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Old Homes and Chimney Codes

Old Homes and Chimney Codes - Olde Town - Gloucester VAOld homes almost always come with at least one fireplace, and often people seek these homes due this added charm. If you are moving into a home with a fireplace or if you have not used your fireplace for an extended period of time, you may be anxious to put it to use and enjoy the comfort and warmth they bring to a home. Yet, before doing so it is important to get it checked out to ensure the safety standards are up-to-date. A certified inspector can assure you of any needed modifications, point out any safety concerns, and can offer advice on how to approach cleaning and then using your fireplace.

What To Look For

Here are some essentials that will need to be checked out to ensure that your chimney is up-to-date with the current codes and regulations.

  1.  Mortar – If the mortar on your chimney is loose or cracked, it should be replaced before use. If the mortar is showing wear, it can cause your chimney to lean which is not ideal for any type of use. The worse the mortar gets, the more repair will be needed. If a chimney shows excessive signs of leaning or moving, it will become more essential to replace the chimney as whole, rather than merely patch up rough spots.
  2. Chimney cap – A chimney cap is essential in keeping a chimney in good shape, so if you are without one, you should purchase one. A chimney cap helps prevent weather damage and proper use will ensure that any negative outside influences, such as rain, snow, and even birds, will steer clear of your chimney.
  3. Exterior Air Supplies – It is sometimes recommended to install a device that brings air in from the outside to aid the fire and improve the chimney’s draft. Without a device of this nature, the fire will feed off of the air inside the home, making the whole process much less energy efficient.
  4. Chimney Base – Make sure that the base of the chimney is up-to-date with modern regulations. It should be properly reinforced and free of any cracks.
  5. Unrelated Obstructions – Especially if you are just purchasing the home, check for any obstructions that may interfere with proper chimney use, such as wires, cables, pipes, and things similar. Previous owners may not have used the chimney for its traditional purpose and worked around it to meet other needs that they had required. Such objects can cause dangerous interferences, should you choose to use the fireplace.

After Inspection

Always keep an open eye for any issues that might come up and ask your inspector what you should be looking for, as far as regular upkeep. To keep a fireplace working safely and properly, homeowners must be responsible for taking all of the necessary steps throughout their maintenance process. And remember to bring a professional in at least once a year to ensure all is well. Once your chimney has been cleared of all possible hazards, enjoy!

Olde Town Chimney Sweeps is experienced when it comes to identifying and solving all chimney & fireplace problems. If you live in an old home, make sure you call Olde Town for an inspection. The codes that were considered safe at the time of construction may not apply to today!

Vines and Masonry: Why These Two Should Not Mix

Many homeowners love the added charm that vines and greenery add to brick and other structures. If you own a masonry chimney, this may very likely be in your home décor plan. Unfortunately, despite the many go-ahead signals some websites today offer in regards to this process, growing vines on masonry chimneys is not a suggested technique and will likely cause a lot of damage (and headaches) further down the road. Two major effects of this seemingly harmless decoration technique is the increased moisture on the brick and the increased risk of pest invasion, once the plants start to grow.

Vines & Masonry - Middle Peninsula VA - Olde Town

Increased Moisture

Moisture is known to be largely detrimental to brick, and most types of ivy will increase the damage that it can do. Vines tend to find any cracks that are already in the brick and mortar and penetrate them, causing the structure of the brick to lock in unnecessary moisture and deteriorate it. Pulling away the vines can also result in the mortar and brick being torn from the wall as the vine has firmly attached itself in order to grow.

Excess moisture in a masonry fireplace causes the mortar to become weak, thus making the brick sag and cause unbalanced pressure throughout the structure. Decay, rust, and water stains are a few more of the many negative side effects of too much moisture in a masonry chimney. These damaging effects not only ruin the look of the chimney, but can also cause structural issues that will violate the safety of a home’s construction. The costs involved in repairing this damage are large, making the incorporation of vines on masonry a bad long-term investment.

Increased Risk of Pests

Added moisture is not the only negative effect of vines on masonry. There is also the increased risks of nasty pests, living in or around these plants, infiltrating your home through the tendrils. While the look of the vines may add a nice feel to your home, the increased amount of pests living in them will cause a lot of extra discomfort and unneeded stress. Pests are commonly known for spreading disease and for causing further damage in and around the home, offering another reason why vines on brick is not a worthwhile decoration.


Despite the beauty these plants so often provide to a home’s character, it is hardly worth the extra cost and maintenance that will need to be faced in years to come. Between pest control techniques and costs associated with deceasing the likelihood of different types of decay, it is best to appreciate the beauty of your masonry as it is. Once the damage is done, repair is both necessary and expensive.

If you had your heart set on doing some type of home décor project with your masonry chimney, there are many other alternative options that will not cause damage to your brick, such as the use of fake plants or vines. And if you are still hoping to incorporate plant life of some type inside, consider putting various potted plants around the chimney that are more suited to in-home care.

Olde Town Chimney Sweeps can help repair masonry damage caused by vines and other plants growing on your walls. Give us a call at 804-693-2859 or contact us here.

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