Chimney Maintenance 101: The Different parts of Your Chimney and What they Do

Chimney Maintenance 101: The Different parts of Your Chimney and What they Do

From the outside, your chimney looks like little more than a brick tube jutting out from your roof. Actually, depending on the construction specifications of your chimney, it might have more than 20 discrete components, each of which are important and could cause problems should they stop working. And, though masonry can last a lifetime, it requires regular maintenance and upkeep. This is especially true of masonry chimneys, which take a heat beating with regular use and are more exposed to the elements than other masonry components. Keep reading to learn from the top down what some of the major components of your chimney do and the care they need through the years.

Chimney Cap

Chimeny Cap Seattle

*image from wikipedia

A chimney cap is a metal cap installed to the very top of a chimney. A cap keeps precipitation from driving straight down the flue, which can wear out flue lining and degrade masonry. Most caps will also keep out curious critters, which are, at best, an alarming problem to confront, as well as wind and other debris.

Chimney Crown

Chimney Crown Seattle

Chimney crowns sit atop masonry chimney flues and a crucial defense against the elements. They direct water out and away from the the chimney and also act as a seal to the masonry beneath them. Without a properly installed and maintained cap, water can seep into masonry and mortar. Even the smallest amount of water can lead to brick flaking, mortar damage, and salt staining.

Flue

Chimney Flue Seattle

Flues are the passageways that direct all the smoke, gas and ash from your fireplace up and out of your home. A flue can be a duct, pipe, vent, or masonry chimney.

Flue Liner

Chimney Flue Liner Seattle

Though, still a flue without one, an unlined flue is incredibly dangerous. Flue lining is typically made of specialized tiles or stainless steel and prevents the accumulation flammable debris. An absent or poorly installed liner can lead to chimney fires.

Smoke Chamber

Between the firebox and flue, a smoke chamber’s sloped walls gently compresses the byproducts of combustion into a smaller space without creating a backdraft.

Chimney Damper

Dampers are lever or pulley operated doors situated between firebox and smoke chamber or at the very top of a chimney. When not using your chimney, the damper seals it off to prevent energy loss and the intrusion of animals and precipitation.

Understanding how your chimney works is a great first step in learning how to properly maintain it. Powers CM can help you with repairs for any of the chimney components listed above.

If you have questions or concerns about upcoming chimney repairs or cleaning, contact the Seattle masonry experts at Powers Chimney & Masonry.

The Benefits of Masonry Building

The Benefits of Masonry BuildingTechnically speaking, Mansory is defined as the process of building structures from individual units that are then bound together by mortar. Typically, Masonry building includes materials like brick, marble, granite, travertine, limestone, cast stone, and concrete blocks. There’s a reason masonry has been used throughout the ages to create structures like the Mayan pyramids, the Roman Coliseum, and even much of Seattle’s Pioneer Square: it’s long-lasting; economical; quick to put up; resistant to termites; rot; mold; and fire; and, in modern times, can spell tax and insurance savings.

While Masonry is known as an extremely durable and long lasting form of construction, the overall quality of materials, mortar, workmanship, and even the pattern with which the units are assembled can severely limit masonry’s benefits. In order to truly take full advantage of masonry, and the benefits that it carries with it, you’ve got to find a Mason with proven experience.

1. Strength

Overall, masonry is incredibly strong. It’s the complete building material package, offering foundation, finished exterior, interior, insulation, and primary structural and load bearing elements. It’s versatile too: arches, circles and changes in wall direction can easily be incorporated into masonry plans. If you’re looking for the material that can handle the most weight with the least amount of space, Masonry is your best bet.

2. Longevity

Masonry doesn’t just last a lifetime, it can last several. Most ancient structures still standing were constructed using masonry systems. Seattle masonry is no exception. The Pioneer Building on 1st Avenue was completed in 1892! Having survived several earthquakes and the Great Fire of 1889, it’s a prime example of masonry’s structural and aesthetic longevity. Even nearly 120 years later, the Pioneer Building remains a beautiful visual landmark and shining illustration of masonry’s timeless appeal.

If you’re a homeowner considering masonry building or repair in Seattle, this translates to less maintenance and little to no structural repairs in the immediate future.

3. It’s a Green Way to Build

Masonry is an excellent green building material for the short and the long-term. For one, choosing masonry leaves natural and limited resources like timber in tact. Additionally, masonry also has excellent thermal mass, or the ability to resist change in temperature. That means that a masonry structure will stay warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, lowering energy usage and utility bills for occupants.

4. Termite Resistance, Protection from Mold and Rot

Seattle masonry offers a solution to three problems that plague so many buildings in our damp and temperate climate: mold, rot and termites. Unlike wood, brick exteriors offer nothing for the elements to rot or termites to eat. They can also greatly reduce or eliminate the build-up of interior molds and funguses, which, more than being difficult to clean, can cause serious health problems.

