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Helpful Guide to the Most Common Chicago Chimney Repairs

Chimneys are an excellent aesthetic, and functional, addition to your home. Outside, the exposed brick adds major curb appeal, while inside, the radiating warmth creates the coziest home. While chimneys are built to stand the test of time, Chicago seasons take their toll. To keep them functioning, and safe, there are many common Chicago chimney repairs that are necessary to perform.

Chicago chimney deterioration naturally occurs due to repeated exposure to harsh elements – our winters are no joke. A few of the most common chimney problems that arise include cap and crown damage, crumbling masonry, creosote, odors, dampness, blockage, and cracks in the flue.

While easy to ignore, if left unattended, these problems could potentially cause costly damage to the rest of your house as well. Let’s review these 6 most common repairs for your chimney, going from the top of the cap to the bottom of your flue.

Common Chimney Cap and Crown Problems

Damaged Chimney that needs repairs for Most Common Chicago Chimney Repairs BlogThe chimney cap and crown are the topmost pieces that go on your chimney. Chimney caps are the metal tops that cover the exposed hole where the smoke comes out. Their purpose is to keep precipitation and objects (small mammals, leaves, debris) out of the chimney, while also keeping sparks and embers in. By serving this dual purpose, chimney caps help prevent internal issues, and decrease the chance of a roof fire.

Chimney crowns, also known as a chimney wash, are thick slabs of cement resting under the chimney cap. The crown covers the whole top of the chimney and is a protective boundary from the outside. Both of these main chimney pieces are held up by layers of brick masonry.

Damage to the chimney cap or crown is common, leading to small cracks being easily missed by homeowners. Anything from strong winds, to winter storms, or even falling tree branches, can permit the entry of rainwater and snow.

While a crack in your masonry, or tilt of your chimney cap, may not seem like an immediate problem, they can be made worse over time by wear from natural elements. When it comes to your chimney, small problems can easily become big problems and should be assessed immediately.

Why Creosote Buildup Is a Common Chicago Chimney Repair

Creosote Buildup

Easy to get, inexpensive, and naturally occurring, wood is a common fuel choice for fires. Yet, burning wood creates natural by-products of smoke, soot, and creosote.

Creosote is a dark brown, tar-like substance created from the burning of plant material. The substance itself is flammable, with excess deposits increasing the risk of house fires.

When creosote accumulates it interferes with the chimney’s venting system. The sticky bunches decrease airflow, allowing for smoke to circulate into the home instead of out. The resulting poor ventilation can cause the accumulation of carbon monoxide, which as Penn Medicine describes, is a renowned odorless, tasteless, and colorless silent killer.

As a Chicago homeowner, you are well aware Chicago stays cold for a majority of the year. The more you use your chimney, the more wood you burn, and the faster the creosote builds up inside.

In locations with milder winters, creosote buildup might not be significant until after a few years. But here in the Windy City, creosote accumulation can be significant after just a year of time.

Cleaning out or checking creosote levels annually is required to prevent the risks associated with creosote deposits. While a common chimney repair issue, creosote buildup is a very serious matter.

As the experts in Chicago chimney services, Valley Chimney Sweep and Restoration can safely and quickly remove these tough flammable deposit build-ups, as it is a difficult job and these chemical by-products are dangerous to breathe in. Best to let the professional chimney sweeps handle this one.

Why Does My Fireplace Have a Strange Odor and How Can I Fix it?

As summer wanes to the cooler seasons of fall, winter, and spring, your fireplace – and therefore your chimney – will start to get more frequent use. Yet, these seasons are trouble for another reason other than the cold they bring.

With snow and rain, these forms of precipitation allow for moisture to enter your chimney. When a chimney leak occurs, moisture is trapped in the dark, sealed space, allowing for a damp environment that is a breeding ground for mold and mildew.

These bacteria produce a nasty smell – and that is just one issue caused by mold and dampness. By increasing the risk of mold and mildew growth, chimney dampness also increases mold spores in the air, which can cause serious health issues when inhaled.

Left untreated these issues can result in serious breathing issues and lead to other health concerns. You want to avoid these issues, and if they occur, they need to be addressed right away.

Ideally, you hope to enjoy the glowing ambiance, warmth, and soothing aroma of burning firewood when using your fireplace. So experiencing bad odors every time you use your hearth can be disheartening.

The mixture of moisture and firewood ash produces a strange, smoky, and damp odor that lingers long after you’ve put out the fire, and spores make the room unusable. Have a Valley Chimney Sweep and Restoration technician examine your fireplace today to avoid odor problems and keep your home smelling like home.

