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How The Freeze Thaw Cycle Affects Your Chimney

As the winter weather rages outside, many of us rely on our fireplaces to keep us and our families cozy and warm. Unfortunately, even when our fireplaces are keeping us warm inside the icy weather can be damaging our chimneys outside.

One of the most damaging forces to your chimney is called the freeze thaw cycle. The freeze thaw cycle can cause significant chimney damage, often in as little as one winter season. However, there are steps that homeowners can take to minimize and prevent this kind of chimney damage from occurring.


What is the freeze thaw cycle?

Brick is a naturally porous substance that can absorb small amounts of water from rain, sprinklers, hoses, dew, and other sources. During normal weather conditions, this water can easily evaporate without damaging the brick. However, when the temperature drops below zero the water in masonry can freeze and expand. When the air temperature warms back up, the ice will melt; however, it leaves a bigger space for more water to enter. This repeated process of damage is called the freeze thaw cycle and can cause serious damage to your chimneys masonry in as little as one year.

How your chimney is damaged

Although bricks are naturally porous, most masonry in good condition is not affected by the freeze thaw process due to the extremely small amounts of water the brick can absorb. However, there are several factors that may leave your chimney more susceptible to freeze thaw cycle damage.

Spalling: Spalling is an easily recognizable sign of masonry damage. Spalling is caused by long term water damage to a chimney and can cause masonry to crack, chip, crumble, and fall away.

Pressure washing: Many homeowners think of pressure washing as an easy way to clean the masonry surrounding their home. However, the extreme water pressure can create cracks, holes, and chips in the bricks and mortar as they wash away dirt and grime. These tiny holes mean the brick is more susceptible to water damage caused by the freeze thaw process.

Using the wrong bricks: Not all bricks are created equally; for this reason, chimneys that have been patched or had bricks replaced may have areas with more or less water damage. This is especially true if recycled or repurposed brick has been used.

Preventing masonry damage

While regular maintenance and inspections are an important part of keeping your chimney in good condition, some masonry damage can be prevented by waterproofing your chimney’s masonry. The waterproofing process involves coating the bricks and mortar with a specially designed sealant; this sealant allows the masonry to remain semi porous without letting any water in. Having your chimney waterproofed is an excellent way to prevent water damage from the freeze thaw cycle, as well as keep any existing spalling or damage from getting worse.

This year, don’t let the freeze thaw process cause damage to your chimney. Contact Guaranteed Chimney Service today for more information on keeping your chimney safe from water damage all winter long!

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