Posts tagged with "Popular Chimney Articles"

Fireplace and Chimney Parts: Diagram and Anatomy

Anatomy of a Chimney

There’s far more to chimneys than meets the eye. While the average home owner is only vaguely familiar with the contents that extend beyond the hearth and the chimney, your fireplace and chimney could consist of up to 22 parts. Knowing about these parts and their functions can be useful in general maintenance, troubleshooting, or even talking with a fireplace and chimney expert about your service. Use the following guide to understand the various parts of your chimney, and be prepared for your annual chimney inspection!

chimney flue liner chimney crown/wash definition chimney flue definition chimney smoke chamber definition chimney mantle definition chimney throat damper definition chimney throat definition chimney lintel definition chimney hearth definition chimney smoke shelf definition chimney hearth extension definition chimney firebox definition chimney ash dump definition chimney ash pit definition chimney foundation definition chimney cleanout door definition chimney footing definition Image Map

1. Chimney Crown – Your chimney crown protects your chimney from water damage entering through small cracks. Without a proper chimney crown- or if you have a cracked one, rain water seeps into the bricks and mortar of your chimney structure. Even minute amounts of water can result in brick flaking, mortar deterioration, and unsightly salt deposits on your chimney. Without a good crown that has been sealed your chimney does not have any protection. Eventually, the bricks and mortar break up enough that the chimney is no longer structurally sound. You can read more about chimney crowns here.

2. Flue – A flue is simply a passage for conveying exhaust gases from an appliance to the outdoors. A flue may be a duct, pipe, vent, or chimney. An unlined chimney is technically a flue, even though an unlined chimney is a fire hazard.

3. Flue Lining – For a safe flue, a lining must be used to ensure minimal accumulation of flammable debris. This lining should be stainless steel or specially formulated lining tile. In our all about chimneys article we talk further about the importance of the flue lining and problems you may be facing with your flue lining.

4. Smoke Chamber – The purpose of the smoke chamber is to gently compress the byproducts of combustion into a smaller space (the chimney) without causing back draft. The use of sloping walls, in conjunction with good fireplace design and maintenance, helps facilitate this.

5. Chimney Damper – Chimney Dampers are lever or pulley activated doors within your chimney. They can be closed to prevent energy loss when your fireplace isn’t being used. They also help prevent rain water or animals from entering your home if your chimney cap doesn’t restrict this. Wondering how this relates to a chimney cap? This article explains.

6. Smoke Shelf – This shelf is just behind the chimney damper. Flat, it catches falling debris and rain water, and helps with the transition of large volumes of smoke into the small chimney.

Chimney Chase – This generally refers to a factory made case used around factory made chimneys. This function is taken by masonry chimneys in homes that have them.

Anatomy of a Fireplace

7. Mantle – Also known as mantel piece or mantel shelf, this piece of hardware is more than a surface to display family photos and hang stockings. It’s primary use was to help catch smoke and prevent it from entering the home, but as fireplaces have evolved its use isn’t as important as it once was.

8. Lintel – This piece is place just above the fireplace opening. Lintels are used in archway, door and window openings to help bear the load created by opening such spaces.

9. Throat – This is the space just below the damper and just above the firebox, where the fire first passes through.

10. Firebox – The firebox is the section of the chimney system in which a person builds a fire. A proper firebox is lined with firebrick, a substance of refractory ceramic, which can become cracked or weakened after years of use. This area of the chimney is often in need of repair. It is recommended to have a thorough inspection of the firebox every five years or so depending on fireplace usage.

11. Hearth Extension – This is the space that occupies the floor just outside of the firebox. It’s made of heat resistant material such as tile or brick to reduce the chance of fires.

12. Hearth – This is the space on which the fire actually burns. As with the firebrick, it must be able to handle both the potential corrosiveness of the burned material and the high heats it can be subjected to.

13. Ash Dump – Lies directly below the ash door dump, this is the space ash falls through once the ash dump door is opened.

14. Ash Pit – Below the ash dump, this serves as a collection space for dumped ash. It should be emptied frequently to prevent excess accumulation of flammable byproducts.

15. Clean Out Door – This door is used to clean out the ash dump. It frequently is located outside or in the basement to make ash removal easy.

