AmChimney.com….American Chimney Cincinnati, OH
Here is another great article, about the need for installing a chimney cap! A bigs thank you goes out to Doug Hetsch and his entire team over at ” All American Chimney ” in beautiful Louisville KY. After reading this article, if you have time jump over to our interview with Doug Hetsch on our HomeContractors HQ– podcast Episode 25 .
When you have a chimney, one of the most important things you can to do prolong its life and protect it from damage is to prevent water penetration. All American Chimney Service knows how important it is to keep water out of your chimney, and we are proud to offer several maintenance and installation services that are the best ways of preventing water damage to your chimney. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends a chimney cap as the least expensive preventive method against water penetration. Over our years of working on chimneys in the Louisville area, we have repaired many chimneys that were damaged because they were not capped. Sometimes the damage can become so bad that we have had to rebuild chimneys. This is one of the reasons why the CSIA has called water the biggest enemy of masonry chimneys. We would like to tell you more about chimney caps and how they can save the life of your chimney by protecting it from water penetration.
Without a good quality chimney cap installed at the top, your chimney is an open hole on your roof. Water from rain and melted snow can easily get inside your chimney to penetrate into the bricks and mortar of your chimney. This trapped moisture can lead to spalling damage in the winter, which is when the water freezes, expands, and thaws. The repeated freeze/thaw cycles cause the bricks and mortar to crack, break apart, and become loose from the chimney. Making sure your chimney is protected by a chimney cap at its top will help to decrease the spalling damage to the bricks and mortar.
Not only do chimney caps prevent water from getting into chimneys, they also keep birds, squirrels, raccoons, and other wild animals out of the flue. All American Chimney Service can show you chimney caps that are equipped with metal mesh sides that make it impossible for any critters to even try to enter your chimney to use as a nesting spot. These metal mesh sides serve another important purpose as they keep hot sparks and embers from jumping out of the top of the chimney. This reduces your risk of experiencing a fire on your roof or in your yard. If you are having trouble with the draft in your chimney, we can also show you chimney caps that are vented on the sides to direct the wind to help pull exhaust gases out of the chimney.
By serving several important functions, a chimney cap is one of the most essential components of a chimney and venting system. Contact us at All American Chimney Service to find out more about our chimney cap sales and installation services.
Email questions to Ask The Chimney Sweep.com
Our chimney is 27″ wide by 25″ high by 23″ deep. The chimney is in a relatively new home ( 4 years ). We have a special air system installed by the builder. There is a vent under the grate that we keep open when operating the fire. The fireplace working really, really well and we use it a lot. If we could make one wish, it would be to make the opening to the fireplace bigger. All of what I am reading is that “if” this is even possible, it would be a big job and quite expensive. We are just about to reface the fireplace and wanted a firm answer from an expert on whether such a change is recommended and safe, and also the cost involved.
Clay Lamb’s reply to Ann
Because all of our homes are so darn airtight, this could be a complex re-design situation.
There are many factors that can effect the draft as well as the air balancing in our homes today. Design factors must be taken into consideration for the fireplace to draft properly. The height and shape of the flue tiles will all draft differently (round, rectangle or square). Location of the fireplace (on an outside wall or in the center of the room), ceiling height and the shape of the room that your fireplace is located in all can play a factor. Location of HVAC supply and return vents can be crucial, as well as the location of staircases or whole house attic fans.
Proposed changes to the fireplace opening must be able to pass your local building codes in your area. Other fireplaces located in your home and how they might function after the modifications have been made need to be considered. Also, that “special air supply” you mentioned located under the grate may also need to be evaluated.
There are way too many variables for me to give you a firm answer or estimate of cost here online.
The original home builder may provide insights, or your HVAC contractor may also shed light on this project. I would consider speaking with a designer or architect as well.
You may find a reputable chimney contractor who might find interest in your project in your area by using this link to the National Chimney Sweep Guild locator: http://www.ncsg.org/search.
It is very important to go online and read their customer reviews from Google, BBB and Angies List.
Personally, I love taking on projects like this and I have successfully completed many of these projects, but I have walked away from just as many as well. Yes, it would be “a big job and quite expensive,” but I’ll bet this a is very do-able.
Please send me some pictures (when) this project comes about.
Here are two fireplace projects from our (Ask The Chimney Sweep video) library.
