Pozzi Chimney Sweep Blog

Old Houses And Chimney Issues

Old houses present unique challenges for chimneys

Old houses present unique challenges for chimneys

Buying an old home (built in the 1950s or older) is appealing for many homeowners shopping around. Old homes have a lot of charm and are built with characteristics newer, more modular homes simply are not. A lot of people are drawn to older homes because of the look and feel homes built sixty years ago have. However, purchasing a home that wasn’t built with modern concepts is not without its challenges. Many older houses have chimney issues among other damages that should be considered upon inspection.

What Are The Dangers Of Old Chimneys?

Older chimneys account for many chimney fires. In fact, in 2010, chimneys, flues and other confined fires accounted for 87 percent of residential fires in America. Not only do older chimneys cause fires, they can also produce creosote, a residue left behind by wood burning fires, as well as carbon monoxide, which is a dangerous gas left behind from fires not burning hot enough.

Beyond the health hazards of old chimneys, many older chimneys do not burn efficiently, which causes heat to escape from your home. The result is a higher energy bill during cold winter months when you expect and need your home to be heated thoroughly.

Deterioration

The most common chimney issue is deterioration. After decades of weather exposure, lack of repairs and wear and tear many chimneys simply don’t hold up. This often results in masonry damage to the bricks and/or mortar of the chimney and can lead to leaks or collapsed chimneys.

Moisture

As with chimneys of any age, moisture is a major culprit of damage. If not properly capped or sealed, or if not repaired properly, a leaky chimney can allow moisture to enter. This can result in build-up inside the chimney, which can cause your chimney to run inefficiently. In order for a chimney to properly heat the home it needs to burn as hot as possible. When a chimney is full of moisture it doesn’t burn hot enough.

Additional Types Of Chimney Issues
Damaged lining or no lining
Rusted Flue and/or Rusted Damper
Pyrolysis (the process of the wood around a chimney being exposed to heat, making it combustible)

If you are considering purchasing an older home, the best thing to do is have a thorough inspection done on the home. If you want a second opinion, hire a professional chimney repair and sweeping company in addition to your home inspector to thoroughly look around and inside your chimney. Pozzi Chimney Sweep in Hinckley, Illinois offers premium chimney cleaning, sweeping and inspection services you can trust. A professional chimney expert will come to your home (or the home you are considering purchasing) and inspect the chimney from top to bottom.

Once your chimney is inspected, repairs should be done as soon as possible. As with all large appliances, the key to maintaining any chimney is to inspect it regularly and make appropriate repairs in a timely manner. Owning a home, especially an old home built with character and charm, is truly rewarding. Enjoy your home and your wood burning fireplace or stove by maintaining it and repairing damages before they get out of hand.

What Is The Stack Effect?

Since the mission of Pozzi Chimney Sweep is to make your home as energy efficient as possible, one of the things our technicians will evaluate is the airflow inside your home to make sure there are no leaks that contribute to the stack effect and cause your heating and cooling costs to be higher than necessary.

What is the Stack Effect - Pozzi Chimney - Aurora IL Simply defined, the “stack effect” happens when there is negative air pressure resulting from a difference in temperature and moisture in the air as it flows in and out of homes. When the stack effect occurs in your home, it means you have a wind tunnel blowing the warm (depending on the season) or cool air you want to keep in your home up and out your chimney and undermines your efforts to cost effectively heat or cool your home.

The architecture.com website provides this more technical description, “Stack ventilation is where air is driven through the building by vertical pressure differences developed by thermal buoyancy. The warm air inside the building is less dense than cooler air outside, and thus will try to escape from openings high up in the building envelope; cooler denser air will enter openings lower down. The process will continue if the air entering the building is continuously heated, typically by casual or solar gains.”

