Replacing your traditional wood-burning fireplace with gas logs or a gas fireplace insert is tempting. Gas fires turn on and off with the flip of a switch or the press of a button; they’re temperatures are controllable; they’re generally cleaner and more efficient; and you don’t have to worry about the hassle of dealing with firewood. But if you’re looking to switch your wood-burning fireplace to another type of fuel, you do need to consider the damage it could cause to your masonry chimney without taking the proper precautions.
What is spalling?
Simply put, spalling is the crumbling and cracking of bricks or masonry, generally caused by an excess of moisture. Spalling can cause the face of bricks to pop off, and over time, spalling in your chimney can weaken the structure. When you’re chimney’s bricks are failing, it can allow carbon monoxide, heat, and even flames or sparks to find their way out of your chimney and into your home’s structure, putting your home and your family at risk.
How do alternate fireplace fuels cause spalling?
Your fireplace’s masonry was meant to deal with the byproducts of a wood fire, such as soot and creosote. The byproducts of a gas fire, however, are very different. The primary output of a natural gas fire is water vapor, which condenses on the sides of the chimney as the smoke from the fire cools near the chimney’s top. That water vapor is primarily acidic, containing the same acids found in rain. Because fires rely on oxygen from within a home to burn, the water vapor from a gas fire also often contains the chlorides from cleaning products that present are present in most homes’ air. The acid, chlorides, and moisture wear down a masonry chimney, leading to spalling and a failing chimney.
How do you avoid spalling when switching fireplace fuel sources?
The best way to prevent a problem with your chimney when switching fuel sources is to have your fireplace insert or gas logs installed by a CSIA-certified chimney sweep. That sweep will inspect your chimney to make sure it is compatible with the insert or logs you wish to install. To create the right draft for your new fireplace, which ensures that your fire will combust efficiently, your chimney sweep will make sure that the flue is the proper size for the fireplace. Your sweep also will check to make sure the chimney’s material is well-suited to the fireplace. If your chimney is not ideal for your new fireplace, your chimney sweep can install a flue liner that is the right size and material for your fireplace.
If a new fireplace already has been installed and you are unsure of how your chimney is fairing, your certified chimney sweep will check for damage during your annual chimney sweep and inspection, which is vital even if you are no longer burning wood. Your chimney sweep will be able to identify spalling before it becomes a major issue and recommend a way to address the spalling.
Whether you’re looking to install a new fireplace, or if you’re concerned about your chimney’s compatibility with your new fireplace, call the certified chimney sweeps at Mountain Man Fireplace and Chimney. Our experts will ensure your chimney won’t fall victim to spalling with your new fuel source.