Common Chimney Problems in Aging & Historic Homes in the Cincinnati/ Northern Kentucky Market
Since at least the 1940s, the absence of a chimney liner in a chimney has been recognized as an imminent danger. Historic homes that reflect the architecture and charm of designs from our history have tremendous appeal, but with an old home comes an old chimney. In aging and historic homes, chimney problems are inevitable. This is a list of some of the most common problems associated with the chimneys in old and historic homes.
Dangers of Having No Chimney Liner
Fire safety experts continue to share a quote from that time period in which it was said that not having a chimney liner is hazardous at a near-criminal level.
In the 1950’s Chimney liners became mandatory in the U.S. Historic homes from the 1940s and earlier were usually built with no chimney liner, just bricks and not even fire bricks. These bricks are substandard for fireplaces and can create a lot of issues in a chimney. The following are the primary dangers associated with using any chimney that is not protected with a liner.
The Threat of a House Fire Due to Pyrolysis
A chimney liner protects against fire getting to combustibles which are not fuel (Like your house) When a fireplace is used without a flue liner or with a damaged liner, the exposed combustion materials go through a gradual process known as pyrolysis. As a result of pyrolysis, the structures are altered so that they combust at a much lower temperature. With no warning, a house fire will ignite and spread rapidly throughout the home.
Highly Combustible Creosote
Wood fires produce creosote, a highly flammable tar-like substance that is deposited into a chimney every time a fire is lit. If a burning ember floats up the chimney, it can cause the creosote to ignite. Chimney fires are always dangerous but especially when a chimney is not lined because virtually any chimney fire could easily spread throughout the home.
Bricks are durable, lasting a century or more if undamaged. Mortar, on the other hand, lasts only about 25 years at best. The mortar should be replaced whenever it begins to deteriorate because one of its primary functions is to protect the masonry system from moisture. If moisture intrusion occurs, winter cycles of freezing and thawing create movement in the bricks that break them down. A chimney will begin to lean and could even collapse when this occurs, though moisture can get in through other avenues besides damaged mortar as well.
Spalling is evidence of masonry damage. Spalling is when the front face of the brick pops off, and piles of debris around the chimney on the roof or the ground below provide evidence that the destructive process is occurring.
Exposure to Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide is one of the byproducts of fires. Chimney liners keep this toxic combustible gases from fires contained in the chimney until they escape to the outdoors. In the absence of a chimney liner or with a broken one, these gases enter the residence. Carbon Monoxide is known as a silent killer because it is odorless, tasteless, invisible, and symptomless and escape from the deadly fumes is often impossible.
Normal settling of a house doesn’t necessarily cause foundation damage, but in older homes, there is a greater chance of damage caused by a shifting foundation due to the additional time. Cracks in the masonry is one of the symptoms of settling. When the cracks form, they begin to absorb water and then the water freezes and expands the cracks even larger.
As a homeowner, it is important that your home and each of its components stay in good shape. Regular chimney maintenance and repair will allow you to keep your home structurally safe and it will also ensure that its value is protected against depreciation.
One area that many homeowners frequently neglect to maintain is their chimney maintenance. Roof cleaning and chimney cleaning are often left out of mind simply because they are usually out of sight. While brick chimneys are usually robust for years, indeed, they may be the last thing that remains standing in an old building, they require periodic repairs to remain completely stable and aesthetically pleasing.
What Is Tuckpointing?
Mortar in your chimney usually has a life expectancy of about twenty-five years. After that, it can start to break down and corrode. The deteriorated mortar around the bricks in your chimney allows rain and snow to infiltrate your chimney and damage it from within. This sounds as bad as it is.
Since it is actually the mortar of your chimney that requires touching up and not the bricks themselves, tuckpointing involves routing out the damaged and deteriorating mortar from your chimney and replacing it. Indeed, tuckpointingis the ideal procedure for keeping your chimney in top shape. Tuckpointing gets to the heart of the problem to repair your chimney without disturbing its original design.
How Does It Work?
