Brick fireplaces can offer a specific old-world charm to a home. But some brick fireplaces clearly show signs of age, and they can cause more than hurting the aesthetic appeal of your home.
Fireplaces offer low-cost and eco-friendly heating. Even with the brick kind, they need care to last years in your home. If you’re unsure when to call for professional restoration, here are clear signs that your old brick fireplace needs an update.
All fireplaces have a section called the firebox where the fire burns. It’s the area most exposed to heat. The typical material for fireboxes is brick and stone, as they’re believed to withstand extreme heat. But they can also suffer damage from other factors. Brick and stone are porous materials that can also absorb water. Every time it rains, water seeps into your chimney and down to the fireplace, causing the material to swell and crack. Brick and stone can swell because they also undergo a cycle of freezing and thawing. While some may find the cracks appealing, they can lead to complete damage. You’ll need to call contractors like d’Angelo Brick Repair to look at the fireplace cracks.
Brick stains or discoloration aren’t just signs of poor maintenance. They’re also an indication of an underlying problem. While it’s common to see staining from soot or creosote (a carbonaceous chemical compound) on your brick fireplace, they can create a fire hazard.
White staining or efflorescence can also cover a significant part of the brick fireplace, especially if the brick fireplace is exposed outside of the house. While it’s harmless in general as it’s a build-up of water-soluble white salt, in some cases, white staining is also a sign of lime run, dissolving calcium carbonate. The stain appears to be running or dripping down on the wall surface. It’s caused by water getting into the cracks or holes in the brick. It’s an indication of cracks that need immediate repair.
Red Or Brown Stains
Red and tan bricks contain manganese oxide which is a colorant. The stain is the product of its exposure to acid. Water can also dissolve manganese that runs down the surface of the brick. But corrosion and rust can also cause stains, which is a sign of structural problems.
Green stains are signs of vanadium salts contained in the brick. They’re also caused by the interaction of water with the bricks, forming salt deposits. These stains are acidic and can cause damage and hard-to-remove stains.
If you see this kind of stain, it’s best to consult professionals to look closely at the fireplace and the chimney.
If you see that the bricks on your fireplace look like they were pulled away, it’s called spalling. It happens when moisture can get into the brick that causes a freeze-and-thaw cycle. In the long run, the bricks will flake, crumble, and pop out of the area where they were initially placed.
The primary reason that causes brick spalling is the quality of the brick and mortar. If the mortar isn’t adequately compressed, the brick won’t freeze and thaw safely. Bricks can also allow too much ice, rainwater, and moisture when they’re too porous. Pressure washing and sandblasting can also cause damage to the brick little by little.
Spalling is more than an aesthetic issue. Moisture retained in the brick and chimney can breed mold. It can also cause structural damage and eventual collapse.
Take a closer look at your fireplace and notice the mortar that holds up the bricks. If the mortar between the bricks looks like it’s receding or chipping, you’ll need to have it restored. Under normal circumstances, the mortar is the first to show signs of deterioration due to exposure to the elements. Rain, ice, wind, and snow can make decay inevitable. Damaged mortar joints can allow moisture to seep into the chimney to break down the fireplace faster.
You can repair minor damage with refractory caulk designs for fireplaces as these have silica that’s heat resistant. But they’re for quick fixes like crumbling mortar and cannot be used on broken bricks, missing mortar, or significant mortar gaps. Also, avoid using refractory caulk on the firebox, especially if the damage is substantial. The safer route is to call a fireplace contractor or professional mason to look at the damage.
Signs that your old brick fireplace needs restoring are firebox cracking, discoloration, missing mortar, and spalling bricks. Examining your brick fireplace to catch abnormalities that’ll lead to severe damage is essential. It’s common in older homes with a brick fireplace, and you must do an inspection to unearth underlying problems. Call your fireplace contractor immediately for a proper diagnosis of these signs.