This a tougher question than it sounds. The simple answer is: The National Fire Protection Association Standard 211 says, “Chimneys, fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances. Cleaning, maintenance, and repairs shall be done if necessary.” This is the national safety standard and is the correct way to approach the problem. It takes into account the fact that even if you don’t use your Chimney Cleaning FAQs much, animals may build nests in the flue or there may be other types of deterioration that could make the chimney unsafe to use.
The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that open masonry fireplaces should be swept at 1/8″ of sooty buildup, and sooner if there is any glaze present in the system. This is considered to be enough fuel buildup to cause a chimney fire capable of damaging the chimney or spreading to the home. Factory-built fireplaces should be swept when any appreciable buildup occurs. The logic is that the deposit is quite acidic and can shorten the life of the fireplace. Chimney Cleaning FAQs White Bear Lake MN
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Hydraulic Lime Mortar On a Chimney Cap?
As a company, we are committed to the challenge of using sustainable building methods in our historic restoration projects. Sometimes we are asked specific technical questions as to how these two objectives are reconcilable-how can we use historic methods over modern techniques to stand the test of time? Recently, we received just such a question: "I am committed to using the sustainable and historically accurate natural hydraulic lime mortar on my chimney cap, but how will the natural lime mortar hold up in the long run?"
This is a valid question. After all, Portland is harder than natural lime mortar, right? So although it is historically accurate, how is it sustainable to use a softer material on a chimney, one of the hardest to reach places and one of the most vulnerable spots on your historic house? Shouldn't your chimney, of all places have a durable and water proof cap? Beautiful homes, that have been meticulously maintained, have often been found to have small plants growing out of the chimney.
First let's consider a few of the attacks a chimney has to endure. The most obvious is the extreme exposure to all forms of moisture: rain, snow, dew and frost. Constantly varying temperatures throughout the year, from cold winter nights to scorching hot summer days add an additional assault on the chimney-the constant expansion and contraction takes its toll. In the dead of winter, when the furnace kicks on and 400 plus degree air suddenly hits a 15 degree chimney flue, then what happens? The resulting pressure has an effect much like putting an untempered glass into a hot oven: it cracks. This expanding and contracting phenomenon has another destructive effect; the clay liner which your chimney is built with will expand upward as it heats up then contract back down as it cools. This effect may further compromise your chimney's structural integrity. As if this was not enough, a surprising attack comes from another part of nature. A chimney is a natural resting place for birds. We have seen the corrosive effect that bird droppings have on the integrity of a chimney cap. While we won't attempt to address all of these issues here, we will address the basic way that we apply a chimney cap.
Needless to say, the chimney has a very difficult and challenging life and it would be advisable for the responsible homeowner to inspect a chimney for integrity-much as he would inspect his gutters for leaks. Just as a leaky gutter will ultimately wreak havoc on any masonry construction, a leaky chimney will do the same. Add the chimney cap to the schedule of five year maintenance checks. Eventually, you may have to repair it, or even replace it completely. As I like to say, a chimney cap replaced in time can save nine.
So, now let's go back to the historical use of hydraulic lime mortar on the chimney cap instead of Portland. Portland is harder and water proof right? Doesn't that mean it will last longer, and need fewer repairs? It's a good theory. But there are more destructive forces at work on a chimney cap than just moisture.
Recall our description of one of the most destructive attacks: thermal expansion and contraction from the flue gasses as they heat a very cold chimney. Portland may be harder, but hardness doesn't handle that kind of expansion very well, it cracks easily and once it cracks it doesn't heal. Earlier, we raised a concern that natural lime mortar is softer, right? But now we see that the softness is a positive thing because it will permit more movement than Portland. If it does crack, it heals itself! This is how it works chemically: the content of natural free lime actually attracts to itself and thus it self-heals, sealing the crack.
The tried and true method we use to apply a chimney cap is as follows:
We apply three coats of mortar. The first two coats consist of two parts course concrete sand, one part 3.5 natural hydraulic lime mortar, and one handful of natural hair or fiberglass. The third and final coat we apply is proportioned as follows: two and one half parts sand, one part 3.5 natural lime mortar, this final coat has a bit more sand; no fiberglass or hair. This method will allow the first two coats to act as a stronger mixture-the fiberglass acts as a rebar of sorts-and the final layer seals the fibrous ends so they won't act as a wick for water absorption; we don't want a conduit for moisture. For a few weeks after the new chimney cap has been applied, it should be covered from moisture-depending on the temperatures-and should be kept damp in hot temperatures.
While the exact method of applying a new chimney cap may vary extensively, we have found that our method works quite well and lasts for many years. It is our commitment to balance the use of natural and sustainable products, while enabling the use of historically accurate products and procedures.
There is nothing quite as comforting as a roaring fire on a cold winter day to warm your heart and your home. A fireplace is something your entire family can enjoy. But you need to make sure chimney repair and maintenance is done correctly in order to ensure your families safety.
The Importance of Chimney Repair
A chimney is designed to draw the smoke and gases produced by a fire up and safely out of your home. This is extremely important since some of these gases are dangerous. One of the most dangerous is carbon monoxide which in large enough doses can kill.
A second important function of the chimney is to contain the excess heat from a fire until it can be vented to the outside air. Most of your home is combustible. If the chimney does not get this extremely hot air outside without leaks it can easily cause a fire in your home.
This is why it is so important for you to make sure that any needed chimney repair is done correctly in order to keep you, your family and your home safe.
Here are some important tips to ensure that your fireplace is working correctly and avoid some common chimney repair issues.
Creosote is an oil that is produced when wood or other solids are set on fire. Over time the creosote can build up on the inside of your chimney. If there is too much buildup it can ignite and cause a fire in your chimney.
