Owning an older home often includes beautiful original building features. One of the most sought after features in historical homes are fireplaces and chimneys; these original structures were built with quality materials and designed to last. However, as charming as an original fireplace is, it may not be up to modern building standards.
Older chimneys often have unique problems and different considerations than more recently built fireplaces. Because of this, it is important that homeowners with older fireplaces are educated about the state and condition of their fireplace system.
How old is old?
An older home doesn’t necessarily mean an out of date fireplace. For the most part, “old” chimneys are more than 60 years old and are exclusively built with masonry. Many fireplaces built after the 1950s are prefabricated metal or factory built units; while there are still brick chimneys built after that time, a number may also be block chimneys.
Common problems in old chimneys
For older chimney and fireplace systems, there are a number of safety issues that are likely to occur.
- Unlined chimney: One of the most common issues seen in older chimneys is a lack of a chimney lining. 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.
- Chimney caps and crowns: Older chimneys often lack caps and crowns that meet modern building standards. All fireplace systems should have a chimney cap to protect the chimney from moisture, animals, blockages, and debris. Likewise, the chimney crown of many older homes is more likely to be degraded. Because chimney crowns are constantly exposed to the elements they are more likely to deteriorate faster than the rest of the chimney system. Repairing or relaying the chimney crown can ensure that your chimney is structurally sound.
- Masonry damage: Although chimneys are built to last, long term exposure to the elements – especially without regular maintenance – can lead to masonry damage. Masonry joints are more likely to be affected than the bricks themselves, which can compromise the structural integrity of the chimney itself. The tuckpointing process can remove and replace old mortar without removing any brick. Doing this can help reinforce the chimney and protect the surrounding bricks from damage. Likewise, applying a waterproofing agent to the chimney can protect it against further water damage and help extend the life of the masonry.
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. Contact Lords Chimney today for more information on how we can help you with the upkeep and maintenance of your older chimney, as well as make sure it is up to modern building standards.