Chimney Repair and Maintenance
Chimneys are vital parts of homes that serve several important purposes, including conveying combustible gasses out of the house. However, they’re also fragile structures that require regular Charleston Chimney Repair and maintenance to keep them safe from damage and deterioration. Cracks in the chimney’s structure can cause problems, including leaks and carbon monoxide poisoning. Addressing these issues promptly can prevent costly repairs later on.
Chimneys are complex structures with numerous moving parts that must work together perfectly to be safe and sound. A chimney that looks normal to a homeowner can present several problems when inspected by a professional. If even one part of the chimney is not functioning properly, the entire structure can be in danger. Fortunately, most homeowners can handle some basic chimney repairs to help keep their homes safe and healthy.
A masonry chimney can develop brick and mortar cracks as it ages. These hairline cracks are not as dangerous as the cracks that form in the flue lining, but they do need to be repaired as soon as possible. The best way to repair these cracks is by using a masonry sealer with a very liquid consistency to penetrate these narrow spaces. Once the product is cured, it will prevent new cracks from forming and provide long-term protection for the chimney masonry.
Chimneys may suffer from the effects of freeze/thaw cycles that degrade the mortar crown, allowing water to enter the chimney. This damage usually appears as a bluish stain on the chimney’s top surface and can be easily repaired by a professional.
Another problem that can occur in a masonry chimney is spalling, which is the breaking down of bricks and mortar by a chemical reaction caused by moisture. The technician will clean the damaged areas and replace the cracked or crumbling bricks, a process called repointing. The repair material will be a mix of hydrated lime and sand, the same type of mortar that brick masons used in the past.
A clay flue tile liner in a chimney can crack or break over time as it absorbs and releases heat from the fire within the fireplace. When the flue tile liner cracks, it can’t contain the combustion gases and could result in a dangerous chimney fire. The chimney flue liner needs to be relined with a modern stainless steel or metal flue liner.
When a chimney is in need of extensive repairs, it can be more cost-effective to have the mason replace the entire chimney crown rather than repairing it piece by piece. The chimney may also need to be reinforced if it is leaning, a condition that poses a serious threat to the roof and adjacent building structures. A weakened chimney can collapse with little warning, potentially causing serious bodily harm or death to anyone in the immediate area and resulting in enormous structural damage to the home.
For small cracks that affect individual bricks, a chimney sweep can use a putty knife to clean out the area without enlarging the crack. Then he can apply undiluted silane-siloxane water repellent sealant to the crack. This will allow vapor to escape, but keep liquid from seeping in. It’s important to have this done as soon as possible, because it can be very difficult to fix these cracks once they get larger.
Over time, the mortar joints that hold together the bricks of a chimney can start to crumble and fall apart. This is known as spalling, and it’s something that can affect not only the aesthetics of a chimney, but also a home’s safety. Chimneys with spalling bricks are more susceptible to water and mold damage, which can be dangerous for a home’s occupants. They’re also less effective at keeping creosote and other volatile chemicals out of a home’s air.
Luckily, these types of mortar problems are easily fixed with a process called tuckpointing. This is the addition of fresh mortar to deteriorated areas of a chimney. It’s important to note that this is not a process that should be undertaken by beginners or “handymen” as it can actually be quite dangerous. A professional chimney repair specialist will be able to determine if the damaged mortar is salvageable, and if it is, the repair process will proceed accordingly.
In newer chimneys, a chimney liner is often installed during construction to provide a safer, more durable alternative to brick. These chimney liners are typically made of square-ish tubular clay tiles. Sometimes, these liners can develop cracks or become damaged. This can be caused by many things, including age and shifting foundations. It can also happen if a chimney fire overheats the liner, which causes it to crack. A professional chimney sweep will be able to spot these issues as well as the other problems that can occur with a chimney liner during regular inspections and cleanings. He’ll be able to recommend the best course of action and provide professional chimney repair services as needed.
Chimneys that have a gap between the chimney crown and flue liner are susceptible to water leaks. This can cause problems such as mold, rust and corrosion in your chimney system and your home. Water entering the chimney can also damage masonry, lining, firebox, damper and ceilings. If you notice signs of a chimney leak, you should call a chimney repair professional immediately.
Fortunately, gaps in the mortar joints between flue tile are easy to repair. First, you should examine the entire chimney for leaking bricks and other damage. Once you’ve done that, you can determine the scope of the problem and start making repairs. For minor issues, you can use a silicone caulk to fill the gaps. A silicone caulk is a water-resistant sealant that’s available at most hardware and home improvement stores. It’s important to apply a complete bead of caulk in order to ensure that it is water-tight.
A common reason for chimneys to experience gaps between flue tiles is that the clay tiles aren’t being positioned properly by the chimney mason. This can lead to voids that allow rainwater and even smoke to seep into the chimney. It’s important to check the placement of your clay tiles on a regular basis to avoid this issue.
Another common reason for gaps in a chimney is that the mortar between bricks isn’t properly compressed. This can lead to brick spalling, which leaves exposed surfaces that can absorb rainwater or freeze and thaw moisture more quickly than solid bricks. A skilled mason will apply a refractory cement mixture to fill the gaps in the mortar joints between flue tiles to prevent them from becoming worse.
Chimney masons often recommend repairing or rebuilding the chimney crown when there are more than just hairline cracks. For more severe problems, a mason can use patch cement material to fill the cracks and then cover them with a waterproof sealant. In the case of a badly damaged chimney crown, it may be necessary to completely rebuild the chimney crown in order to protect it from further deterioration.
When cracks form in the crown, water can seep into the chimney system and damage the masonry, flue liner and fireplace damper. Moisture can also seep through the crown and into the home, damaging walls, ceilings, flooring and causing dangerous mold growth. Cracks in the crown are a serious chimney problem that must be addressed immediately. If the cracks are minor, a masonry expert can use a product designed to fill in cracked cement to seal the cracks and prevent future moisture problems. If the crown is severely damaged, however, the chimney mason may recommend a complete rebuild of the chimney crown.
The chimney crown is a sloping slab of concrete that forms the topmost section of the chimney structure. It is designed to protect the masonry from rain and snow and keep moisture from pooling on the top of the chimney.
Chimney crowns are prone to cracking, especially in colder climates, where freeze-thaw cycles can accelerate the deterioration of the masonry. The sloping of the chimney crown is designed to direct the rain and snow away from the masonry, but even with a proper slope, cracks in the chimney crown can allow moisture to linger in the crown and cause further damage.
Crumbling mortar joints and spalling bricks are another sign of water damage in a chimney. These issues are caused when water seeps into the masonry and goes through a series of freeze-thaw cycles, destroying the structural integrity of the brick. Left unaddressed, the cracking and deterioration in a chimney will accelerate quickly.
A professional chimney inspection can detect these cracks and other problems, before they become serious. Masonry experts can also recognize potential hazards, like a chimney that is leaning too far and at risk of falling down.
The first step to repairing a cracked chimney crown is to remove any debris or moss that is on the surface of the chimney crown. The masonry expert will then mix a repair mixture that is designed to fill in cracked cement. The chimney mason will apply a thin layer of the repair material to the entire surface of the chimney crown and leave it to set for a few minutes. After the mixture has set, a second thicker coat of the chimney repair will be applied to the crown surface.