Northeastern Masonry & Chimney's Blog

Firebox Repairs: Do You Need Them?

One component of your fireplace system that is put under the most stress is the firebox. Your firebox is built out of materials which are capable of handling extreme temperatures, open flames, and corrosive byproducts associated with burning fuel. However, over time, your firebox may begin to crack, crumble, and show signs of wear. When this happens your firebox can’t properly do its job of protecting the rest of the house from fire. This can lead to serious and hazardous issues that can put your home at risk. At Northeastern Masonry & Chimney, we want to help you identify issues associated with your firebox and let you know that we are here to help you with all of your firebox repairs.Firebox Repairs Do You Need Them Image - Albany NY - Northeastern

Masonry fireboxes

If you notice damage to your firebox masonry, it needs to be repaired. If the brick is cracked, it may be able to be patched. However, if you notice any crumbling bricks, you will have to replace them. The bricks in your firebox aren’t like normal bricks, but are specially made refractory brick designed to handle high temperatures. Because of this, only let an experienced mason replace brickwork within your firebox to assure that the correct materials and methods are being used.

If you notice that your masonry joints and mortar are cracked and crumbling, the will need to be repaired with a process called tuckpointing. Tuckpointing involves grinding away the mortar between brickwork and replacing it with new mortar.

Sometimes the damage to a firebox may be extensive enough that a rebuild is required. This involves removing all the old brickwork in your firebox and replacing it with new brickwork. Although this may seem like a big project, a lot of people use it as an opportunity to change the overall design of their fireplace.

Prefabricated metal fireboxes

Sometimes a metal panel on a prefabricated firebox will start to develop cracks or become brittle. This can be remedied by simply removing the old panel and replacing it with a new one. This is a repair that some people will try to do themselves. However, replacing a firebox panel is something that requires experience and training. If panels aren’t installed correctly, you could be putting your home at risk. Therefore you will only want a trained professional to work on your prefabricated firebox

Whether you need crack repair, tuckpointing, panel replacement or an entire rebuild, Northeastern Masonry & Chimney can help you with all of your firebox repairs. Our masons have many years of experience and have been certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. That means you can be confident that their work will be done correctly and safely. Call us at 518-767-9315 or visit us online and to schedule an appointment today!

Function of a Chimney Crown

Mother nature isn’t kind to your chimney. Over the years, the weather can take a serious toll on your chimney. A couple of the most devastating elements your chimney faces is water and ice. If water is allowed inside your chimney, there are a variety of problems that it could cause. These include the deterioration of masonry, staining, and bad odors.

With the many issues that water can cause, wouldn’t you want to protect your chimney any way that you can? Fortunately, when your chimney was constructed, a chimney crown was probably installed as well. A chimney crown is your first line of defense against rain, snow, and sleet. At Northeastern Masonry and Chimney, we want to explain the importance of your chimney crown as well as why it needs to be maintained.

What is a chimney crown?Function of a Chimney Crown Image - Albany NY - Northeastern Masonry

A chimney crown is located at the very top of your chimney. Structurally, it is simply a slope that built along the top of your chimney that deflects rain and snow away from your chimney flue opening. If constructed properly, your crown should be able to deflect a lot of the rain away from your flue. Your chimney crown doesn’t cover your chimney flue, however, so your chimney crown works with your chimney cap or chase cover to offer total rain, snow, and sleet protection.

Leaky chimney crown

Due to your chimney crown’s location on the top of the chimney, it is exposed to all the elements. Constant exposure to water, ice, sun, and heat causes your chimney crown to deteriorate more quickly than other parts of your chimney system. This can cause your chimney crown to start cracking and loosening from the chimney. Because of its location, your chimney crown may not be easy to inspect. Unfortunately, you may not know you have an issue with your chimney crown until you notice chimney leaking. The best way to avoid chimney crown leaking is to keep up with your annual chimney inspections.

Repairing your chimney crown

At Northeastern Masonry and Chimney, we get called out to perform chimney crown repairs regularly. If your chimney crown only has minor cracks and leaking, we may be able to use a product called CrownSeal. CrownSeal will seal your crown, allowing it to function properly again. If there is more extensive damage to your chimney crown, our expert masons can build you a new one.

The longer water is allowed to get into your home, the more damage it will cause. If you think that your chimney crown may be cracked or loosening, don’t hesitate to get a hold of one of our CSIA-certified chimney sweeps for an inspection and repair today.

We Serve Parts of Western Massachusetts too!