The process behind tuckpointing is not complicated but it takes a professional hand to do it right. By hiring a professional home services company, you can be confident that the original look and form of your chimney will remain intact. When the team arrives at your home, they will:
- Remove the deteriorating mortar from your chimney.
- Apply new mortar to the cleaned-out grooves.
- Ensure that the coloration of the mortar is consistent with the existing brickwork.
What Are The Benefits?
It is worthwhile to invest in a professional tuckpointing treatment from an established chimney services provider because the costs of replacing a collapsed or damaged chimney can be expensive. Falling bricks may even require more extensive roof repair and the bills for that can add up. Tuckpointing also keeps the interior of your home safe from moisture damage, around the chimney, and will ensure that more serious repairs in your home are not needed.
Keeping your chimney looking its best through tuckpointing will also ensure that your fireplace continues to be a part of your home that adds value to the property rather than detracting from its appeal, especially alongside the right interior painting job. When the time comes to sell your home, prospective buyers will certainly appreciate the condition that your chimney is in due to you conducting regular chimney maintenance.
Inspections And Chimney Maintenance By The Professionals
Extend the life of your chimney by having your home inspected by a chimney services company and having regular chimney maintenance work carried out. Professional roof services companies will also be able to assist you with any power washing or roofing needs that you might have. If you think that your chimney could use some repair, simple chimney maintenance or if you have never had a professional tuckpointing treatment before, then it is important to get on top of this right away.
There is not much worse of a feeling than waking up to water inside your home. A leaking chimney can lead water throughout your home and cause damage to everything from floors to interior painting. That is why it is important to spot areas that need chimney repair as soon as possible. Proper chimney maintenance can point out any weaknesses in your system, hopefully, while they are still minor issues.
A leaking chimney can present a whole host of problems to your home and your family, so you must do everything you can to keep this from happening. There are a variety of ways you can help secure yourself from a chimney disaster, but the most important thing is to remember to take care of it. You can have the best intentions in the world, but forgetting to carry out regular chimney maintenance can cause some major problems.
Keep reading below for some great tips to avoid an expensive chimney repair due to a leaking chimney.
Check Mortar Joints
This is probably a task that is best suited to a professional, as it is quite possible to miss something with your untrained eye. The best time to have this stuff checked out is when you are having your annual chimney cleaning done. The seasonal changes in Cincinnati tend to make the mortar retract and expand, thus creating weak spots and breaks. Your chimney specialist can take care of any joints that are not looking good anymore and make sure there is no possibility of water leaking in through your roofing.
Caps Prevent Leaks
Adding a cap to the top of your chimney is not just for aesthetic purposes as they serve a big purpose. The harder it is for water to get inside your chimney, the harder it will be to do any damage inside your home. Chimney repair is an expensive process once the water gets to it, so adding a cap will give you a much better chance of keeping it in good shape.
Check The Chimney Crown
During your regular chimney maintenance, it is quite likely you will have someone power washing it and getting up-close and personal to do inspections. An educated professional will take a look at the crown, which is normally a concrete slab that protects the chimney interior from nature. There could be cracks or damage to the crown which will allow water to get in, thus causing more issues in the long run.
Add Vapor Barrier
These days a lot of experts agree that a waterproof vapor barrier is the best way to go for extra leak protection. Installing a barrier will cost very little compared to chimney rebuilding, and it can save the rest of your home as well. It pays to get extra protection for your home in areas such as this.
Chimney Repair And Maintenance Stop Leaks
There is a very common theme here when we talk about leaks in your chimney; most of them can be prevented. Chimney repair may be expensive, but it is the price you must pay to keep your home safe and warm. The alternative will cost you a lot more, so it is always best to play it safe and do the required maintenance.
Having a real brick chimney and fireplace in your home is a huge benefit in those nasty cold Cincinnati winters. There are numerous benefits to having a chimney in your home, yet these benefits don’t come without some extra work. Chimney repair is a necessity with any brick and mortar chimney regardless of where it is and how it was built. Your chimney is going to need some tender love and care to make sure your fireplace is always running safely and efficiently.
