When the weather turns cold everyone starts to think about their nice toasty fireplace….. but if it’s needing repairs or to be cleaned they may have to wait on that warm toasty fire until they call the Chimney Expert!
Why is it important to have a quality professional come clean and inspect the fireplace? What dangers can he spot and possibly prevent? Watch this video for more!
At the property we’re at today, the customer has requested a sweep and inspection. So what we’re going to do is we’ll start out inside, take a look at the firebox, make sure the structural integrity of everything is there, make sure there’s no cracks or obstructions in the flue. Then, we’ll put down the drop cloths. We’ll bring in the vacuum cleaner and hop up on the roof, check everything out up there, make sure the structural integrity’s there on the outside of the chimney, inspect the crown for any cracks, for any deterioration.
We’re going to check for the properly sized chimney cap. We’re going to make sure … just make sure everything’s functioning properly, there’s not water damage. We’re going to check the flashing and make sure nothing’s leaking behind that. Hopefully, everything will go well. If there’s anything that needs to be addressed, we’re going to let the customer know and let them decide what avenue they’d like to take to fix the problem.
Let’s start out with the basics of what we’re looking at here. This top part is called the crown of the chimney. It’s basically a layer of mortar. What it’s designed to do is keep water from being absorbed inside the bricks when rain hits it. It should be tapered down so the rain will flow off of it. This is going to protect the top of the chimney. It’s going to hold all of the bricks together. You can tell in this chimney it has three flues. This one is going to the furnace. Usually the smaller flue is going to a furnace, some kind of an oil furnace or gas. Sometimes these are not being used. A lot of people go to central heat and air and they have no use for the furnace anymore.
This one is going to the upstairs fireplace where this customer has a wood stove. And then, this third one over here is going down to the downstairs fireplace where he also has a wood stove. As you can see, this one’s not used at all. Then here at the bottom, this is a common place of failure. This is called the flashing. What this does is it kind of mends the gap between the chimney and the roof. What it is, is it’s pieces of metal that are actually bent into an L and placed under the shingles. They kind of step down as it goes along with the shingles. This keeps the water from getting inside the house. When this goes out you can commonly … You frequently see discoloration in the ceiling and then the beams and wood around the chimney inside the attic start to get discolored and deteriorate.
Doing the inspection, we see something up here that’s definitely not supposed to be. This is a really great example of why it’s so important to have your chimney inspected. I’m going to pull this cap off to let you guys see what’s going on here. First of all, this cap is definitely not up to code. It’s definitely not what you want to see and here’s why. There’s just a grate that was laid on the top of here. As you can see, the grate is pretty clogged up. So we can imagine this isn’t going to be drawing too well. This stuff is also incredibly flammable. So what we’ll need to do here is remove this, sweep everything out, and then get a proper cap put on with the proper clearances, the proper screening.
We’ll also want to do something about these. The reason you don’t want a screen just laying right on the top, animals can just make their nests on the top. Especially, they like the HVAC from the inside in the wintertime, it’s a warm spot because all the heat is being drawn from the inside of the house. In the summertime, it’s cool because all the air conditioning is being drawn through here. So what happens is a bird or a squirrel, most likely a squirrel, will make their nests on top of here. And then say you go to crank up your wood stove or start your fireplace and it’s not going to be able to draw because animals have made their nests on top of here.
This is why you want to have a cap with the proper screening and with the proper cap to keep the water from coming in. Another thing that we’re going to be looking at on this crown is these cracks. It looks like the crown is actually coming loose. This is a big thing with water. A matter of fact, we can probably just … Yeah, see. We can just lift this whole chunk off. What happens is water gets inside of these cracks and it expands and it freezes. When it freezes and it starts to break this stuff apart, then water starts to get through here, soak inside of the bricks, and the same thing happens. The bricks get saturated and it freezes. They’ll actually start to pop.
You can actually see right here where some of the fascia has started to pop off of some of the bricks because of the water getting down into them. So this is another thing that we’re going to have to bring to the attention of the homeowner and give them some options and ask them how they would like to address it. The flashing is another part of the chimney that we’re going to take a look at when we’re doing an evaluation or an inspection. As you can see here, this flashing has clearly been leaking at some point. It appears that somebody’s tried to address this at some point. But what’s happened is you could … I don’t know if you can see on the video but you can see this sagging. Moisture has gotten behind here and it’s made the OSB that’s under it damp and it’s compromised the integrity of the wood so it’s sagging.
As you can see, this is not something that you want on the top of your roof. What we’re going to have to do is inspect a little further. We’re going to have to go up in the attic and take a look at the damage that’s under here. Of course, this isn’t something that I would take care of. We’d want to hire a licensed roofer, a qualified roofer to come and take care of this and probably have some of this wood replaced and redo the flashing.
Another thing we’ll notice is this discoloration on here. This is also from water coming down into the inside. This is just a mildew that grows and it’s … The water soaks into the brick and it just lets this stuff grow. So another reason it’s a good idea to have a waterproofing on your chimney. With this one, I may recommend to the customer having a waterproofing done on the outside of the chimney.
Here’s another thing that we’re going to bring to their attention. You can definitely tell they get some good use out of this. We see a lot of soot buildup, a little bit of third-degrees glazed creosote in here. This is actually a metal liner, which is a lot easier to deal with than your regular terra cotta flue liners. They’re a lot safer and they’re a lot easier to clean. They also draw better. So another thing we’re going to have to bring to the homeowners’ attention. We’ll get it swept out for them and get it taken care of.
Yeah, what we’re doing is we’re going to run a brush that’s the same diameter or a little bit bigger as the diameter of the flue liner in here. In this case, it’s a circle or a round flue liner. So what we’re going to do is use the brush to scrub off all of the soot that’s covering the side of the liner. At the bottom, we actually have the wood stove still inside the fireplace, so none of this soot that’s falling down is going to get inside the house. Once we finish up with this we’ll go inside. We’re going to pull the wood stove out, get the drop cloths down and the vacuum cleaner and suck up everything that’s been swept down.
What you don’t want is soot and creosote to build up to the point where the flue is actually blocked so it can’t vent. You also don’t want what we call third-degrees glazed creosote building up, which we do see here, because that’s what causes chimney fires. It’s incredibly flammable. It has a very high nitrogen content. If a spark hits it or it gets too hot, the actual flue of the chimney will catch on fire, burning this stuff off. What happens with that is the change of temperatures, it’s so drastic it can actually cause these terra cotta flue tiles to crack. Now, with this one it’s not as big of a deal because it’s a metal flue liner. This has a … looks like a 12-inch stainless steel flue liner in it, so you don’t have to worry about the cracking. You can also tell it’s insulated.
But for the most part, chimneys don’t have that kind of a liner. No matter what, you definitely don’t want a chimney fire. So what we’re doing now is going to help prevent that. The shiny stuff we have here is what we call third-degrees glazed creosote. It’s from the moisture that’s inside of the wood, now it gets gunked up and it covers the side walls of the flue, and it hardens and it glazes over. Now I’m just checking it to see how much stuff came off. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of third-degree glazed creosote on here. That stuff, the only way you can really get that off is either with a chain whip, which I don’t like using because it could cause damage to the flue liner, or there are chemicals that you can use. I’m going to run that by the customer to see if that’s maybe an option that they want to pursue.