Fireplace maintenance is about much more than simply sweeping the chimney and scooping ashes out of the firebox. Because many components of the fireplace system are hidden within the chimney, they may not be receiving proper maintenance unless a professional chimney sweep is called.
One difficult to reach area of the chimney is the smoke chamber. While this part of masonry chimneys serves an important purpose, it can also cause accumulations of soot, ash, and dangerous creosote. In order to keep your fireplace burning safely, the smoke chamber may need to be cleaned, parged, or restored.
What does a smoke chamber do?
Found primarily in the masonry chimneys of older homes, smoke chambers play an important role in chimney dynamics and construction. Used to direct smoke, gas, and hot air from the fireplace up the chimney, smoke chambers help chimneys draft properly without blowing the byproducts of combustion back into your home.
Smoke chamber cleaning
Located directly above the firebox, the smoke chamber can be extremely difficult to access – even for professional chimney sweeps. Because of this, it is recommended that a certified chimney sweep clean and inspect your smoke chamber; this ensures that any buildup of soot, ash, or creosote from the masonry is completely loosened and removed. Likewise, a professional chimney sweep will be able to examine and determine the condition of the smoke chamber, as well as if any repairs are necessary.
Smoke chamber construction and restoration
Most smoke chambers in older homes were constructed using a technique called corbelling. In this building technique, bricks are stacked in a way that creates jagged steps on the interior of the smoke chamber. While this building technique produces a structurally sound chimney, it can also create several maintenance problems.
The primary problem with corbelling is the number of masonry joints in the smoke chamber. With more masonry joints comes more chances for damage or deterioration to the mortar. Because the smoke chamber is difficult to reach and clean, damage to the smoke chamber can go unnoticed as ash, soot, and creosote become trapped in the many nooks and crannies of the masonry.
In chimneys with corbelled construction, restoring the smoke chamber can be a way to make it a cleaner and safer part of the fireplace system. During smoke chamber restoration a technique called parging is used. Parging covers and smooths the jagged edges and steps of a corbelled smoke chamber, creating a smooth, sloped surface without all the nooks, crannies, and masonry joints. Parged smoke chambers are just as efficient and effective at helping fireplace draft, but accumulate significantly less buildup.
When it comes to taking care of your smoke chamber, professional care is a must; the location of the smoke chamber, the difficulty in accessing it, and the high probability of damage all mean help from a professional chimney sweep is needed. If you live in the Memphis area, trust Coopertown Services to properly clean or restore your smoke chamber; contact us today to schedule your next chimney sweeping appointment!