Loved by interior designers and homeowners alike, fireplaces can add a heavy dose of nostalgia on a blustery winter day. However, that pile of bricks can do a lot more than just look pretty. Your fireplace can act as an extra heat source during a cold snap, or increase the value of your home. However, without proper care and maintenance, your fireplace and chimney might come tumbling down. Here are three signs that you might have chimney masonry damage, how it could affect your home, and what you can do about it.
1: Crumbling Mortar
When heavy rain, snow, and hailstones descend onto your home, your roof and its exterior components are there to shelter you from the damage that extreme weather can cause. Unfortunately, roofing components like chimneys aren't immune from damage.
Although bricks are incredibly resilient and durable, the mortar that holds them together is another story. In fact, mortar only lasts about 25 years before it starts to crumble. As moisture attacks masonry, penetrating tiny cracks and running through endless freezing cycles, mortar can break apart and cause serious issues with your chimney.
Entire bricks can come loose and destabilize the structure, and water can gain an easy access point into your home. Fortunately, masons can repair damaged mortar by a process called tuckpointing. Professional masons will work in sections, digging out damaged mortar and carefully replacing it with fresh versions. Tuckpointing is a time consuming process that takes a skilled professional, but when it is done correctly, your chimney will be restored to its original glory. Your bricks will be strong, resistant to water, and structurally stable for many years to come.
2: Flaky Bricks
Have you ever seen bricks that look like they are flaky and falling apart? This strange effect is called spalling, and it occurs when bricks absorb water that freezes when temperatures drop. As the water cools and expands, sections of brick are broken apart, ripping apart masonry.
Although some people think that a few flaky bricks are nothing more than a cosmetic issue, the fact of the matter is that spalling can mean bad news for your home. Because masonry structures are only as strong as the individual bricks that make up the structure, a little spalling might mean paying for a brand new chimney installation.
If you want to avoid the surprise expense of getting those bricks replaced, consider hiring a professional mason to coat your chimney with waterproofing materials. These coatings are hydrophobic, which will make water will bead right off of the surface of your masonry. If you are worried about how waterproofing materials will look, you shouldn't be. Coatings are clear and unnoticeable, so they will match any exterior color scheme. Some experts recommend having moisture repellent applied to any chimney that is older than 15 years, in order to protect the structure.
3: Interior Moisture Damage
Unfortunately, sometimes people find out about chimney problems because they start to see signs of interior water damage. When water can easily pass through flaky bricks and holes in your mortar, it can flow right into your home, causing loads of water damage.
Sub-roofing materials can rot, attics can become riddled with mold, and ceilings can cave in. If you notice musty smells, yellow spots on your ceiling, or soft spots in the structure surrounding your fireplace, have a professional mason inspect your chimney. They will be able to find areas where water is entering your home and resolve the masonry issue so that your home stays warm and dry.
Being able to spot the signs of early masonry damage can help you to avoid frustrating situations and unexpected expenses. Check out sites like http://www.aaa1masonry.com/ for more information.