16. Footing – This is the horizontal surface under the ash pit. Generally made of concrete, the chimney should be securely placed in relationship to the footing to prevent problems later on.

17. Foundation – The lowest part of the chimney walls, this is made of heavy duty brick or cinder block. It’s used as structural support for the rest of the chimney, and is exposed to potentially hot ash. As such, it should be sturdy.

Fireplace Face – This is the area between the mantel and the fireplace itself. Traditionally brick, it must be sturdy enough to handle the heat of the fireplace below it.

Ash Dump Door – This door allows you to easily remove ash from your firebox. Placed in the middle of your firebox, it can opened to dump the ash into the ash dump.

Five Reasons for Chimney Leaks and What to Do About Them

Causes of leaking chimneys can usually be narrowed down to five reasons. If your problem isn’t solved from addressing the items on this list, your leak probably isn’t from the chimney!

common masonry chimney leak fixes

#1 The Simplest Cause of Chimney Leaking: Rain Going Straight In from the Top

Capless Chimney

Capless Chimney (source: hersheychimneycleaning.com)

It’s not hard to picture that. Chimneys without covers get a lot of rain falling straight down into them. A chimney cover makes sense to most people. Not only does it keep the rain out, but keeps birds, animals and debris out. The greatest value of the chimney cover is really keeping these out because when chimneys get blocked at the bottom, people get sick (or even die) from CO poisoning. While it’s true that sometimes an uncovered flue is the source of water problems, most often this reason for a leak is only when the liner is metal.

How to fix it

Get a chimney cover and have a professional make sure it’s not this simple.

#2 Many Chimney Leaks are from Cracks in the Chimney Crown

cracked chimney crown

Cracked Chimney Crown

The chimney crown is the cement part on top of the chimney. The bricks go up around the tile flue liners, but at the top you need something to stop the rain and snow from just falling in around the tiles. You can see that the very purpose of the chimney crown is to keep rain out. Cracks in the chimney crown can occur from shifting of the structure or from shrinkage dating back to the first day the crown was put on. When your crown has cracks, the water goes right through those cracks.

How to fix it

How to fix a cracked crown depends upon how bad the damage is. Most crowns have small cracks. Even small ones need to be fixed because all big cracks started out as small ones. Water freezes and thaws in the cracks all winter long, year after year, forcing small cracks to eventually become big cracks. There are excellent crown coating materials such as Chimney Saver Crown Coat which cover the masonry and prevent small cracks from becoming a real problem.

Once chimney crown damage is significant, though, the only fix it is to remove and relay the masonry. You can’t put a band aid on a gushing wound and you can’t coat a structurally ruined chimney crown and expect it to work. Best to coat your crown now with Crown Coat and avoid the big hassle and expense later.


chimney inspectionLeaky Chimney? We can fix that! If you believe that your chimney is causing damage to your home please give us a call or schedule an appointment online. We’ll be happy to help you.


#3 Chimneys Leaking From the Inside Out from Condensation

damage from chimney condensation

Damage from Chimney Condensation

I remember a lady whose wallpaper peeled where the chimney ran through the house. She knew it was the chimney because this is the only place with wallpaper peeling. She had tried everything- a chimney cover, flashing, even rebuilt the entire top of the chimney. By the time I met her she’d spent thousands of dollars but nothing fixed it.

This was an older house with an unlined brick chimney. In 1900 when it was built that chimney carried wood or coal smoke I’m sure. Someplace along the way a gas furnace was installed, but the chimney was not lined with a properly sized liner.

How to fix it

Gas fumes are very low temperature and have a lot of moisture in them. These fumes were condensing on the inside of this too-large, too-cold old chimney, literally soaking the bricks and keeping them moist all the time. All it took was a chimney liner and we solved the problem.

#4 Chimney Flashing Causes Leaks

bad chimney flashing

Chimney Flashing Leaks

TThe flashing is what keeps water from going into the place where the brick structure comes through the roof (or otherwise comes close to the roof.) There’s a fairly large gap between the bricks and the roof and water will pour through that hole if it’s not sealed up. Flashing is often aluminum that goes in between a couple bricks and bends to go on top of the shingles. Some sort of water proof “stuff” seals those spots. Though it’s far from the best choice, the “stuff” is often tar. In any event, flashing doesn’t last forever and the tar lasts even less time.

