Your home is one of the most important investments that you will make. As a homeowner it’s important that your investment is maintained so the value will not decrease, but will increase as one of your most important assets. Fireplaces are one of the six features that an appraiser looks for in a home. A non-working fireplace can devalue the price of the property. Making sure that the fireplace is maintained and properly staged will add value. Here are some of
the crucial maintenance issues that need to be addressed.
Missing Mortar and Damaged Bricks
A fireplace that has damaged bricks and/or missing the mortar between the bricks is not only unappealing; it can cause hazardous burning conditions. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your entire firebox will need to be replaced or torn apart. The repair solution is not as hard or as messy as it seems. Bricks can be cut out and replaced. The mortar can be chiseled out and refilled. In some severe cases it may call for a complete firebox demolition and replacement. This is usually the exception rather than the rule.
Missing Fireplace Damper
Fireplaces are often either missing the damper plate or the damper plate and/or frame are rusted, warped or unusable. Since fireplace dampers are made of cast-iron or steel they can rust when exposed to moisture such as rain, snow or leaks. Consider replacing this damper with a top-sealing damper that will create a tight seal when the fireplace is not in use and the damper is closed. This alone can save you hundreds on your heating and air conditioning bills by retaining air that would otherwise escape up the chimney. In fact, top-sealing dampers usually pay for themselves within 2 – 5 years. These dampers have a simple handle mechanism that is attached in the firebox. A steel cable attaches this handle to the damper lid. Just pull down to close the damper and tug and release the handle to open it. Some dampers also come with a chimney cap that includes a spark arrestor and prevents animal intrusion while the damper is open.
Damage or Improper Construction
Every now and then a new home is constructed by a builder that takes short cuts. Sometimes the shortcut may be
in the construction of the fireplace. And sometimes the home may be older and showing signs of damage or wear and
tear. Common problems include a smoke chamber that’s incorrectly constructed. Or perhaps the builder put another flue into the fireplace smoke chamber or just ran it through the smoke chamber that’s above the fireplace. Another common problem is when the flue has damage and needs to be relined. These issues can usually be fixed without tearing down the whole chimney or fireplace.
Exterior Signs of Deterioration
If a chimney has a leak, signs of deterioration will most likely be evident. Wet brick, white mineral stains, cast-iron damper rusting, leaks around the chimney on wall paper or drywall, deteriorating brick or mortar will often be visible, accompanied by a stinky damp smell. These problems can be prevented by keeping up with the maintenance on your fireplace and chimney. Waterproofing will repel moisture entry in brick. A repair to the chimney crown (similar in principal to the crown on your tooth) will prevent moisture entry through the crown. A chimney cap is imperative to keep your chimney from being a large rain gauge. Deteriorating mortar can be fixed. Damaged bricks can be replaced.
Long Term Investment
If your fireplace and chimney are left to the elements and not maintained, it will end up costing you thousands in the
long run. However, a properly maintained fireplace adds to the value of your home. One thing is for sure. By keeping
your fireplace and chimney in top notch condition you will be preserving this important asset in your home – one of the biggest investments you will ever make.
– Written and published with permission by Karen Lamansky the author of “Fireplace Design Ideas”
published by Creative Homeowner. This article first appeared in The Chimney Sweep News.