Chimney and Fireplace Repairs
There are times your chimney system will let you know something is wrong and other times it won’t give you a clue that anything is amiss. When there are symptoms such as smoke, back filling into a room, the fire is hard to start or you see water dripping into the firebox, you know your appliance needs some attention. However, just like with human health, if you had someone looking after the health of the fireplace or wood stove on an annual basis, there is a good chance the problems would have been found before the symptom showed up. But alas, just like with humans, when we put things off things may come back to haunt us and this is normally when you discover your chimney or fireplace desperately needs a repair or two.
There are also some very common repairs that are due to the wear and tear of the appliance. This can be due to the amount of wood you burn every year, the type of wood you burn, animals, birds or weather-related damage due to high winds, extreme rain or tornado and lightning. All of these have the potential to cause cracks, leaks and breakdowns in the structure over time. If you do not maintain your chimney by having it inspected each year, then you may not know you are dealing with an unsafe appliance when you light your next fire.
I Have a New House So It Should be Fine
Another place we keep seeing issues is in newer construction. Many times there are people who build houses that are not chimney or fireplace professionals. That’s why we have seen cases where combustible materials like wood are tied in right next to the firebox or flue. There is a certain amount of clearance needed and when this is not to code, potential fire can happen. This is why we recommend for new construction or a new home to get a level 2 inspection, so we can see what is going on inside the unit from firebox to the crown. This way the homeowner, you, can be assured everything has been done for your fire to safely burn inside your fireplace.
In older homes we find the fireplaces and chimneys have been built without a flue liner. Not having a flue or chimney liner can become a very dangerous situation for CO Poisoning and fire if not corrected. It’s not that the homes were built faulty; they just need to be updated and brought into code so the fireplaces or wood stoves can be safely used.
Symptoms Of A Sick Fireplace or Chimney
- Your fireplace smells like there’s something dead in there. Well, there is a good chance that that’s exactly what is going on! We find many a dead animal or bird that have lost their lives trying to get out of a chimney. To keep that from happening, we measure and place a chimney cap that has a screen attached to it to keep the critters out. It is fastened to the top of the flue. If you have an animal screen already attached, there is either a tear or damage done to it that needs to be fixed or replaced.
- Your chimney smells like wet smoke or the grill outside and it’s not the season to be using the fireplace. This is due to moisture buildup on top of the creosote. We fix this by sweeping the chimney and getting the creosote out of the system.
- You get your fire ready, open the damper and light it up to find the smoke filling your living space and not moving up the flue. There are a few things that can cause this. The first is your flue might be blocked by debris or nests that you aren’t aware of or an abundance of creosote. The other is a temperature difference when the outside temperature is warmer than the temperature inside your home. The smoke can’t properly be drawn out of the chimney. In either case your chimney should be swept and have a level 2 inspection so the inside can be viewed.
- If you look at the outer brick or stone of your masonry chimney and see a powdery white substance on the outside, you are seeing an indication of efflorescence, which is essentially water damage. While there are some water repellents available to consumers, we recommend you call a chimney professional to come out and clean it, then apply a commercial water repellent. Also make sure and install a chimney cap to keep water out of the flue and chase.
- If you have a prefab fireplace, you might look in one day and see what looks like a brick cracking. Most likely you are seeing the refractory panel. These are panels that look like bricks on the rear and sides of fireplaces. A professional will need to be called out to evaluate the situation to see if the panel needs to be replaced or not. If you have a masonry fireplace, a professional chimney tech will be able to take the damaged bricks out and replace the firebricks for you.
- Water is the number one problem for chimneys. If you hear a dripping noise coming from chimney, you most likely have a leak of some kind. If your damper is properly closed or you have a chimney cap or top sealing damper, it should stop the rain and water from entering the chimney system. If it looks like everything is working properly and you still hear water, call a professional chimney company immediately! We will schedule an appointment as quickly as possible to inspect the chimney and evaluate where the leak originates. Ignoring the leaking can cause extreme headaches down the line and is why we tell clients it’s not something that should ever be put off.
- If you see bricks flaking or coming apart you should call a professional chimney mason to repair them. Bricks are porous and can easily be damaged by water. The flaking is known as spalling and it’s very hard to repair, so you need to get someone out that knows what they are doing. If just any mason is called, they can make the mistake of not using the proper brick or mortar when replacing the damaged ones. Take note: this can be an expensive and time consuming repair that must be done to maintain the integrity of the system.
Top 5 Chimney Killers
Here are the most common things that damage chimneys over time:
- High Wind
- Lack of Maintenance
- Allowing animals, birds, bats and debris into the system
We’re not scientists but we have seen the weather patterns change over the last decade and it looks like extreme weather is hitting almost every area of the US. When it rains, it really rains! There are tornados in places that rarely if ever see them and the straight line winds are high enough to knock down trees and chimneys at will. While we cannot stop the weather from happening, we can help fortify, waterproof and maintain your fireplace and chimney appliance so you know going in that together, we have done everything we can to keep your family safe and your fireplace or wood stove working properly.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that we are here to help you get your chimney system repaired and in good working order so your family can enjoy a roaring fire in your fireplace knowing it is safe and ready to use. We know getting the recommended maintenance is the preventative care that we wish everyone would and could receive. However, we know there are times that these things slip past us because of our busy lives and sometimes because of unforeseen circumstances. So if you have been remiss in taking care of your fireplace, wood stove and chimney, it’s okay. Call us now and let’s get it taken care of and off your to do list.