Posts tagged with "How To"

Best Way to Waterproof a Chimney

Asking what’s the best way to waterproof a chimney or what are the best waterproofing products are both understandable enough questions, but they’re also too broad for a simple answer. Best way to waterproof what kind of chimney? Are we waterproofing a vertical wall or the breast of the brickwork? There are brick, concrete block, stucco and stone chimneys and there are different considerations for all of them – meaning you might use different products on different types of chimneys. Let’s peel this back like an onion. Continue reading

How to Block a Chimney

I’m sometimes asked “What’s the best way to block a chimney?” You really should ask another question first. Ask “Should I block the chimney flue?” Not necessarily, and in general I wouldn’t (though I will tell you how to do it.) The other, and more important, question you should ask is “Is it safe to block a chimney?” Continue reading

Removing 3rd Degree Creosote with Poultice Creosote Remover

Since the other articles were written, there is something new to add. There is a new chemical by Saver Systems called PCR (Poultice Creosote Remover) and it works really well and really fast. By fast I mean overnight. In extremely bad situations it is conceivable that it could take two applications. It is available through chimney service companies, not available to the general public.

creosote removal & chimney sweep in Chevy Chase MDWho is it good for? It’s good for people who have 3rd degree creosote and…

  • have decided not have a stainless steel chimney liner…
  • …or who want a stainless steel liner but don’t want the tiles destroyed
  • want an appropriate option to relining before selling a house
  • don’t mind the price tag this has (more on that shortly)
  • and plan to NOT get in this condition again

Let me elaborate. You recall that I mentioned that there is likely to be creosote all over the outside of the tiles as well? This is why I favor removing the tiles and replacing them with a stainless liner.  So keep in mind that as effective as PCR is, it’s only going to work on the inside of the tiles.

It’s understood that some people really don’t want to destroy the tiles, and I respect that. If a wood-stove is being vented through the fireplace flue (in a properly sized stainless liner) but you need to get the creosote out of the tile first, PCR would be a very good way to do that.

About the price. This is why you don’t want to do this as a regular thing. PCR is somewhat expensive in the first place. It requires specialized sponge applicators which are also kind of expensive and it requires two trips (or even three if the chimney is severely messed up, but usually two). PCR treatment seems to range between $450 and $700 with $5-600 being very common. It costs much more than a chimney cleaning but is something like 25% of cost to reline the chimney with stainless steel.

So PCR really is an excellent option to get out of a bad spot, but afterwards you want to make sure you don’t just do it all over again. Be sure to follow all the good advice such as burning hotter and using ACS or CreAway for maintenance.

Watch this video clip and you’ll see that PCR is pretty amazing stuff.

How To Buy Firewood In Gaithersburg MD

It’s that time of year again: the wind is blowing and cold nights are becoming more common. There’s only one thing to do—start a roaring fire! Before you kick off your fire season, however, you must be prepared. This means purchasing the right firewood! Knowing how to buy firewood isn’t complicated, but there are a few rules to live by to get the best results, so let’s talk not only about getting your hands on firewood, but about how to buy good firewood for your wood burning fireplace.

firewood for wood burning fireplace in Darnestown MD1. Choose Seasoned Wood
No, the firewood you buy doesn’t have to be sprinkled with salt and pepper. By “seasoned” we mean dried. Seasoned wood may have some “checks” or cracks in the logs, indicating a lack of moisture, and if the bark has not been shaved off by the dealer, it will begin to flake off of dried wood (and in fact should be removed prior to burning!). Firewood burns best when it has been properly dried outside, generally for about a year.

2. Get Efficient Wood
Wet logs, or “green” wood, on the other hand, attract mold and mildew, are home to insects and dirt, produce excess smoke when burned and cannot reach maximum heating potential due to using energy to burn off water. Whatever dealer you seek, be sure that the wood is in prime burning condition. If not, you could be looking at pests invading your home (wood roaches, beetles, spiders, rodents) and the unwanted habit of constantly replenishing your fuel source during each burn.

