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The Importance of Keeping Masonry Repaired and Maintained

Although fireplaces make a beautiful addition to any home, a certain amount of upkeep is needed to ensure they remain in top working condition. One of the most important maintenance items homeowners can undertake is the care and repair of their fireplace masonry.

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While the masonry may seem like a permanent, long-lasting part of a chimney, fireplace issues can often be traced back to masonry damage. As exterior masonry is constantly exposed to the elements as well as to gasses and heat from the fireplace, it tends to deteriorate at a much higher rate than most homeowners anticipate. Because of this, having masonry inspected annually is extremely important.

When fireplace and chimney inspections are done each year, minor defects such as small cracks or holes are able to be found and fixed before they turn into major issues.

Why do masonry fireplaces need maintenance?

While bricks and mortar are typically indestructible building materials, they do require periodic maintenance in order to last as long as possible.

A major concern with masonry fireplaces can occur if the fireplace and chimney structure shift or settle. Because a full masonry fireplace can weigh as much as six to seven tons, it is extremely important that they are built on a steady base that can hold the entirety of the fireplace’s weight. If not, the settling process that occurs over time can cause the masonry to crack or break, increasing the risk for potential fire hazards.

Unlike brick walls, which are often semi-protected from the eaves and overhangs of a home, the chimney is starkly uncovered and open to the elements. This constant exposure to wind, rain, sun, and snow – as well as constantly fluctuating temperatures – can cause chimney masonry to deteriorate at a higher rate. A properly installed chimney cap, chimney crown, or the application of a waterproof sealant are all ways to extend the life of an existing chimney.

Can my old fireplace be fixed?

Once a fireplace or chimney has become damaged, some homeowners dub them unusable and decline to invest in further repairs. However, many company’s now have technicians that specialize in masonry repair and can replace missing or damaged bricks and mortar without tearing down an entire structure. This can be extremely beneficial in cases where only a few bricks have been damaged by moisture, shifting, lightning strikes, or other causes.

For homeowners looking to update the look of an existing fireplace, a fireplace facelift is an excellent way to modernize the structure without completely rebuilding. New facades of brick, stone, tile, or concrete can be custom created to exactly match a homeowners style and specifications. Likewise, stone veneers are a fast and budget-friendly way to quickly and easily make over an entire room.

If existing damage leads to an entire fireplace structure needing to be rebuilt, Pristine Sweeps is able to meet that need as well. With chimney sweeps certified by the National Chimney Sweep Guild, homeowners can rest assured that their technicians have both a technical knowledge of chimney and fireplace safety along with the masonry skills necessary to rebuilt a fireplace system.

How to Prevent Water Damage from Affecting Your Chimney System

Many homeowners happily use their fireplaces for years, naively assuming that their chimneys are in excellent working condition. That is, however, until a leak happens. The most likely culprit is water damage to the chimney structure, which can be caused by a number of different problems.

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The most unfortunate fact about water damage is that it is almost entirely preventable. Unlike natural disasters or house fires, water is a consistent force that constantly wears down the bricks, mortar, and structure of your chimney. Although chimneys are built to be long-lasting structures, they too need proper upkeep.

Preventative maintenance is the best and most cost effective way to keep your chimney system in excellent working condition. It is extremely important to have annual inspections to ensure that your fireplace and chimney are free from any cracks or flaws that could cause water leakage and damage.

How does water get into my chimney?

As a chimney ages, so do its parts that are meant to prevent water from entering the chimney. This process often occurs faster than most homeowners realize as their chimneys are constantly exposed to wind, rain, snow, and the expanding and contracting caused by freezing temperatures. Although it is impossible to say what is causing a leak without a chimney leak inspection the parts of the chimney are two of the most common culprits.

Chimney cap

Chimney caps, sometimes known as rain covers, are specially fitted pieces designed to prevent water and debris from entering a chimney. Despite their sturdy design, chimney caps can become cracked, damaged, or shift from their original placements over time. Underwriters Laboratories, an international independent safety science company, specifies that “any chimney lining system that is to be listed to their test standard must include a chimney cap.”

Flashing

Flashing is the term for the material that creates a watertight seal between the roof and the chimney structure. If the flashing loses its seal, water can enter under the roof, damaging ceilings, walls, joists, rafters, and other vital structural elements. Correctly installed flashing should be made up of two parts: the flashing and the counter flashing. These two pieces allow for expansion and contraction with temperature changes, ensuring that the waterproof seal is not broken.

How can I prevent leaks?

Apart from regular maintenance and annual sweeps and inspections, the best way to prevent leaks is through waterproofing chimney maintenance. During this process, Pristine Sweeps certified technicians will apply a permeable barrier to the exterior of your chimney.

Unlike other paints which can trap moisture inside the bricks, the ChimneySaver sealants are specially designed for use on chimneys. These products block repel water while still allowing gasses to escape through the brick and masonry. This will extend the life of your chimney while ensuring that it remains safe for regular use.

Call the certified technicians at Pristine Sweeps today to schedule a chimney inspection to ensure that a tiny crack doesn’t turn into an enormous problem or to schedule waterproofing chimney maintenance.