While your fireplace is keeping you warm from the cold temperatures outside, winter weather may be damaging your masonry. Freezing temperatures combined with snow, freezing rain, and harsh winds can cause damage to your chimney. However, there are several ways that homeowners can protect their fireplaces during the winter season.
The Freeze Thaw Cycle and Masonry Damage
During the winter, masonry damage is primarily caused by the freeze thaw cycle. The freeze thaw cycle occurs when trapped moisture in the bricks and mortar freezes and expands. Because masonry is naturally porous, any chips or holes can allow moisture to be absorbed by the bricks; water from rain, snow, ice, and even sprinklers and hoses can seep into even minimally damaged masonry.
When weather gets colder in the winter, freezing temperatures can cause this absorbed water to freeze and expand. The frozen water expands, it further breaks down the masonry and creates progressively larger and larger holes and cracks. As the water thaws, the larger holes left behind allow even more water to be absorbed. The freeze thaw cycle can cause significant damage and deterioration in as little as one winter.
Signs of Masonry Damage
The most classic signs of masonry damage are chipped or cracked bricks, missing pieces of mortar, or crumbling and spalling bricks. This kind of damage is most often caused by the freeze thaw cycle and can affect not just the looks of your chimney, but also its ability to draft correctly – or even its structural stability.
Other signs of masonry damage may be more difficult to spot. Damage to the chimney crown or chimney cap, for example, may be difficult to see because of their location on top of the chimney. This kind of damage is often noticed due to water entry in the fireplace; the presence of water in the chimney or firebox may indicate damage to the chimney crown or cap.
Preventing Winter Masonry Damage
While we may not be able to control the temperature and weather outside, we can help protect your masonry during the cold months of winter. One of the best and most effective ways to keep your chimney system in good condition year round is by having an annual chimney inspection. During a chimney inspection, our certified sweeps will check the interior and exterior of the fireplace and chimney for signs of damage or deterioration. Chimney inspections are also useful tools in diagnosing the underlying causes of ongoing chimney issues such as leaks or draft problems.
In addition to annual inspections and maintenance, waterproofing can help protect your chimney against water entry. Waterproofing masonry sealers prevent water from getting into your chimney while allowing the brick to remain semi-porous; this allows gas to safely pass through the bricks while keeping moisture out.
Don’t let freezing temperatures this winter cause masonry damage to your home’s chimney! Contact Coopertown Services today for more information on preventing masonry damage or to schedule your next chimney inspection.