The process of tuckpointing may be one that most homeowners have never heard of. Anyone familiar with chimney repair will understand the term, as it is a very common way to deal with damage over time. Every chimney is going to experience damage and destruction from mother nature, it is your job to keep up with maintenance to keep it working the way it should.
Keep reading if you are interested in learning more about the process of tuckpointing and why it is needed.
Chimney Repair Is A Necessity
There is no maybe or might when it comes to doing repairs to a brick and mortar chimney. If you are not cautious and keeping up with maintenance you could find yourself doing some chimney rebuilding way before you thought you would. All mortar will start to dry out and crack over time, especially when you have a rough year weather-wise. Chimney maintenance is going to ensure that you keep your unit safe and also that you don’t run into any gigantic extra costs.
What Is Tuckpointing?
It may sound like a complicated process, but tuckpointing is simply an elaborate way to describe brick and mortar chimney repair. While this is not the only way to get the job done, it has been used very successfully for many years. It is going to start with a chimney cleaning that may include powerwashing or chimney sweeping. This is to make sure they don’t have any dirt or debris in the way when doing the repairs.
The experts will then start removing the old grout, normally there will be red grout and white grout to deal with. They will make sure the grooves where the old mortar was removed is as symmetrical and similar as possible. This is going to ensure the new grout goes in properly and uniformly to give you a perfect seal. Once the red mortar has been set in place they will then apply grooves to the middle and add the mortar you typically associate with these chimneys, white.
You Must Take Care Of Your Chimney
You must ensure that you carry out the necessary annual inspections and maintenance to your chimney and fireplace. Chimney repairs can add up fast if you don’t take the time to care for your chimney. If it gets bad enough you could have a chimney fire and if that happens you may need an interior paint job as well. Fire and smoke need to be respected, and one of the best ways to respect these is to take care of your chimney properly at home.
Before you find yourself in the situation where you need to look at chimney rebuilding you should take some time to learn about chimney maintenance and repair. Having a chimney and fireplace is certainly a privilege, and it is also quite the responsibility at the end of the homeowner. Many things can go wrong with your chimney if you don’t take care of it, and chimney repair like tuckpointing can have some major benefits.
Tuckpointing is the process of scraping and removing all the old and dry mortar, that has been damaged over the years and replacing it with fresh mortar. This may sound like a fairly simple process but it takes a lot of training and experience to do the job right. Chimney rebuilding is something that no homeowner wants to get into, it is expensive and time-consuming, you are always much better off doing your annual maintenance and chimney cleaning.
Keep reading for more information on the benefits that tuckpointing can provide for your chimney and fireplace.
It Is Cheaper Than Chimney Rebuilding
If you have never had the pleasure of going through a full chimney rebuild, you can trust that it is something you don’t need to experience in your lifetime. Sometimes you cannot help it, due to an accident or horrific weather, but other times it can be completely on you for not doing the routine maintenance. Chimney sweeping and powerwashing should become part of your annual routine and you won’t have to worry about chimney rebuilding any time soon.
Tuckpointing Keeps The Water Out
Just about the most important part of keeping your chimney and fireplace running well is to keep the water out of it. When mortar starts to dry out and crack over time it creates tiny spaces for water to start to force its way in. Once the water starts to get in it is downright impossible to stop it without doing repairs. If water starts getting in through your chimney, you may find some interior painting on the to-do list next.
Tuckpointing Keeps The Smoke Flowing Correctly
The last thing you want to worry about when you have a fire roaring is the smoke escaping back into your home. Smoke is very dangerous and needs to be ventilated and controlled to make sure it doesn’t hurt you or your family. If you were to leave a leak unrepaired over time you could be looking at serious smoke damage to your home and even major health problems for you and your family.
Tuckpointing Raises Your Home’s Value
Anything that is going to make your home safer, more efficient, and look better is going to add to the value of a listing. Newer masonry work is going to be one of the first things that stands out to potential buyers. If you want more out of your home when you sell it, tuckpointing may be exactly what you require.