5. Little to No Maintenance

We touched on it briefly before, but masonry building on the whole is very low-maintenance. Case in point, there are many ancient structures which dot the globe that are still standing despite centuries of neglect. Masonry’s long-lasting integrity doesn’t just offer peace-of-mind, it also spells out lower long-term costs for homeowners and even less environmental impact. Of course, if your masonry does need maintenance, Powers CM provides premier masonry repair in Seattle.

6. Insurance Benefits

Even insurance companies can’t help but acknowledge the benefits of masonry-built structures. Because masonry is resistant to so many of the problems homeowners are insured against, many insurers offer up to 15% discounts on homeowners’ policies.

Whether it’s a whole building, a patio, or a chimney, masonry provides an undeniably long-lasting building material that will (literally) weather the elements and aesthetic trends for lifetimes to come.

Didn’t think masonry carried all those awesome benefits along with it? It’s true! Not only does masonry look great, it carries with it a number of substantial benefits that any homeowner would be wise to take advantage of.

If you’re considering adding masonry elements or structures to your Seattle home or repairing the ones you already have, take advantage of the warm weather and contact Powers Chimney & Masonry today to schedule a consultation!

5 Reasons Spring is the Best Time for a Chimney Sweep or Repair in Seattle

Why Sweep Your Chimney at All? Chimney Sweep or Repair in Seattle

A fireplace can bring a lifetime of joy and warmth through the cold winter months. Using your fireplace and chimney, however, leaves deposits of flammable substance called creosote inside your chimney. If left untended, creosote can build up and cause a chimney fire. Hiring a Seattle chimney sweep is the best way to remove dangerous creosote deposits from your chimney and ensure many more cozy winters by your fireplace. If you’re looking for a chimney sweep or repair in Seattle, and you’re wondering about the best time for doing so, allow us to share five quick reasons why spring is the best time of year to have your chimney swept.

1. Most Availability Is in the Spring

Most homeowners won’t schedule chimney sweeping or repairs until the end of summer when they can see winter on the horizon. This might mean waiting lists that are weeks or even months long! Many larger chimney repairs and projects simply can’t happen during the rainy winter months, which means that our books tend to be more open as things start to dry out in the spring. If you want to ensure that a pro from Powers CM takes a look at your chimney before the winter, make sure to aim for a spring appointment. Continue Reading →

How to Detect and Treat Fireplace Mold

fireplace moldMold is something you expect to find in the basement or bathroom. Mold growth is actually possible in any area prone to moisture buildup. It’s also common in the fireplace where it can accumulate for years without being detected. If you wouldn’t tolerate mold in any other part of your home, then you shouldn’t put up with fireplace mold either.

What Causes Mold in the Fireplace?

It’s not uncommon for fireplaces to go for more than half a year without being used. The chimney remains poorly lit and poorly ventilated during these periods of inactivity. Moisture can also accumulate in the interior because of the lack of a chimney cap or because the masonry is not waterproof. These elements together provide the perfect staging ground for mold to appear and rapidly multiply.

Symptoms of Mold Growth

Mold may appear on the chimney exterior. More often, though, growth occurs in the interior where it’s almost impossible to spot without a professional chimney cleaning.

Of course, mold is known for causing respiratory illness. If you or other occupants have been coughing or wheezing, then there might be mold growth somewhere in the home. Don’t think that fireplace mold affects your health any less because it’s out of sight. Continue Reading →

Wood Burning Tips for Winter

Wood burning tips2017 is here, and so is the full blast of winter. Granted, Snohomish isn’t the coldest city in the country, but it can still get pretty nippy. Now is probably the time of year when you put your fireplace to good use. Of course, be sure to have the chimney cleaned before operation. Once given a greenlight by an inspector, start setting the wood into the firebox. Follow these wood burning tips to ensure efficient use of your firewood.

3 Tips for Burning Wood

1. Only Use Seasoned Firewood

“Seasoned” firewood refers to any wood that has a moisture level below 20%. Avoid using treated or painted wood. Also, avoid throwing items like plywood, particle board, or discarded magazines into the fire. These materials contain toxic chemicals that are released into the air when burned.

2. Let the Wood Dry for at Least a Year

If you prefer gathering and seasoning your own wood, then let the wood cure for about a year before using it. This allows ample time for the wood’s moisture level to drop below 20%. Here’s a simple test to know if the wood has sufficiently dried: take two wood pieces and bang them together. If you hear a sharp crack, then they’re ready. If the sound is dull, then the wood needs more time. Continue Reading →

How Much Wood Is in a Cord?

amount of wood in a cordSome homeowners enjoy venturing into the countryside to collect their own firewood. However, if you buy your firewood, you should be sure you’re getting a full cord. Some sellers sell wood by the cord but actually provide less. They rely on the fact that most buyers don’t know the actual amount of wood in a cord or don’t bother to measure the stack.