You know that Northeastern Masonry & Chimney offers Northeastern New York’s best chimney service, but did you know that we also service Western Massachusetts as well? We have been servicing fireplaces and chimneys for over 35 years and we love what we do. That’s why we extended our service area to include the wonderful people of Western Massachusetts.We Serve Western Massachusetts! Image - Albany NY - Northeastern Masonry

Our service area in Western Massachusetts includes North Adams and Pittsfield as well as 29 towns and 10 villages in Berkshire county. Although we are proud to serve our customers in Western Massachusetts, there are other reasons that we love this area as well.

The Mountains

Western Massachusetts is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in North America. If you want to get in touch with nature, this is the right place for you. Nestled in the Blue Ridge and northern highlands of the Great Appalachian Valley, Western Massachusetts offers wonderful sightseeing, camping, and hiking. In fact, 90 miles of the Appalachian Trail runs through Berkshire County.

Western Massachusetts is also home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Hiking through the woodlands of Western Massachusetts, you’ll discover over 100 different plant species. If you are into animals, you will be able to see all sorts of birds, squirrels, rabbits, whitetail deer, and maybe even a moose. Berkshire County offers a treasure trove of living thing that even the most experienced naturalist would be excited to explore.

Waterfalls

If you love waterfalls, just head to beautiful Bish Bash Falls State Park near Mount Washington. Bish Bash Falls is the tallest waterfall in the state, cascading almost 200 total feet. Enjoy a picnic by the waterfall or go hiking to the summit of the falls for a view of the Appalachian Mountains.

History

Western Massachusetts was part of the original colonies and is chock-full of history. Berkshire County has many historical sights and antique stores. If you want to see what life was like in colonial times, visit the Hancock Shaker Village and explore their living history museum in Pittsfield.

We are happy to be part of the culture, history, and people of Western Massachusetts. That’s why we will continue to be the area’s best choice for chimney service and maintenance. If you live in our service area and need a chimney sweep, don’t hesitate to call Northeastern Masonry and Chimney at (413) 931-3464 or schedule an appointment online today.

Chimney Resolutions (how to be prepared for next year)

This is the time of year for making resolutions to better ourselves. Many people resolve to improve their diet, start a new hobby and to exercise more. However, we here at Northeastern Masonry & Chimney believe that 2018 is a great year to resolve to take better care of your home chimney system. Taking good care of your chimney can save you money on future maintenance costs as well keep your home safe. At Northeastern Masonry & Chimney, we have a few tips that can help you keep your chimney resolutions this year.

Annual InspectionsChimney Resolutions Be Prepared Image - Albany NY - Northeastern Masonry

Have you had your chimney inspected within the past year?

The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) suggests getting yours inspected by a CSIA-certified chimney sweep at least once a year. If you didn’t have a chimney inspection in 2017, this means that you are likely overdue for a chimney inspection. Chimney inspections are crucial to your chimney’s health. An inspection by a CSIA-certified chimney sweep will let you know if there are any issues such as loose brickwork, creosote buildup, or blockages in your chimney, just to name a few. Getting these issues resolved as soon as you can may prevent small issues from becoming large issues, saving you money in the long run.

Improve Safety

Taking preventative actions to reduce fire risk is another great resolution this year. This is another reason why annual inspections are so important. A CSIA-certified chimney sweep will be able to tell if you have any chimney blockages or creosote buildup in your chimney. Creosote buildup and chimney blockages can catch on fire and loose masonry may cause heat from your chimney to transfer to adjacent woodwork also starting a fire.

Other ways to reduce risk of fire include:

  • Keeping all combustibles at least three feet from your fireplace opening
  • Installing a fire screen to prevent embers from flying onto your carpet
  • Installing fire and carbon monoxide alarms around your home
  • Making sure everyone in your home knows what to do in case of a fire

Load Up on Fuel

Now is the perfect time to chop and stack wood to burn for next year’s winter. Wood needs six months to a year to sit and dry before you can burn it in your fireplace. This is called seasoning your wood. That means you need to start cutting and chopping wood now to burn for next year. Also, since chopping and stacking wood is excellent exercise, resolving to get a start on seasoning your firewood now may also help with personal New Year’s resolutions as well!

Although it may seem early, now is the perfect time to schedule your annual chimney inspection with Northeastern Masonry & Chimney. Not only is the new year an easy time to remember your annual inspection, you will also be able to get ahead of our yearly springtime chimney maintenance rush. Contact us to schedule a chimney inspection with one of our CSIA-certified technicians today.