* See Through Fireplace 7 of 7 Final
* Fireplace Resurfacing
The fireplace has certainly changed since its original design so long ago. Improvements have been made since the primitive use of fire containing devices, one of the most recent of which being the factory built or prefabricated fireplace unit. A prefabricated unit, or prefab, is made of metal instead of brick or other masonry materials. A prefab uses insulation, pipes which are cooled by air, and blowers to move the heated air around the house. These systems are very sophisticated and manufactured and listed for use as a unit. Each part is approved by the Underwriters Laboratory to be used in a certain way under certain conditions with other parts that make up the unit.
A prefab doesn’t require a cement base for a foundation like a masonry unit due to how much lighter the prefab is. These systems have either cooling spaces in which air pockets act as insulation or actual insulation which allows the units to be closer to combustibles than would be otherwise.
Factory built fireplaces generally last until a part needs to be replaced but is no longer manufactured. At this time the prefabricated unit has reached the end of its useful life because it needs that specific part in order to be operated according to UL standards. They must be installed according to manufacturer’s instructions and is not easy to remove in order to conduct an inspection.
Never install a wood stove into a prefabricated unit, a prefab is meant to be operated according to the manufacturer’s instructions exactly. Similarly, it is not safe to burn paper waste in a prefabricated fireplace unit because of how hot these fires get and how quickly they get so hot. (Since its close to the holidays, please remember that it is not safe to burn your Christmas tree in a prefab either; it produces a similar effect to a paper waste fire.) Also, when operating your prefab, the damper must be completely open and should remain open until the fire is completely out. Prefabs require less clearance than other appliances and are easily to install in most areas of the home because they are so light weight.
Prefab Fireplace Repair and Replacement
Over the past few years, there has been some commotion in the industry regarding non-vented gas logs. (BEING UPDATED)
A chimney flue is very important because it carries dangerous byproducts of combustion out of your home. Fires have been used for warmth for centuries, and over time our knowledge of what needs to be done in order to keep the chimney safe has evolved. A dirty or damaged chimney can be potentially destructive in that it can cause a chimney fire which can significantly damage your home and hurt or kill those who live inside of it.
What is a chimney fire? A chimney fire occurs when a fire actually moves up into the flue system so that it is not burning only in the specially designed firebox, it is burning in the chimney itself. A chimney is designed to hold the hot gases that are byproducts of burning a fire. It is not designed to hold a fire.
Some characteristics of a chimney fire include a lot of dense smoke and intense heat and a noise that sounds like a freight train rumbling by. Not only does a chimney fire cause damage to your chimney which almost always results in the chimney having to be relined or rebuilt, it can damage nearby combustibles which include walls to your home, the roof, etc.
The worst part about the incredible damage that a chimney fire can cause is the fact that it was completely preventable in the first place. A properly working and designed chimney is capable of ventilating the extremely hot gases that are the byproducts of combustion. However, when the flue system is missing mortar joints or has cracks, a chimney fire is able to happen because the fire is able to catch the wood framing of the home. Creosote buildup is another condition conducive to a chimney fire occurring. Any amount of creosote is capable of being caught on fire, but an excessive buildup is particularly bothersome to chimney professionals because this provides a chimney fire with plenty of fuel to burn for a long time, causing destruction.
In prefabricated, metal chimneys, it is important to use only Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL) listed parts for replacement. Most UL listed parts and systems have been tested by this organization to withstand very high temperatures (above 2000 degrees) but under chimney fire conditions can still be damaged. When a prefab unit has been damaged by a chimney fire it must usually be replaced completely.
Cracked flue tiles, warping of metal parts associated with your wood burning system, warped or discolored chimney caps, and very puffy creosote which may be multicolored are all indicators that a chimney fire has occurred. A chimney that is cleaned regularly and inspected with video equipment is the safest chimney to burn a fire in. If a chimney fire should occur you must get out of the home immediately and call the fire department. If you are able to without putting yourself or anyone else in danger, before the fire department arrives it is helpful to spray down the roof of the home to prevent the fire from spreading to the roof.
An expansion joint around the top flue tile serves a very practical purpose. As the fire burns in the fireplace, the hot gases of combustion vent up the flue system. These hot gases in turn warm the flue system, causing it to expand. If the crown is constructed such that the cement is installed all the way up to the top flue tile, as the top flue tile expands when it heats, it will crack the crown itself which can cause water problems or other problems to occur.
An expansion joint is created by leaving a gap between the actual cement crown and the top flue tile and filling it with a flexibleChimney crowns, even when constructed professionally, are often installed incorrectly. Everyone has a different philosophy on the proper construction of a chimney crown from the material that should be used to construct the crown to its whether the crown should hang over the edge of the actual brick on the chimney or stay flush. One fact that cannot be disputed, however, is the need for an expansion joint around the top flue tile. A chimney crown lacking an expansion joint around the top flue tile will almost always need to be repaired after some time.