Some species of seasoned wood make for better fires. Knowing how to buy firewood means avoiding inferior “soft” woods, such as the likes of firs, spruces, pines and poplars. These may be easy to handle, but they’ll leave your home cold—with a maximum of 13,000 – 15,000 BTUs per cord, stinky, smoke-ridden and throw sparks all over (both unpleasant and a safety hazard!).

The better bet is to go with one of several “hard” woods. Some of these include ash, beech, red and white oaks, hickories, maple, locust and birch and they ignite easily and burn hotter and longer. Hard woods are manageable because they’re easy to split for use in your stove. Additionally, they give off copious amounts of heat while minimizing smoke output—giving off 19,000 – 26,000 BTUs of heat per cord! Think about it; would you rather be warm and toasty or cold and shivering?

where to get firewood for a wood burning stove in Fulton MD3. Buy Firewood by the Cord
Firewood is typically sold by cords—stacks of logs equal to 4 feet wide by 8 feet long by 4 feet high—it’s the universal measure! Reputable dealers will sell by multiples of this and fractions of cords—i.e. half a cord. In fact, according to the State of Maryland, such a practice is required by law, so a dealer you found on Craigslist who shows up with a truckload of loose timber might not be treating you fairly in price or volume.

In addition to knowing that you’ve bought from an ethical business(more on that in our Washington DC Firewood Guide) , buying firewood by the cord also ensures that you can keep track of how much you need and use during the burn season. We usually recommend investing in 3 – 4 cords of wood each year, though this may vary. Knowing these details as well as your own fireplace habits will give you an idea of how many cords you will actually need for a single burn season.

Let’s recap. To enjoy your fireplace all winter, you’ll need 1.) seasoned wood to produce the best possible fire and make good use of fuel, 2.) efficient hard wood to promote warmth and avoid problems like smoke, and 3.) selling firewood by the cord required by law in Maryland. Find a reputable dealer to buy from, it will guarantee you quality and adequate fuel supply. And remember: store your firewood supply in a cool, dry place away from pests or flammable materials to keep it in prime condition for fireplace use! Questions or comments? Sound off below! Happy burning!

Winter Chimney Checklist

Chimney sweep in Potomac MDBefore firing up your fireplace for the first time this winter, there are a few things you must check for the sake of your family’s health and safety.  Cozying up to a warm fire can be delightful on a chilly winter night, but be safe about it!  Follow the winter checklist below to ensure a pleasant and safe experience.

Chimney Inspection and Cleaning. The best way to be sure that everything is in proper working order and is safe for use is to have the chimney checked and/or cleaned.  The National Fire Protection Association suggests having your chimney inspected on a yearly basis for maximum efficiency and safety.  Common chimney problems include build-up of deposits and chimney fires.  Bring in a Chimney Safety Institute of America certified chimney sweep to assess the situation.  A few things on their chimney checklist will include looking for:

  • Soot. Soot is a brown or black soft powder.  It is made up mostly of carbon and sometimes combined with ash.  The threat this buildup poses depends on the amount of ash it contains, as more ash reduces the problem.  Carbon is flammable, posing a larger risk of a chimney fire.
  • Creosote. Creosote, another flammable substance, starts off as a residue of smoke and vapors from wood.  It clings to the venting system as it builds up as a hard, flaky deposit resultant from incomplete combustion.  It is recommended that a cleaning be performed when either soot or creosote buildup reaches ¼ inch or more.
  • Glaze. Glaze is the toughest chimney intruder to remove.  This is a tarry, shiny substance which puddles up in the chimney and sometimes even drops down into black icicle-like deposits that hang above your fireplace.  It’s the most dangerous chimney fire culprit because of how dense it is, allowing the glaze to burn longer.  Glaze should be removed when buildup reaches or exceeds 1/8 inch.