Cleaning Out Your Fireplace After the Holidays

The holiday season is filled with holiday tradition and, if you own a fireplace, many of your holiday traditions were probably observed around the warm glow of a fire. Whether it’s roasting marshmallows or opening presents, a fireplace adds a perfect ambiance to your Christmas backdrop. With family and friends around, your fireplace probably gets used more during the holidays than it does at any other time of the year. Because of this, we here at Northeastern Masonry & Chimney think it is important to know what you should do to maintain your fireplace once the holiday season is over.

InspectionCleaning Out Fireplaces Post Image -Holiday - Albany NY - Northeastern Masonry

First and foremost, if you haven’t had your annual chimney inspection yet, now is the perfect time to do that. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) suggests getting your chimney inspected annually.  Annual inspections help you make sure that there isn’t any dangerous resin or creosote building up on the inside of your chimney. Also, make sure that your chimney is inspected by a CSIA-certified chimney technician, like the ones at Northeastern Masonry & Chimney.

We believe that right after Christmas is a perfect time for scheduling a chimney inspection. First of all, clear off your mantel. Since you will probably be moving holiday decorations from your fireplace and fireplace mantle anyways, you won’t have to do any extra clearing of the inspection workplace. After we finish our inspection and cleaning, you can move your regular decorations back.

Cleaning

If you have recently had an inspection, we still suggest that you clean out your fireplace about once a week when it is being used a lot. The first thing you will want to do is cover your carpet and furniture with some old sheets or a drop cloth, if you have one. Once you have done that, you can clean the ashes from your firebox. Remove the andirons and grate and use a fireplace shovel to shovel loose ash into your trash. Once your ash is gone, create a mixture of warm water and baking soda and use a stiff bristled brush to clean soot off of your brickwork.

Sweeping in the New Year

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a nice clean fireplace to ring in the New Year? If you are looking to have your chimney cleaned or inspected, now is a wonderful time to do it. Call Northeastern Masonry & Chimney today or contact us online today to set up an appointment with one of out CSIA-certified technicians today!

Fun Fireplace Activities for Your Holiday

The holiday season is here and that means the nights are getting longer and colder, meaning that your family will be spending more time indoors. With the holidays just around the corner, children will soon be on winter break and friends and family will be visiting to celebrate the holiday season with you. With so much going on, it may be hard to find activities for everybody. At Northeastern Masonry & Chimney, we know the holiday season is hectic, so we would like to help you by sharing some of our favorite fireplace activities to keep your families and guests entertained.

Hot Cocoa Mixer Bar

Fun Fireplace Activities for Your Holiday - Albany NY - Northeastern Masonry & ChimneyBuy some hot cocoa mix or use a homemade cocoa recipe. Next, set up a bar with whipped cream, different types of marshmallows, sprinkles, flavored syrups, candy canes, and all of your other favorite hot cocoa additions. Next, sit around the fireplace and compare your creations with one another and see who made the best cup of hot cocoa. Competition never tasted so delicious!

Winter Campout

Just because it’s winter, that doesn’t mean that camping season is over. Use blankets and pillows to set up a fort in your living room. Trust us, this is just as much fun for adults as it is kids! Sit around the fireplace telling stories and reminiscing about the past. For an even more realistic camping experience, sting up white Christmas tree lights across the ceiling so you can camp “under the stars.” Finally, no campout would be complete without our favorite camping treat, s’mores! Just get a couple of sticks and roast your marshmallows over your fireplace fire. If you don’t have an open fireplace, no worries, there are other ways you can bring s’mores to your campsite.

Game Night

Are you up for a little friendly competition? If so, the family game night should be on your holiday activity list. Board games are a fun way to pass the time, especially around the glow of a warm fireplace. Board games like Monopoly, Checkers, Scrabble or Yahtzee are loads of fun and will make the family game night a tradition in no time.

Happy Holidays to You!

We here at Northeastern Masonry & Chimney would like to wish you a warm and happy holiday season. Our holiday wish is that you will able to enjoy your fireplace for the holidays. If your fireplace is in need of servicing, there’s still time to schedule an appointment before the holidays get into full swing.

Chimney Cap Benefits in the Winter

When you burn a fire in your fireplace, smoke, gases, and hot air flow up your chimney flue and outside of your home through an opening at the top of your chimney. This opening exposes your chimney system and home to all sorts of potential hazards. Luckily there is a small and relatively inexpensive device that you can add to your chimney system to protect chimney from potential issues. A chimney cap is an essential component of any chimney system. This is especially true in the winter when snow, ice, and cold weather can affect the health of your chimney.

What is a chimney cap?Chimney Cap Benefits in the Winter Image - Albany NY - Northeastern Masonry

A chimney cap is a device that is attached to the flue where is comes out of the chimney. The cap prevents rain and snow from getting into your chimney. Chimney caps are usually designed with a mesh screen on its sides to allow smoke and gasses out of your home, but keep leaves and critters out.

