Is your Fireplace & Chimney System an Unsightly Mess?
The fact that chimneys and fireplaces need regular maintenance may never be more obvious than when they begin to look unsightly. Many homeowners overlook routine maintenance for their fireplace, even though experts recommend annual inspections as a safety precaution. Without routine care of the fireplace & chimney system, wear and tear as well as other problems can begin to detract from function and aesthetics. Crumbling mortar, white staining on the chimney, and black stains above the fireplace hearth are three of the most common issues that cause a fireplace to look unkempt and neglected. After years of use, a masonry fireplace and it’s accompanying chimney may need a makeover, and there’s no better time to upgrade to a top rate fireplace!
Harsh weather conditions such as snow, wind, ice, and rain, can wreak havoc on chimneys. The mortar is especially vulnerable because it is not as durable a material as the masonry. Mortar typically lasts a maximum of 25 years before it begins to crumble. If the mortar isn’t replaced, moisture gets into the masonry. In wintertime, the moisture expands and contracts, causing the bricks or stone to break and flake off. As a result of damaged mortar together with broken masonry, structural integrity is lost. The chimney can begin to lean and will even collapse, if not repaired in time. Not only could a collapsing chimney injure someone, it is very expensive to repair.
White staining, also called “efflorescence,” is not supposed to be on a chimney; and it is a strong signal that something is wrong with the chimney system when you see it. Actually, the staining is usually white but can also be other colors, such as green, yellow, or brown. The cause of the staining is that there is excess water as well as salt in the masonry and soluble solutions move through the masonry and evaporate on the exterior. The result is a deposit of salt residue. At first, the salt is a crystallized or powdery substance on the stone, brick, or block masonry. Eventually, if not removed, the staining begins to look fluffy or fuzzy.
The color of the staining depends upon the type of compound in the masonry. Not all masonry chimneys will experience staining, even if there is moisture in the system, because they don’t have any soluble salt in them.
The most important thing to understand about efflorescence is that it is proof that the chimney system has too much moisture in it. Various aspects of the chimney serve to keep water out, such as the mortar, but they can fail, if repair is needed.
The easiest of the messy problems to notice is when black soot stains the hearth above the fireplace. The stains are obviously caused by a smoky fireplace, but getting to the cause of the problem is not so easy. There are many different potential causes of a chimney that doesn’t pull combustion products outside adequately. In addition to causing unsightly stains, the toxic fumes in the home can be dangerous. Respiratory problems can be caused by the smoky fireplace. If there is an obstruction in the chimney, there could even be deadly carbon monoxide fumes entering the home.
Professional chimney technicians can help you identify the reason for your smoky fireplace.
Keep in mind that if your chimney or fireplace looks unsightly, it’s a signal that something has gone wrong and repair is needed.