The mission of Pozzi Chimney Sweep is to make your home as energy efficient and safe as possible. One of the things our technicians will evaluate is the airflow inside your home to make sure there are no leaks that contribute to the stacking effect and cause your heating and cooling costs to be higher than necessary.
To help further explain the stack effect, Erik North, explains “If you’ve ever seen an eagle or other large bird gliding above a canyon’s warm air flows, then you can understand the stack effect. The eagle is taking advantage of the warm air that flows up between the canyon walls and buoys the bird aloft. A similar effect happens within your home when warm air flows up through the building enclosure. The stack effect is based on buoyancy and encompasses the air either moving into or out of your home.”

So now that you know about the stack effect, what does it really mean to you on a practical basis?

First, if you are experiencing unexplained drafts it may mean that your home is not air tight, which happens a lot in older homes. If you have more than one floor to your home the air pressure will decrease on each floor the higher you go; air pressure on the first floor or in the basement will be higher than on the 2nd or 3rd floor. In the winter, cold air is drawn into your home when your intention is to have a warm home. In the summer, the opposite happens. The air you are paying utility bills to heat or cool is being wasted, drawn outside thru cracks, leaking windows, and the largest openings to the outside, your fireplace and chimney.
Another adverse consequence of the stack effect is that improper ventilation and air flow can be a cause of the offensive smell coming from your chimney.

The most important take-away we want all home owners to know is that you are not expected to fully understand the nuances of thermodynamics and how it is affecting your home. Because we do. That’s why you work with a chimney professional. We are trained to provide the services that can make your home as energy efficient, safe, and comfortable for you as possible. If you live in Northern Illinois, and are feeling drafts in your home, call Pozzi Chimney Sweep, if you don’t live in our service area, we will happily recommend a colleague in your service area.

Two Major Signs Your Chimney Has Moisture Problems

If you suspect your chimney is experiencing water leaks or problems, call today for an appointment!

If you suspect your chimney is experiencing water leaks or problems, call today for an appointment!

For those unfamiliar with these terms, let’s define them for you before we answer the questions.

Spalling: to break into chips or fragments; to chip or crumble
Efflorescence: a white powdery substance or incrustation

(We can almost hear you,“Ohhhh that’s what it’s called. We are familiar with the concepts, but never knew the proper name.)

Over the years Pozzi Chimney Sweep has been called to repair many instances of spalling and efflorescence. We know they are serious issues that need prompt attention by a chimney professional.

SPALLING

In her article on the examiner.com, Marge Padgitt, Kansas City Alterative Energy Examiner, warns, “When chimneys spall, it is a sign of severe moisture penetration of the masonry bricks or stone. Spalling is the flaking off of a brick or stone surface, and is evident when the face of the masonry is missing. Pieces of bricks or stones may be found on the ground or on the roof, which is an indication that there is a problem”.

Too much moisture in the masonry is the primary cause of spalling. Chimney crowns that are not properly sealed, broken or missing bricks, soft porous masonry, and freeze/thaw/freeze cycles all contribute to the likelihood of spalling.

Excessive water and moisture are not a homeowner’s friend. Excessive rain, humidity, and freezing and unfreezing take their toll on masonry and cause spalling. While you may be tempted to use a commercial sealant to prevent water damage, if the source of the moisture is not eliminated, all you will do is trap the moisture…don’t be tempted! The damaged bricks must be replaced by a trained mason and the source of the leaks located and repaired.

EFFLORESCENCE

Sometimes efflorescence is called “whiskers”. Salt deposits are the main component of the white residue. Why is this an issue? Because in order for the salt deposits to appear there must be water present, and like the situation with spalling, water is not a friend to your home. When efflorescence is on chimney bricks it could be from rain, but it could be coming from the warm air from inside the house forming condensation inside the chimney. Worse yet, the efflorescence could also be caused by a cracked or broken flue liner and gasses from your furnace. For an in depth explanation of efflorescence click here.

Whether your chimney is experiencing efflorescence or spalling, the result is damage to the brick and masonry of your chimney. Damaged chimneys cannot function properly and therefore put you and your family at risk for fires, toxic gas poisoning, increased heating bills, and structural damage to your home.

The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends homeowners have a yearly inspection of their entire chimney structure by a CSIA certified technician. During those inspections, potential sources of efflorescence and spalling may be detected before you have major problems. If there is evidence of a problem your CSIA certified technician can make the necessary repairs to eliminate the influx of moisture and protect the integrity of your structures.