If the above residues are found in your chimney, or other problems are detected during inspection, the chimney sweep may decide to clean out the system.  Aside from the risk of a chimney fire, cleaning will help to ensure proper chimney ventilation, eliminate undesirable odors and remove blockages that would result in CO poisoning.  While cleaning, the chimney sweep will employ:

  • Standard cleaning. Standard cleaning is recommended for the elimination of both soot and creosote.  Brushes and high-powered vacuums are run along the chimney walls to eliminate and prevent the substances from entering the home.
  • Mechanical cleaning. Mechanical cleaning is the high-powered version of the standard method.  Wire brushes, cables and chains are twisted and turned by a motor at a quick speed to rid the chimney shaft of hard creosote and glaze.

Some chimney sweeps also choose chemical cleaning, which involves spraying various substances to break down and dissolve hard glaze and creosote.  In any case, at least one of these methods will be used.

Chimney Inspections in Chevy Chase MD MDIn addition to cleaning your chimney, there are some fairly obvious safety measures you should take in preparation for your fireplace’s first seasonal use. Add the following to your winter checklist:

  • Proper firewood. Only use dry wood that has been split and seasoned outdoors for 6 months to 1 year. To learn more about firewood, read our articles on environmentally friendly firewood and firewood in the Washington DC area.
  • Clear the Area of Fire Hazards. Move all furniture, curtains and other items away from the fireplace.
  • Smoke Detector. In the case that you leave the room for a minute or dose off, a smoke detector will alert you of problems near your fireplace. Make sure yours are installed and working.
  • Carbon Monoxide Detector. CO is a major concern when burning fires in the home.  It is virtually odorless and unnoticeable unless you have the right equipment installed, and is the primary chemical that comes from burning wood and having chimney soot.  Do not be caught off guard!  Install one of these.
  • Fire Extinguisher. Accidents happen to everyone.  Maybe the fire burned to hot or big, maybe the door was not shut and a log tumbled down onto the floor.  In cases like these, be prepared to deal with the situation by having a fire extinguisher nearby to avert a crisis.

Winter fire burning can be a tremendously enjoyable part of the season.  Follow this guide and you will be well on your way to preparing your chimney and fireplace for winter!

How to Remove Creosote – About Creosote Part 2

As mentioned before in this series’ first post about creosote, there are three degrees, or stages, of creosote buildup. Chimney brushes are the standard method for removing first and second degree creosote.

Chimney sweep in Potomac MDHowever, sometimes second degree creosote will be hard enough to remove that other methods would work better:

  • There are flat wire brushes which are pretty effective.  They are expensive.  If there’s a very thin coat of creosote on the chimney wall a flat wire brush will do a fair job of removing that too.
  • There is special equipment for just this type of creosote.  A rotary loop which is a stainless steel cable fixed to a hub that is put on special metal rods turned by a powerful drill (this process burns up regular drills) This method is quite effective.
  • There are chemical creosote removers.  They come in two kinds: the ones that take time and the ones that work fast.  So said, “fast” still means a couple days.  Fast chemicals definitely work, but they are not used much just because of the safety considerations and the expense of the return trip involved.  They are very caustic and they can make a very big mess.
  • Other chemicals, such as ACS or CreAway are effective over time, but are most useful as good maintenance.  CreAway can actually reverse many problems given some time (weeks to months) provided one changes his burning habits.  Continuing to burn the same way as you did to develop the problem in the first place has to stop if you want your chimney to clean up.  (Consult your chimney sweep or the stove’s owner’s manual for best burning practices)

Third degree creosote removal is the most challenging of all.  And sometimes it’s not worth removing the creosote- there’s often a very good case to be made for taking out the old chimney liner and putting in a new and different one.  But first the removal options:

  • The chemicals mentioned above can work if the creosote hasn’t been on fire.  If the chimney walls just look like they have been coated with tar, the chemicals can work.  The caustic chemicals, if used at all, are usually reserved for this type of problem.
  • The flat wire brush and the rotary loop don’t stand a chance.
  • If the creosote is hard there is a rotary head with chains that will do a rather effective job.  Contrary to intuition, the chains will not break flue tiles.  However, in chimneys that have been abused so that there is 3rd degree creosote the tiles are very often already broken.  As a general statement it’s hard to find a sweep that will do rotary-chain-cleaning because he’ll get blamed for breaking the tiles.  Even so, this is an option, and probably the most effective immediate-removal option.
  • And sadly, you should probably have low expectations for how clean the chimney can ever be again.  Once it’s been full of 3rd degree creosote, even specialized removal tools can get the chimney only so-clean.

