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.

Surprising Benefits of Chimney Sweep Services You Might Not Know About

Chim chimney, chim chimney, chim chim cher-ee

A sweep is as lucky as lucky can be!

This nostalgic Mary Poppins song rings true – chimney sweep services are absolutely essential to the integrity and safety of your chimney. Lucky indeed!

Even if you’ve lived in a home for twenty years, the chimney is an often intimidating appliance to clean and maintain. Dealing with soot and tight spaces is enough to make anyone queasy.

But chimney sweeps (or chimney service companies) are trained professionals with the experience and know-how to get the job done quickly, efficiently, and without mess!

Here are some surprising benefits of chimney sweep services that you might not know about:

Chimney sweep services prevent chimney fires

In the U.S., there are over 25,000 chimney fires per year. These fires are responsible for over 125 million dollars in property damage.

A chimney fire can reach temperatures upwards of 2000 degrees Fahrenheit – hot enough to crack your chimney’s liner and ignite your house’s framing.

Yikes!

The most common cause of chimney fires is creosote buildup. Creosote is a tar-like substance that forms when wood burns. It’s black, sticky, and flammable.

How does creosote build up in a chimney?

When you burn wood, the smoke rises up the chimney. As the temperature of the chimney increases, the water vapor in the smoke condenses on the chimney walls. This leaves behind a sticky residue that is full of toxins and carcinogens.

Over time, this buildup gets thicker and thicker. If it’s not removed, it becomes a severe fire hazard.

How do chimney sweep services prevent creosote buildup and chimney fires?

Chimney sweeps are trained to identify and remove creosote buildup before it has a chance to ignite. They have specialized tools and equipment to do so – brushes, scrapers, and vacuums specifically designed for chimneys. Chimney professionals also know how to spot other potential fire hazards, like cracks in the chimney lining or blockages.

Chimney sweep services improve the efficiency of your fireplace

If your chimney is blocked by debris, it will affect how well your fireplace drafts.

How do chimneys create drafts?

When a chimney fills with hot gas, the gas rises because it is less dense than the air outside the house. The rising hot gas creates a pressure difference called draft, which draws combustion air into the appliance and expels the exhaust gas outside.

If something is blocking the chimney – like soot, creosote, or debris – it will impede the flow of hot air. This can cause many problems, like smoke spilling into your home, decreased heat output, and even a fire.

A chimney sweep will clear out any blockages in your chimney so that the hot air can escape quickly and easily. As a result, you’ll have a fireplace that works more efficiently and is less smoky.

A good chimney sweep will clear any blockages and ensure the flue is the correct size for your fireplace. They’ll also check for any cracks or leaks and repair them as needed.

As a result, you’ll see a decrease in your energy bills and have fewer issues with smoke in your home.

chimney sweep services

Chimney sweep services keep your family safe from carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas produced whenever fuel is burned. CO blends into the existing air, can’t be heard, felt, seen, or tasted, and can be lethal without a device to detect it.

If your chimney is blocked or damaged, CO from your gas fireplace can leak into your home and poison the people and animals inside.

What are the signs of a carbon monoxide leak in a gas fireplace?

  • Soot, smoke, fumes, or back-draft in the house from a chimney, fireplace, or other fuel-burning equipment
  • Sooty or brownish-yellow stains around the fireplace
  • You smell a faint, “rotten egg” odor. Though CO is odorless, sometimes it is accompanied by other exhaust gases you can smell
  • A yellow pilot light flame instead of the usual clear blue

Symptoms of carbon monoxide inhalation are similar to the flu and can include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue or confusion

If you experience these symptoms and suspect a CO leak, get out of your house immediately and call 911. Then, open all the doors and windows to air out your home.

How can chimney sweep services help?

A chimney sweep will inspect your chimney for any damage that could be causing a CO leak. They’ll make sure the chimney is clear of debris and adequately vented. If they find any cracks or leaks, they’ll repair them so you can use your fireplace safely.

A properly functioning chimney is essential for preventing CO poisoning. A chimney sweep can ensure yours is up to code and working properly.

They can also install CO monitors in your home, which will sound an alarm if dangerous levels of CO are detected.

Chimney sweeps can save you money on your energy bills

If your chimney is blocked, it can’t do its job of venting hot air out of your home.

This can cause your furnace or fireplace to work overtime, driving up your energy bills.

How can chimney sweep services help save money?

  1. A chimney sweep will clear any blockages in your chimney so that hot air can escape and your furnace doesn’t have to work as hard.
  2. Regularly sweeping ashes from the firebox also allows more oxygen to circulate, making fires hotter. This means you can use less wood to achieve the same heat level, saving you money in the long run. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, even as little as one-tenth of an inch of soot can decrease a fire’s heat output by 50%.
  3. A chimney sweep can also inspect your chimney and ensure it’s the correct size for your fireplace. If it’s too small, they can recommend ways to enlarge it. This will help your fireplace work more efficiently and save you money on your energy bills.
  4. A chimney sweep can fill cracks and fissures in your chimney, which could otherwise allow carbon monoxide and outside air to seep into your home. Filling these cracks makes your chimney more energy efficient.

