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Common Replacements for Chimney Parts

It's time to fix your chimney up. Start by replacing those parts that have not been working the way they should and those that poses a threat to your family's safety.

It’s time to fix your chimney up. Start by replacing those parts that have not been working the way they should and those that poses a threat to your family’s safety.

Your chimney system is comprised of numerous parts, all of which are inspected by a chimney professional during your yearly chimney inspection and sweeping. To prevent major chimney system repairs, it is of paramount importance to make minor repairs as soon as problems arise. Some parts are in the line of fire more than others and are adversely affected by the heat, while other parts are exposed to the elements, thereby causing them to wear out faster. Either way, these parts need to be replaced at one point or another. Keep reading to get a better understanding of some of the more common chimney repairs that our technicians encounter.

Help—My Mortar Joints are Crumbling

The mortar used in the construction of your chimney is exposed to the elements on the outside and the heat from your firebox on the inside. This greatly speeds up the weathering process. As such, it is common for it to begin to crumble and fall away, leaving open areas between the bricks, which only exposes even more to these weathering agents. As you might guess, this leads to even more issues. The process for repairing your damaged mortar is known as repointing. During this process, the damaged, old and loose mortar on your chimney is removed from the joints between the bricks and replaced with new mortar or masonry repair caulk. Only a skilled professional should repoint a chimney, as the work requires an experienced hand.

Caps Aren’t just for Baseball

The basic job of a chimney cap is to cover the chimney’s opening in an effort to keep water, birds and other wildlife, leaves, twigs and other debris from getting into your chimney and/or house. Water is directed away from the center and off the sides of your chimney. Birds, other wildlife, leaves, twigs and other debris are blocked from getting to your chimney via the mesh screening on the side, thereby preventing it from becoming a giant trash can. If any of these things were to get into your chimney, they could damage the chimney and cause more problems for you down the road. On the other hand, keeping them all out can increase the lifetime of your chimney liner. Deciding to purchase a chimney cap and have it installed by a professional chimney technician is a choice you won’t soon regret.

Chimney Flashing is Nothing to Overlook

Chimneys are notorious for leaking, and the culprit is almost always the flashing, which lies at the point where the chimney rises above the roof. It keeps water out of the chimney, protecting both the flue and roof. Flashings are made from a variety of materials (e.g., aluminum, copper, galvanized steel, and/or tin). You’ll want to have new chimney flashing installed is it’s missing, rusted through, falling out or completely covered with roofing tar (a common short-term fix that’s sure to be hiding bigger problems). Many homeowners also opt to have new flashing installed when having new shingles put on because they want it to last as long as the new roofing (anywhere from 25-40 years).

Keeping Warm Air in and Cold Air Out

The main purpose of a damper is to seal the chimney airtight when it’s not in use. Heat rises, and if the chimney isn’t sealed when the fireplace isn’t in use, all of the heat in the house goes up the chimney. Liken this to leaving your door open in the middle of winter. You wouldn’t do that, so why settle for a damper that doesn’t seal properly. There are two different types of dampers: top sealing and throat mount. Each type has its pros and cons; in a perfect world, you’d have one of each installed, as this would provide you with the best overall performance. Dampers are one part of your chimney that you shouldn’t leave to function inadequately.

Ushering those Harmful Gases out of your Home

According to the CSIA, problems in your chimney’s flue can present serious risks to your home and family, because it’s no longer able to perform its primary function: to safely contain and vent the products of combustion to the outside of your home. If your current liner was installed improperly or is deteriorating, it is highly recommended that you either have a new one installed by a licensed professional or, if possible, have your current liner repaired. There are several different relining options (clay, stainless steel, and cast-in place liners), depending on both the type of flue liner you currently have and the overall condition of your entire flue. Because of the critical job completed by your chimney liner, it is a critical part. Every chimney needs a working liner.

As you can see, a chimney technician’s job is far more labor intensive that one might think. Chimney systems are comprised of many parts that depend upon one another to function at peak levels. A problem with one part of the system can cause another part of the system to have to work harder to pick up the slack, thereby causing that overworked component to wear out at a much quicker rate. This can become a vicious cycle rather quickly if the initial problem isn’t addressed in a timely manner. The moral of the story: repair minor problems as soon as possible so as to prevent them from becoming major problems down the road.

Boosting Efficiency

For those of you who are interested in saving money during the winter months, improving your fireplace’s efficiency is an excellent way because you’ll need to burn less fuel to generate the necessary amount of heat. Your annual chimney inspection and sweeping may or may not be enough to improve efficiency to desired levels. Additionally, better efficiency from your fireplace usually means releasing fewer pollutants into the atmosphere, which in addition to reduced consumption, makes it an environmentally friendly choice that helps both the planet and your local air quality.

Be smart and save money! Find the best way to efficiently use your fireplace.

Be smart and save money! Find the best way to efficiently use your fireplace.

Some simple steps can be taken to improve your fireplace’s efficiency, allowing you to keep your living space warmer while burning less wood.

 Have a Chimney Damper

One of the first steps is reducing the amount of heat lost through the chimney when there is no fire burning. Ensuring that your damper is in good working condition and is sealing properly can best do this. Throat-mount dampers are found in more chimney systems, as they’ve been around longer; however, their top-sealing counterparts are becoming more popular since they more effectively seal off the chimney when the system is not in use.

Slightly Open a Window

An extremely simple step that can be taken to make your fireplace more efficient is to simply find the window nearest to the fireplace and open it a little bit. At the same time, if the fireplace is in a closed room like a den, you can close the doors to the rest of the house and keep all of the heat in that particular room. Having the window slightly open will allow the fireplace to draw cooler air from the outside if it needs to, rather than drawing in already heated air and losing much of that heat through the chimney.

Install an Air Intake

An even better step to improve fireplace efficiency, if you have the ability, is to install a special air intake next to the fire. This intake can pull air in directly from the outdoors, rather than having to pull it through the room from a nearby open window. This ensures greater efficiency by keeping warm air in the house where it belongs, and setting up a flow of warm air coming out of the fireplace into the house, rather than having the fireplace constantly sucking in warm air and losing it through the chimney.

Other Devices

Many devices can also be purchased to improve fireplace efficiency. A radiant fireplace grate, for example, holds the logs up off the ground of the fireplace, making sure more heat is disbursed out into the room, improving efficiency quite dramatically for a very small investment. Electric fans can also be purchased and installed in the form of grate blowers or tube heaters, which will constantly push hot air out into the room, decreasing the amount of heat lost through the chimney and improving overall fireplace performance.

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