Benefits Outweigh Costs
When you are assessing if you should spend on a home improvement project the main question is normally if the price will be worth the time, effort and cost. Tuckpointing and chimney rebuilding is not going to keep you from needing chimney sweeping, but it will make sure your chimney and fireplace are in good working order, looking well, and will stand up to mother nature for another year.
If you own a home there is a very good chance that the home has a chimney to help, at least, with the ventilation. Chimney maintenance is something that doesn’t get brought up enough on average but is something that is most definitely worth talking about. If you talk to anyone in roofing or chimney repair they would all agree that an annual inspection is one of the most import parts of keeping your home safe as well as energy-efficient.
An inspection every year is key to picking up on any issues that may be developing. You will always be much better off fixing a small problem at the root before it starts to grow and cause something much worse to happen down the line. So, it is time to start adding an inspection to the annual list of tasks around the house, it could end up making a big difference.
For more information on chimney inspections, and why they are so important, continue reading.
You Can’t See Everything
Depending on your level of expertise in home design, you may, or may not know that most of your chimney is actually hidden in your home. That is why it is so important to get a certified CSIA inspector to take a look, maybe during your annual chimney sweeping. These professionals are trained to look for any irregularities throughout the whole system and not just what is visible above or outside your home.
The average homeowner is not going to be well versed enough to detect chimney maintenance problems on their own, especially if they are at minor levels. Trust in a professional to get in there and find any small problems before they have a chance to become larger ones. It may seem like a bit of an extra cost upfront, but it is well worth it for peace of mind alone.
Preventative Chimney Maintenance
If you were to look at your home like it was a human body, the chimney would undoubtedly be the lungs. So, when looking at it like this it would make sense to get an annual check-up to make sure everything is working properly. Your house needs to breathe to be healthy and happy, and it is up to you to make that a priority. Between power washing and chimney cleaning, every year make sure you get an expert in to make sure your home is breathing properly.
Small Problems, Small Fixes
Unless you are doing some chimney rebuilding or repair you may not think about having yours inspected by a professional. While these types of projects always require some professional care, you should now know that it certainly isn’t the only time they should happen. By getting a CSIA certified inspector every year you will be able to save money on major repairs and keep you and your family safe and comfortable. It is most definitely worth a short inspection every year to make sure your chimney is working properly and not going to give you any surprises.
There comes a time in just about every homeowner’s life that their home will require some form of chimney rebuilding. For centuries chimneys have played a crucial role in providing heat and ventilation for a home. People used the chimney for many different household tasks, including cooking, and it was meant to be practical. In the modern age the chimney has lost its essential quality, but still remains a central feature of a lot of homes. Services like chimney maintenance, chimney sweeping and chimney repair are still going strong, despite chimneys being less common and more for aesthetic value.
These days, if you are thinking of chimney rebuilding when it comes to materials and design you have many more options to choose from. Power washing your old brick chimney every spring may end up being a thing of the past once you see what is on the market now.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at four of the more interesting options in chimney rebuilding.
Change Placement Altogether
A big trend in chimneys right now is to completely relocate them to make them a more visible part of the home. You can have your chimney on the outside wall, maybe the side of the house, and really have it make a bold statement about your home. It will look taller and more prominent without the entire structure hiding it. These types of chimneys are much more suited to homes that to rely on theirs for ventilation or the main heat source.
Copper Is Hot
There is nothing quite like the look of a perfectly shined up piece of copper metal. It has a unique glow that just draws your eyes to it. If you are thinking of chimney rebuilding with a different type of material, copper may just be exactly what you are looking for. It not only looks great but it is a fantastic insulator as well. Chimney cleaning may be a little more work with copper panels, but it will be well worth it.
Nothing Is Straight These Days
Straight is boring in architecture these days, it has been played out for a very long time. With new materials and building techniques, you don’t have to have the basic straight standing brick chimney anymore. Get creative with your chimney rebuilding, have yours leaning to the right or left, or even have it leaning back staring at the sky. The sky is the limit with these types of designs, so have fun with it.
