Our Company Blog

House Pressure Issues

Fireplaces are supposed to add warmth and comfort to our homes. However, if you are experiencing pressure issues your fireplace could be directly affected. If it seems like your fireplace is not producing any heat, is using too much wood, or is letting cold air in you are most likely experiencing problems with house pressure.

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Airtight homes

Open hearth masonry fireplaces are not known for being efficient; what they lack in efficiency is more than made up for in warmth and ambiance. However, more and more modern homeowners find themselves experiencing burn issues with their open hearth fireplaces. This is, in part, due to a home’s air pressure.

Modern homes are designed and built to be air tight, keeping the conditioned air inside and the hot or cold air outside. While this lack of airflow saves you money on your monthly gas and electric bills, it can have a major negative impact on your fireplace system.

Fires need oxygen in order to burn their best; in an airtight home, a lack of fresh oxygen can cause fires to burn sluggishly. Likewise, tight homes may also have issues with drafting. A lack of outside air can create a weak draft, making it difficult for smoke to be pushed up and out of the chimney. This can lead to smoky fires that affect your home’s overall air quality.

The stack effect

House pressure issues can also be caused by the stack effect. The stack effect is based on a principle that everyone knows – cold air sinks and hot air rises. However, this can wreak havoc when you are trying to heat your home or use your fireplace in the winter.

As the warm air in your home rises up – and out – through upper attics and windows, cold outside air is drawn in through holes or cracks near the bottom of your home. For homeowners with a fireplace, the stack affect can cause cold air to be drawn down the chimney and into your home. In addition to causing your heater to work harder to compensate for the influx of cold air, this can also create fireplace burning problems. The cold air being drawn down the chimney can disrupt the draft of the fireplace, pushing smoke, soot, and ash back into your home.

Fixing pressure issues with makeup air

While an airtight home or the stack effect can create drafting issues in your home, utilizing exterior air intakes, or makeup air, may help resolve the problem. Makeup air can be as simple as cracking windows or doors around the fireplace; for homes with more serious pressure issues may need to install a permanent supply of outdoor air. By installing an exterior air intake, the pressure inside your home can naturally equalize, leading to a reduction in fireplace draft issues.

House pressure issues can have a major negative impact on your ability to enjoy your fireplace system during the winter. This year, rather than dealing with problematic pressure problems, contact the experts at Pristine Sweeps. Our staff can help identify and fix the cause of your pressure issues, allowing you to get back to worry-free enjoyment of your fireplace.

How Ivy Can Damage Your Chimney

You may enjoy the ivy that creeps up your chimney, softening the look of your home and providing a romantic, old-world feel. Or perhaps you’re ambivalent to the ivy that has made its way up your chimney. Regardless of how you feel about your ivy, you should be aware of the danger it causes to your home.

How ivy causes damage

Initially, ivy can be harmless, but over time, its roots can make its way into small cracks in your home’s masonry, siding, or woodwork. As the plant and its roots grow, it can make those cracks larger and weaken the integrity of your home’s walls or chimney. Ivy can be especially damaging to homes that were built before 1930. Many of those homes were constructed with lime-based mortar, rather than the concrete-based mortar used today. The older mortar is softer and more susceptible to cracks and increased damaged from ivy.

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How to deal with ivy

If you’re concerned that the ivy making its way up your chimney is damaging the structure, you should seek professional help. If the ivy truly has embedded itself in the bricks and mortar of your chimney’s structure, pulling the ivy away could cause the chunks or mortar and brick to come down with it. If you do remove your ivy, your chimney should be inspected by a professional chimney technician to ensure that its structure hasn’t been compromised. Cracks caused by ivy could lead to water leaks and foundation failure. Your chimney’s mortar could need to be repaired with tuck pointing, or some bricks may need to be replaced.

How to prevent ivy problems

If you like the look of ivy, you don’t have to give it up entirely. Some types of structures are suited to ivy growth. If you have a newly constructed brick wall or chimney without cracks, ivy can safely climb its sides. Ivy is not suited, however, to cracked masonry, older masonry, dry-stacked stone, wooden walls, siding, stucco, or painted surfaces. All of those surfaces could badly be damaged by ivy growth.

At the same time, some types of ivy are less invasive and have weaker roots that aren’t as damaging. English ivy has traditionally been used in landscaping and to creep up older buildings, but it now is classified as an invasive plant and has been banned in some states and communities. Structure-friendly types of ivy include Boston ivy and Virginia creeper, both of which have aerial roots that won’t make their way into cracks and cause further damage.

You also can consider other climbing plants, such as roses, clematis, wisteria, and jasmine, which will make their way up wooden or metal supports against your home to provide you with the soft, romantic look of ivy without the damage.

What to do if the damage has been done

If you suspect ivy already has damaged your chimney’s masonry, call the experts at Pristine Sweeps. Our chimney and masonry experts can inspect your chimney’s masonry for damage and perform any needed repairs.