Chimney Masonry Repair 101 (Basics You Need to Know)

Repairs and maintenance are unavoidable in any part of a home. Just like most structures and appliances, this is also true for chimneys. All fireplaces and chimneys will eventually have problems that necessitate repair or maintenance – it’s an inevitability regardless of age or design.

This blog post will discuss the basics of chimney masonry repair. We’ll cover the different materials that can make up a chimney, common problems with chimneys and how to repair them, and tips for keeping your chimney in good shape year-round!

Why Is Chimney Maintenance Important?

The most common causes of home fires include smoking, cooking, and electrical malfunction. While you can control some more frequent home fire causes, others like electrical malfunctions or faulty masonry chimneys are harder to pin down. Did you know:

  • More than 61 chimney fires occur every day in the United States
  • The #1 most common cause of chimney fires is a failure to have them regularly cleaned
  • The 2nd most common cause of chimney fires is burning unseasoned wet wood
  • Chimney fires cost homeowners an estimated $125 million in damages every year

Chimney fires are preventable. While it’s impossible to anticipate every disaster, you can take steps to minimize the risk of a chimney fire in your home.

Masonry Chimneys 101

Bricks and mortar, concrete, block, stone, flue tile, cast iron, and steel are just a few of the materials used to construct a masonry chimney. If not correctly installed or maintained, any of these materials can be vulnerable to rainwater and environmental elements. Mortar, the substance that bonds together the masonry components in their chimney, is water soluble. This is why keeping your structures dry and preventing water intrusion is so important!

While properly built and well-constructed masonry chimneys can endure a long time (consider the Roman Arches, which still exist today), this does not imply that all masonry chimneys are created equal. Inferior materials or craftsmanship can lead to chimney deterioration and, in some cases, a structurally unsound chimney. In cases like these, you will need reliable chimney masonry repair services.

Common Chimney Masonry Repair Problems

Don’t be intimidated by chimney masonry repair! The most common problems with masonry chimneys include:

  1. Chimney crown cracks
  2. Water penetration
  3. Leaning chimney
  4. Damaged or missing mortar joints
  5. Chimney deterioration

These problems can be caused by various factors, including water damage, excessive heat exposure, poor construction, and more. If left unaddressed, these problems can lead to even more significant issues like chimney fires or collapse.

Chimney Masonry Repair

Chimney Crown Cracks

A chimney crown is the cement cap that sits atop the chimney. Its job is to prevent moisture from seeping into the chimney’s masonry where it is most vulnerable to the elements: at the top.

However, chimney crowns can crack over time due to age, weathering, or settling. Cracks in the chimney crown can allow water to seep into the chimney structure, leading to further deterioration. In climates reaching freezing temperatures, water entering the chimney can freeze and expand, causing the crown to crack even further.

What to Do About Crown Cracks?

The best way to repair chimney crown cracks is to have a professional chimney sweep or mason take a look at them. They will be able to determine the extent of the damage and recommend the best course of action. In some cases, the chimney crown may need to be rebuilt entirely.

Water Penetration

Another common problem with masonry chimneys is water penetration. Water can enter the chimney through cracks in the chimney crown, flue, or mortar joints. Once inside, the water can cause problems like rusting metal components and deteriorating masonry.

When water mixes with creosote – a tarlike substance that builds up on the chimney walls – it creates a corrosive acid that eats away at the chimney’s masonry. This can lead to even more severe problems like chimney collapse.

What to Do About Water Penetration?

Keep a regular chimney checkup schedule and ensure there is no place for water to seep into any section of the chimney or fireplace. If you find water leaks, have a professional chimney sweep or mason look at it as soon as possible. They will be able to determine the source of the leak and make recommendations for repairs.

Leaning Chimney

A leaning chimney is a cause for concern. It can be caused by many factors, including foundation settling, water damage, or poor construction. A leaning chimney can put your entire home at risk of chimney collapse.

What to Do About a Leaning Chimney?