Pozzi Chimney Sweep is your go-to chimney contractor when it comes to chimney expertise in Northern Illinois. Call us for a consultation!

When To Replace Cracked Fireplace Panels And Backwalls

Fireplaces are a beautiful way to heat your home, as well as create a warm and inviting glow for friends and family to enjoy. If your home was not built with a fireplace already installed, and you have installed a factory built fireplace it is important to understand the components of this appliance, how they work and how to properly maintain them. Factory built fireplaces are great inserts for most homes, and typically use metal instead of masonry common with traditional fireplaces.

Replacing Firebox Panels - Aurora IL - Pozzi Chimney

A factory built fireplace is also different from a traditional fireplace because it does not use a concrete foundations. Instead, these fireplaces use insulated walls, glass doors and blowers to circulate heat. Make sure your pre-manufactured fireplace or woodstove is installed by a professional fireplace and chimney technician, because installing your fireplace wrong could result in your fireplace not operating correctly.

Maintaining Your Fireplace Insert

As with any major appliance, it is necessary to maintain your factory fireplace in order to keep it in top working order. In some cases the fireplace panels and backwalls in pre-fabricated fireplaces can crack, and this can make lighting a fire unsafe. This often happens with extended use. Luckily, replacement panels are easily found and installed. A benefit to having a factory fireplace is that parts are easily obtained in case they need to be replaced. If you are unsure if your panel or backwall needs to be replaced, contact a professional chimney and fireplace company. Pozzi Chimney Sweeps will be happy to come to your home and inspect your fireplace in order to recommend any repairs or replacements.

Benefits Of Fireplace Inserts

There are many benefits to installing a manufactured fireplace in your home. For starters, these types of appliances are typically more affordable than custom masonry fireplaces or woodstoves. Because of this, pre-fabricated fireplaces are also easy to install with the help of a professional because you won’t need to include a concrete foundation. These smaller appliances are also more manageable than larger fireplaces and woodstoves too, making them a reasonable add-on and a great investment for your home. When properly installed and regularly maintained, your factory fireplace can last many years.

Additional Safety Tips For Your Factory Fireplace

  • Never overload the fireplace
  • Only use appropriately treated wood
  • Never use painted or chemically treated wood
  • Do not use liquid fire starters
  • Have your chimney regularly swept and inspected
  • Always keep the glass doors close when you are not loading or lighting the firebox
  • Have a professional install and help maintain your factory fireplace

A fireplace is a beautiful addition to any home. Not only can a pre-manufactured fireplace help keep your home warm and toasty but it also adds a gorgeous aesthetic that can’t be duplicated. Let Pozzi Chimney Sweeps help maintain your chimney with a regular inspection and sweeping, as well as inspection of your fireplace. A little maintenance can go a long with in keeping your home beautiful and safe so contact the experts at Pozzi Chimney Sweeps today.

Mistakes When Maintaining Your Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Detector

As with most home maintenance, when it comes to avoiding dangerous fires and/or carbon monoxide exposure in your home the key is to prevent them in the first place. Solid fire safety practices are important, but perhaps even more important than that is to install and maintain smoke and carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home. Things happen inside the home, and having these detectors can help get everyone out safely should an emergency arise. Smoke detectors are designed to send out a signal when smoke is detected in the home, while carbon monoxide detectors are reliable in signaling before dangerous levels of carbon monoxide levels have been reached inside the home.

CO/Smoke Detector - Aurora IL - Pozzi Chimney

Of course, the most important part of having detectors in the home is properly maintaining them. Here are some common mistakes when maintaining your smoke/carbon monoxide detectors.

Not Maintaining Your Smoke And Carbon Monoxide Detectors

The worst offense of owning detectors is not maintaining them at all. The work isn’t over once you install them. The batteries must be checked every few months, and replaced on a regular basis. Test your smoke detector and your carbon monoxide detector every few months to make sure they are operating correctly. The National Fire Protection Association and FEMA report that three out of five fire deaths are the result of homes not having working smoke alarms, so make sure yours are operating correctly.

