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How to Spot Winter Masonry Problems

During the cold months of winter, most people retreat inside to spend time with their families around a roaring fire. Unfortunately, the freezing temperatures that make us want to stay inside can also have a negative effect on our chimneys.

Steep drops in temperatures, freezing rain, sleet, snow, ice, and harsh winds can all contribute to chimney damage during the winter. In addition, these winter weather conditions can make existing chimney damage worse or contribute to accelerated decay.

Below are several common winter masonry issues, what causes them, and how to prevent them from happening or fix any damage they cause.

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The freeze thaw cycle

The freeze thaw cycle is the primary cause of masonry damage during the winter. Because bricks and mortar are naturally porous substances, they are meant to absorb small amounts of water. Older or damaged bricks with cracks or holes may absorb even more. When bricks and mortar absorb water from rain or snow and the temperature drops below freezing, the water in the masonry also freezes. The water expands as it freezes, creating larger areas of damage. When the ice melts so does the water within the masonry, leaving larger holes that can now be filled with even more water. This process is called the freeze thaw cycle.

Signs of damage to the masonry of your chimney may include brick that is chipped, cracked, missing pieces, crumbling, or otherwise falling apart. The best way to protect against water damage is to have your chimney regularly inspected and maintained. If your chimney has damaged or missing bricks or crumbling mortar, the masons at Pristine Sweeps can repair the damage, and their work is accompanied by a five year warranty.

How to prevent water damage

To further protect your masonry from the damaging freeze thaw cycle, considering having the bricks and mortar of your chimney waterproofed. Pristine Sweeps uses the special Chimney Saver products which are able to prevent water from getting in while still allowing gas to get out. This is different from latex paints and other sealants which no longer let the brick pass gas.

Other masonry problems

While damage to the bricks and mortar of their chimney masonry is often homeowner’s primary concern during the cold months of winter, there are a number of other ways that winter can affect your chimney system’s masonry. One problem that can occur due to a chimney’s height is the stack effect. The Stack Effect occurs when there is a difference in air pressure between the inside and outside of a home. This can be worsened by heavy winter winds creating external pressure on the chimney. The cold air rushing down the chimney may cause smoke to blow back into the home.

If your chimney cap, chimney crown, or chimney chase cover become cracked or damaged, you may notice water entry into your chimney and fireplace. You may notice that the inside of your firebox is damp or that there is a musty smell when the fireplace is not in use. This type of water entry is equally detrimental to a fireplace system in that it effects many of the metal parts of a fireplace. Damaged chimney caps, crows, or chase covers should be repaired or replaced as soon as possible to minimize damage.

If you have questions about how the winter weather is effecting the masonry of your chimney, contact Pristine Sweeps today!

Different Levels of Chimney Inspection

Let Pristine Sweeps inspect your chimneys so that you won't have to feel anxious about the safety of your home due to chimney problems.

Let Pristine Sweeps inspect your chimneys so that you won’t have to feel anxious about the safety of your home due to chimney problems.

Regular Inspection to Keep Your Fireplace and Chimney in Pristine Condition

Chimney cleaning along with an annual check-up is the most essential part of chimney maintenance. Without it, a lot of problems could surface. Draft problems could start due to blockages resulting from creosote buildup. If your chimney is clogged, it can put your family in harm’s way. Accidental house fires or carbon monoxide poisoning and the possibility of a back draft are among the undesirable things that could potentially happen if you take your chimney for granted.

This is exactly why the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) has identified several chimney inspection and cleaning companies that are certified and equipped according to their standards and Pristine Chimney Sweeps is proud to be among those. These yearly chimney inspections also have their relative degrees or extent to how far the probing goes. To help you understand these levels a little better, here is a short overview.

Inspection Level 1

There are three levels involved in the maintenance of an indoor fireplace and chimney system called inspection levels. Level 1 is the most ordinary and common, and is the first stage of inspection. This is done annually given that there has been no modifications or changes done to the home heating sytem or in the way it is being used. This important routine is conducted by a technician, or better yet, a CSIA certified chimney sweep which we in Pristine Chimney Sweeps are proud to be the only ones in the Seattle area. Routine checks of all visible parts and the flue is made to determine that the entire system functions perfectly, safely, and properly.

Inspection Level 2

A level 2 inspection can be ordered by a chimney sweep if in case the first inspection showed evidence of a future hazard or danger for the residents of the house. If they do see a threat, be advised never to attempt to use your fireplace or chimney until the necessary repairs are done. If you bought a new house or if you’ve just moved in, a Level 2 inspection is also required. If there’s something that needs to be fixed, you can’t just light up your fireplace without prior inspection, you know. For people who want to modify the functions of their fireplace, a level 2 inspection also has to be done.

Inspection Level 3

In a level 3 Inspection you can assume that the structure in question is definitely unsafe due to the underlying problems that are yet to be investigated further. If your sweep recommends this type of inspection, do not delay! Otherwise, the consequences could cause harm – and not just to property.

To most of you, it may have been a while since you last took notice of your chimney. But be warned that this helpful feature should not be taken for granted. Call Pristine Chimney Sweeps today so we can give you a thorough assessment of the condition of your fireplace and chimney system.