Moisture Protection

Winters are especially hard on your chimney and if snow or rain gets into your chimney it can cause a number of issues. Probably the most costly issue related to moisture is when water seeps into the tiny pores of your brick and mortar. When it gets cold enough, the water can freeze and expand, causing cracking and crumbling of your chimney masonry. Not only can this affect the functionality of your chimney, it can also cause a hazardous situation by loosening brickwork enough to cause bricks to detach and fall.

There are other potential chimney system issues caused by rain and snow. If moisture gets inside your chimney, it can mix with ash, oil, and creosote deposits along your chimney wall. Not only can this mixture corrode the inside of your chimney, it also causes a formidable odor that can creep into your home. Other potential issues related to moisture are: rusted firebox and damper assemblies; water stains on chimney exterior and walls; chimney settlement; and rotting of your homes wooden framework.

Nature Protection

Chimney caps also prevent nature from entering your chimney. An unprotected chimney may allow leaves and small branches to enter your chimney flue. Animals may also see a chimney opening as a nice, protected place to build a nest. Chimney blockages can really mess with your chimney systems airflow, allowing smoke and other gases into your home. Furthermore, blockages can also combust, causing a chimney fire.

What kind of cap do I need?

Winter is almost here! If your chimney cap is missing or worn out, and you’re looking to replace it, it’s important to know that chimney caps come in a number of styles and sizes. The best way to know if you have the correct chimney cap is to have a certified chimney technician inspect your chimney and guide you from there. At Northeastern Masonry & Chimney, we have a wide variety of chimney caps that can we can customize to fit any chimney. If you’re in the market for a chimney cap, or have questions regarding chimney cap installation, please contact Northeastern Masonry & Chimney today to schedule an appointment with one of our certified chimney technicians.

How Air Pressure & Flow Impact Your Chimney System

Does your chimney have issues with odor, or letting too much smoke in your home? A smelly chimney is unpleasant for anyone living in your home and can be embarrassing when you have friends visiting your home. Smoke entering your home can also cause odor issues, but can also cause eye irritation and can leave nasty smoke stains on your walls and furniture. A lot of the time these issues are caused by issues with airflow and air pressure within your home and can be solved somewhat simply with a chimney system inspection from a Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) certified chimney technician like the ones at Northeastern Masonry & Chimney.

Your Home Air SystemAir Pressure & Flow & Your Chimney Image - Albany NY - Northeastern Masonry

The air in your house is in constant motion, even if you don’t notice it. Generally, hot air moves towards the upper portions of your home while cooler, denser air stays in the lower portions of your home. However, there are many factors that can affect the airflow in your home. A general knowledge of your home’s airflow and what affects it can help solve odor and smoke issues caused by your chimney.

Stack Effect

The stack effect occurs when warm get trapped in the upper areas of your home. This warm air is pushed out of small cracks in the roof and walls of your home. At the same time replacement air is drawn into the home. Somewhere in your home is a Neutral Pressure Plane (NPP). The warmer air above this plane has slightly higher pressure than the outside. The cooler air below the NPP has air pressure that is slightly lower than the outside. This means that the lower parts of your home will try to suck air in from outdoors.

Newer homes tend to be airtigh. Often times this means that fireplaces that are placed below the NPP will suck in air from outdoors through the chimney. This means that all the odors that are in your chimney will be drawn into the home. This will also cause smoke to be pushed into the home if your fire is not warm enough.

Wind Loading

When high winds strike your home, it will cause high pressure on the side of your home being struck by the wind. If a window is opened on the downwind side of the house, it can cause a backdraft, meaning smoke will be drawn out of the fireplace. Instead of up the chimney.

What can I do?

There are a couple things that you can do to fight negative air pressure. First, you can prime your chimney before you light a fire. The cold air in your chimney flue will want to sink into your home once you open your damper. You can warm up your flue by rolling up a piece of newspaper, lighting it, and sticking up your chimney to warm it up will warm up your flue and prevent smoke from entering your home. Building a hotter fire will also reduce smoke coming into your home because hotter air is lighter and will pull air up the flue.

Lastly, smoke and air need to be able to flow freely up your chimney flue. Creosote buildup and debris inside your flue can cause airflow issues which, in turn, can lead to issues with smell and smoke. The best way to ensure smooth airflow in your chimney flue is to have your chimney inspected annually by a CSIA-certified chimney sweep. If you have questions related your home’s airflow, don’t hesitate to contact Northeastern Masonry & Chimney today and have one of our CSIA-certified chimney experts inspect your chimney today!

