Chimney & Fireplace Repairs
As with anything, proper maintenance is the key to longevity.
As with anything, proper maintenance is the key to longevity.
A chimney takes quite a beating both internally and externally, especially in an area where there have been significant earthquakes. As with anything, proper maintenance is the key to longevity. While it may be painful to pay for the necessary repairs, doing so can save you from paying for larger repairs in the future. We have seen many properties where maintenance was deferred to a point where the only recommendation we could give was to tear down the chimney and rebuild it.
Perhaps you have a fireplace but you haven’t used it in years or even decades, and it may be in such a state of disrepair that you are afraid you might never get to use it again, let our team at Lucky Sully inspect it and provide solutions to any problems we find.
How can you tell if there is a problem with your chimney or fireplace?
If the crown at the top of your chimney is cracked or damaged, it is important to get it fixed immediately. While it may seem insignificant, it is a vital part of your chimney’s defense against water damage.
What are Dampers?
Fireplace dampers sit almost directly above the heat of the fire. Over time, the extreme heat and rapid changes in temperature can warp and damage the fireplace damper. If the chimney does not have a cap (spark arrestor), rain can cause the damper to rust over time making it difficult or impossible to open or close.
When the damper has rusted out or is no longer functional, we will usually use a top-sealing damper to replace your existing damper. It is actually located at the top of the chimney and controlled by a cable that reaches down the chimney, which prevents heated air in the winter from being lost up and out of the chimney. Even if the damper is functional, top-sealing dampers are often installed to prevent loss of heat or in some cases to make sure no bees can get into your chimney (in the case of a homeowner who may be extremely allergic to bees).
Especially during a home inspection for the sale of a property, inspectors will often report that there are problems with the damper on a gas burning fireplace. Home sellers often get really concerned about this. This is a very minor problem. Basically, the gas company requires that all gas burning fireplaces have a damper clamp installed on the damper. The purpose of this clamp (which can be purchased at home improvement stores for less than $10) is to keep the damper open so that if there is a gas leak, the gas will escape from the house. There are YouTube videos and other sites that show you how to install one of these yourself, or we can provide that service. We usually will try to convince you to do it yourself as we will have to charge for a service call and you can save money by doing it. If the gas company comes to your home and sees that there is no clamp on a gas burning fireplace, they may Red Tag your chimney. Again, this is very easily resolved by getting a clamp installed.
One of the most important areas of your fireplace and chimney is the smoke chamger. It’s the area above your damper where it angles up, funneling hot flue gasses to the bottom of the clay tile liner. The chimney liners on masonry chimneys are the two inch thick clay tile sections built inside the brick walls of the chimney, providing gas tight, heat resistant protection. An unlined chimney is unsafe as heat can transfer through the brick to the surrounding structure of the home, which is typically wood, and cause fires.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that defective smoke chambers are the third leading cause of chimney related house fires.
With our video inspection, we can make sure that there are no cracks or caps in your smoke chamber, and if there are, we can repair them so.
To protect the integrity and efficiency of your fireplace, the smoke chamber should be free of any gaps, cracks, or jagged edges. Any of the gaps and cracks should be coated with an insulating, high-temperature mortar especially designed for fireplaces and chimneys.
If your chimney has a clay tile liner, it is likely at some point it will need to be replaced or repaired. Clay tile liners are very susceptible to fracture from constant heating and cooling of the chimney. They are also subject to damage from earthquakes. Without a properly functioning and intact chimney liner, burning a fire in your fireplace can create a fire hzard. Relining your chimney is much cheaper than rebuilding your chimney or your home, in case of a major fire.
Flues have traditionally been made of clay or ceramic tiles and while these liners are affordable and readily available they have some disadvantages. The constant heating and cooling will cause tiles to fracture and break over time leaving exposed areas of masonry and often allow heat from fires to reach the wooden beams in your home causing a fire.
When a chimney inspection reveals cracks and voids in the clay tiles or tile chimney liner, HeatShield® may be the best option for restoration and repair. It is a cerfractory sealant that can restore and even strengthen a clay tile lines.
There are many advantages to using HeatShield® including:
Chimney caps are an inexpensive way to protect your chimney and fireplace from water, debris and animals. Installing a chimney cap can save you headaches down the line. We have had numerous customers who have called us after an animal (including a foot long rat, a dead, flea infested raccoon, birds, and bees) got into their chimney. These caps usually fit directly onto your flue pipe or clay tile flue, but we can also fabricate larger custom chimney caps that cover the entire masonry corwn or brickwork at the top of your chimney. Caps are screened with a spark arrestor to block floating embers from landing on your roof.
Some homeowners decide to save money by putting a piece of screening on the top of their chimney. There are very specific codes that relate to the size of the openings, so this is a dangerous solution.
We carry black metal and stainless steel chimney caps which fit the majority of masonry chimneys. The stainless steel caps have a life-time warranty while the black metal caps are guaranteed for 6 years. If you are in a beach community, you should only install stainless steel caps.
We can also special order or have other caps made specifically for your home. These can be made in a variety of materials including stainless steel and copper.
We can also install multi-flue caps and other customized caps.
A chimney chase cover is a chimney topper that is provided for pre-fabricated fireplaces that have wood-framed chimney chases. Chimney chase covers seal of chase openings, preventing moisture from getting into your chimney and causing thousands of dollars of expensive repairs. These covers are similar to a lid on a shoe box with a central opening to let smoke and gases escape while sealing the top from moisture getting in.
Rampart General is the name of the manufacturer of these chimney systems, They were pre-cast in Santa Ana from a cast or mold with a combination of calcium aluminate cement and lightweight aggregate and then transported to various parts of California. They are found in homes constructed from the mid 1960’s to the early 1990’s. Often they are located in large neighborhoods with hundreds of these homes.
The chimneys usually look like an off-white or tan color brick and often homeowners think it is painted brick, but that is the color of the cement. Sometimes homeowners have painted the chimneys for various reasons including to cover the cracks. Sometimes it will look like an antenna has been added and this is sometimes to stabilize the chimney.
Almost all these chimneys are located on an exterior wall of the home and they stick out from the wall. In many cases, the exterior chimney is very narrow above the shoulders of the chimney, often much narrower than a standard masonry chimney. Rampart General is out of business so there is no recourse against the manufacturer.
There are three major problems with these systems:
If you are buying a home with a Rampart General Pre-Cast Chimney, ask for a Level 2 (video inspection) of the chimney and fireplace so you know whether the chimney and fireplace are safe to use, or if there are any possible repairs.