are often uncovered during an inspection. The following are three of the most common chimney issues uncovered during inspections.
  • Water damage. Chimneys are built to withstand exposure to moisture, but it can still be extremely damaging to a fireplace system. Damaged chimney caps, cracks in the exterior masonry, or damaged flashing are just a few of the many ways water can get into a chimney.
  • Cracked chimney crown. Chimney crown damage is extremely difficult to spot without climbing onto the roof or chimney. The flat masonry of the chimney crown bears the brunt of the exposure to the elements; changes in temperature or exposure to moisture can cause the chimney crown to crack over time.
  • Damaged chimney liner. The chimney liner protects the surrounding building materials from heat transfer from the fireplace. Liners can become damaged from animal entry, leaks, lack of maintenance, or debris in the chimney.

Preventative maintenance is one of the best ways to extend the life of our fireplaces and chimneys. An annual chimney inspection done by a certified chimney professional can uncover hidden issues that many homeowners might not otherwise notice. For more information on the importance of chimney inspections or to schedule your next chimney appointment, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!

When To Address Chimney Repairs

Spring has finally arrived; with increasingly warm temperatures outside, most homeowners have already stopped using their fireplaces for the season. However, it is important not to neglect your fireplace until the first cold snap of fall. Instead, have chimney repairs addressed now to ensure your fireplace will be ready to use next season.

What causes chimney damage?

The bricks and mortar used in chimney construction are one of the strongest and most durable building materials in the world. This makes them uniquely suited for use in chimney construction; in addition to exposure to the elements, chimneys must be able to withstand the heat and byproducts of combustion created while the fireplace is in use.

Despite their durability, there are a number of ways fireplaces can become damaged.

Common Causes of Chimney Damage

  1. Water
    Water can be an extremely damaging force to your chimney system. Exterior masonry can crack, spall, or crumble due to long term water damage, especially when compounded with freezing temperatures in the freeze thaw cycle. Likewise, delicate interior fireplace components such as the damper or refractory bricks of the firebox are easily damaged by even small chimney leaks and water entry.
  2. Settling
    All homes settle over time; if a fireplace system is not built on a strong foundation, this settling can cause structural damage. Cracks within the firebox, large cracks in the chimney structure, or even tilting chimneys can all be caused by settling.
  3. Other causes
    There is no one cause of chimney damage. Chimney damage can even be caused by reroofing, painting the masonry, climbing plants, or even power washing the bricks and mortar. A chimney inspection by a certified chimney sweep is often the best way to discover chimney damage.

When should I have my chimney repaired?

If your chimney has been damaged in any way, it is important to address potential repairs as soon as possible. Delaying or putting off repairs can cause chimney damage to worsen, even to the point of affecting the safety and structural stability of the chimney.

Because it is an off season for fireplace use, spring is an excellent time to have chimney repairs completed. The following are three reasons to address your chimney repairs now.

  1. Fireplace use is not affected. Warm outside temperatures in the spring mean the fireplace is rarely used. Having repairs done during the spring and summer keep you from missing out on using your fireplace when you most need it.
  2. Shorter wait time. Fall is the busiest season for chimney sweeps as homeowners scramble to get their fireplaces repaired and ready to use. By having your chimney repairs addressed now you are more likely to avoid a long wait before your appointment – as well as be able to schedule an appointment time that is convenient for your schedule.
  3. Fewer delays. Some chimney repairs cannot be done when the weather is too cold; by having repairs done during the spring you can help avoid weather related delays.

If your chimney needs repairs, don’t delay; contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today to have your chimney repairs addressed as soon as possible this spring.

Dangers Of A Leaky Chimney

While water in the fireplace can be easily cleaned up, it should never be ignored. Chimney leaks, even minor ones, can cause serious damage throughout your fireplace system.

Signs of a Chimney Leak

While chimney leaks are often discovered by the presence of water in the firebox, there are a number of other signs that water entry may be affecting your chimney. The following are just a few of the signs of a chimney leak.

  • Moisture, dampness, or water in the firebox
  • Rust on the damper
  • Masonry spalling
  • Sounds of dripping inside the chimney

What Causes a Chimney Leak?

Because chimneys are complex structures there are a number of ways that water can get into the chimney system. The following are three of the most common areas where water can enter your chimney.