These simple chimney maintenance tasks can save you a lot of money in the long run.

Chimney sweeps can extend the life of your chimney

Your chimney is constantly exposed to rain, wind, and sun elements. Over time, this exposure can take its toll on your chimney, causing it to crack or crumble.

Chimney sweeps inspect your chimney for damage and make all necessary repairs.

They can also apply a waterproof sealant to your chimney to help protect it from the elements.

Investing in chimney sweep services can extend your chimney’s life and avoid costly repairs down the road. A well-maintained chimney can last for decades, but a neglected chimney will need to be replaced much sooner.

Chimney sweeps remove bird nests and other animals from chimneys

Birds, squirrels, raccoons, and other animals often take up residence in chimneys. They build nests that can block the chimney and prevent airflow. In some cases, animals may even die in the chimney, which is generally unpleasant and leads to foul odors.

A chimney sweep will safely remove any animals or nests from your chimney so you can use your fireplace without worry. They can also install a chimney cap, which will keep animals out in the future.

Related Reading: How Often Do You Need a Chimney Cleaner/Sweep?

Let Bay Area Chimney Cleaners 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, or other home services, give us a call today! Schedule our chimney sweep services today to enjoy a safe fireplace and chimney all year long. 

How Ceramic Coatings Make Your Chimney Safer, and 3 Other Benefits

In this blog post, we’ll explain how ceramic coatings make your chimney safer – and the many other benefits of using them.

If you’re like most homeowners, you probably don’t think about the chimney until there’s a problem with it. And by then, it’s often too late. A broken or deteriorated chimney can lead to all sorts of safety and efficiency problems in the home, from hazardous flue gasses leaking into the living space to an increase in our energy bills due to draft problems. But ceramic coatings can help prevent all that!

How Does a Chimney Lose Integrity Over Time?

With time, even a lightly-used fireplace and chimney can start to deteriorate. Exposure to winds, extreme temperatures, and moisture can cause mortar joints to crack and separate, bricks to crumble or spall, metal dampers to rust through, and clay flue tiles to crack.

This deterioration can lead to all sorts of problems in our home. To stay ahead of damage and keep our chimney functioning efficiently, opt for a chimney inspection at least once a year. We can also prevent deterioration (and fix certain safety issues) by hiring professional services to apply ceramic coatings to our chimney.

How Do Ceramic Coatings Make Your Chimney Safer?

Applied inside a chimney, the ceramic coating seals any gaps or cracks. It covers an even ceramic layer that allows smoke and dangerous chemicals to escape straight out of the chimney’s crown. It also inhibits further acid corrosion and prevents damage that might result from it. This not only ensures that the chimney will continue to function properly but also gives us peace of mind knowing that no expensive repairs will sneak up on us.

Other Benefits of Ceramic Coatings

Lengthens the Chimney’s Lifespan

Ceramic coatings are designed to restore and repair the flue while protecting it against future damage. The heat-resistant, water-resistant, chemical-resistant ceramic surface decreases dangerous heat transfer that would otherwise damage an unreinforced fireplace.

Helps Prevent Chimney Fires

Poorly maintained flues and chimneys are one of the common causes of home fires. When creosote, a combustible byproduct of incomplete combustion, builds up in the flue, it can ignite and cause a dangerous chimney fire. Ceramic coatings help to prevent these types of fires by sealing and protecting the flue and preventing the buildup of creosote. The ceramic coating also makes it easier for the chimney sweep to clean the chimney!

Eco-Friendly and Cost-Effective Choice

Ceramic coatings are a cost-effective and eco-friendly way to protect a chimney. They are manufactured from recycled and natural materials, and are much more economical than rebuilding a chimney! Because the ceramic coating seals all the cracks and gaps in the chimney, often an increase in energy efficiency is noticed – which means we save money on our energy bill.

Our highly skilled experts offer a 20-year warranty on ceramic coatings. The coating will not crack or chip due to temperature changes and is highly resistant to water penetration, so you won’t have to worry about repair costs for a long time!

To learn more about the many benefits of ceramic coating, contact us today!

What Is Stage 3 Creosote and How Do You Deal With It?

A dirty chimney is the leading cause of chimney fires! In this article, we will discuss what leads to stage 3 creosote and how to deal with it.

Creosote is a toxic byproduct of burning wood. The black, tarry substance can build up in your chimney over time, and not only is it corrosive and damaging to the flue liner, but it also presents a serious fire hazard.

What is Creosote and How Does it Build Up?

