Chimneys are complex structures, and it takes time and training to learn about their various parts and the best way to operate each specific system. Fortunately, there are plenty of chimney professionals (like the crew here at Lords Chimney) that are trained, certified, and would be happy to help with it all. That’s why hiring these certified technicians for an inspection every single year is so important!
That being said, we’d still like to urge homeowners to learn some of the more basic parts of the chimney. Why? Well, there’s a few good reasons…
- So you can be aware of common issues and reach out for help well before they get worse.
- To understand and make more informed decisions about your home.
- To make that the annual conversation with your chimney sweep a great deal more clear.
- To be aware of potential risks and hazards, and keep your home and family safer.
And if you sense some repairs are in order? Call on Lords Chimney right away! We’d be happy to answer any questions and do everything possible to help you out.
Your Chimney Parts
So, we’re not going to go every nook and cranny of your system, but here are the ones to know if you’re looking for a better understanding of your system as a whole.
- Chimney Liner: Your fireplace produces flames, intense heat, and toxins, all of which can put a lot of wear and tear on your chimney – and fast! The liner seals the inside of your chimney so that doesn’t happen. Without one in place, your mortar will break down, your bricks will crack, and your entire system will become a lot more vulnerable overall. Not to mention, flames and dangerous fumes will have easier access to the rest of your home, which puts your family at risk.
- Chimney Cap: Chimney caps serve some really important functions. They block downdrafts, prevent animal entry, keep out harmful debris, stop any stray sparks from landing on your roof, and (probably the most important thing) help to eliminate water exposure and damage. The best part is, they’re inexpensive and quick to install – invest in yours today!
- Damper: Dampers work to keep your system protected from outside elements when it’s not in use, and once you get your fire going, it opens up to allow smoke and fumes a safe passageway out. There are two common types of dampers – throat dampers and top-sealing dampers, and nowadays most sweeps recommend the latter, due to their tighter, more effective seal. Ask us about upgrading yours today!
- Chimney Crown: The crown sits at the top of the chimney, slanting downward to help direct water away from the sides of the masonry structure. Here’s the thing, though. If it’s not made from the right materials (i.e. from a Portland cement-based mixture) and doesn’t overhang the chimney by 2 inches on all sides, you’ll still find yourself experience various types of water damage. Trust in us to get it done right.
- Chimney Flashing: Your flashing consists of metal sheets that are layered to cover the spot where your roof meets the base of your chimney. Why does this area need extra coverage? Well, it’s essentially bridging the two different materials, so they can expand and contract, as needed, without the risk of water entering your system. Without properly installed flashing in place, both your chimney system and your home will be a lot more vulnerable to water-related issues.
- Firebox: Whether you have a prefab system or a masonry one, the firebox is the area that holds the fuel and fire. It’s designed to withstand high temperatures and direct contact with flames, so that you can enjoy your system to the fullest with no fear of the fire spreading or breaking down other areas of the home.
- Smoke Chamber: The smoke chamber is one of the most important parts of a chimney, but is often overlooked because it’s hidden away. The smoke chamber is the area just above your firebox, and it’s shaped like an upside down funnel. This is so it can safely and effectively direct smoke up into your chimney, where it can then exit your home. Unfortunately, many smoke chambers were built corbeled, which can hinder airflow. If this is the case for you, consider investing in parging services.
Experiencing Chimney Issues?
Ok, so now that we’ve gone over Chimney Anatomy 101, here’s the next question homeowners tend to have… What do I do when one of my chimney components is experiencing issues?
First things first, schedule an inspection. If you own a fireplace, then you know that inspections are essential, as many chimney-related issues can put your home (and those within it) at risk when not promptly addressed.
If you live in or near the Houston area, our team of experts would be happy to help! Our Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) certified techs will look things over, do some troubleshooting to figure out exactly what’s making your fireplace experience less than enjoyable (or even potentially dangerous), then advise you on the best ways to fix any issues.
Note: Not spotting anything obvious? It’s still recommended you get that annual inspection on the books. Oftentimes, chimney problems are hidden within the flue, offering no clearcut indication that anything is actually wrong. Having a pro look things over every year (before the start of each burning season) is always the recommended route!
Common Chimney Issues
What are the more common issues we come across when troubleshooting?
- Chimney Venting & Draft Problems: When it comes to operating your fireplace safely and efficiently, proper draft and airflow is a must. If drafting issues are present, you could have smoke, carbon monoxide, and other potentially hazardous fumes backing up into your home, which isn’t good for aesthetic or for the health of those in the space. Whether you need a sweeping to clear out clogs, a new chimney component installed, or even a rebuild or restoration, we can get it done.
- Smelly Fireplaces & Chimney Odors: Smells in the flue are often caused by creosote deposits or outside debris building up inside of it. In these cases, a chimney sweeping can be an effective solution to clearing things up and giving your nose a well-deserved break. Other times, smells are caused by animals in your flue or downdrafts. Whatever the case, we’ve got solutions.
- Smoke Issues: A fireplace that sends smoke into your home isn’t only an annoyance – it’s also dangerous! Inhaling smoke (and with it, other potentially hazardous fumes) can trigger health issues, and it can leave an unpleasant lingering smell behind in your living space, too. Like with poor drafting or bad odors, there are lots of reasons you might be experiencing smoke in your living space. The good news is, we’ll be able to get to the bottom of it.
Is Your Chimney Older?
Owning a home with an older fireplace system often comes with its own unique set of maintenance issues. However, by better understanding the structure and condition of your chimney you can continue to enjoy it for years to come.
Before we begin, let’s clear up what we mean by an “old chimney.” For the most part, “old” chimneys are more than 60 years old and are exclusively built with masonry. If this is where your system falls, then it’s important to consider that it may be missing important parts or need some updates.
Some common problems in old chimneys include:
- Missing Liner: One of the most common issues seen in older chimneys is a lack of a chimney liner. While it may be tempting to believe that a chimney that has been unlined for 100 years or more is safe to use, best practices indicate that all chimneys should be lined. Relining the chimney can improve the efficiency of your fireplace, as well as protect the rest of your home from the heat and gasses created during combustion.
- Outdated Chimney Components: The components of older chimneys often fail to meet modern building standards. For instance, the cap may be missing, the crown is more prone to be outdated, and the damper is likely rusted and doing a poor job. Installing new parts and making any necessary adjustments can go a long way in both keeping your system healthier and improving efficiency.
- Masonry Damage: Although chimneys are built to last, long-term exposure to the elements (especially without regular maintenance) can lead to masonry damage. We can help with tuckpointing services, during which we remove any old mortar, and replace it with new, more durable materials. Unfortunately, in older chimneys, this can be quite the process, so be sure to leave it to the pros! (And be sure to invest in waterproofing afterwards, too.)
Don’t Put Off Care – Call Us Today!
If you’re experiencing issues with your fireplace, don’t wait to call in our experts. We are here and ready to ensure you’re set up right for the rest of your burning season. Reach out now!