If your chimney is leaning, it is structurally unsafe. It’s essential to have a professional chimney sweep or mason look at it as soon as possible. They will be able to determine the cause of the problem and make recommendations for repairs. In some cases, the chimney may need to be rebuilt entirely.

Damaged or Missing Mortar Joints

Mortar joints are the spaces between bricks, stones or clay flue liners in a masonry chimney. They are filled with mortar, which acts as glue to hold the chimney together. Over time, the mortar can become cracked, crumbled, or missing. This can leave the chimney vulnerable to water damage and collapse.

What to Do About Damaged or Missing Mortar Joints?

One of the most common repairs needed for a chimney is mortar replacement, also called tuckpointing. Tuckpointing joints back in are usually not complicated. Occasionally, extensive damage demands more comprehensive repairs, which may include reconstructing part or all of the chimney, but tuckpointing is a satisfactory repair for minor damages. As for all major repairs, it’s best to have a licensed chimney professional take a look.

Chimney Deterioration

Like any other structure, a chimney will eventually show wear and tear. Flue liner and smoke chamber damage, loosened brickwork, water damage, and mold are all common symptoms of chimney deterioration.

What to Do About Chimney Deterioration?

The best way to prevent chimney deterioration is to opt for an annual inspection by a certified chimney professional. Their specialized tools and knowledge will help them spot any potential problems so they can be fixed before they cause further damage. You can avoid serious problems down the road by being proactive and getting annual chimney inspections.

Easy Chimney Health Tips

Maintaining a chimney is much preferable to fixing a broken chimney. Here are a few easy tips to help you keep your chimney in good shape:

  • Have your chimney inspected and cleaned yearly by a certified chimney professional.
  • Repair any cracks or damage as soon as possible.
  • Make sure there is no place for water to seep into any section of the chimney.
  • Keep trees and bushes trimmed away from the chimney.
  • Never burn trash or wet wood in your fireplace.

These simple tips can help keep your chimney healthy and functioning correctly for years to come. If you have any concerns about your chimney, be sure to contact a professional chimney sweep or mason.

As you can see, you may need a variety of chimney masonry repair at some point. It’s essential to have a regular chimney checkup schedule to catch any problems early on. And if you do need repairs, it’s crucial to have a professional chimney sweep or mason take a look as soon as possible. With their help, you can keep your chimney healthy and functioning optimally for as long as possible!

Related Reading: Surprising Benefits of Chimney Sweep Services You Might Not Know About

Need Chimney Masonry Repair Help?

At The Irish Sweep, we always adhere to the highest safety standards. We are licensed and insured Bay Area chimney cleaners professionals who have been serving the area since 1982. If you need a chimney sweep, dryer vent cleaning, chimney masonry repair, or other home services, call us today! Schedule our chimney sweep services today to enjoy a safe fireplace and chimney all year long.

Heat Shield Ceramic Coating V.S. Stainless Steel Flue Liners

A chimney is constantly exposed to some of the harshest conditions, including high temperatures, wind, harsh UV conditions, water damage, and corrosive chemicals. Over time, these elements can take their toll on even the sturdiest of chimneys. This is where ceramic heat shield coating and other stainless steel flue liners come in.

Sometimes, it feels like maintaining a property can be a full-time job. Tiny flaws and cracks can quickly turn into big problems if a property owner can’t fix them promptly. This is especially true when it comes to chimneys. 

What is the Purpose of Chimney Stainless Steel Flue Liners and Ceramic Heat Shield Coating?

The purpose of ceramic heat shield coating and chimney liners is to protect the inner wall (clay flue liners) of the chimney from damage. This is important because the liners prevent harmful gases and chemicals from seeping into your home.

There are two main types of chimney liners: ceramic and stainless steel. This blog post will discuss the advantages of ceramic chimney coatings versus stainless steel flue liners.

Advantages of Ceramic Heat Shield Coating

HeatShield is a ceramic chimney coating repair system that eliminates the hazards and draft problems caused by gaps, cracks, and spalling in otherwise sound masonry chimneys.

