Posts Tagged ‘Chimney information’

Is Water Running Down the Chimney?

July 19th, 2012

If you are having a problem with water running down the inside of your chimney and accumulating in the fireplace, then you need to read this post.

The problem probably stems from a bad crown on top of a masonry chimney.  Usually the crown is a top made from concrete that is angled to shed water (it overhangs the brick portion to keep drips from running down the chimney sides).  This structure surrounds but does not encase the clay flues.  The problem of water leaking usually comes in older homes.  Before the mid-1980s, chimney crowns were simply sloped washes put together with leftover mortar.  These crowns can crack and deteriorate, which leaves gaps around the flues.  This is what causes the leaking.  Some people believe adding chimney caps will solve the problem, but if you have a bad crown that might not be enough.

The solution?  If you are comfortable going up on your roof, head up and check the crown.  Use polyurethane to caulk any cracks or gaps you find.  If you’re n

ot comfortable on the roof, call a pro.  Check in the yellow pages under “Chimney Sweeps” and make sure he’s certified.


Why Should I Care About Chimney Liners

March 22nd, 2012

Why Should I Care About Chimney Liners

What you Need to Know About Liners

It may seem like just a part of the chimney that you don’t really need to understand, but a liner is actually a very critical part of every chimney. In fireplaces that burn gas, oil, or solid fuels, a liner helps guide the combustion by-products out and away from the chimney. Every chimney needs a working liner and during your annual chimney cleaning, your chimney professional may tell you that you need a new one or that you need to repair the existing one.

There are a few reasons why you may need a new liner; if your chimney currently has no liner, if it was installed improperly or if it is deteriorating or defective in some way. Before the 1940s, homes were typically built without a chimney liner and as a result, before this time, chimney and house fires were much more commonplace. A liner provides extra protection to the interior of the chimney and helps guide the gases and particles up and out of the structure.

There are three main types of chimney liners. These include clay tile liners, cast-in-place liners, and metal liners. While all 3 options provide adequate protection for your chimney flue, there are different circumstances when each variety may be the best option for you.

Clay Tile Liners – Usually Built During Home Construction

In many older homes you will find clay tile liners in the chimney. This method has been around since the 1900s and there is good reason why it is still used today. Clay tiles can withstand extremely high temperatures without damaging or hindering the performance of the liner. Clay tiles also hold up against the corrosive materials that are burned in and pass through the flue to leave the chimney. In addition, the clay tile material itself is relatively inexpensive to purchase and once installed, these tile liners last for about 50 years.

While there are many benefits to using clay tiles, it also has some drawbacks. The materials to create the clay tile liner are inexpensive, but the work that must go along with the installation can be rather costly if it is not built along with the home. Today, for the most part tile liners are installed during the home building process. To replace a tile liner that is falling apart is a more difficult task. Even with the simplest straight chimney, the old tiles must be chipped and broken out from the top of the chimney using special tools your chimney professional will have. Sometimes the chimney walls must be broken through every few feet to take out the old flue and install the new one. And when the chimney is crooked or contains “offsets”, it makes the process much more difficult. To reline the chimney effectively, the tiles need to be cut precisely to fit together within the flue. The installation process is tedious, especially for flues that are not simply perfectly straight. The tile shape is also not really the best shape to line a chimney. The tiles don’t create a smooth interior as each tile is in a square or rectangular shape. For this reason, air gets caught in the spaces between tiles and it may also affect the draft in your chimney. And the tiles can crack with age or if they are damaged. A round liner can eliminate these problems. Due to the difficulty of this job, it is recommended not to take this on as a home repair job. It definitely requires the skills of a chimney sweep professional.

Cast-in-Place Liner – To Reinforce an Existing Chimney

This option is perfect for creating a new flue inside of a chimney that is in poor shape. It works to reinforce the existing chimney and provides a sturdy and effective liner. Similar to the clay flues, cast-in-place liners are not affected by the heat or harmful gases put off from the fire below. For this reason, they are very durable. Cast-in-place liners provide good insulation value and higher temperatures within the chimney. This makes the fires burn cleaner and acquire less creosote buildup as a result. These liners also last a long time (up to 50 years in some cases), just like the clay liners.

The process for installing a cast in place liner, while less invasive than the clay liner, is still a difficult task to take on. One way this liner is created is by a certain mortar mix being pumped into the chimney around an inflated rubber bladder to create a smooth rounded surface within the chimney. Once the mortar has set, the bladder is then removed with the liner still intact. There are other proprietary methods used by chimney professionals to create this type of liner as well. One uses a bell shaped form that vibrates as it is pulled up through the chimney at the same time mortar is poured into the chimney. The mortar forms around the bell as it is raised the distance of the chimney forming a round flue opening in the mortar.

Metal Flue Liner – Liners that Works in Most Every Chimney

There are many different shapes and varieties of metal flue liners. Typically a stainless steel alloy is used. The metal flue liners come in two different forms; rigid and flexible. The type your chimney professional will choose to use depends on the shape of your chimney. Rigid liners are used in chimneys that are completely straight with no off-sets or bends. While both liners provide proper protection, one advantage of the flexible liner is that it may hold less buildup because it expands and contracts with the temperatures of the chimney which then knocks off any creosote or other buildup when it moves. Corrosion is the most common problem that occurs with metal flue liners. But by using the correct alloy to go with the type of fuel burned the corrosion problem can be addressed. Insulation can also be used with metal liners. Insulation material around the metal liner helps to keep higher heat in the chimney and also helps to get rid of condensation that may cause corrosion over time in the chimney. It also prevents heat from moving into the pipes within the home structure. Metal liners are the perfect option for already existing chimneys that do not have a liner or need a liner replacement. They are a relatively simple installation with almost all of the benefits of the other types of liners. Chimneys without bends and twists are the simplest to install a metal liner into but it can work in all chimneys with the flexible metal liner.

