Masonry chimneys, such as those made from stone or brick and held together by mortar, are susceptible to damage over the years. Although these materials are meant to withstand high temperatures, fire can still cause damage to the masonry if the chimney isn’t properly maintained or used correctly. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, most prefabricated fireplaces are installed improperly, which can lead to fires and other damage. Additionally, in a cool, wet climate like Eugene, Oregon, there are other factors to take into consideration. Below are some tips for caring for your masonry in order to keep it in proper working order.
Masonry structures in fireplaces can weigh up to seven tons. Because of that, the footing needs to be able to support that bulk to prevent shifting and cracking.
Check for cracks in the firebox
Keep an eye out for any signs of cracking in the firebox where the facing material meets the firebrick because this is the weakest area. This is where shifting is most apparent.
Use a chimney cover to protect the chimney from rain, the freeze/thaw cycle, and animals.
Downspouts, gutters and water run-off need to be directed away from the fireplace to minimize shifting, cracking and mortar damage. The ground around the fireplace should slope so that water will run away, rather than toward, the structure. Use a waterproofing treatment outside for cement, brick and porous stone. Make sure the chimney is completely dry before applying waterproofing.
Clean tile liners
Tile liners need to be kept clean to avoid chimney fires which can damage and crack the liner or chimney. Clean the fireplace before it gets to be ¼” thick.
Prefabricated fireplaces, or factory build fireplaces, are only meant to last about 25 years. The fireplace and chimney are meant to be used as a unit and must be installed together and installed properly to function correctly.
Make sure the specified clearance from the firebox and chimney to combustible materials are followed. This is usually 2 inches.
Clear debris and regular chimney sweeps
The materials and structure of a prefabricated chimney draw birds to use it for nesting more than a traditional masonry fireplace. Because the nesting material can catch fire and cause damage to the liner or flue, it is important to make sure debris is cleaned out and regular chimney sweeps and inspections are done.
For more information on masonry and fireplaces in general, don’t hesitate to contact us. Located in Eugene, the Oregon Chimney Guys also serves the surrounding areas. We perform chimney sweeps, chimney repairs, and replacements.