When professionals apply ceramic coatings such as HeatShield within a chimney, the coating seals and plugs all fissures and cracks, resulting in an even ceramic layer that provides the proper passage for smoke and any toxic gases to dissipate from the fire straight out the top of the chimney. Coatings also prevent further acid corrosion and protect your chimney from harm by keeping acidic gasses from causing damage to the masonry.

Ceramic coatings are an excellent option for those who want an easy and efficient way to protect their chimney. HeatShield is warranted for 20 years with proper maintenance.

Advantages (and Disadvantages) of Stainless Steel Flue Liners

Stainless steel flue liners are another popular option for chimney protection, and they come in rigid or flexible varieties. If you’re considering stainless steel flue liners, there are a few things to keep in mind.

On the plus side, stainless steel liners are durable and practical if installed and maintained correctly. However, they are also more expensive than ceramic coatings, and they require a higher level of expertise to install. They also need additional insulation: to safeguard the home’s combustible frame from excessive heat, it is important to always utilize high-temperature insulation with metal chimney liners.

Bottom Line

Both ceramic coatings and stainless steel flue liners have their advantages. Ceramic coatings are more affordable and easier to maintain, while stainless steel flue liners may be a better option for those who want a more durable solution especially if the chimney is unlined. Ultimately, the best option for you will depend on your budget and your needs.

If you’re still not sure which chimney lining system is right for you, contact your local chimney care experts at The Irish Sweep. We will be able to thoroughly inspect your chimney and help you make the best decision for your home.

Crazy Chimney Sweep Tactics We’ve Really Seen

It’s always interesting to see the different tactics that chimney sweeps use in order to try and get business. Over the last four decades in service, our experienced chimney cleaners at The Irish Sweep have seen it all – from the absurd to the downright dangerous. In this blog post, we’ll outline the crazy chimney sweep tactics we’ve really seen, plus the things that can go wrong in a home when you don’t work with an experienced chimney cleaners.

Unorthodox Chimney Inspections

When we perform a professional chimney inspection, we do a photographic, documented camera inspection for our clients’ security and records. As experts, we know that the condition of the inside of a chimney can often be very different than what the naked eye can see from the outside – and it has serious implications for the safety of a home. After all:

  • Chimneys with blockages can contribute to poor indoor air quality or carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Creosote buildup can increase the risk of chimney fires and house fires.
  • Structural damage within a chimney can put it at risk of collapsing at any time, particularly in the event of an earthquake.

Many times on the job, however, we’ve encountered chimney cleaners using a very different approach.

“I’ll Just Use My Phone”

A standard iPhone camera cannot capture the same level of detail as a professional-grade inspection camera, but that didn’t stop this chimney sweep. Rather than using a high-image-quality camera to inspect the chimney’s interior, we observed this chimney sweep dangling an iPhone down the chimney to get a look.

Needless to say, this was a major red flag for us. We knew that this chimney sweep would not be able to provide our clients with the level of detail and documentation that we could – and of course, we were concerned about the safety of their phone!

“X-Ray Vision”

Once, a member of our team heard a customer say the other “inspector” was able to see everything they needed regarding the chimney with their eyes. Needless to say, this is not a safe or reliable practice for inspecting a chimney!

While it might be tempting to try and save a few bucks by working with a less-than-professional chimney sweep, it’s simply not worth the risk. 

“I Can’t See it, But it Looks Great”

We have also heard from clients that a company performed a chimney inspection prior to cleaning the chimney. Of course, if a chimney is dirty, there will not be much to inspect – the clay flue liners and their related mortar joints will likely be covered in creosote and fly ash.

We always clean a chimney before inspecting it. This is the only way to get an accurate sense of what – if any – repair work may be needed.

“Under The Table”

Unfortunately, there are some unlicensed and inexperienced individuals who will try to do side work “under the table.” This is not only dangerous, but it’s also illegal.