Why Only One?
Since your chimney is playing more of an eye-candy role these days why not pair it up with a partner? A lot of homeowners are defying standard roofing practices and adding a second, or even third chimney just for aesthetic value. You can do some interesting things when adding multiple chimneys. If money is not the biggest concern with your new chimney it is definitely worth considering more than one.
So Many Choices With Chimney Rebuilding
You have an untold amount of choices in roofing and chimneys now, and that can be a bit overwhelming for the average homeowner. Know what your sense of style is, your budget, and what type of functionality you need in a chimney and you will be able to choose a design that is perfect for you.
Cincinnati is known for having some pretty wet weather throughout the calendar year, and there are extra precautions that homeowners need to take to keep their homes safe. Chimney maintenance is crucial for the overall protection of your home, as well as keeping your chimney itself working as efficiently and safely as it can.
Water getting into your home can cause catastrophic damage if there is enough of it, so you need to be prudent in protecting yourself. Waterproofing is a great thing to do for every part of your home, but the chimney is an especially vulnerable area that needs to be protected. The material that most chimneys are made out of is brick and mortar, which are wonderfully sturdy materials, but water will always find a way in if it can. Chimney maintenance really needs to have waterproofing included so you can have peace of mind, as well as protection for your entire home.
Keep reading to learn more about why waterproofing is an important part of your roofing and chimney maintenance.
Chimney Maintenance Is Better Than Repair
Mother nature can be scary and water can absolutely devastate something like a house, so it pays to take precautions. If you think about the amount of damage that water can do, it is prudent to keep maintenance and minor repairs up to date. By spending a little bit of time and money every year on chimney repair you could inadvertently save yourself massive amounts in the future.
Take the time during spring and fall cleaning to focus your attention on your chimney. You may even want to get a professional involved to carry out a thorough chimney cleaning and chimney sweeping. They can also advise on what can be done to waterproof your chimney to prevent any further damage being done in the future. It is in your best interests to keep up with chimney maintenance to avoid a catastrophe down the road.
What If I See Damage?
Unless you are a chimney expert you are going to be best off calling in the professionals. If you see damage to your chimney you need to get on top of it before it starts getting any worse. A small crack in the brick and mortar could quickly turn into something much larger if the wonderful Ohio weather decides to blow in and say hello. A professional will be able to assess exactly what needs to be done to repair anything that is damaged already and also waterproof everything for the future.
When it comes to chimney maintenance it is wise to err on the side of caution. Even if you think the damage looks very minor, don’t ignore it. Make sure you get the right person to check it out to be certain that you are not going to be in for any surprises down the road.
The most important part of chimney maintenance and home maintenance, in general, is keeping up with things that need to be done, like power washing and chimney repair. There is no room for procrastination when it comes to your home and the safety of your family. Water damage can be a major issue for homes and can even be completely devastating. To avoid a complete chimney rebuilding, make sure you properly waterproof both your chimney and your entire home.
Your chimney is a very important part of your home, and when there is something wrong with it, it can lead to some major problems. Cincinnati is known to get a little wet at times and homeowners are most likely familiar with doing chimney repair because of water finding its way into their home. Water leaks can be a major issue in your home and cause a lot of damage, in turn costing you a lot of money. That is why you must be proactive with your chimney maintenance and call a chimney repair expert at the first sign of problems.
There are a number of ways you can tell that water is getting into your home through the chimney and it pays to keep your eyes peeled. A lot of the ways water can get in are due to wear and tear or even poor workmanship in some cases. Cincinnati weather really doesn’t do your chimney any favors either. It is crucial that you pay attention to any signs of water coming in so you can stop any leak before it turns into something much larger.
Keep reading to find out some ways you can spot those leaks before they become a problem.
Damage To Bricks And Mortar
If you are fairly inexperienced with building and doing repairs around the home it is going to be difficult for you to spot very specific problems involving chimney leaks. One thing you can do is get up on your roof, or as close as you can, and check the chimney itself for any sort of cracking or damage. Bricks and mortar do not last forever and can develop cracks over time and if they go unnoticed, they can lead a complete chimney rebuilding.