Not Installing Detectors Correctly

Another common mistake is not installing your detectors correctly in the first place. If you are unsure how to install your fire detectors according to the manufacturer’s instructions, ask your electrician for assistance. In many cases some basic electric work is necessary and you want to be sure they are protecting you and your family from installation.

Not Having Up To Date Detectors

A common mistake when maintaining smoke alarms is assuming they never have to be replaced. A good rule of thumb is to replace your smoke detectors every ten years, but if you are not sure how old your detectors are you should replace them anyway. If your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are a decade old or do not respond to tests then it is time to replace them.

Additional Fire Safety Tips

  • Only operate heating appliances according to manufacturer instructions.
  • Use space heaters and other stand alone appliances in open areas free of clutter.
  • Only burn appropriately treated wood. Never burn garbage or other materials.
  • Make sure your fireplace or woodstove have been inspected and swept by a professional chimney sweeping company.
  • Don’t leave candles unattended or near flammable materials.

Pozzi Chimney Sweeps in Illinois are passionate about keeping you and your family safe season after season. If you have any questions about how to keep your home safe from potential fire dangers, contact us to schedule a consultation. Our certified chimney sweeps will come to your home and make sure your chimney and fireplace are working correctly and safely. Proper chimney maintenance coupled with smoke and carbon monoxide detection can help prevent fires in your home as well as keep your family safe.

Stainless Steel vs. Aluminum Chimney Liners

A flue or chimney liner is an important component of the modern chimney. Recent tests showed that unlined chimneys allowed heat to move through the chimney so fast that internal woodwork in many homes caught on fire in a matter of hours. Because of these and other tests, liners are now considered an important part of keeping your chimney and home safe, as well as keeping your heating appliances working efficiently.

Metal Chimney Liner - Aurora IL - Pozzi Chimney

Purpose Of Chimney Liner

A chimney liner serves several purposes. Firstly, it protects the structure of the chimney from overheating, which protects the masonry and the woodwork surrounding your home. Liners also protect the masonry of your chimney from by-products of burning wood. Gases expelled from burning fires can tear apart the mortar and mortar joints in your chimney and this erosion can cause hazards such as carbon monoxide leaks. Lastly, chimney liners make chimneys work more efficiently. When the flue and liner are sized correctly for your specific chimney it can allow the perfect amount of airflow in your chimney. The result is an efficient wood stove that burns hot enough to heat your home and prevent build-up of by-product.

Stainless Steel Versus Aluminum Liners

Metal liners are growing in popularity in modern chimney installations, and it is important to understand your options before you invest in a specific material. Aluminum liners are durable, but can only be used in gas-burning appliances with lower flue temperatures. The reason for this is because aluminum cannot withstand as high of a heating temperature and if you want your chimney to be protected from heat and combustion you want to go with a material that can take the heat. Stainless steel liners are one of the most recommended on the market because they can withstand an immense amount of heat. Stainless steel can be used in all types of appliances and is typically recommended for wood-burning stoves and fireplaces.

Keep in mind, stainless steel chimney liners are more expensive than aluminum and other materials. However, if you want to invest in a chimney product that will protect your home from combustion and keep your chimney working efficiently, consider investing in the highest quality. A larger investment in the beginning can often cost you less in repairs and damages down the road.

In all cases, it is important to consult with a professional chimney and fireplace company that can visit your home, assess your appliances and recommend a product that is right for you. Many do-it-yourself companies will explain how to install a liner, but if you want your heating appliance products to be installed correctly for optimum performance and safety, consult with a professional company and let them install your liner. Pozzi Chimney Sweep in Illinois can come to your home and recommend the liner that is right for you. After installation we will keep your liner, chimney and fireplace in safe and efficient working order with regular inspections and sweepings. Before you invest in a chimney liner, contact Pozzi Chimney Sweep for the best in complete chimney services.

