Staying on top of your home’s health is a never ending job and sometimes it can seem like it’s just one maintenance routine after another, but properly maintaining a home is much less costly than having to repair or completely replace something in your home.
This can be said for just about any area of the home, your chimney is no different. Here are three different levels of care when it comes to your chimney:
Creosote buildup - creosote is the general terms used for the entire mix of tar, soot, and creosote and is produced as a “left over” during the burning of wood. As you burn more wood in the fireplace the soot collects and sticks to the inside walls of the chimney leaving behind a flammable fuel. This builds up in stages (1st degree, 2nd degree, and 3rd degree) with each stage having collected more creosote than the previous one. Eventually the buildup can get to very dangerous levels where it can cause a sudden fire in the home. Getting your chimney inspected for creosote buildup is an essential component of home maintenance.
Cracked chimney crowns - the chimney crown serves as an umbrella for your chimney and keeps water from entering, but to do its job effectively it must be fully in tact. Deterioration of the crown in any way, such as cracks, eroding of mortar, and loose bricks, can all cause water to enter and will eventually eat away at the chimney. During cold winter months the water that is sitting within the cracks will expand creating even more splitting and allowing even more water to enter. The way to determine cracked crowns is through proper maintenance and inspections.
Spalling brickwork - when moisture enters a brick it can be extremely dangerous, as the temperatures drop the moisture freezes and begins to expand within the brick itself and every time the brick gets stretched out it becomes more fragile. As the years pass, the constant freezing and thawing make the brick so brittle that the brick disintegrates, it eventually flakes and parts of the brick break off. External bricks are usually more dense and less moisture absorbent than internal bricks are, but exposure to the elements can definitely cause internal disintegration of the brick.
Unwanted Animal Infestation - the truth of the matter is that animals need shelter from the elements as well and they’ll make homes in the most unexpected of places. You’ll find remnants of rodent’s homes, birds nests, raccoons, owls and other animals that can be extremely dangerous when a fire is lit. If the nests are big enough, they’ll also have an impact on how well (or poorly) the fire burns. The lack of oxygen will mean that the heat is short-lived and not as strong. If you notice a much weaker fire combustion than in previous years then there is a strong possibility that something like an animal infestation in your fireplace is occurring.
Chimney (flue) linings fracture - flue linings are defined as “a clay, metal, or ceramic conduit installed inside of a chimney, intended to contain the combustion products, direct them to the outside atmosphere, and protect the chimney walls from heat and corrosion.” The lack of a flue lining in your chimney is so dangerous that its been described as almost criminal. Ensuring that there are no cracks in your liner will create optimum conditions for airflow to circulate properly and will prevent the burning of the mortar between bricks.
Getting rid of and disposing of flammable creosote - it’s extremely important to keep your chimney linings from accumulating creosote, which is a highly flammable byproduct of burning wood. The more creosote you accumulate, the slower the air will flow and larger the amount of sitting air lingers. When there is a lot of sitting hot air in the chute, there is a much higher chance that a spark will catch and spread to the creosote causing an aggressive fire. A professional can safely remove the creosote from your chimney using sweeping tools-brushes and a commercial vacuuming system. Routine maintenance is critical to your safety and will also prevent unwanted smells in the summertime.
Removal of any signs of animals living in your chimney - another very important reason to get a cleaning. Not only do you not want animals (and their offspring) entering your house through the chimney, but they leave behind big messes. Not only that, but animal remnants can assist with spalling of the brick. The twigs and brush can retain moisture which is absorbed by the brick. As the moisture freezes, the water turns into ice and breaks apart the brick from the inside-out. Eventually the brick will disintegrate from the constant freeze-thaw cycle. Clearing the chimney of animal matter can prevent a lot of the decay from taking place.
Vacuum sweeping - if you can’t remember the last time you had your chimney sweeped then it probably means you’re due. It’s a relatively simple process that can be done by our professionals and is the best thing you can do to keep your fireplace safe and running efficiently. So how often should you sweep your chimney? Well that depends on how much you use it, but it is highly recommended to have your entire system inspected at least once every 12 months.
Install caps on your chimney - this has many benefits including the prevention of moisture build-up, keeps animals and their nests out, blocks wind downdrafts, and also prevents sparks from lighting up the creosote.
Replace damper - the damper is a metal compartment that is located directly above the flame but below the flue, and it controls the air flow into the chimney. The damper can be replaced if needed and is relatively inexpensive to swap out.
Replace or repair the flashing - flashing is sheet metal that is installed between the chimney and roof and is intended to keep the connection between the two water tight. With time, the flashing will wear out and will need replacement.
Replace chimney lining - when the lining gets worn out it gives way to creosote build up and increases the chance of the oils catching fire and spreading extremely quickly. Lining is not something you want to put off for the next year.
Waterproofing - water penetration is the single greatest cause of deterioration to your chimney, the life of your fireplace can be extended by taking simple measures to waterproof the entire system.
Tuckpointing - excessive creosote buildup can cause rapid deterioration of the mortar between the bricks and will eventually need to be filled with new mortar. Tuckpointing is standard maintenance with any house that has brick.
Areas We Service
Our service area is mostly in Aurora and the surrounding suburbs, but we’ll certainly travel to where our clients take us. We also service Chicago, Elgin, Naperville, Wheaton, Bolingbrook, Orland Park, Joliet, Carol Stream, Downers Grove, Lombard, Romeoville, Oak Lawn, Yorkville, St. Charles, and La Grange.
We do our very best to be flexible with your schedule so give us a call today to see how we can help!