In California, if someone isn’t licensed, then they can’t perform any repairs needed to make a chimney safe to operate. They must also be a licensed contractor to perform work over the amount of $600.00 for time and material.

Choose Chimney Cleaners that Care

At The Irish Sweep, we always adhere to the highest safety standards. We are licensed and insured chimney cleaners professionals who have been serving the area since 1982. If you’re in need of a chimney sweep, dryer vent cleaning, or other home services, don’t hesitate to contact us! We’ll be happy to provide you with a free estimate.

How Much Does it Cost to Hire Bay Area Chimney Cleaner/Sweep?

Looking to Hire a Local Bay Area chimney cleaner Expert? Chimney maintenance is a task that often flies under the radar, but it’s extremely important to preserving the structural integrity of your home and reducing flammable buildup in the chimney’s interior. When shopping for a reputable chimney sweep in the Bay Area, here’s how much you can expect to pay for the highest quality services. 

What Sets a Chimney Cleaning Company Apart? 

There’s no industry-wide standard or regulation for chimney cleaners or chimney sweeps. As a layperson, it can be difficult to know whether or not you can trust a chimney cleaning company or not. After all, a chimney is a structural element of your house: an improperly inspected chimney could be secretly harboring cracks, buildup, and damage that could compromise the safety of your home. 

Licensing and Certification 

The Irish Sweep proudly holds a masonry contractors license issued by the State of California and certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). CSIA-certified companies receive top education and training in the field, and also sign a code of ethics promising only excellent service. A CSIA license and certification is a guarantee that you are working with seasoned experts in chimney safety. 

Qualities of Reputable Chimney Cleaners/Sweeps

  1. Excellent customer reviews or testimonials 
  2. Licensed and insured 
  3. Decades of experience 
  4. Transparency about pricing 
  5. Prompt service 
  6. Professional advice about continued chimney maintenance 
  7. Range of comprehensive services 

How Much Does a Bay Area Chimney Cleaner/Sweep Cost? 

Expect a wide range of prices when searching for a Bay Area chimney cleaning service. Since pricing may vary from company to company, it’s a good idea to check out the licensing and certification status, client reviews, and real-world indicators of top-notch service providers. 

  • A basic chimney checkup and cleaning from a CSIA-certified company typically ranges between $200 and $300.
  • More intensive services, such as a thorough inspection with a chimney camera, may range from $100 to $500.
  • If your chimney has weathered significant damage, such as from a recent earthquake or storm, you need a detailed inspection to check for and resolve structural damage. This service may range from $1,000 to $5,000.

What Else Affects Chimney Cleaning Costs? 

Any manufacturer will tell you that maintenance is key to reducing costs long-term. An annually cleaned, inspected chimney will last longer and function better than a neglected chimney. If you can’t remember your last chimney cleaning, it’s probably time for one. Otherwise, a good rule of thumb is to schedule your appointment once every 75 fires or per every cord of wood burned.

We are your local Bay Area chimney cleaner with 40+ years of experience. 

Schedule a Chimney Cleaning Today

Our services at The Irish Sweep can help maintain and enjoy a wood-burning chimney and fireplace for years to come. We take great pride in offering our Bay Area chimney cleaning services to the resident community and the local Bay Area.

To schedule an appointment with our team, call us at (510)521-4088, or use this simple contact form by clicking here.

Enjoy a crackling fire this Holiday season with the knowledge that your chimney is clean and safe.

Why you Need a Home Inspection Chimney?

Before you buy your dream home, it’s important to get a full home inspection chimney. Home inspection chimney can uncover potentially life-threatening problems like toxic mold, faulty wiring that could cause a significant fire, or unstable structures just months away from collapsing. Often as buyers, we expect a professional home inspection chimney service to cover all aspects of the property, but the chimney needs a separate qualified evaluation for many safety reasons. 

The health and safety of your family could depend on your decision to go through with a chimney inspection. Here’s some important information you need to know about why home inspection chimney are crucial when it comes to purchasing new homes. 