Chase Cover Problems On Your Chimney

We talk about chimney maintenance a lot, because it is truly the most important part of keeping your wood-burning fireplace or stove in top working order. As many chimney professionals will tell you, the chimney does most of the work when it comes to lighting fires and heating your home. It is important to understand all components of your chimney, how they work and what they do. If you don’t understand how your chimney and fireplace work it can be easy to use them incorrectly.

Rusty Chimney Chase Cover - Aurora IL

Chase Cover Versus Chimney Cap

Many people confuse the chase chimney cover with the chimney cap. To be clear, the chimney cap is the installed piece that is placed directly on top of the chimney opening in order to prevent moisture, debris and small animals from entering the chimney and wreaking havoc on the masonry inside. On the other hand, the chase cover of the chimney is placed around the entire chimney and serves to seal the flue system as well as the chimney. Chase covers are popularly used on fireplaces that are pre-fabricated and were installed in the 1970s and 1980s.

Why Is My Chase Cover Rusting?

Chase covers are typically made of galvanized steel and installed on chimneys surrounded by wood, metal or vinyl siding. Galvanized steel is prone to rust – more frequently during harsh winter months or in any regions where a lot of rain and snow is typical. In other cases, the chase cover can rust because it wasn’t installed properly in the first place. If not sealed properly, or installed carefully you could run the risk of having water pool on your chase cover, which can lead to rusting more quickly.

You want to replace a rusted chimney chase cover because further erosion could lead to chimney damage including:

  • Cracked or crumbled masonry in the chimney
  • Collapsed chimney
  • Moisture inside the chimney
  • Creosote build-up inside the chimney
  • Inability to light fires and/or keep fireplace and woodstove fires burning hot enough

In other words, chase cover rusting is like any other type of chimney damage; preventing further damage is the best way to avoid costly repairs and dangerous damage. You can help maintain the integrity of your chimney by keeping an eye on the exterior, as well as the chase cover. Additionally, hiring a professional company like Pozzi Chimney Sweep in Aurora IL can help you avoid any repairs. Your professional chimney sweep will safely inspect the chimney to make sure the chase cover isn’t rusting. If your chimney sweep notices any rust, they can recommend an appropriate replacement as well as execute the repairs safely and efficiently.

Don’t wait until it is too late to replace your chase cover, and don’t try to make any repairs on your own. Chimney maintenance is dangerous, and if not done correctly can be costly. Safe removal of the chimney cap, seal and the chase cover are all specific repairs that are best left to the professionals. Have an experienced chimney sweeping company inspect your chimney and make the necessary improvements to keep your chimney in top shape after a long winter season.

Cracked Chimney Crowns Cause Many Problems

Simply stated, cracked chimney crowns cause deterioration of your chimney! Because crowns are located on top of your roof, without a professional inspection from a member of the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) you may have no way of knowing there is damage being done until it’s too late. Pozzi Chimney Sweep, located in Illinois, knows that chimney crowns are subject to the elements and the effects the four seasons take on brick and mortar.

Cracked Chimney Crown - Aurora IL - Pozzi Chimney

Chimney crowns are the umbrella to your chimney. The purpose of your chimney crown is to prevent water from seeping into your chimney, and therefore must be functioning properly to do it’s job. Cracks, deterioration of the mortar, loose bricks, and other structural problems cause leaks and problems. Temperature such as wind, cold, rain, and heat all lead to chimney problems that must be addressed by a professional. Additionally, if you live in an area with seismic activity, even minor quakes can cause damage to the chimney’s structure.

Cracked or damaged masonry can lead to moisture accumulation ideal for the growth of moss and algae. When the masonry is worn or cracked away, water seeps into the brick causing structural damage. Water damage can also cause spalling and efflorescence which also weaken the brick.

Often, all that is needed is a chimney crown sealant. Sealant works if there are just a few very minor cracks and the sealant can help keep moisture from seeping into the brick, mortar, and concrete. If sealants are used alone, they probably will not last long and serve only as a band-aid and more extensive repair work will be needed.

