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Parge Your Chimney Smoke Chamber this Summer

Many homes with masonry chimneys in Middletown and throughout the Hudson River Valley region were built in the early 19th century when chimney construction standards were much different than they are today. As a result, many of these homes with older chimneys have smoke chambers built with corbelled brick, a standard practice at the time. Since corbelled brick can cause drafting issues, excessive creosote, and exposure to carbon monoxide gas, homeowners should parge their chimney smoke chamber this summer.

corbelled chimney brick, cold spring nyWhere is the Smoke Chamber?

The smoke chamber is the area between the damper and flue. Its upside-down funnel design pushes the smoke and toxic fumes in the fireplace up the flue to exit the chimney. As you can imagine, there is intense heat in the smoke chamber, and it’s where many chimney fires originate. Unfortunately, the exposed brick in the corbelled brick’s stairstep design typical in older chimneys is deteriorating due to age, masonry damage, and other deficiencies.

Smoke Chamber Hazards

The exposed jagged steps in older smoke chambers built with corbeled brick masonry often have cracks or gaps that fill with soot and creosote, reducing drafting efficiency, which can cause smoke and carbon monoxide to be pushed out of the fireplace and into your living space. Another hazard is the excessive creosote that accumulates on the flue liner, further increasing fire risk. Additionally, if the chimney is unlined, like many older chimneys in upstate New York, the intense heat in the smoke chamber weakens the masonry allowing the heat to potentially spread to nearby combustible building materials, such as the attic, and other areas that can lead to a house fire.

When Smoke Chamber Parging is Necessary

chimney smoke chamber parging, columbia county nyWhen the corbelled bricks are damaged or deteriorating, building codes and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) require the inner surfaces of the smoke chamber to be parged smooth with insulating refractory mortar material to reduce the risk of a chimney fire and exposure of carbon monoxide to homeowners.

The only way to determine whether your smoke chamber needs parging is to have a Certified Chimney Sweep® perform a chimney inspection. During a visual inspection, the chimney sweep carefully examines the interior surfaces of the chimney, including the smoke chamber. If the smoke chamber is decaying, then parging will be recommended. We parge the smoke chamber smooth, sealing any gaps, cracks, and crevices using an insulating cerfractory material explicitly developed for parging smoke chambers per NFPA and International Residential Code (IRC) requirements.  It is UL listed and tested to withstand temperatures of more than 2,500°F.  Smoke chamber parging not only reduces health and safety hazards but also reduces creosote build-up, improves draft, and restores its structural integrity.

Smoke Chamber Repair

If you reside in an older home with a masonry chimney in the Hudson River Valley area, contact us to schedule a chimney inspection. A Certified Chimney Sweep® will inspect your chimney and fireplace to determine if your smoke chamber needs parging this summer.

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