Crumbling mortarWhen the mortar between your chimney’s bricks begins to crumble, it can look alarming. While it can expose your chimney to water damage, make your chimney structure unstable and detract from your home’s aesthetic, crumbling mortar can be removed and replaced fairly simply. Through tuckpointing, we carefully withdraw the crumbling mortar between the bricks and replace it with new mortar to keep your chimney’s structure strong.
Fragmenting bricksJust like the mortar joints between them, chimney and fireplace bricks can break down overtime. Typically referred to as “spalling,” the crumbling of bricks is caused by moisture entering the bricks porous surfaces and freezing during cold weather months. Those bricks should be removed and replaced to keep your chimney safe and looking good.
Cracked flue tilesIf your chimney liner is constructed from clay tiles, as many are, those tiles can crack and crumble over time from moisture exposure and the extreme heat of your fireplace. Cracks in your chimney liner can allow heat and smoke to escape your chimney, endangering your home’s structure. It generally isn’t cost effective to replace flue tiles, so damaged flues generally are relined with a metal chimney liner or with a poured sealant that fills in any cracks or weaknesses in your chimney to make it safe again.
Deteriorating chimney crownToo many masonry chimney crowns are built hastily using mortar rather than concrete during the chimney’s construction. That can lead to chimney crowns that crack or crumble easily, though even concrete crowns can wear down over time due to weathering. Chimney crowns play an important role in protecting your chimney from exposure to moisture and should be repaired if you notice cracks or holes.
Damaged fireboxThe area that clearly takes the most heat in your fireplace and chimney system is the firebox. The firebox deals with the extreme heat of your fires and prevents that heat from reaching your home’s structure. On top of the heat, the firebox also deals with the water vapor and corrosive byproducts your fires create. Inevitably, fireboxes develop cracks that make them dangerous and unsightly. We can seal minor cracks ore rebuild badly damaged fireboxes to keep your fireplace safe and attractive. If you notice any of these common masonry problems in your fireplace or chimney, call The Chimney Sweeper to schedule an appointment today! We can help you come up with a plan for repairing your chimney’s masonry, and our masonry experts will have your fireplace ready to use before you’re ready to light your first fire next fall. Ask about chimney waterproofing to help protect your chimney’s masonry from future water damage!
Your fireplace adds warmth and comfort to your home during the cold winter months. It also can add worry, about potential burns or a potential home fire. Following our fire safety tips can help keep you, your family, and your home safe while still enjoying the benefits of your fireplace or heating stove.
- Create a “safe zone” around your fireplace. Make sure all flammable materials, including furniture, papers, blankets, pillows, toys, and décor, have been removed from the area surrounding your fireplace. There should be at least a 2-foot “safe zone” surrounding your fire place that is devoid of anything that could burn.
- Place a metal screen over your open-hearth fireplace. A metal screen prevents embers from jumping out of the fireplace and igniting a nearby object. It also keeps things from accidentally falling into the fireplace.
- Consider a safety gate. If you have children or pets in your home, you may want to consider installing a safety gate around the fireplace. There are safety gates specifically made for hearths. They keep children and pets a safe distance away and include a door for easy access to the fireplace or stove.
- Only burn items intended for your fireplace. Burning cardboard, Christmas trees, wrapping paper, trash or other items can cause a dangerous flare up or produce toxic fumes. Never use a fire accelerant, as they can cause a fire that is too hot for your chimney to handle.
- Leave fireplace doors open while a fire is burning. Closing or partially closing the glass doors on an open-hearth fireplace causing fires to burn and draft improperly, which can pose a hazard.
- Allow ashes to cool for at least 24 hours before removing them from the fireplace. If you remove ashes too early, you risk removing still burning embers. Always remove ash to a metal bucket, and remove it from the living areas of your home to a well ventilated area, as smoldering ashes can release carbon monoxide.
- Have your chimney cleaned at least once per year. Dirty, creosote-lined chimneys are the leading cause of chimney fires. Having your chimney cleaned and inspected each year ensures that it is free from creosote, obstructions and damage that could cause a chimney fire. If you burn more than three cords of firewood per year, your chimney should be cleaned twice during the wood-burning season.
- Equip your home with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. There should be a smoke and carbon monoxide detector on each floor of your home, and directly outside sleeping areas. Make sure you change the batteries at least twice per year, and test the detectors regularly to make sure they’re working. Everyone in your home should know what to do if the detectors sound: Exit the house and meet at a predetermined location.
If you have any questions or concerns about the safe operation of your fireplace, heating stove or chimney, call the experts at The Chimney Sweeper. We consider it part of our jobs to make sure you know how to use your fireplace safely.
A wood-burning fireplace or woodstove comes with one regular maintenance issue: ash removal. In fact, one cord of wood produces 50 pounds of ash. That’s especially significant considering that the average house with a woodstove burns three cords of wood per year! If you’re burning softwoods, your ash output can be even higher.
Proper ash removal is necessary to the health of your fires and your fireplace or stove. Improperly removing ashes can put your family at risk of a fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. This blog will help you determine the safest way to remove ash, and you might even find a good use for all of those ashes!
When to remove ashes
It seems like the simple answer to the question of when to remove ashes should be whenever there are ashes in the fireplace. However, it’s beneficial to your fireplace and your fires to have a bed of ashes on the floor of your fireplace or stove. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends leaving a one-inch bed of ashes on the floor of your wood-burning fireplace. That ash catches coals and insulates them, allowing your fire to burn at its hottest.
Ash should be removed when it build up beyond that inch, and at the end of the fire-burning season. Ash is acidic, and it can corrode the bottom of your firebox or you’re the grate that holds your logs. Too much ash also can inhibit your ability to build a proper fire.
How to safely remove ashes
If it’s time to remove ashes from your fireplace, there are a few guidelines to do this successfully. First, it’s ideal to wait 24 hours after your last fire to help ensure that there aren’t any hot embers still burning. However, even if you’ve waited, you always should treat the ash as if it is still hot. Wear protective gloves, use a metal shovel and place ashes in a metal bucket. If you do notice some burning coals, gently move them to the back of the firebox, and leave them surrounded by a small bed of ash. The removed ashes should not be stored near combustible items or in an enclosed area, in case some embers are still burning.
What to do with ashes
Of course, you’ll need a way to dispose of removed ashes. Once you’re sure the ashes are thoroughly cooled, you can bag them up and place them in with your normal trash. However, there are some creative ways you can put your ashes to good use! Ashes are a gardener’s best friend: They can be turned into the soil along with compost, and a sprinkling of ash around plants can be used to keep away pests like slugs and snails. Ash also can melt ice, hide stains on pavement and control algae in ponds. Believe it or not, a damp sponge dipped in ash dust is a great scrubber for glass fireplace doors, and a paste of ash and water can clean silver.
If you have any questions about proper fireplace maintenance or ash removal, all the experts at The Chimney Sweeper! We can answer your questions and help you find the tools you need to keep your fireplace clean.