In Part 3 we’ll discuss why it’s not a good idea to try to remove 3rd degree creosote from a tile chimney and then reuse it.

DIY Masonry Chimney Repair: A Warning

The do-it-yourself movement has taken the world by storm. With the ability to bring up video walkthroughs for most tasks, hiring a specialist is often viewed as a last resort. The spread of information over the internet is an amazing and life changing phenomenon. Suddenly, replacing the belt in your vacuum is no big deal. Changing fuses in your car is a snap. Is your garbage disposal clogged? You can find countless walk-throughs to help clear that obstruction.

Chimney masonry repair in Olney MDThis prevalence of do-it-yourself walk-throughs, however, has left people attempting do-it-yourself projects that are sometimes best left to the professionals. While saving money in the short term is a great thing, it’s important to remember the long term too. Saving money right now hardly counts if it ends up costing you twice as much later.

Masonry is especially susceptible to the DIY problem. Countless articles exist online about repointing brickwork, filling splits or cracks, or even replacing spalled brick. As chimneys are often in need of some work, many look to these articles when contemplating how to fix their masonry chimneys. While these might seem like helpful resources, in the long run they can cost
you more in time and money than your local masonry professional.

Most DIY masonry repair articles mention mortar only in passing. While they mention its use between layers of brick, they rarely emphasize that mortar isn’t just a slapdash mixture of sand and water. This omission can be costly and belies their disinterest in supplying a genuinely useful article as any trained mason knows that improperly mixed mortar can cause massive masonry damage.

Mortar exists as a cushion between bricks. As bricks swell and contract from temperature changes, a proper mortar absorbs these changes. Gradually, that causes the mortar to crumble. This mortar can then be replaced with relative ease by a professional, providing another 25 or more years of low-maintenance service.

Chimney masonry repair in Darnestown MD

If the mortar is mixed so that it is stronger than the surrounding brick, temperature changes actually cause the mortar to squeeze, and thus damage, the brick. This causes the bricks to spall. Spalled bricks cannot be repaired, and must be replaced before further damage accrues. If incorrect mortar mixture is the cause of the spalling, the mortar must also be replaced to prevent further damage.

Mortar that is too soft, on the other hand, quickly deteriorates and requires premature replacement or repair. If it deteriorates faster than surrounding mortar, this can create instability in the masonry, and if left unchecked can even cause collapse.

When so many masonry professionals offer free initial consultations, taking advice from strangers over the internet seems a poor choice. For those in Northern Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland, High’s Chimney offers free masonry estimates where we discuss problems with your masonry chimney and how we would fix them. Not just handy-men, our highly trained masons have years of experience, ensuring that your masonry chimney is safe.

How to Repoint a Chimney

Why Chimney Repointing is Essential

Repointing is a necessary component of chimney masonry maintenance. Well done mortar joints can last for 25 years before repairs are needed, but the brick that surrounds them can easily last 100+ years. Weather plays a large factor in determining how long your mortar joints will last.

chimney tuckpointing in Silver Springs MDWashington DC is known for its unique blend of weather. Sandwiched in by the Blue Ridge Mountains to the West and the Chesapeake Bay/Altantic Ocean to the east, our weather is unpredictable. When the weather begins its steady descent into winter, we’re especially susceptible to changes in temperatures, rain turning into sleet into snow, followed by a crisp and sunny winter day. This weather might mess with your head, but it slowly destroys your masonry. Moisture is absorbed into brick and mortar, and with the temperature fluctuations the water expands and contracts. If brick and mortar were equally strong, this thermal expansion would cause irreparable damage to brick and mortar.

For this reason, the compression strength of mortar is less than the brick. As temperatures fluctuate, the expanding brick overpowers the expanding mortar. Over years of thermal expansion cycles, this will cause enough damage to the mortar that it will need to be repaired. If mortar wasn’t calculated to be softer than bricks, regular reconstruction of your masonry would be necessary.