This flexible sealant allows the flue tile to expand without pushing against the cement crown, preventing cracking. The flue is most likely to expand and crack the cement in the winter time when it is very cold because the cold cement is even more prone to cracking from pressure exerted on it by the flue tile.
Crowns constructed without an expansion joint around the top flue tile usually need to be reconstructed entirely. Although filling the cracks in the crown is an option, the problem is likely to occur again because the same processes are occurring that caused the cracking in the first place. If your crown is cracking and you do not see an expansion joint around the top flue tile, consult a professional who will be able to assess the situation. Sometimes the cracking is minimal and the professional is able to seal the cracks using a high grade sealant and waterproof the crown to prevent water damage from deepening the existing cracks, but other times the cracking has become so severe that crown reconstruction becomes necessary….. Now I’m starting to sound like a dentist 🙁
Fireplace dampers sit almost directly above the heat of the fire. Over time, the extreme heat and rapid change in temperature can warp and damage the fireplace damper such that they need replaced. A damper must be in one piece that is snug to the flue in order for it to work properly, and if the damper cracks while being rapidly heated and cooled, it will no longer work properly. Replacing a fireplace damper by yourself is possible, and you can save yourself some serious money by foregoing professional consultation.
One step that folks who want to complete the job themselves often skip is actually removing any debris up where the damper sits and also in the firebox itself. Any ashes in the firebox should be removed and thrown away, but be sure that the ashes have fully cooled before manipulating them. We recommend putting the ashes into a metal can
From here the process is actually quite simple. There will be a rod that is fixed inside the chimney by nuts. Use a wrench to loosen the nuts and remove the metal rod. The damper itself will now be able to be twisted off. If your damper has significant rusting, this part may be difficult, and if the metal rod itself has rusted you will want to replace it and the corresponding nuts. You may want to consult a professional in choosing a new damper, but if you do not want to simply taking your existing damper with you when you go to get the new one will allow you to compare dimensions and ensure that you have a proper fit. Very large chimneys may need custom made dampers, but this is rarely the case.
Installing the damper is quite easy– simply slide it back onto the rod in the same fashion that you removed the old damper and fix the rod and damper back into place using the same nuts as before. Be sure it is securely fastened and that it will not wiggle or fall over time. Despite the simplicity of replacing a fireplace damper, I have heard from folks who have installed the damper incorrectly that they lit their first fire after the replacement and their whole room filled with smoke!
This is no problem and is usually not the fault of the damper’s construction.
Put the fire out and look closely at the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure that you have installed it as the manufacturer had intended. If you are still experiencing problems, consult a professional.
When replacing your existing damper, a product now available on the market is called a top sealing damper, where the damper is actually located at the top of the chimney, controlled by a cable that reaches down the chimney, which prevents heated air in the winter from being lost up and out of the chimney. LockTop top sealing damper systems are generally what are installed by professionals these days because of their efficiency and ease of use for the customer.
“Oh my gosh, Honey the ceiling by the fireplace is leaking like crazy, get a bucket, NO…. get lots of buckets”
I get lots of water problems phone calls like this all during our rainy season March – July
I found some interesting rain fall statistics for Cincinnati
Did you know that our heaviest rainfall herein Cincinnati occurs during the month of May, with over 5 inches rainfall
The month of June is 2nd and has over 4” of rain
The months of March, April, and July are darn close to tying at 3.86 rainfall
Cincinnati has on the average 132 days rain that brings us 42 “1/4 inches of rain For a little comparison of a few other cities Portland, OR has 39” and Seattle, WA comes in at about 38”.
Atlanta comes in at 48 inches and Orlando Florida is just a touch over 53inches.That is almost 41/2 feet of rain.
*My Job is to help identify where the water is making entry into the structure of a home.
I want you to keep in mind, that there actually may be multiple points for water entry into the home.
When addressing water problems use “ a systematic process for eliminating each possible points for unwanted water entry”
*It is my opinion that almost in all residential interior water problems are derived from
… One of three possibilities Area of Concern.
Starting from the top of your roof it heir could be damaged or actually missing shingles.
There could also be water entry through popped nail holes on the wood decking where the shingles were once installed.
Did you know that just one little hole could allow gallons of water into your home?
There are a number of roof penetrations that may be problematic, such as those rubber boots around those short plumbing vent stacks, these could be cracked or worn out from the sun.
