Natural Stone Chimney Maintenance

Caring for your natural stone chimney in Asheville, North Carolina, can be easily done. You can keep your outdoor chimney both beautiful and functional with a small investment of time.

The steps you take to clean your natural stone chimney and how frequently you do so depend on many variables. Because outdoor fireplaces are exposed to the elements, they may be prone to different types of damage. Your lifestyle and usage of your outdoor fireplace also determine how much maintenance it needs.

If you have been considering adding an outdoor fireplace and chimney to your North Carolina home, now is the time to take action. Contact Ambrose Landscapes to start planning your design.

Regular Sweeping

Your natural stone chimney must be swept regularly to remove the organic debris, soot, and ash that collect from normal use. This eliminates creosote, a byproduct of incomplete combustion that can build up inside your chimney. Creosote can form when the wood burned has not been properly split, covered, and left to dry for a year. As a result, smoke is unable to exit the chimney. This is why sweeping on a regular basis is so important.

Preventing Creosote

Because creosote is highly corrosive and flammable, it can reduce the longevity of your chimney system. 

Avoid letting creosote build up by doing the following:

  • Schedule annual inspections before using your fireplace in Fall.
  • Make sure your smoke chamber is smoothly sealed.
  • Burn hardwoods that have been seasoned for at least a full year.
  • Use a small amount of wood at one time.

Proper Cleaning

Cleaning your stone chimney with a natural, stone-safe cleaner at least monthly makes it more resistant to stains and etching. This includes the following:

  • Fire and smoke damage: Smoke and fire damage can appear black and sooty, especially on older natural stone chimneys.
  • Moisture damage: Chimneys can leak and puddles can form in or near outdoor fireplaces. This can result in efflorescence, a crystalline buildup or powdery deposit of salts.
  • Organic stains: Leaves, bark, bird droppings, insects, and more can leave a pinkish-brown stain after being removed from the stone.
  • Biological stains: Algae, mold, moss, fungi, or lichens can form on outdoor stone and leave a stain after removal.

Sealing When Needed

Perform a simple water test to determine when you need to seal your natural stone chimney. Pour water approximately 3 inches in diameter on your chimney. Let it sit for 30 minutes. If the stone darkens, the sealer has worn down and the surface is absorbing the water. Conversely, if the stone looks the same, your fireplace is properly sealed and does not need another application.

Relining Your Flue

The flue liner contains the combustion products, directs them to the outside atmosphere, and protects your chimney walls from heat and corrosion. This protects your fireplace from heat transfer to combustibles and the masonry from the corrosive byproducts of combustion. Because the liner can be impacted by freeze and thaw cycles, it can crack, fracture, and form gaps and holes over time. This can impact the safety, efficiency, and performance of the chimney system. An inspection can uncover and fix this issue.

Preventing Leaks

Your chimney needs a cap and crown to prevent water from coming in.

A chimney cap is a metal piece covering the top of the flue and, in some cases, the chase or stack. The cap is designed to do the following:

  • Protect against moisture from rainwater that can produce mold and mildew.
  • Keep out birds, raccoons, squirrels, and other animals that may make homes in your chimney.
  • Prevent lit embers from traveling up your chimney and potentially starting a fire.
  • Stop leaves, branches, twigs, and other debris from entering and blocking your chimney, potentially causing a fire.

A crown is a metal, concrete, or stone slab that covers the top of the chimney. It stops water, snow, sleet, and ice from getting into your chimney and rusting the metal or rotting the wood in the stack and fireplace. The crown can crack, crumble, and deteriorate with age and exposure to rain, snow, sleet, ice, and erratic temperatures.

A damaged chimney crown can cause the following:

  • Rusted metal chimney liner
  • Cracked and collapsed clay tile liner
  • Damaged neighboring walls
  • Destroyed smoke chamber 
  • Rusted out fireplace
  • Damaged firebox

Have your chimney cap and crown repaired as soon as you notice deterioration.

Natural Stone Chimneys by Ambrose Landscapes

At Ambrose Landscapes, every stone fireplace and chimney we build starts with a design based on the homeowner’s choices. The type, style, size, and shape of the stone used depends on what you want. All of our designs include properly planned fireboxes, chambers, dampers, and flues to ensure that you receive the highest quality and most effective operation possible. Let us start creating your fireplace and chimney today.

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