Maintain your chimney to avoid costs later

July 29, 2015

Routine maintenance on your chimney is important for safety against dangerous fires, the stability of the bricks and mortar and the condition of the chimney pipe. Take care of your chimney now and avoid high repair costs later.

Maintain your chimney to avoid costs later

Seal your chimney

  • Brick is pretty tough stuff, but water can bring on its eventual demise.
  • Over the years rain can roughen the surface of your chimney brick — or any outdoor brick, for that matter — and then the bricks begin to absorb water.
  • In cold weather the moisture in the brick expands, and the brick starts to crumble.
  • To arrest this problem, coat your chimney with a clear masonry sealer. Be sure the sealer is labeled for use with brick — some clear sealers are not.

Install a chimney cap

  • It's a good idea to install a cap to keep water out of your chimney.
  • Water dripping into the chimney combines with creosote to create acids that can corrode brick and mortar, as well as galvanized chimney pipe.

Take down that old antenna

  • It's probably been years since you (or anyone else) took your television reception from that antenna strapped to your chimney.
  • It's kind of ugly, and you've been meaning to take it down. Well, here's another reason to do so: The strapping on the mortar can stress the mortar joints.
  • Also, in a strong wind the straps and antenna are pushing the chimney sideways. Both factors can loosen the brick.

Clean your chimney

  • How often you need to clean your chimney depends on whether you use a woodstove or a fireplace and, of course, how often you make fires.
  • One thing is certain: Creosote buildup causes extremely dangerous chimney fires.
  • Woodstoves and fireplace inserts are much more efficient heaters than fireplaces because you can limit the air intake.
  • As a result, wood burns slowly without sucking a lot of air out of the room.
  • Unfortunately, a slow draft means the smoke has plenty of time to cool and solidify on the walls of your chimney.
  • A roaring open fireplace, on the other hand, sucks air out of the room and shoots smoke up the chimney before much of it gets a chance to solidify.
  • If you burn your woodstove throughout the heating season, you'll want to have it cleaned at least once a year. (Don't be surprised if your chimney sweep advises an additional midseason cleaning.)
  • On the other hand, if you burn your open fireplace for occasional entertainment, your chimney might be fine for three or four years. Find a reliable chimney sweep and follow his advice.
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