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 Fireplace Spark Arrestors
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. Fireplace Spark Arrestors Richfield MN
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Diagnose Your Chimney's Leaking ProblemHydraulic 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.
Chimney Repair - The 5 Most Common Chimney Issues and How to Fix ThemThere 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 Buildup 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. Blockage 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. Brickwork Problems 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. Conclusion 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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