Another common chimney repair issue is having a blockage in the flue of your chimney. This can be caused by debris from material dislodging in your chimney or even by animal nests. Blockages, even small ones affect the efficiency of your chimney in getting smoke, gases and heat out of your home.
Cracks Or Holes In The Flue
Some of the gases from a fire are quite corrosive and over time can damage your chimney flue and create the potential for blockages or even allow dangerous gases to seep into your home. Make sure that your flue gets an annual inspection to ensure that it is working correctly.
Another problem is caused if the flue starts to leak and erode the masonry and brickwork around the exterior and require extensive chimney repair work. Too much of this can cause major structural damage which will make your chimney repair much more expensive.
Chimney Cap and Chimney Crown
The chimney cap and crown basically make up the roof of the chimney that surrounds the flue and keeps water and debris from getting into the chimney. If this is cracked or missing pieces it can allow water damage to the inside of the chimney and even damage the ability of the flue to channel gases and heat out of the home. This area also keeps animals, debris and weather out of your flue.
If you see any of these problems when you inspect your chimney, you need to see that any needed repair is made before the fireplace is used. While you may be able to fill small cracks, you should consult a professional for any larger issue. It is always recommended that you have your chimney cleaned, inspected and any needed chimney repair work done at least once a year to ensure its safe operation.
To ensure the safety of your family make sure that you have carbon monoxide detectors in your home. These should be placed on each floor or at a minimum on the floor where your family sleeps. Check them regularly to make sure they are working properly to protect your family from even low levels of carbon monoxide.
By taking care of any needed chimney repair as soon as you see it the costs for the repairs will be much less than if you let the problem get larger. Make sure that your chimney is inspected regularly and it will give you years of safe use.
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Inside and out, you can apply this beautiful design technique to any fireplace you might already have or are thinking of building. The greatest part about this design technique is the fact that you have so many creative options you'll have to really think about what you want before you get started. In one weekend, you can have the fireplace of your dreams.
First of all, you'll be working with concrete. You'll have to learn how to work with concrete and you'll have to learn some concrete resurfacing techniques. But, it's on a small scale and you can literally make concrete look like anything. These techniques you can learn if you have any creative abilities, from doing the concrete to resurfacing. So, there's no need to feel alarmed. You can do it. Have fun with it!
With colorant and the right mixture of overlay material, you can create such designs as pearl, marble, stone and brick. You can make concrete look like wood if you wanted. I have seen concrete resurfacing jobs that made a driveway look like a shiny basketball court. The more creative designs have been the remakes of famous paintings like the Sistine Chapel Ceiling by Michelangelo, The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh, and Woman with a Guitar by Georges Braque. But, you'd have to be a master at concrete resurfacing to achieve that level of artistry. Let's just look at creating interesting designs that you can handle at your own level of artistry, wherever you are as an artist.
Whether you are working on an indoor or an outdoor fireplace, the steps are the same when it comes to creating concrete surfaces. The only difference is the dimensions and I have to leave you to be able to measure and determine those on your own. Moving forward, I'm referring to steps you would take to create an outdoor fireplace from scratch.
What You'll Need
A basic fireplace structure would include a back, two sides and a chimney if needed. The back and the front should overlap the sides so that the corners are flush. The front could be a square opening which would mean you need a front facing slab across the bottom, one on each side and one across the top. Of course the design is up to your creative abilities. If you can do arches or some other unique design, have at it.
Once you've determined the dimensions of the fireplace you want, you'll want to pour the slabs that will make up all sides of your fireplace. Using screws, build the pouring area with plywood and 2x4s in the dimensions of the slabs you will need. Reuse molds if you don't have enough wood for each slab and many of them are going to be the same size. It will take a little longer, but you'll be able to resurface each slab at a time rather than all at once.
Pour the concrete and let it sit until dry. When the concrete is ready, unscrew the screws and pull the molds apart. Be careful not to break your concrete while you remove them from the mold.
When your concrete slabs are ready, you can begin the concrete resurfacing steps. They are not complex. But, they are different for the different designs you might want to attempt.
Make ultra surface polymer. Spray polymer on each surface with a hopper gun. Trowel over the texture to finish. Apply your colorcoat application. Seal.
When you are applying your colorcoat, that's the time to be creative. You can prepare surfaces with tape and make different colored sections. You can spot spray different colorcoats so that you can have a simple design like rustic spots mixed with forest green, tan spots mixed on a dark blue surface or whatever your style would be. It's all up to your creativity.
When you seal, allow to cure for 3 days. Sealant will get in the texture of your concrete and keep water damage from happening. You'll want to use sealant on fireplace projects in your home as well. You never know when you need protection from water damage.
Build the Fireplace
Raise your slabs and begin putting them together. My method is to reinforce the concrete slabs with a wood structure that acts as the support. Attach the concrete slabs to the wood fireplace structure with stainless steel concrete screws screwed from the inside and only three quarters of the way through the concrete.
Put the two sides in place before you put the back and the front in place. That way, you won't be fitting the two sides in between the front and the back, but the opposite. You install the back and then start on the sides. For the front, put the bottom slab in place across the bottom. Then, install the two sides in place and then the top.
Your chimney is up to you. Put a slab across the top, put a roof on top of your outdoor fireplace, or build yourself whatever you want. It's a ventless fireplace so you don't need a chimney if you don't want one. You can build one though if it would make you happy.
Install your fireplace insert and you are ready for a wonderful evening around the fireplace. You'll want to completely plan out your fireplace and make sure that you have the materials you need. So, make sure you consult construction books at your local hardware store. But, this project is completely doable by you and you'll have some fun creating your designs that will bring you enjoyment for a long time to come.
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