Chimneys and fireplaces have risen and fallen in popularity over the last century since they became an optional accessory instead of the main source of heat in a home. If you're the owner of a newer house that lacks a real masonry chimney, you might dream about adding a tall stack of brick or stone to your structure. Consider these five complications before calling up a masonry contractor to start the hard work.
You can get the look of a traditional chimney with a lower cost and easier installation by building with faux stone or brick veneers. However, these chimneys only work to conceal vent pipes for pellet stoves and gas fireplaces. Installing a full-sized wood-burning fireplace indoors means building with heavy and expensive materials like solid brick and cut stone slabs.
Before choosing anything else about the new chimney, choose a fuel type for the matching interior addition. Even a freestanding wood stove heater works better with a sealed chimney liner. Hiring a masonry contractor to build the structure around the liner is a smart way to reduce your building costs.
Open fireplaces connecting to big, beautiful chimneys usually suffer from efficiency problems. A strong draft sucks the heat up and out the top, sometimes so quickly your furnace switches on to compensate for the effect. Improve the efficiency of both the fireplace and chimney with design tactics like:
- Tightly fitting flues to help trap heat and redirect it into the room when the fire is well stoked
- Glass doors on the fireplace with gaskets for an airtight seal
- Proper sizing of the chimney to the appliance used inside to limit the amount of drafting
Of course, the company designing and installing the new masonry chimney may offer more upgrades and optimizations. The shape and size of your house also plays a big role in determining which design techniques you can use. The best designs come from a professional who inspects your home and offers a range of possibilities.
Cleaning and Inspection
Don't forget you'll need to clean the chimney regularly, especially if you use it weekly or multiple times a month in the winter. It needs to remain accessible for annual inspections as well. Avoid planting a hedge around the base or decorating the hearth so much it's hard to get near the fireplace.
Since a traditional chimney weighs thousands of pounds as it gets 15 to 20 feet high, you need a separate foundation pad to support this addition. Most homes built with original chimneys include this foundation in the main slab for the house. Depending on the number of stories in your house, you'll need a concrete pad between 8 and 12 inches thick.
Work with a masonry company that also does concrete work to get this part of the project completed as quickly as possible. With the right team, your chimney can start shaping up as soon as the concrete cures.
Finally, remember that most building materials can catch fire. Since your new chimney conducts a small amount of heat as it routes smoke and gas away, it's necessary to create a 2-inch gap around the addition to remove siding, wood framing, and other materials that could touch the masonry. The installers add layers of rockboard, cement board, or other non-combustible materials to greatly reduce the fire hazard.
Building a true masonry chimney comes with a high price tag and plenty of work, but it's well worth the cost for many homeowners. Find a team of masonry contractors willing to work with you throughout the process to make sure your investment ends up looking great and working well for decades to come.