Fireplaces in many homes are focal points, particularly in colder weather when the fireplace is burning a crackling fire. Aesthetic appeal, warmth, aroma and economy are among the reasons people enjoy fireplaces like they do. But as with any appliance that’s active (i.e., does something), fireplaces need some degree of regular maintenance. Here are three reasons for a fireplace makeover that will keep your wood burning fireplace & its masonry chimney in good shape.
- Stains on the chimney. If you’ve noticed stains on your chimney, there can only be one reason: traces of salt in the chimney’s masonry coupled with moisture. What you’re seeing is salt that has moved through the masonry and evaporated on the outside, leaving a residue. This process is called “efflorescence.” The stains are often white but can also brown, yellow and other colors.Solving this problem starts with determining how moisture is getting into the chimney. A cracked chimney cap is a common reason. Another possibility is cracks within the mortar that holds the masonry in place. The staining is an alert that there’s a problem. Contact a chimney professional and arrange for a thorough inspection and any necessary repairs.
- Mortar issues. Cracked and crumbling mortar in a masonry fireplace, as discussed above, is normal in older homes with older chimneys. With extreme outside temperature fluctuations, chimney mortar contracts and expands, resulting in wear and tear over the years. In addition, gasses from burning fires further the deterioration. The bricks that form a chimney can last for 100 years, but the mortar adherent may begin crumbling after just 25 years. If let go, this can cause the chimney to shift and lean to one side, creating a dangerous situation. As with staining, if you suspect there are issues with your chimney’s structural integrity, have it inspected by a professional.
- Hearth-area staining. A fireplace/chimney system is designed to pull smoke and gasses from the firebox into the chimney and into the outside air. Sometimes this doesn’t happen, and the result is a dark stain on the wall or mantel. Staining occurs when smoke backs up, and there are three primary reasons for this:
- Obstructions in the chimney such as leaves, twigs or bird nests
- The chimney is not the correct height
- Negative air pressure exists within the home
Most people who drive cars have a mechanic they trust and use regularly. It should be the same with fireplaces and experienced chimney sweeps/inspectors. No active appliance in the home runs perfectly forever. Where fireplaces are concerned, faulty operation could pose a serious risk to people living in the home – and neighbors, in the event of a serious house fire.
Marsh’s Stoves & Fireplaces of Toronto wants to help make fireplace use safer and more enjoyable. Please follow all safety precautions when using a fireplace or stove. To see a full line of top-name fireplaces or to learn more about fireplace safety, visit us at our showroom located at 3322 Dundas Street West, or call (416) 762-4582.