How to fix it

There are better materials for sealing the flashing now. If you get a chimney sweep to fix your flashing, tell him you want Flash Seal by Saver Systems. (As you can see, I like Saver Systems products; but they just work well, so you can’t go wrong!) It seals better and lasts longer.

#5 Chimney Leaks Caused by Leaking Bricks

leaky bricks

Leaky Bricks; Source: doityourself.com

Bricks and mortar both pass water, and often lots of it. The problem here is the same as with the crown- the freezing and thawing all winter long with the resulting damage which causes leaks in the house.

You have probably heard of waterproofing a chimney, but you have to be careful about what waterproofing material to use. When water is absorbed into a brick or a mortar joint in the summer time, the water probably dries out after a while. The exceptions might be for a surface in the shade or on the side of the house where the sun never shines; those walls just stay wet. That water does try to escape by “falling” i.e. the water weight (or head pressure) carries it toward the ground where it forces its way out of the bricks either inside or outside of the house.

If you apply a waterproofing material that physically blocks the pores of the brick or mortar, the water is trapped inside the brick. Some bricks actually get soggy, though it’s more likely that the water will just seep to the inside of the house. To the point, using silicone based water sealants may trap water and cause more damage than you started with. Use polysiloxane type waterproofing agents, such as Chimney Saver by Saver Systems.

How to fix it

To find out if your chimney leaks through the masonry surface, have your sweep do a Masonry Absorption Test (MAT) This is a simple test where a special test tube is attached to the side of the chimney and you record the time it takes for water to be absorbed into the wall. This tells you if you should waterproof the chimney.

Bonus: #6 Chimney Leaks That Aren’t Chimney Leaks

non chimney leak

source: www.orionrestoration.com

Sometimes, a leak starts in a different place but finds its way to the chimney, and then visibly enters the inside of a room at the point of the chimney.

For example, your roof might have a leak through the attic vent or roof shingle at the top.  Water could get into the attic or above your ceiling and either drip to the floor or roll along the stringer (the long piece of wood that spaces out the roof trusses and runs the length of your house). If the stringer is un-level, water can travel a ways – and even wind up at the chimney. It has happened, and usually isn’t discovered until people have spent a terrible sum fixing everything else.

Another event that could happen (although I have never heard of it actually happening) is that you could get so much moisture in your attic that it could condense and roll down the stringer onto your chimney.  This could happen if there were some reason your attic was getting a lot of humidity in it – for example, if your dryer vented into the attic instead of out of a vent perhaps, or if your gas furnace were vented by B Vent but just dumped into the attic (which would be a severe carbon monoxide risk, incidentally).

–Need help with your chimney leak repair in Maryland, DC, or North Virginia? Call High’s!

Gas Log Fireplaces vs. Wood Burning Fireplaces

The gas log fireplace has a number of advantages over a traditional wood burning fireplace. While some of the reasons might appear to be obvious others might turn a few curious glances. Gas fireplaces do not have the same amount of realism and the impact of a wood burning fireplace, but with added features gas fireplaces are widely considered realistic and beneficial enough to exceed the expectations of the hearth design. Let’s take a look at the tale of the tape for gas vs. wood fireplaces.

fireplace table

Ambiance

Nothing mimics a wood burning fireplace. The natural crackling and popping and sizzling of sap and the sweet, harsh olfactory effect of a wood fire triggers a physical sensation and psychological relaxation similar to the sounds and smells of the ocean. However, fumes can become toxic, crackling sap sends arcs of sparks off in random directions and a slowly dying fire leaves embers pulsing for hours waiting for an incendiary mistake. While gas fireplaces lack many of the features that create the allure of a wood burning fireplace, the gas fireplace is safer, easier to use and more attractive than most wood stoves and wood burning fireplaces.

Wood & Gas Logs

gas logs

Artificial logs in a gas fireplace.

A gas fireplace offers a level of realism that doesn’t take away from the effects that its traditional counterpart offers. Because of the advancement in technology gas fireplaces offer an authentic looking hand painted ceramic log that comes complete with texture and charring. Well designed gas fireplaces have been commonly mistaken for wood burning fires. Although a wood burning fireplace has burning wood and a gas fireplace burner emits flames from just below the logs the design mimics real flames more reliably than wood logs that often burn inconsistently.

