If you live in an older home, chances are that you own a fireplace. A lot of times, it is the focal point of a living room or den. A fireplace is a great source for supplementary heat, and in these very trying financial times, every penny counts. If you can save money by keeping your fireplace up and running, then making the necessary repairs or upgrades is essential.
You will need to inspect the fireplace and chimney. This means inside and out. If you are unable to safely scale a ladder and the roof, you should consider hiring a reputable professional. If you are confident, set aside a half day to inspect the entire fireplace.
It is difficult to detect chimney damage from the ground so secure a ladder, preferably one that has hooks and climb on the roof. If you can tell that the chimney is leaning, you will probably need a professional because serious structural damage may not be something that you can tackle.
There are generally four parts of a chimney:
The Stack – The actual bricks and mortar portion of the chimney. It surrounds the flue and points north from the roof.
The Flashing – The actual base of the chimney stack. It securely connects the stack to the roof of the house.
The Flue – The duct that carries exhaust from the fireplace through the chimney and cap to the atmosphere.
The Cap – The slanted top which fits around the outside top of the flue and over the stack.
You want to make sure that none of the bricks are cracked or crumbling. If so these will need replacing. If the base, or flashing, is not connected securely to either the stack or the roof, it will need to be repaired or replaced to avoid water leaks. The flue should be sturdy with no deterioration or cracks. If so, call in the help of a professional. You will need to check the cap for wear and tear. You will need to fill in any cracks, but if it is deteriorated it will need replacing.
You can now check the fireplace. The four parts of a fireplace are:
The Hearth & Chamber – The brick portion of the fireplace. The chamber is where the logs are burned.
The Mantel – The outer wooden portion framing the fireplace. There should be a shelf at the top portion of the mantel.
The Flue – See Above
The Damper – The plate that adjusts to either open or close the flue.
When checking the hearth and chamber, make sure to check for cracked or broken bricks and crumbling mortar. Damaged bricks need to be replaced. Be sure to research the exact type of bricks that you will need as there are different types for different needs. You will need to replace the mantel if there is any smoke or fire damage or if you are redecorating. As stated earlier, there should be no cracks or deterioration in the flue. Lastly, the damper should work and be clean and free of any debris.
Now that you have assessed the damage, if any, you are ready to buy the materials and repair or refurbish your fireplace. It is wise to check the fireplace after every winter so that you can have it repaired before cold weather arrives.