Inspecting Your Home
The following is a basic guide to help make you aware of different areas of your masonry home that can and should be inspected yearly to help maintain your property while saving you money by avoinding major problems and repairs.
The Masonry Chimney
There are a few things to look for when inspecting your chimney. First, look for white staining on the masonry itself. This staining is caused from a poorly drafting furnace (boiler) or hot water heater. The white staining is called efflorescence. Efflorescence is caused by water infiltrating the masonry and causing a chemical reaction with the calcium sulfate, sodium Sulfate and iron Oxide within the mortar joint. As a result the water is pulled out through the masonry material. Efflorescence can be the initial sign of a problem and could lead to expensive repairs if not repaired.
Second, look close at the joints of the chimney if possible. Look for deteriorated mortar joints, or cracking that may have occured. Also, look to see if any bricks have lost their faces. This is called "spalling". Weather is the culprit for all of these failures.
Third, make sure to check the chimney cap. A cracked and deteriorated chimney cap can allow water to get inside the chimney causing major problems. Ideally, a drip edge should be present on your cap to help keep water off of the masonry.
Once water has infiltrated a masonry wall or structure it can become trapped within. At which point water can then find its way into the brick itself. Come winter, when temperatures drop below freezing, the water freezes and expands which can cause damage such as faces of bricks popping off, or spalling brick. When the core of the brick is exposed, the brick can no longer repel water and basically becomes a sponge. The repair needed is to replace the brick to prevent moisture from spreading throughout the entire masonry. Inspect the north elevation of your home or business, along driveways and walkways where the snow and ice are likely to accumulate.
Caulking is probably the largest source of heat and A/C loss in any home and or business. Failed caulking lets air infiltrate the home/business through the window perimeters. CRI removes the caulk and uses several different types of caulk depending on the substrate. Typically we use a high grade one part polyurethane sealant to ensure longevity and flexibility. Caulking will help to make your home or business more energy efficient.
Steel lintels (angles) can be found over windows, basement windows, doors or any masonry opening. Rusted steel lintels can cause the jacking of the surrounding masonry. For example, corrosion of steel is likely ten times larger than the steel itself. Since the steel lintel is deflecting down, an opening shall be made to inspect the steel and most likely it is easier to just replace. The steel lintel shall be replaced with Galvanized steel lintels as suggested by the Brick Institute of America (BIA). All steel will rust, but with some minor maintenance of the steel lintel and surrounding masonry, the process of rusting can be slowed down dramatically, especially using Galvanized steel lintels. Do not caulk the steel lintel joint where the steel meets the masonry. The mortar joint (bed joint) is designed to let water filtrate out and preventing leaky windows.
The smoke chamber is located in the transition area in a masonry chimney that starts just above the damper and continues up to where the first chimney flue is installed. Approximately 60% of all fires associated with the chimney start at the smoke chamber area. This is due to improper installation of the masonry construction. Inspect for holes, parging that maybe missing, deteriorated brick or any defect that would cause concern. The smoke chamber should be parged with a high temperature mortar (cement). Parging offers more heat protection and is less expensive then tearing down the facial wall or rebuilding the interior facial wall. It is not the answer to all problems, but parging helps keep the heat inside the chamber and may help to avoid a house fire. With the use of Solid Flue material we can offer a “Zero” clearance rating with three quarters of an inch of Solid Flue material parged into the smoke chamber, ensuring safety and peace of mind.
The fireplace firebox should be inspected for the following possible problems. Any cracked brick, cracked mortar joints, or loose brick. Check the seal around the clean out door and how the damper functions to make sure it is sealed tightly. A deteriorated fire box can be very dangerous due to the close proximity of the fire. Lastly, check the seal of the fireplace's damper. A leaky damper can cause an increase in heating and cooling costs.