A Cord of Wood Explained

Firewood is usually sold in cords. One cord is a stack that’s 4-feet deep, 4-feet high, and 8-feet long; this amounts to 128 cubic feet. It’s not recommended to buy a cord of wood that’s not stacked since this makes it impossible for you to measure.

You can also “eye ball” the wood to see if it’s close to a stack. A full cord of wood should take up about half the cargo bed space in a standard sized pickup truck if neatly stacked. Continue Reading →

Christmas Decorations for the Fireplace

Fireplace DécorThe fireplace and its mantel have always been a popular spot for decorations. While we’re not a home design company, we do know a thing or two about décor. We have a few good ideas in mind for Christmas decorations for the fireplace. The decor will bring spirit to the area where your family will be gathered for those chilly December nights.

Fireplace Decorations for Christmas—Our Top 5 Favorites

1. Garlands

Garlands especially look good around masonry consisting of brick or stone. If the mantel consists of either of these material, then wrap a strand of garland that encompasses the entire perimeter.

2. Mix and Match Holiday Accessories

Use a combination of accessories. Place large pillar candles next to a wooden Nutcracker soldier, or a ceramic reindeer adjacent to a snow globe. These items can be placed atop the mantel or at ground level, just to the side of the firebox. Continue Reading →

Common Problems of a Damp Chimney

Damp ChimneyIs moisture accumulating in your chimney? A damp chimney is problematic, and all too often homwowners don’t detect it—until it’s too late. This results in major damage and costly repairs. When water collects in the chimney’s interior, something is wrong.

What Causes a Damp Chimney?

While the masonry is quite sturdy and can last well over a century, the mortar that holds the bricks together is a different story. Mortar is prone to cracks, which allow water to seep into the structural matrix. Tuckpointing is the process which fixes decaying and crumbling mortar by restoring the seal between the bricks.

Water can also make its way in through the chimney crown. This is the cement at the top of the chimney. The crown can crack just like the mortar, allowing rainwater to seep in.

Another culprit is the flashing around the chimney stack. The flashing is installed at the junction between roof and chimney and dressed into the brickwork to prevent water seepage. However, the flashing can erode, either from age or from improper installation. Continue Reading →

Why a Chimney Video Inspection Is Necessary

Chimney Video Inspection │ Snohomish │ Powers ChimneyWe can’t tell you how many times people have insisted that a DIY chimney inspection is sufficient. A simple visual inspection down the flue provides very little insight into the chimney’s condition. A chimney repair usually, but not always, begins with a chimney video inspection. The keyword here is “video.”

Chimney Inspection Via Video

Some chimney liners have multiple bends that make it impossible to spot potential problems, such as cracks and creosote buildup. With that said, though, not all chimneys may require a video inspection. A reputable chimney sweep service should offer three levels of inspections established by the National Fire Protection Association. These levels are as follows:

  • Level 1 —This is the most basic inspection, and the one that’s normally carried out during routine annual checkups when no problems are reported. A camera may or may not be used depending on the type of chimney.
  • Level 2 — This is a more in-depth inspection and involves the use of a closed-circuit camera. Regulations require a level 2 examination before the home is put up for sale.
  • Level 3 — This is the most in-depth inspection and is usually only carried out after serious damage has incurred, such as from an earthquake or chimney fire. A level 3 checkup determines if a chimney is still structurally safe or if it needs to be replaced altogether. In some cases, a portion of the masonry may be removed to get a close-up look.

Please keep in mind that the homeowner should not carry out even a level 1 inspection. It still requires a professional inspector. Continue Reading →

Is Your Exterior Chimney Detaching?

Chimney Detaching │ Snohomish │ Powers Chimney & MasonryOver time, an exterior chimney may become detached from the home. This puts the masonry in a precarious condition. The bricks could collapse and crush the roof or worse—maybe even fall on someone’s head. A detaching chimney can also create an opening for pests and rodents to make their way indoors. If you suspect your chimney is tilting, then immediately contact a chimney repair contractor.

What Causes an Exterior Chimney to Pull Away?

Chimneys weigh several tons, and most of the weight is concentrated in a single area. To maintain its foundational strength, the structure needs to be built on a concrete footing known as a chimney pad. When a chimney detaches from the house, it is almost always due to a failing footing. This can be caused by poor soil or ground conditions that the footing rests on. Soil as well as pavement and concrete flooring can contract and expand. The resulting heaving can move and weaken the footing.

Symptoms

Visually inspect the point where the masonry and house siding meet. If a gap exists, then the chimney is pulling away. If the chimney partially runs through the home interior, head to the attic and look to see if the chimney is centered in its framed opening. If it’s tilted to one side or another, then it is detaching. Continue Reading →