There are a few different types of chimney liners and they all have their benefits, the important thing is to have a chimney liner in the first place. Hire a chimney professional to take a look to make sure your chimney lining is doing it’s job – and if there are deficiencies, to determine the best option for you!

I’m Meeeeelting – The Wicked Witch and Your Chimney

March 18th, 2012

How to Keep your Chimney out of Water’s Destructive Grasp

Just like it is to the “Wicked Witch of the West”, water is the biggest contributing factor in the death a chimney. Rather than melting like the Evil “Wizard of Oz” character, a chimney shows its demise in other ways, but both can easily be overcome by this threat if they aren’t able to stay out of harm’s way.

The winter’s freezing and thawing cycles may have opened a path for moisture and water to enter during spring and summer storms. Now is the time to make sure your chimney systems is water tight and protected against the warm moist seasons that are coming.

A chimney has many different ways of showing signs of water damage and it is important to learn how to spot them so that the problem can be taken care of before it amounts to costly repairs. The key to preventing major problems with a chimney is to keep on top of minor repairs and regular maintenance. Water damage can be extensive and only noticeable in the late stages, so as a homeowner, knowing what to look for in terms of the early signs is the best way to catch problems the beginning stages, along with an annual chimney inspection by a professional. Listed below are some common water related problems and how to find the water source and prevent it from creating lasting harm.


Problem: Broken or Damaged Brick Surface

Brick material absorbs moisture and during the winter the water trapped inside of the brick freezes and thaws along with the changing outside temperatures. One of the results of this freeze then thaw pattern is spalling. Spalling is when the surface of the brick breaks off or becomes damaged. A telltale sign of this taking place are brick pieces on the ground around the chimney base. Also, if the damage is near the bottom, you may be able to see the broken bricks up close. Besides the aesthetic issues, spalling can cause major problems because once the surface of the brick is missing, the brick is now useless as a structural component of the chimney because it no longer offers any support. For this reason, it is important to keep an eye out for exterior damage to the chimney structure to catch problems before they amount to costly masonry repairs.

Solution: “Waterproofing” your Chimney

The most common solution for preventing future spalling is by “waterproofing” the exterior of the structure. It is virtually impossible to actually waterproof a chimney, but the solutions used to coat the outside of your chimney are “water resistant” and add an important layer of protection against moisture. A special type of water repellant treatment is used for this job as the material requires unique features. The solution must keep out moisture, but at the same time it must also allow moisture from inside the chimney to escape. As mentioned before, bricks are porous and absorb and pull water to the interior of the chimney. This is not good for the chimney system, so weather proofing prevents this from happening while still being “vapor permeable” or allowing inside moisture to exit. This way the material is still allowed to breathe, it just will not allow water that will cause problems to the interior of the chimney.


Problem: Rust and Liner Deterioration

It is common knowledge that where there is rust there is also water, so rust in a chimney can only mean one thing. A rusty firebox or damper is a sign that there must be some moisture getting into the interior of the chimney from somewhere. There could also be more damage that is not visible, such as the weakening or destruction of the metal parts within the chimney. Due to the wide range of problems moisture can cause a chimney, it is a good idea to quickly find the source of this unwanted water to ensure more problems do not develop and the current ones do not continue.

Clay Tile Chimney Liners can also be hurt by water that is able to make it through the brick and mortar exterior of your chimney. The smallest crack in your tile liner will open the door to extensive damage that can lead to costly liner replacement costs.

Solution: Chimney Cap, Flashing and Crown Checks

As a problem within the chimney, there are a few different factors that may have had an effect on how the moisture entered the structure. The first place to check in a situation like this should be at the top of the chimney to make sure there is a chimney cap. If a cap is missing, one should be installed as soon as possible as these fixtures are put in place to prevent rainwater, animals, or sticks and leaves from falling into the chimney. After this option is explored, have a professional check the condition of the chimney flashing and crown. Both of these parts of the chimney are in place to block moisture from entering areas of the chimney and one may be damaged or deteriorated and in need of repair. Leaking around the flashing may show up in the attic or on the ceilings adjacent to the chimney.


Problem: Cracked or Missing Mortar

Another chimney issue that can be blamed on water happens when the mortar between the bricks begins to deteriorate. This is a serious concern for the integrity of the structure as missing or damaged mortar will allow water to get behind the bricks and cause structural damage. This is also not a good look for the chimney and may result in missing bricks and large cracks as well. This destruction, like the spalling, is caused by the repeated freezing and thawing of water during those long Connecticut winters.

Solution: Tuckpointing

To repair this damage, chimney professionals replace the missing and damaged parts with fresh mortar. This is done by using special tools to secure the loose bricks once again after removing the crumbling pieces of mortar from the joints. During this process damaged bricks are also removed and replaced. Tuckpointing will not only repair the damage that has recently occurred, but it will also prevent further damage to the surrounding bricks. This process also prevents more water from seeping into the area and causing more problems.

Tuckpointing is done with care to blend in well with the areas that do not need replacing. This way the end result looks more like a new chimney than an incongruous spot replacement. Tuckpointing is an important repair as it will ensure strong and water-resistant joints between the bricks that will increase the life of the chimney and also prevent against future chimney repairs.

Prevention = Keeping a Close Eye on Your Chimney

With an informed, astute homeowner keeping an eye on these signals, a chimney’s fate does not have to be as drastic or final as the one the “Wicked Witch of the West” faced. Instead, the early indicators of water damage will lead to problems being caught in time and preventative steps being taken to put a stop to the damage. Troubles with water can be prevented and caught early if the warning signs are noted in advance. Keep this guide handy and you will always be prepared to take on the moisture!
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