Damage To The Chimney Crown
Even if you are not experienced in chimney repair, during a chimney sweeping you should take a look at the top of the chimney, called the crown. You want to make sure there are no easily damaged or low-quality materials used in your chimney crown. These days a lot of chimney crowns are made strictly from concrete, which is far superior and more durable than older materials like mortar. However, some companies still use regular mortar for the crown of the chimney as it is cheaper and faster to build.
Broken Or Missing Chimney Cap
One of the main causes of water leaks that require chimney repair is due to the factory-made cover called the cap. The purpose of these chimney caps is to keep out water and debris. Installing a chimney cap if you don’t already have one or replacing an old, damaged chimney cap may solve the issue. You may not be able to find minor issues yourself and it would be ideal to get a professional in if you have any concerns.
Damage To The Chimney Flash
If you are not aware of what flashing is, it is used in a lot of different building applications to keep water out. Think of it as the sealing between your roofing and the chimney itself that provides protection from the elements. Sometimes this flashing can become damaged by the weather or from power washing and water will start getting through and cause damage in your home.
Keep Your Eyes Open
When it comes to keeping your home safe from water damage, your own two eyes are going to be your biggest ally. Chimney repair and water damage can become very expensive and time-consuming, and a huge headache in general. Keep your eyes peeled and call in a chimney cleaning expert at the first sign of damage or water leaks around your chimney.
Now that fall is over, we need to start thinking about the winter season here in the Cincinnati, Ohio area. Once the winter hits, the temperatures drop, and we need to start using the chimney. Chimney maintenance and chimney cleaning are essential tasks for homeowners that have fireplaces in their homes. In this short guide, you will be informed of the top five considerations when choosing a chimney sweep for your home.
- Hire a professional
The number one consideration when choosing a chimney sweep is to use a professional. Do not attempt to clean your own chimney if you have never done so before. Do not hire a neighbor or a friend of a friend, as you do not know if they have the education, experience, insurance, or even a roofer who have never performed a chimney sweep before. Make sure you go with a respectable person or company that has years of experience under their belt!
- Education & experience
Another consideration when choosing a chimney sweep is to take the knowledge and expertise of the chimney sweep into account. If they are brand new and have never performed a chimney sweep, your home may not be the best one for them to learn on! On the other hand, if the individual has years of experience and is certified in their profession, you want to snatch them up as they will do a great job getting your home ready for fall!
When hiring a professional of any kind, you want to verify if they have insurance. The reason this is important is that of liability. If the chimney sweep is on your roof performing necessary chimney maintenance and chimney cleaning and they fall off your roof and do not have insurance, you could be liable for their injuries because they fell off your roof. If you do not have the knowledge or the time to complete chimney cleaning on your own, it may be wise to seek help from a professional handyman or vent cleaning company. Just like with HVAC maintenance, roofing fixes, power washing, cleaning of the gutters, simple remodeling, and exterior painting, make sure to investigate the company thoroughly to determine if they are respectable, accountable and insured before hiring them to perform any work for you!
- Online reviews
Another consideration to take into account when choosing a chimney sweep is to look at online reviews. Sites like Angie’s List, Yelp, and the Better Business Bureau are all places you can study to make sure the individual you select is acting in good faith and is responsible for their tasks. It will state in the reviews if the person you are considering is highly rated or if you should pass on their services.
- Price comparisons
The last consideration you need to take into account when choosing a chimney sweep is the cost of the individual you plan on using. There can be large price differences between chimney sweeps based on experience as well as location. You want to make sure you are getting the best value you can, and the best way to accomplish this is complete price comparisons between area professionals.
As you can see, there are multiple things to look at when hiring a chimney sweep. You want to ensure you have chimney maintenance and chimney cleaning performed every year to keep your home in good condition and to have heat when it is needed. If you follow our advice on the top five considerations when choosing a chimney sweep, you will have the warmest and cleanest chimney in all of Cincinnati!