Chimney systems are built to withstand both the heat from a fire as well as exposure to the elements outdoors. While these heating appliances are made to last, damage to the firebox can cause your fireplace to become unusable. Thankfully, there are a number of techniques that can be used to repair the firebox without resorting to buying a new fireplace or never using it again.
Causes of firebox damage
As the fireplace component where the heat and flames are located, fireboxes are built to withstand extreme heat and direct contact with flames. Despite this, there are still a number of ways in which your firebox may be damaged. The following are three of the most common causes of firebox damage.
- Incorrect installation. Fireboxes should always be installed by chimney professionals; having a contractor or other construction worker build a firebox is a recipe for disaster as they often do not understand the finer points of fireplace construction. In addition, using the wrong materials during construction can lead to damage. Because of the heat they are exposed to, fireboxes should only be built using firebricks and refractory mortar.
- Moisture. The firebox is designed to stand up to heat – not water. Because of this, any amount of moisture can cause significant damage to the refractory masonry of the firebox. The combination of water and high heat can cause deterioration to the bricks and mortar far faster than it would occur elsewhere in the chimney system or on exterior masonry. Water should never be used to extinguish a fire as it can cause the masonry to crack or spall; likewise, water in the firebox is almost a surefire indication that there is a leak somewhere in the chimney system.
- Settling. All homes settle or shift over time, no matter how well they are built. Unfortunately, settling can also occur within your fireplace system; if the firebox was not built on strong concrete footings, the fireplace will not remain stable against settling. Firebox damage from settling is most often seen as large cracks in the firebox masonry; left unrepaired, these cracks can allow heat, gas, and other byproducts of combustion to escape the firebox and affect the rest of your home.
Repairing firebox damage
While damaged fireboxes should not be used due to safety concerns, there are several ways in which the masonry of the firebox can be repaired. Repairing – rather than replacing – the fireplace can help you save money on a new fireplace while also avoiding the hassle of living through a complete fireplace rebuild.
One of the easiest and most common ways to fix firebox damage is through tuckpointing. During the tuckpointing process, damaged mortar is removed before new mortar is put in place; doing this helps seamlessly blend the repair into the rest of the firebox without affecting the safety or structural stability of the chimney.
A damaged firebox can compromise the safety of your fireplace system and should never be ignored. For more information on repairing the firebox or to schedule your firebox repair appointment, contact Mason’s Chimney Service today.