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.


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 →

Does Your Home Have an Outdated Chimney?

Outdated ChimneysWas your home built in the 1950s or before? Mid-20th century homes have outdated chimneys that may not meet building code requirements. If the chimney was built using a multiple-wythe construction, then the masonry may need to be updated.

What Is a Wythe?

In masonry, the wythe refers to a one-unit, vertical section of a chimney. By one unit, this means it only contains a single column of brick on each side. Older chimneys may contain multiple wythes. While this provided more durability, it also reduced the structure’s draft capabilities.

Homes built in the early 1900s, for example, often contained a two-wythe chimney consisting of an inner wall made from concrete and an outer wall containing bricks. The two columns are held in place using header bricks or metal ties. While these chimneys withstood the test of time, the construction did not allow for adequate insulation.

Furthermore, early tuckpointing techniques seldom contained the addition of weep holes. Weep holes are gaps in the mortar that provide for ventilation and drainage. Even if weep holes were included, it was usually only the outer wall that contained them. Continue Reading →

How to Keep Wasps Out of your Chimney

Keep Wasps Out of your ChimneySwarming wasps invoke fear. The terror is multiplied when they make their way inside your home. While wasps typically form nests around eaves and roof overhangs, they may also build a nest inside the chimney. Luckily, only a few minor adjustments are needed to keep wasps out of the chimney for good.

Install a Chimney Damper

Wasps tend to build their nest beginning in the spring and continuing into the summer. Well, summer is now in full swing, which means it’s wasp season. If your chimney doesn’t have a damper or cap, then there’s a good chance they’ve already built a nest inside.

A chimney cap or damper helps keep out debris, water, rodents, and insects. When dampers are closed, they form a perfect seal that prevents anything from entering. When the fireplace is used, the damper is opened, and the smoke and burning embers will prevent anything living from making its way in. Continue Reading →

Is Your Chimney Masonry Spalling?

powers-chimney-6If you have a brick chimney, you should have it inspected annually for signs of masonry spalling. Environmental elements like wind and rain can cause the brickwork to erode over time. This can result in costly chimney repairs if the issue isn’t addressed immediately.

What Is Masonry Spalling?

Spalling basically refers to any form of damage to masonry, including cracking, chipping, flaking, and crumbling. Spalling usually occurs in more humid locations. Brick is porous and absorbs moisture from the air. The brick retains the water and when the absorbed moisture freezes in the winter, it causes the brick to expand. In some cases, the brick might even partially explode, creating a jagged and uneven surface.

Spalling can also occur a number of other ways. DIY errors like painting over the surface with latex paint can trap moisture. Spalling can also occur simply due to old age and years of wear and tear.

The original construction of the masonry comes into play as well. If soft brick was used, as opposed to more durable hard brick, then the masonry is more susceptible to spalling.

What You Can Do About It

Once spalling is detected, you’ll need to bring in a masonry service. The entire chimney stack and crown may need to be rebuilt. Once restored, the technician may also waterproof the masonry to seal the surface and prevent it from absorbing moisture. Continue Reading →