The Chimney Repointing Process

Repointing a masonry chimney requires a skilled professional. Repointing is far more than just slapping some mortar into cracks. The process requires different skills than traditional masonry, and even masons with years of experience might not have significant experience repointing brick.

Assessment: The biggest challenge of repointing is determining the extent of the mortar damage and removing damaged joints without causing new damage. Generally, an expert starts with a visual inspection where erosion deeper than 6mm, crumbling mortar, and cracks between brick and mortar or within the mortar are noted. After the visual inspection, specialized tools such as metal scrapes or special low pressure water sprayers might be used to determine the extent of the damage. Once the determination has been made, the deteriorated mortar joints must be removed.

Chimney repointing in Potomac MDRemoving mortar joints: It’s important that the joint be removed to an appropriate depth without causing extra mortar or brick damage. Once the joints are removed, the new mortar must be mixed. This mortar should be as similar in composition to the existing mortar as possible, lest thermal expansion cause the mortar to react differently to the pressure of expanding brick. Ignoring this step could lead to premature mortar deterioration. Using mortar with excessive compression strength can cause permanent brick damage, such as cracking and splitting.

Applying mortar: The correct mortar is then placed between the brick by layering, compacting and tooling. This helps adhere the old mortar
to the new, and ensures a snug fit between brick and mortar.

Professional masons experienced in repointing also take care to match the shade of the new mortar to that of the old. This is purely aesthetic, and keeps the chimney repointing from looking sloppy. A skilled mason will do this with minimal mess, and will ensure the brickwork is clean before finishing the job.

Applying Sealant: Finally, a waterproof sealant is applied to the fresh repointing. This will help prevent water from permeating your chimney, and thus will help extend the life of your mortar joints.

Get the Chimney Checked

While all masonry will need repointing at some point, chimneys are particularly susceptible to water damage. Their location subjects them to constant temperature changes while making them difficult to monitor for signs of damage. Before fall slides into winter, have your chimney inspected for mortar damage. Timely chimney repair can save you money, and our masonry inspection will give you peace of mind that your chimney will be sturdy and safe all season.

Chimney Inspections | Self Inspection

An annual chimney inspection is important to ensure proper safety. While these inspections will highlight your biggest problems areas, damage and fire hazards can show up throughout the year. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on these important problem areas throughout the year. If any signs of damage appear, contact your chimney professional for a midyear inspection.

chimney inspection in Rockville MDChimney Masonry

The masonry should be free of excessive cracks and should look sturdy. Cracks and improper sealing can allow for water and ice damage, which will ruin the structural integrity of your chimney.

Flue Liner

Poured-in-place or clay tile flues should be free of cracks, chips and improper sealing. A metal liner should be free of rust spots. Even small cracks or patches of rust should be looked at by a professional. These problems can allow combustive gases and sparks into your home.

Creosote and soot deposits should be monitored, as an accumulation of these can lead to chimney fires. Additionally, if you have an old home, inspect how such things as your dryer are vented. If dryers are vented into the bottom of the flue, it is easy for the vent to be blocked by falling debris. Blocked vents are a huge fire hazard.

Hardware

Missing or damaged chimney caps will need replaced or repaired by a licensed professional. Chimney caps protect your flue from water damage while preventing sparks from landing on your roof or yard. A missing chimney cap is a significant fire hazard.

Metal flashing around your chimney should not be loose or covered in excessive tar or caulking. Loose flashing allows for water damage, whereas an excessive amount of tar or caulking could be a sign of previous water damage. If you notice either of these problems midyear, but haven’t talked to your chimney inspector about it, give them a call and see if they investigated it during their annual inspection. Water damage to your chimney is costly, and can be a fire hazard.

Ensure that cleanout doors are present and working properly. They should easily open and close. Missing or malfunctioning cleanout doors need replaced. Dampers should be free of rust damage, and easily moved. Vents from previously used equipment such as woodstoves should be securely blocked off if no longer in use.

