There’s nothing more cozy on a cold, winter evening than relaxing in front of a fireplace. The warmth, the scent of the burning wood, and the crackling sounds all combine to provide you with luxurious comfort. If your chimney has structural, maintenance or materials problems, however, a fire in the hearth can quickly turn into a house fire that will devastate your home and family. Many people don’t realize that they need repairs until they’ve sustained irreparable damage that has to be replaced rather than repaired. Fortunately, regularly checking it both inside and outside of your home should help you keep serious problems at bay by addressing common problems early on. There are five easy-to-see, distinct signs that mean you should hire someone to do chimney repairs as soon as possible. Have you checked for any of them?

A Missing Or Damaged Cap

For most homeowners, checking this is as simple as looking up toward the top of their chimney. The cap is made of a durable metal such as copper or stainless steel and will have vented sides to ensure that smoke can escape. The top of the cap is designed to shed rainwater away from the bricks and prevent it from getting inside. It will also keep animals such as birds and raccoons out so that they don’t make nests that can cause fires or block air from escaping. If this is missing, the exterior and interior bricks are being exposed to moisture that can quickly cause them to deteriorate.

A Damaged Or Missing Crown

The cap is held in place by the crown, which is made of concrete or mortar that has been applied to the top of the chimney to support the cap. Because the top edges of most bricks are more porous than the sides, it’s critical to have a crown in place. Is the crown damaged in any way? If it is crumbling, cracked or uneven, you’ll need chimney repairs to patch or replace the crown. Also look for receding or flaking corners that could compromise the integrity of the structure.

White Stains On The Exterior Bricks

You’ll sometimes see white stains blooming on the exterior bricks after a rain. This is caused by salt being brought to the surface due to moisture in the bricks. As the walls dry, the salt tends to rise to the outer surface. This is sometimes called efflorescence, which is a fancy term for salt residue. Many homeowners simply wash it away without worrying about what it means. In reality, the moisture build up can be quite damaging. Be sure you get a quote for chimney repairs or replacement. If you let this go too long, you could encourage a house fire.

Missing Or Damaged Mortar

The mortar that holds the structure together is made to endure the elements as well as high heat, but it doesn’t last forever. Take a small knife or other tool outside and scrape at the mortar at random junctures. If it easily flakes off, crumbles or is dislodged, you’ll need chimney repairs as soon as possible. Repairing this mortar is sometimes referred to as tuck-pointing in the industry. If you’ve waited so long that you can also move some of the bricks themselves, you’ll probably have to bypass repairs and go straight to replacement.

Firebox Damage Requires Immediate Chimney Repairs For Safety

The firebox is the interior area of your fireplace, where you’ll have the grate and where the heat of burning wood is surrounded by firebricks. Look for loose, crumbling or flaking mortar as well as efflorescence or loose firebricks. Any damage at all to the firebox should be fixed before you light another fire. Because firebrick is delicate and requires a special kind of mortar sometimes called refractory cement, you should hire a professional home improvement company that frequently performs these kinds of repairs. They will have the expertise to address all of your chimney repair needs quickly and safely so that you can get back to enjoying the roaring fire in total safety.