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How Cold Weather Can Damage Your Masonry

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 DamageCold Weather Can Damage Your Masonry - Memphis TN - Coopertown Services

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.

By Christina Robinson on February 27th, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

Even Minor Seismic Activity Can Lead to Cracks in Your Chimney

When discussing when to have their chimneys inspected, most homeowners know that they need to have an inspection done if their home has been affected by a major natural disaster such as a tornado, house fire, or earthquake. However, many fail to realize that even minor seismic activity can damage their chimney structures.

Although you may think of California as the only part of the United States to be affected by earthquakes, more and more seismic events are occurring in the rest of the country. With fault lines crisscrossing the country, there is the potential for both major and minor seismic activity in the Midwest.

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Earthquakes in Memphis?

The San Andreas Fault line might be the most famous in the United States, but it is far from being the only fault line in our country. In the Midwest, we are most affected by the New Madrid fault line. This fault line runs from Saint Louis to Memphis, affecting more than 15 million people in an 8 state range.

The New Madrid fault line is most famous for a series of quakes between 1811 and 1812, the most severe of which even caused the Mississippi River to flow backwards. While the fault line has not caused a major quake in more than 200 years, it is responsible for small amounts of seismic activity each year.

“We have about 200 small earthquakes per year that we record,” said Gary Patterson of the University of Memphis Center for Earthquake Research and Information. “Compared to California, you’re getting two to three thousand smaller quakes like that, but for eastern North America, this is a hot spot, the most active seismic area east of the Rockies in the United States.”

According to a 2009 report by the US Geological Survey, Memphis could be particularly vulnerable to any major seismic activity. “Memphis has an aging infrastructure,” the report states, “and many of its large buildings, including unreinforced schools and fire and police stations, would be particularly vulnerable when subjected to severe ground shaking.”

How does seismic activity affect my chimney?

Your chimney structure may be damaged during even a minor earthquake. The shaking of the ground and of your home may cause the masonry to crack or crumble. This leaves your chimney vulnerable to further damage, including detaching from the home or toppling over. To prevent this from happening, homeowners should ensure that their chimneys are adequately braced. Metal straps should be placed to connect the chimney to other structural parts of the home such as the ceiling, floor, and roof joists.

Likewise, having an annual chimney inspection is an important part of detecting any masonry damage caused by seismic activity. Trained technicians will inspect the interior and exterior of your fireplace and chimney structure for signs of damage, including cracks that are dime-sized or larger or areas of masonry that crumble when scraped with a metal tool.

If you suspect that your chimney may have been damaged by minor seismic activity or have significant damage to the masonry of your chimney structure, contact Coopertown Services today. Our expert staff can inspect and evaluate the overall health and safety of your fireplace and chimney system, eliminating potential safety hazards and saving you money on costly future repairs!

Types of Masonry Restoration

Need some repairs done on your masonry? Coopertown Services is the one to call!

Need some repairs done on your masonry? Coopertown Services is the one to call!

All masonry will eventually begin to deteriorate, but this is especially true of chimney masonry, which has to withstand an extraordinary amount of weather—positioned as it is at the very top of your roof, where it is in the direct line of fire of sun, wind, rain, and snow throughout the year. And, of course, extreme heat and acidic gases put additional pressures on your chimney.

The good news is that masonry damage can be reversed, and most chimney masonry can be fully restored so that your chimney is safe and attractive once more. How can masonry in poor condition make your chimney unsafe? If you live in Memphis, TN, call on the chimney experts at Coopertown Services, or read on for more information.

Why It’s Important to Take Care of Your Chimney Masonry

Is you chimney’s masonry cracking or spalling? Are there bricks missing or ones that appear loose? Is the mortar crumbling? If you notice signs of disrepair, your chimney is likely absorbing water, drawing it into the interior of the chimney like a sponge, where water damage can quickly spread into your living space.

A chimney with gaps in the brick may also leak toxic gases through the masonry, which can be surprisingly absorbent and porous. The chimney should ideally serve as a very tightly sealed passage from your fireplace or stove to the outside atmosphere, into which the byproducts of your fire can vent safely away from your home and family.

The Masonry Inside Your Chimney

The best way to protect your chimney’s interior masonry is to have it lined or to have a product like HeatShield professionally applied. HeatShield will effectively seal up any gaps or cracks inside your chimney, creating a smooth, heatproof tunnel; it may also allow you to resize your chimney flue to achieve better drafting. As important as your exterior masonry is, it’s even more crucial that the inside of your chimney is airtight and waterproof.

Your Chimney’s Exterior

If the outside of your chimney is stained, streaked, crumbling, leaning, or covered in plants or algae, something is not right, and your chimney is likely not functioning the way it’s supposed to. Our trained chimney masons will be able to restore your chimney to optimum condition with our age-old tuckpointing traditions. Following any repairs, we strongly recommend that your chimney brick be “sealed” to keep water our and gases in and protect any repairs that have been made. The solution we use to waterproof chimneys is water soluble and still allows your chimney to “breathe.”
Coopertown Services handles chimney masonry repairs throughout Memphis. Call us today at (901) 358-7777.