  • Chimney cap. A chimney cap is a metal top with mesh sides that protects the top of the flue from animal, debris, and water entry. A damaged, sized or incorrectly installed chimney cap allows water into the unprotected chimney.
  • Chimney crown. Made of stone or cement, the chimney crown is a slab that covers and seals the top of the chimney. Because of their location, chimney crowns are prone to overexposure to the elements; chips and cracks from repeated exposure can create chimney leaks.
  • Chimney flashing. Flashing is when metal strips and other waterproofing materials are layered on the joint between the roofline and the chimney. This watertight seal can be damaged by weather, overexposure, improper installation, or even roof repairs. Leaky flashing can damage not just the chimney, but also nearby walls, ceilings, and building materials.

Repairing a Leaky Chimney

Before repairing a leaky chimney, the source of the water entry must be identified. Identifying and repairing the source of a leak before repairing the damage ensures that the leak will not return in the future. A chimney inspection is often the best way to identify the source of a leak as well as evaluate the damage a leak has caused.

Once the source of the leak has been identified, the damaged caused by the leak can be repaired; repairing a leaky chimney as soon as possible prevents serious masonry or structural damage from occurring. There are a few of the ways your chimney can be repaired after a chimney leak. One option is to replace damaged bricks and mortar through tuckpointing. Another option is to install a new chimney cap.

Preventing Future Chimney Leaks

One way to protect your chimney against future leaks is by having the masonry waterproofed. In the waterproofing process, a water repellent specifically designed for masonry is applied to the bricks and mortar of your chimney. Our SaverSystems products help prevent leaks by repelling water from the masonry and can used to stop additional water damage from occurring.

A leaky chimney is more than just a minor inconvenience. You should repair leaks as soon as possible to prevent dangerous chimney damage from occurring. For more information on preventing or repairing chimney leaks, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today.

Water Sealer Vs Water Repellent

While bricks and mortar are designed to withstand the elements, water can be an extremely damaging force to your chimney. Because of this, many homeowners choose to protect their masonry by having it waterproofed. However, not all waterproofing products are created equally. The type of waterproofing product used can affect your masonry, even to the point of doing more harm than good. The following explains the differences between water sealers and water repellents, how they affect your chimney, and which one if best for your chimney.

How does water damage my chimney?Water Sealer Vs Water Repellent - Minneapolis  MN - Jack Pixley Sweeps

Masonry is uniquely suited to be used as the building material for chimneys; because it is naturally porous, gasses are able to pass through the bricks rather than be trapped inside. Unfortunately, the porous nature of bricks also mean that small amounts of water can be absorbed by the masonry.

While normal, undamaged bricks are unaffected by water, it only takes a small hole or crack to begin the freeze thaw process. During the freeze-thaw process, the water absorbed by the bricks freezes and expands in cold temperatures; the larger holes left behind are then able to absorb progressively more and more water. This type of damage has been known to cause serious cracking and spalling in as little as one year.

Water sealers vs water repellentsPrevent Chimney Leaks - Minneapolis NC - SirVent Charlotte

If your chimney is continuing to deteriorate year after year, water damage may be to blame. Waterproofing your chimney can help protect your masonry; waterproofing has even been shown to slow or stop existing water damage. There are two main types of waterproofing products on the market today – water sealers and water repellents. While many use these terms interchangeably, each product has its own properties and affects your masonry differently.

  • Water sealers: Water sealers seal the entire surface of the masonry with a thick, continuous barrier. Paint is a common example of a water sealer. These products cover any holes or cracks in the bricks or mortar; while this keeps water from getting in, it also prevents water and gas from getting out. Because of the continuous barrier they form, water sealers prevent the bricks from being gas permeable as well as trapping existing moisture inside the bricks. This can cause deterioration from the freeze thaw cycle to continue even though the chimney has been waterproofed.
  • Water repellents: Unlike sealers, water repellents penetrate into the masonry, coating the cracks, holes, nooks, and crannies of the bricks and mortar. By doing this, a continuous barrier is not formed but the masonry is still protected against water. This allows trapped water to evaporate while the masonry stays gas permeable.

The type of waterproofing product you choose can impact its effectiveness as well as your masonry. Because of this, we recommend that homeowners choose professional waterproofing with water repellents; this products can protect your chimney while letting the masonry retain its porous properties. For more information on what waterproofing products are best for your chimney, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today.

Have Your Chimney Inspected For Snow And Ice Damage

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 chimneyHave Your Chimney Inspected For Snow And Ice Damage - Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley Sweeps

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.