Creosote is a substance that develops as the byproducts of burning wood adhere to the inside of your chimney. The byproducts, including smoke, water vapor, gasses, particles of burned wood and tar fog, rise up the chimney as you burn your firewood. When they reach the cooler parts of the chimney, they rapidly cool and condense on top of each other until they form a black sticky substance known as creosote.

Stage 1 Creosote

The early stages of creosote buildup usually indicate that your chimney has not been cleaned in some time. This type of creosote is dusty, flaky, and relatively easy to remove with a chimney sweep.

Stage 2 Creosote

Stage 2 creosote is harder and blacker than stage 1. It is more difficult to remove, but must be dealt with before it progresses to stage 3.

Stage 3 Creosote

Stage 3 creosote is the most severe stage. It is more concentrated, tarry, and far more likely to cause chimney fires. Creosote also restricts air movement within the chimney and blocks parts of the air column. Surprisingly, this stage can develop in a single burning season, and should only be removed by a licensed chimney sweep, using specialized equipment.

Why is Creosote Buildup So Dangerous?

The biggest danger of stage 3 creosote is that it can cause chimney fires. When the buildup ignites, it burns very hot and may spread to other areas if not quickly contained. In addition, stage III creosote will damage or destroy your flue liner as well as the masonry within the chimney system.

What Can You Do to Prevent Creosote Buildup?

The best way to prevent creosote buildup is to have your chimney cleaned on a regular basis. Depending on the size of your fireplace, you should have it swept at least once a year. A good rule of thumb is to schedule a cleaning after 75 fires, or one cord of wood. Also, make sure you are using seasoned wood in your fireplace—freshly-cut wood contains a lot more moisture and causes more creosote buildup.

If it has been a while since you last had your chimney cleaned, contact us today to set up an appointment with one of our CSIA-certified technicians!

Here’s What to Do if You Have Stage 3 Creosote

If you have stage III creosote, do not attempt to clean it yourself. Contact a licensed chimney sweep and schedule an appointment for professional cleaning. The Irish sweep will use specialized equipment to remove the creosote buildup and restore your chimney to a safe condition.

For more information on stage III creosote or any other type of fireplace or chimney service, give us a call at 510.521.4088

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.

How Rain Affects a Chimney Without Cap

April showers bring May flowers, right? Well, they can also bring leaky chimneys! If you have chimney without cap, you’re in for a wet time. You’ll start seeing symptoms of leaks during spring and summer, and even chimneys that’ve never had problems before can leak.

YOUR CHIMNEY WITHOUT CAP

Chimneys are complex structures and are always exposed to the weather. They aren’t designed to go with chimney without cap, but not everyone knows this. Because chimneys are always exposed, rain water, leaves, feathers, and all sorts of things can fall into them and build up or cause damage.

The entrance of rain into your chimney may not sound very dramatic to you. But when the masonry and other components in your chimney degrade and lose stability, or lose fire proofness, it becomes dramatic. Wetness can cause spalling and crumbling brickwork, and things like leaves that fall into your chimney are a fire hazard.

WHY GET A CHIMNEY CAP?

The top reason is to prevent damage to your home. To prevent water coming in, part of a chimney cap acts like an umbrella, and a screen section prevents the debris from falling in or sparks from floating out.

Don’t worry about a chimney cap affecting your draft. If your chimney cap has sufficient clearance and you keep it clean, it will either not affect your chimney draft or improve it. When wind blows, the convex shape of the cap creates a slight vacuum at the top of the flue so your chimney should draw better with the cap in place. Some chimney caps are even specifically designed to improve chimney draft!

IF YOU SEE WATER COMING IN, IT COULD ALSO BE DUE TO: FLASHING

If your chimney flashing starts to wear down, water can get in. Flashing is a tight strip inside your chimney that seals the seam between your roof and chimney to prevent water coming in. If the flashing is damaged or loses its seal due to age or wear and tear, water will get through the gaps. This can in turn water damage to the roof, chimney, ceilings and walls. Metal flashings are preferred over mastic flashings.

INCORRECT CHIMNEY CAP

Water can get in if the chimney cap doesn’t fit well. Chimney without cap that fits, the fireplace and flue are completely exposed to water from the rain. An ill-fitting cap is barely better than no cap at all.

MASONRY DAMAGE

Because your chimney is directly exposed to rain, the masonry components will deteriorate over time. Water can cause bricks to spall and crack (letting in water), in addition to making your chimney look unkempt.

You may know your chimney is leaking because you see visible water in the flue or fireplace. But because of the complexity and size of many chimney systems, leaks can easily go undetected for a while. You might not even know there’s water damage until significant damage has already been done.

To prevent chimney leaks, it’s best if you call in a professional for annual Irish Sweep chimney sweepings and inspections. We’ll be able to detect any damage so that you can get it fixed before the chimney starts to leak!