Roof vents are those square looking vents are required to exchange the air in our homes and attics. Whole house attic fans, Sky lights and window lintels flashings may need to be re-calked or replaced or weatherized.
There is metal valley flashing on the rooftop that can be found at every angle, rise or dimension of the rooftop shape
There is term called Ice Damming this is where in the winter ice is collecting in the gutter and as it melts on those sunny after noon it refreezes as the sun goes down, but the problem here it that it starts to accumulate and backs-up under the shingle and now is again freezing and meltingand then dripping into the attic, then down into the ceiling in your bedrooms or living room of your home.
A Cricket is a pyramid design that flush rainwater around the backside of a chimney and into the gutter. Then there is the chimney flashing this is a metal collar that fits around the chimney that may have rusted out or damage by raccoon working to pull it back as they are making entry into your attic or maybe tree branches may have been rubbing against it. Metal chimney flashing wraps round the shape of the chimneystack preventing rainwater entry that is running down the roof top shingles.
… Honeys get the buckets it is raining in the living room; all over new Flat screen TV 🙁
* My 2nd Area of Concern Is what I’ll refer to as the Chimney Chase Area; this is the shape of the chimney. It could be made of wood framing or brick masonry it really doesn’t make any difference if the water is coming into your house
.. Just fix my water problem ……. is what I hear the most!
-Starting at the top of the chimney, it maybe called by a number of names such as the crown, cap, crown wash, splay or if it is made of metal it is refer to a as a metal chase cover.
-The Crown of the chimney must be watertight. I often refer to it as the Icing on top of a cupcake.
One of the biggest problems we see, is that during the rapid construction days of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s that many of the masonry crowns were made of left over brick mortar that is a much softer material, than the properly required harder concrete that is needed to protect the brick on the chimney masonry.
Masonry tuck-pointing is the process of replacing damaged or worn out mortar joints from the bricks on both the chimney, and any other masonry surface of your home.
This is often a big problem that is found at the top the brick chimney as well as what is referred to as the corbels, which are hips or shaping on the outside of the chimney.
All of these damaged mortar joints need to be ground-out and filled back to prevent water from enters the home, We always want our work to blend in with the rest of the home as well as can be.
We always use colored dye tints in our mortar.We do this so that our tuck-pointing work does not have that bright gray newly repaired look.
Again “moisture is not your friend” as over hanging tree branches, and shrubs laying up against the house brick can bring big problem.
The same is true as we are watering our yards and shrubs in the summer, as well as repeated water sprinkling of the masonry brick surface over and over is very damaging.
My 3rd and final Area of Concern; is the internal working of the chimney flue system.
The flue system is designed to move hot gases from the hot water heater and furnace.
For every100.000 BTU of natural gas that is burned, it produces about 1 gallon of water. Either it goes up the chimney or it will condensate and leak back down into the ceilings and wall of of living space or back into your basement. Your Chimney flue may have been improperly sized, for a new furnace or hot water heater replacement and possible water is now running out onto the basement floor .
If the chimney flue is blocked this will also cause condensation water problems You may ask what could case this blockage, it could be broken chimney flue liners or bird nesting blockage/ This is why we always recommend a properly sized chimney cap along with a bird screening on every chimney top.
To summaries all of this up for you, we have identified the water problems, and I have offered you some reasonable solutions.
“Now picture this with me”…… you have had a very busy day, your rather tired, it is 10:30 at night, you shut the TV off,
your locking up the house and preparing to go upstairs to bed, then you hear that voice coming from upstairs saying.
… Honey hurry; get the buckets it is raining in our bedroom. …. And it’s on your side of the bed! 🙁
On this episode 11 of HomeContractors HQ ….. Clay is speaking with Brion Barnhill.
Brion was immersed in his busiest season of the year, and the person on the other end of the line wanted help installing a wood-stove in a Tree House.“At first I thought it was a prank,” said Barnhill, After a few follow-up calls, he realized the installation request was legitimate; two months later, he found himself in Germantown, Kentucky, installing a wood-stove for an episode of the Animal Planet television show Treehouse Masters.
But it was more than the wood-stove that grabbed the attention of Pete Nelson, the show’s enthusiastic host. While the two men were on location filming that episode, Barnhill, who has a decade and a half of experience installing and servicing mass-manufactured wood-stoves, fireplaces and grills for clients, mentioned a new product he has a particular bias toward: the Firewall Grill, a dual-fueled grill that doubles as an outdoor fireplace. The product holds a special place in Barnhill’s heart, as it should as he designed it himself and manufactures it beautiful Lexington, Ky.