Fire Starting Tips for Fall and Winter

The cold and blustery days of autumn are upon us and soon it will be time for cozying up around a warm fire with your family. Nothing beats the feeling of warmth and ambiance that a fireplace provides. Starting a fire in your wood burning fireplace may seem simple, but it actually takes a lot of steps and some skill to start a wood fire. At Northeastern Masonry & Chimney, we want you to be able to enjoy your fireplace all winter, so we offer you these fire starting tips.

Safety FirstFire Starting Tips for Fall and Winter Image - Albany NY - Northeastern Masonry

Before starting any fire think about safety first. First, look at the area surrounding your fireplace. Are there any combustible items (like wood and cloth furniture) within a minimum of three feet away from your fireplace, it needs to be moved. Also, check to see if your chimney is blocked.

Be sure there is an open airway out of your chimney. Nest, old leaves, and creosote can cause blockages which can be fire and smoke hazards. The best way to be sure your chimney is clear is to have it checked out by a Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) certified chimney technician like the ones at Northeastern Masonry & Chimney.

Pick the Right Wood

Before you start your fire, be sure to choose the right kind of wood. You will want to pick wood that has been properly split and dried (or seasoned) to avoid too much smoke and creosote buildup. Check out our previous blog for wood selection tips.

Open Your Damper and Prime the Flue

It is very important that you open your damper before you start your fire. If your damper is closed, the smoke produced by your fire will have no place to go but into your home. Once your damper is open you may start to feel cold air coming from your flue. This cold air sink will cause smoke to come into your house until your flue warms up. You can avoid this by priming your flue. This is done by lighting a roll of newspaper and holding it up in your flue until you feel the draft reverse.

Build Your Fire

It is usually best to build your fire on an ash bed. A 1 – 2-inch ash bed provides insulation to keep your fire burning hotter. If you do not have an ash bed, you can use ashes from an outdoor grill or firepit. However, too much ash can cause fires to burn poorly, so don’t allow more than a couple inches of ash to build up.

There are a couple techniques that can be used to build your fire, but the most common technique consists of starting with a small bunch of kindling such as paper, leaves, or something easily combustible and building the fire up. On top of your kindling, you will want to lay small dry sticks that can easily catch fire. Next lay a layer of medium-sized logs/sticks on top of your kindling. Start your fire by lighting the kindling with a long match or lighter. Once your medium-sized logs/sticks have caught fire, you can start to lay larger logs on your fire.

Contact Us

If you have any questions on the proper way to start a fire, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Northeastern Masonry & Fireplace today to and ask our fireplace experts how to build a fire for your whole family to enjoy.

What is a Firestop and Why is it Important?

It’s hard to notice, but your house is constantly shifting and settling. Because of this, your chimney and stove vent pipes are not connected to your house, even when they are passing through floors and walls. This allows your home to move while your chimney stays in place, and keeps your venting from making contact with your home. However, it also allows for gaps between the rooms and floors in your house. You may not think a little gap is something to be too concerned about, but these gaps can actually be a safety hazard in the event of a fire. Small gaps allow for a fire to spread more easily from one room to another. Fortunately, there are measures you can take to cover these gaps and make your home safer.

What is a Firestop?What is a Firestop & its Importance Image - Albany NY - Northeastern Masonry

Venting pipes may pass through several floors of your home. When they do, they need to be framed and have at least a 2-inch clearance from the floor as well as any wall they travel through although some local fire codes may have larger clearance requirements. This clearance keeps combustible materials from making contact with hot vent pipes. Further, even at relatively low temperatures of 200 – 300 degrees, wood can become chemically altered, making it more combustible. However, the clearance also allows for flames to spread easier from one floor to the next in the case of a house fire. That is why it is important to have firestops installed in your home.

A firestop is simply a square piece of sheet metal with a hole cut in the middle of it. Your vent piping runs through the hole and the sheet metal around the hole covers up the clearance area at the ceiling, floor, or wall. Some local codes will also require fire-blocking foam to be sprayed in and around the clearance area along with the firestop.

How Do I Know if I Need a Firestop?

Almost all fire codes require firestops, however, older homes may have worn out or missing firestops. The best way to determine if your firestops are in place and correctly installed is to have a Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) certified chimney sweep inspect your chimney system. At Northeastern Masonry and Chimney, we knowledgeable and up to date on all local clearance and firestop fire codes. If you aren’t sure if your home is up to code, please schedule an appointment with one of our CSIA certified technicians today!

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