Different gas log manufacturers create gas logs with varying processes and materials. Gas fireplace logs are manufactured of ceramic that has been treated for flame, reinforced with steel supports, hand painted for realistic textures and molded from casts of wood logs. Some gas fireplace logs are also made of a heat resistant foam similar to the architectural foam used for the decorative exterior of homes. Foam refractory logs are lighter and easier to remove to clean and much less expensive but it is also easier to crack the external shell.

The Fire

fireplace screen

A screen protects your home from flying embers.

Because a gas fireplace doesn’t operate on electricity gas burns at a reduced cost compared to a standard home heater. While fireplace wood can be expensive, wood can also be found free. A gas fire will burn until it is turned off and will simply cool down until the next time it is used. In comparison, a wood burning fireplace has to burn down and go out, before it will be safe to leave it unattended with glowing embers dangerously hot several hours after flames have burned out.

A gas fireplace also offers more flexibility in temperature and the appearance of the flames. The fire level is easily adjusted to deliver the amount of warmth and aesthetic appeal that a home needs. When it gets too hot a gas fire can be instantly lowered or be increased when the room gets too hot. With a wood burning fireplace a fire cannot be adjusted in a matter of moments to get the room the temperature to a comfortable place. While a talented use of the poker and flue can affect the heat of a wood burning fireplace it is certainly easier and more reliable to simply push a button and adjust flame height.

Maintenance

dirty fireplace

The remains of a wood fire.

There are also dangers and headaches associated with a wood burning stove. For example, a wood burning stove needs to be cleaned after each use or at least often enough to remove fine silt ash. Ash build up can be messy and difficult if cleaned poorly or left unattended and the fine ash can ruin clothing, air conditioners and get everywhere. Burning wood fireplaces also generate creosote and a chimney must be cleaned on a regular basis to ensure that no chimney fires occur. A gas fireplace will only need to be checked periodically for carbon soot or a leak after a forceful storm, there is no cause for alarm when setting it up for operation.

Ease of Use

gas fireplace

A glimpse at the wiring hidden beneath a gas fireplace.

Ease of use should be noted as well. Many gas fireplaces keep a standing pilot like gas stoves and heater. When the gas fireplace is used a button pushed or knob rotated will have flames at a perfectly selected height and heat emitting from the hearth almost instantly. With any gas fireplace a manual control valve is operated like a barbecue. However, remote control options provide transmitters that function like a hand-held remote, wall switch, automatic thermostat and with a timer.

Building a Fire

wood pile in the snow

It’s a cold trip to the woodpile in the snow!

The wood burning fireplace must be built with lighter kindling setup around and below wood chunks stacked below the logs that will be burned. A wood fire must begin with a single flame nursed to the point that kindling burns and grows to burn chunks that burn to ignite actual heat producing logs. Wood fires are never easy to start and a poorly stacked fireplace can ignite, and go out only to be rebuilt until it burns properly to ignite the fireplace logs.

In the winter, a person will need to go out and pick up wood and kindling to build a fire and keep it going. While that might not be too bad in 50 degrees, when it is snowing or a blizzard outside it might become a problem. With a gas fireplace there is no need to worry about tracking down wood as long as gas is running into the home.

Ventilation

chimney

Wood burning fireplaces and vented gas log fireplaces both require a chimney or similar ventilation to remove dangerous chemicals created by burning fuels.

Wood burning fireplaces and vented gas log fireplaces both require a chimney or similar ventilation to remove dangerous chemicals created by burning fuels. Direct vent and B-vent gas fireplaces are capable of safely venting through horizontal ventilation flues that offer interior design versatility unavailable with wood burning fireplaces that can only vent vertically. Ventless gas fireplaces are capable of burning in a reduced vent or vent-free environment by minimizing carbon emissions and detecting oxygen levels within the control valve.

While wood burning fireplaces were a great item in their time they don’t hold up to the efficiency that a gas fireplace can offer. If your having either type of fireplace installed, consider a stress-free remodeling company to help improve the entire room from floor to ceiling.