Fireplace inspection in Olney MDFireplace Draft

While looking over your chimney, there are some aspects that will be difficult for you to fully gauge. One of the most important aspects of a properly functioning chimney is the draft. With a weak draft, the combustible gases, creosote, soot and smoke do not leave the chimney easily. Sometimes, these fire byproducts are pushed back into the home. When your chimney is full of smoke and creosote, this might be unpleasant, but if you have an accumulation of carbon monoxide that leaked into your home, this problem could be very deadly.

If smoke downdrafts into your home, ensure your chimney and fireplace have no missing pieces and that the chimney is not blocked by debris or creosote. If no cause of the downdraft can be found, contact a professional to inspect your chimney’s draft. If problems are present, they will be able to suggest ways to increase the draft.

This basic overview of problem areas in your chimney is meant to help you maintain a safe fireplace and chimney in between annual inspections. It is not exhaustive enough to cover all the potential problems that could occur throughout the year. If you find any of the above problems, or come across something not mentioned here, please contact a trusted professional to ensure your home is a safe, healthy place for you and your family.

How Can You Tell If Your Chimney Or Fireplace Needs A Repair?

Let’s cover the obvious and more well known insights about chimney and fireplace repair.

Deteriorated or even missing mortar joints are most obvious of all.

chimney masonry damage in Olney MDAt the top of a chimney you can’t see the mortar well, so be sure anyone who works on your roof inspects this for you. A chimney sweep should look over the mortar as a matter of routine.

Bad mortar joints should be dealt with sooner instead of later. Once the joints start to fail the damage accelerates quickly. Water (from rain and snow) freezing and thawing in a small crack turns it into a larger crack and ultimately the mortar crumbles. If this problem is left long enough, your chimney may collapse.

The story in terms of fireplaces is similar, the difference being that there’s not a freeze-thaw cycle but rather high temperatures causing stress on the mortar. Even though high temperature mortar is used (or even refractory cement,) these materials don’t hold up forever.

There’s more danger below as well. There’s always the structural problem, i.e. the fireplace is supporting a stack of masonry weighing several tons. You want to keep things from shifting! There is also the obvious fire danger of having “holes in the system” either in the fireplace or in the chimney as it passes through the house.

Chimney liners have lots of problems but you can’t see them easily.

In the last 25 years many houses have converted to stainless steel chimney liners, and for many different reasons, some of which are not related to chimney damage. While the reasons for lining a chimney with a stainless liner would fill a very long article of its own, suffice to say that there can be a lot of problems with tiled-lined chimneys. The focus of this article is how to find out if you have those problems.

In a word, it takes a careful inspection by someone who knows what he’s looking at. In the early days of chimney sweeping (1975 we’ll say) we used very bright lights to look down a chimney. “We didn’t know what we didn’t know” because when the ChimScan™ came along and boy did we all get an eyeful. A ChimScan™ is a closed circuit camera put on chimney rods used to get a close in look at the inside of the chimney.

A ChimScan™ inspection will show cracks and other deficiencies that can’t be seen by a visual inspection looking down the flue with a bright light.

So said, a visual inspection is better than no inspection at all.

And what problems are commonly seen? First of course- you guessed it- deteriorated or missing mortar joints, and you probably can’t see them without a ChimScan™ inspection. Another is misaligned flue tiles. You’d be surprised how many chimneys are not built properly, some with tiles an inch or two offset from the one below. This problem can usually be seen by a visual inspection.

Cracked flue tiles are more common than most people realize. Again, the reason why broken tiles are a problem is the subject of a different article, but as for how to tell if you have the problem is by having a ChimScan™ inspection. It’s a serious condition, it may or may not be covered by homeowner’s insurance, and a chimney liner is the solution.

Finally there’s the issue of “shaling” tiles. This is when thin slices of the face of the chimney tile pop away. This is very visual. Just pull the connector pipe from the wall or look in the clean out door (wherever the bottom of the chimney can be found) and see if there are chips of the liner piling up. This is especially common in flues when converting from oil to gas heat. A stainless steel chimney liner is the solution to all of these liner problems.