In most cases, when there is apparent deterioration of the existing crown, you will need to hire a skilled and experienced professional to rebuild your chimney crown. According to the WiseGeek website, “When a chimney crown is added to a home, the homeowner should make sure it is made of the right materials. Masons will sometimes build a crown that isn’t up to par, and if the homeowner doesn’t know the difference, he’ll end up paying only to watch the chimney rapidly deteriorate over the next few years. The number one rule is to never use bricks. The whole reason for a chimney crown in the first place is because mortar isn’t weatherproof, so if a mason is using mortar and bricks to construct the crown that should be a warning sign. Instead, opt for metal, stone, or concrete slabs. Pre-cast or cast in place concrete crowns that are reinforced with steel are good solutions as well. Crowns can even be made of metal or stone, as long as they are water-tight and weather resistant.”

As a reminder, “The crown should slope down from the flue liner. The angle of this slope should be a minimum of 3 inches of fall per foot of run. Flat or low slope crowns can allow water to enter the interior of the chimney. A chimney crown should extend a minimum of 2 and 1/2 inches beyond the face of the chimney on all sides. This overhang helps to keep water from running down the chimney face. The bottom of the crown should contain a small kerf (drip). Without the kerf, water can roll underneath the crown and flow down the face of the chimney”, according to Tim Carter from Ask The Builder.

Cracked crowns are just one of the many potential hazards that a trained chimney professional can look for when doing their inspections. Like everything else, catching problems early mean lower repair costs and less damage.

The Benefits Of Waterproofing Your Chimney

Make sure your chimney is waterproof by calling Pozzi Chimney Sweep today!

Make sure your chimney is waterproof by calling Pozzi Chimney Sweep today!

Another year and another long winter almost behind us. As spring starts to roll in, it’s time to consider some chimney maintenance. Typical chimneys are made of bricks (usually clay or cement) and these materials are very porous. After prolonged exposure to moisture from harsh winter weather, your bricks can start to absorb the moisture, causing damage in a variety of ways.

If your chimney is exposed to the elements without waterproofing, this can lead to a variety of problems. Firstly, several components of your chimney such as the flue, damper and firebox could start to rust. Additionally, the actual bricks of your chimney could start to crack, crumble and eventually cause your chimney to shift or collapse. Lastly, if your chimney is exposed to the elements without protection, it could leave the interior of your home susceptible to water damage. If you notice peeling paint or wallpaper around where your chimney is located you may be experiencing some water damage.

Preventing Creosote Build-Up

A capped, dry chimney is able to burn hot, which prevents the build-up of creosote, a harmful chemical left behind when a fire isn’t burning hot enough. When your chimney is properly capped and/or lined, the fires in your fireplace or wood-burning stove will burn as hot as possible, making it difficult for creosote to build-up and damage your chimney.

Waterproofing Products For Your Chimney

Luckily for homeowners, there are a variety of ways you can waterproof your chimney and protect it from the elements. These products are easily installed by a professional chimney company such as Pozzi Chimney Sweep in Illinois so there’s no reason not to invest in the benefits of waterproofing your chimney.

Lining Your Chimney

Chimney liners are widely used as a means of protecting the masonry from corrosion and water damage. Chimney liners come in three main forms: metal, clay and cast-in place. Your professional chimney experts can recommend a chimney liner that’s right for your home.

Capping Or Sealing Your Chimney

There are also many add-ons or inserts that can be used to prevent rain and snow from entering your chimney. A chimney cap is placed on top of your chimney and seals the hole shut when your chimney isn’t in use. A top-sealing chimney damper has the same affect and can be reopened when you are ready to light a fire. Other benefits of chimney caps and sealers include:

Sealing your chimney from the top prevents debris like sticks and leaves from falling in your chimney and causing hazardous chimney fires.
Small animals and birds won’t be able to fall in a capped chimney, which can be dangerous for both the animals and you.

Contact us about the best ways you can prevent water from entering your chimney and causing damage. Prevention is the best way to avoid dangerous damage and expensive repairs. When the snow melts and spring rolls in have your chimney professionally inspected by one of our certified technicians and ask about the benefits of waterproofing your chimney for efficient and safe chimney use all year long!