Most Common Causes of Chimney Blockage

The main function of a chimney is to allow smoke from an internal fire to exit a house while remaining as closed off to the outside elements as possible. But sometimes, the outside still ends up inside your chimney and prevents it from functioning properly.

In addition to creosote, natural causes of chimney blockage include:

  • Tree leaves and sticks
  • Birds
  • Squirrels
  • Bugs
  • Bats
  • Bees / Bee hives
  • Nests
  • Fallen debris

Chicago is cold, and everyone wants to keep warm in the winter. After all, that’s probably why you have a chimney in the first place. But humans aren’t the only ones trying to stay warm in the winter.

Winter is also a tough time for animals, and they will seek out a warm location to hibernate or build a shelter. Unfortunately, this makes your chimney stack an ideal home for these critters. It’s warm and protected – their dream home.

Unfortunately, fumes from the chimney can cause these small animals to perish inside it, and be difficult to remove. This leaves a rotting animal carcass both blocking your chimney, and stinking your home up. While furry creatures are cute, they are troublemakers for your chimney!

Another obstruction could be the chimney itself. In short chimneys, the column of rising heated air does not adequately form, resulting in an ambient updraft. This negative pressure is another popular cause of obstruction in airtight homes. Lacking the height for proper airflow can lead to odor issues and an increased risk of Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

Scheduling annual inspections with a professional Chicago chimney technician can ensure the resolution of these potential blockages before a problem arises. You can also speak with your technician about installing a chimney screen or cover to prevent future blockage. In a place with harsh winters like Chicago, it’s a good idea to take precautions with your chimney.

What To Do if You Have A Cracked Flue Lining or Crumbling Chimney Bricks

The flue is the internal, vertical chamber that allows smoke passage from your fireplace to the outside. Residential chimneys are often initially built with a clay tile lining. Over time, creosote and heat stress cause problems within the flue lining, which compromises the layer of your chimney that safeguards your home from catching fire. This problem can be alleviated through flue relining, and can only be performed by expert Chicago chimney sweep technicians.

Chimney masonry is supposed to last long, but poor maintenance shortens its service life. Deterioration starts with spalling, which is when the surface layer of bricks flakes off. Over time, the freezing and thawing of moisture in bricks and mortar can cause cracks making your chimney lean, crumble, and even collapse. If you aren’t getting annual inspections, this damage can occur without your being aware.

Chimney maintenance through professional tuckpointing can help stabilize and protect your chimney. Our certified chimney specialists are ready to help!

Get Professional Chicago Chimney Repair and Maintenance Help

VC customer reviewWe understand that homeowners try to save money by doing home maintenance themselves when and where they can. But DIY chimney sweeps and repairs can be incredibly dangerous to you and your home. Chimneys are naturally built at increased heights to deposit smoke away from your surroundings. Working at heights like these can be very dangerous, and acquiring the skills to maneuver and fix repairs at this height properly takes years of experience.

With Valley Chimney Sweeps, we are here to keep you, and your home, safe. For expert Chicago chimney maintenance services, contact Valley Chimney Sweep and Restoration, and let us do the hard work for you. We offer various repair, replacement, and masonry services, to help keep your chimney in top working condition.

Need regular chimney maintenance in Chicago? Worried about the cost? If you have questions about pricing for the Chicago area chimney repair, we can help with that too. Contact our office today to see how you can benefit from our Chimney Sweep For Life Program, or check here to see if we service your area.

Choose Valley Chimney Sweep and Restoration for Your Chicago Chimney Repair Needs

Your home is an extension of you, and making sure all parts of it – especially your chimney – are safe, fully functional, and regularly maintained is crucial. Handling all of that on your own is stressful. With Valley Chimney Sweep and Restoration, it doesn’t have to be!

For over the past 40 years, we are proud to say we have successfully been aiding in Chicago residential chimney repair. With extensive knowledge in our wide range of services, all of our employees are Certified Chimney Sweep Professionals, as we are dedicated to providing the highest quality customer service.

Local to the area, our business has been family-owned and operated since 1978. Our mission is to prevent damage to, or from, chimney hazards. So far, we have serviced over 40,000 chimneys throughout the western Chicago suburbs, and can’t wait to help with yours as well.

Do you reside in Chicago and need help with one of the 5 most common chimney repairs? Contact Valley Chimney Sweep and Restoration today to schedule an appointment!

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