Spalling Bricks

This is just the term used for the same problem (as shaling tiles) when it happens to the bricks on the outside of the house. The faces just pop off and lands in the yard or on the roof. It’s very visual – you’ll know if you have this problem just by looking at the chimney and the roof. When this happens there’s nothing to fix the problem except to replace the bad brick with a good one and waterproof the chimney so it doesn’t happen again. And check the crown, which is my next point.

Problems with the crown are easy to see if you go on the roof.

The crown of the chimney is the cement at the top that covers the bricks up to the flue tiles. This keeps rain and snow, not to mention birds etc., from getting into the brick chase around the chimney liners. The crown is the first line of defense against the weather and takes the most abuse because it’s horizontal and facing the sun all the time. All you have to do is go up (or have someone who know what to look for go up) and look at it.

Cracks in the crown, like the mortar joints, usually start small but grow as water freezes and thaws in them. Eventually you have big cracks or even missing chunks of the crown. Water which enters through the crown seeps into the bricks and liner. This is where a lot of spalling or shaling comes from.

The crown is the source of a lot of trouble yet it’s easy to catch the problem early, easy to fix. There are superb specialized crown coatings available today. These highly elastic and weatherproof materials cover small cracks so they don’t get bigger and prevent new ones from forming. It’s smart to just have the crown coated on general principles- even if you don’t have a problem already.

Everyone gets a problem on the crown eventually (and for reasons I won’t go into here, many, many crowns are bad from the first day they are laid) and there’s so much expensive potential damage that can follow, it just makes good sense to coat the crown and rest easier about the whole thing. It’ll save a lot of money in the long run.

Broken firebricks and other assorted problems at the fireplace

Firebricks usually break from too much heat or from logs hitting them one too many times. The fix is merely a replacement.

There’s sometimes a gap between the face of the fireplace and a metal firebox, and sometimes you can see framing through the crack. The solution is to pack it with ceramic wool and put refractory cement on that. This problem will reoccur so you’ll have to “repair the repairs” from time to time just because of the nature of the materials involved and their different rates of expansion.

The damper may not work properly for a lot of different reasons, and most of them are leaky anyway. There’s more heat-loss through most dampers than any other “hole in the house.” If the damper isn’t closing well or easily, that’s something you can tell easily by feeling and seeing as you work the damper. The heat loss is more subtle, though you may well be able to detect a draft across the floor of the room with the fireplace. The fix is a new damper, and a top-sealing damper (such as the EnergyTop™) is the best choice. They really keep the heat in the house when conventional dampers cannot.

chimney flashing repair in Travilah MDThe flashing is a common problem too.

The flashing is the metal that keeps rain or snow water from going into the house at the point where the chimney passes through your roof. The top part of the flashing is actually mortared into the brick mortar joints. It’s a problem if the flashing has holes in it or isn’t sealed into the chimney well. This can be seen but usually only if you go on the roof.

Flashings are the source of almost as many problems as crowns are, whenever anyone is on your roof, ask them to inspect the flashing too. Dissimilar materials with different rates of expansion, coupled with ultraviolet light on the sealants, means that flashings don’t hold up forever. The fix is something most chimney sweeps and all roofers can do. Replacement is always a good choice, but there are repair materials available as well.

Have a problem with the wallpaper where the chimney passes by?

There are two reasons for this problem usually (stress usually- there are a few others too) First is the flashing or crown allowing water to enter the brick structure. The fix for that is to fix the flashing or crown, and maybe install a chimney liner as well. The second is excessive condensation inside the chimney, especially common in gas flues. In this case the solution is almost always a new chimney liner (though you can also go back to a less efficient heater, but nobody is going to do that!)

Rust stains from a chase cover

Very visual indeed. If you have a factory-built chimney, the chase cover is a metal top on the chase surrounding the chimney pipes. Builders commonly put up a galvanized one because they’re cheap to get. The chase doesn’t rust until long after your check has cleared. Don’t make the same mistake twice; get a stainless steel chase cover installed to replace the old rusty galvanized cover. More expensive to be sure (and they’re ALL custom made) but it really is the only smart thing to do. A new galvanized chase top is a false economy.