What a home inspection chimney could uncover:

Potential Water Damage

Did you know that  the foundation of a chimney is typically only 12 inches deep? That means that with earth movement from summer to winter, water damage from sprinklers, downspouts, and weather conditions could render your chimney foundation dangerous. 

Neglected Spaces

 Most inspections are carried out for the purpose of the loan lender or negotiations, and they may not always serve the buyer. Make sure that your home inspection includes often-forgotten spaces like the crawl space, basement, attics, chimney, fireplace, and loft area. A smart buyer can even use details from the full home inspection to negotiate with the seller.

Shifting from New Construction

Has the space around the chimney been newly landscaped, subject to digging, or under construction? Have there been significant earthquakes since the last chimney inspection? Shifting of the earth underneath or around the chimney could cause instability, which is why it’s important to make sure the inspection includes outdoor areas surrounding the chimney. 

Instability from Cold Weather

With the drought and hotter weather, the hard soil can stabilize a chimney to some degree, but only temporarily. As cold weather moves in, dampness and moisture soften the soil around the base of the chimney, allowing movement in the structure which could render the chimney unstable. Even if the house is on a concrete slab and the chimney is surrounded by concrete, the concrete still absorbs the moisture and the chimney can still move. If your area experiences high winds, wet weather, and earthquakes, instability can be particularly dangerous. 

Fireplace Inserts: Extra Credit

Once your fireplace and chimney have been thoroughly inspected and cleaned, you may be looking for ways to enjoy the ambience of a crackling fire. A fireplace insert is a fuel-efficient, heat-efficient method of doing just that. The closed combustion system of a fireplace insert can be 60% to 80% heat efficient, contrasting with traditional or older fireplaces that only convert 5% to 20% of fuel into usable heat. You can enjoy watching the flames through the glass doors of the fireplace insert while needing less firewood to keep them stoked. 

Schedule a Home Inspection Chimney Now 

Our services at The Irish Sweep can help you safely maintain and enjoy your wood-burning fireplace and chimney for years to come. To schedule an appointment with an expert, call us at (510)521-4088, or use this simple contact form by clicking here.

How To Know If My Chimney Is Safe?

Building a fire when it’s cold outside can help you save on heating costs. It can also create a romantic and cozy atmosphere. But how do you know if your fireplace is really safe to use? Don’t ever assume that your chimney is functioning properly. As the cold season approaches, here are some things you need to know about professional chimney inspection.

The Importance of Chimney Services

Most of us look forward to this time of year when the leaves begin to change, and we can enjoy the holiday season with loved ones and wear our favorite sweaters. But before you light those logs in your fireplace, the chimney should be inspected by a professional.

In this age of DIY, you may be wondering if it’s possible to do your own chimney inspection. We love DIY projects at The Irish Sweep, but we don’t recommend them when it comes to the safety of your home.

An inspection can identify issues with your fireplace and chimney before they become dangerous. When a chimney isn’t functioning as it was designed to, the risk of fire increases. Another concern is that a blockage could cause harmful gas and smoke to build up inside your home. This can  result in serious illness, or even death.

Resolve Issues

If you have any questions about chimney and fireplace maintenance, it’s best to contact an experienced professional who knows the industry inside and out.

One of the benefits of scheduling a regular chimney inspection is that it can cut down on the need for chimney repairs. And, of course, no homeowner wants to pay for expensive repair work, especially when it could have been prevented.

If everything looks good, you’ll have peace of mind while using your fireplace. But if any issues are identified, you’ll be able to take care of them right away. Remember, don’t put off having minor chimney repairs resolved because they can turn into bigger problems. Or, even create risks for your household.

Schedule a Lafayette Chimney Cleaner Inspection

This is a great time of year to schedule an appointment with a Lafayette chimney cleaner to verify everything is working the way it should. Fall is ideal because it’s just beginning to get chilly at night.

So, if it’s been a while since your last chimney inspection, give us a call at The Irish Sweep. We’re here to answer all your questions. Contact us at (510) 521-4088.