Should I Reline and Insulate My Chimney?

Many older homes were built before modern building codes required chimney liners. Peeking inside an unlined flue of an early 1900’s home and you will probably notice burn marks, cracks and other damages indicative of one or more chimney fires. Today, most building codes require chimney liners. But they don’t last forever, and the liner will eventually need to be repaired or the chimney relined.

Why You Need a Chimney Liner

Durable Clay Liners That Are Good For ChimneysAn unlined chimney is an extreme fire hazard. It exposes the masonry to extremely high temperatures and increases the risk of a chimney fire. The high heat can also damage the masonry surface allowing carbon monoxide fumes to enter your living space. Testing conducted by the National Bureau of Standards more than thirty years ago revealed that unlined chimneys pose a significant fire and safety risk to the structure and its occupants.
The chimney liner serves four purposes: to keep flames away from combustible materials; to direct smoke and fumes through the vent; to protect the structural integrity of the chimney and increase the heating efficiency of your fireplace or heating stove.

Clay Liners

Clay tiles are the most common type of chimney liner. Clay is an inexpensive, durable, and fire-resistant material which are the reasons for its popularity. They are available in rectangular, square and circular shapes and a range of sizes. The tiles need to be correctly sized for the chimney to minimize creosote accumulation. The size and shape of the flue will determine the number of tiles required.
The chemicals produced during combustion can cause clay tiles to corrode, mainly from gas heating appliances. And a water leak can also erode the socket joints causing tiles to crack or fall off. Also, its effectiveness is reduced when tiles are not installed perfectly straight and flush against each socket joint. Although clay tiles are relatively inexpensive, it is very labor-intensive to install. So, if more than a few tiles need repairs, it will be more cost-effective to reline the chimney.

Concrete Liners

Concrete flue liners share many of the same advantages and fire-resistant properties of clay tiles but don’t corrode when using gas fuels. There is also less creosote accumulation when heating with wood-burning appliances. They are also referred to as cast-in-place liners because the cement is poured directly into the chimney. When the cement cures, it hardens into a smooth surface without any seams. It also increases the structural integrity of the chimney, making it an excellent choice for relining older flues. Like clay, cement is porous, and cracks can develop in the surface, especially during settling or if low-quality cement was used. Also, water leaking into the flue can lead to deterioration of the liner.

Steel liners

Durable - High Quality Steel Chimney Liners U.L. listed stainless steel liners are considered among the highest quality materials for relining chimneys regardless of fuel source. Steel liners have superior fire resistance qualities and unlike clay or cement, are also resistant to water, pests, and mold. Like other chimney liners, they require professional installation and must be correctly sized for the chimney. High thermal insulation is usually installed with the liner to increase performance and safety. They are also easy to clean and maintain, making them well worth the investment.

A chimney liner insulates the chimney protecting the integrity of the structure while maximizing heat from your fireplace to keep your family safe and your living space warm and cozy. Annual chimney inspections and cleaning can also help extend the life of your chimney liner.

Why You Need to Waterproof Your Chimney

waterproof chimneyOn rainy days many homeowners are inside where it’s nice and dry. Perhaps relaxing on the sofa with a good book or playing games with the kids to keep them occupied. But outside your chimney is in a battle and Mother Nature almost always wins. That’s because water is the chimney’s mortal enemy. And it’s not only rain. The pounding sleet and snow, freezing rain and even condensation can also wear down the chimney.

Over time moisture will soften the exposed bricks and mortar. The softened masonry is weakened further during the freeze/thaw cycle. You may even notice pieces of bricks and mortar on the ground. In more severe cases, entire bricks can fall from the chimney that can ultimately cause the structure to collapse. As the porous masonry soaks up the moisture, it expands during freezing. This process causes tiny cracks in the bricks allowing water to leak inside the chimney when it thaws. Water leaks can be especially dangerous. It can damage your flue liner, rust the damper and other metal components and increase the risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. Waterproofing your chimney will help equip it to win the battle against Mother Nature.

Make chimney repairs

chimney repairBefore waterproofing your chimney, it is essential to make any necessary chimney repairs. Otherwise, you are just preserving its already weakened condition which can lead to more extensive renovations in the future. An experienced chimney mason will perform tuck pointing to repair spalling and missing bricks. If the chimney has extensive damage, it may require rebuilding or a complete renovation.

Start with a clean chimney

Once the chimney repairs are completed, the next step is to clean the chimney. It’s critical to eliminate the dirt, grime, algae, mold, and other contaminants before the water sealant application. Dirt, fungus, and bacteria are not only an eyesore, but they can also damage the masonry. Use low pressure to wash the bricks as high pressure can damage them. When the masonry is clean and dry, it is ready for the waterproofing application.

Choosing and applying the water repellent

There are a variety of water sealants on the market with different strengths. But not all consumer products are best for all chimneys. And if it’s not correctly applied your chimney will still be vulnerable to water damage. It is highly recommended that you consult with a qualified chimney professional in your area. It is the best way to ensure you are using the right waterproofing product for your chimney. They will use an industrial-strength formula and guarantee its application with a five to ten-year warranty. You will need to re-apply the water sealant before the warranty expires to maintain its water protection.


Identifying the Reasons Behind Chimney Discoloration

As years and decades pass, chimney bricks often fade from the effects of blazing-hot sun. This is normal. Other types of chimney discoloration aren’t normal and may signal a need to address the problem immediately.

Various stains can appear on the exterior bricks of a chimney. Here are those that are most common, what they mean and what needs to be done about them.

White stains

Discolored masonry brickEvaporated water is the cause of white staining, or efflorescence, on your chimney. This may be nothing more than normal evaporation of rain, snow or ice. But it also can be a sign that water is getting into the bricks and mortar, which can lead to serious structural damage. Moisture trapped within the masonry also can encourage the growth of mold.

Green, blue and some black stains

These shades of discoloration on the surface of your chimney likely point to mold or algae. Both contaminants thrive on moist environments with little or no air circulation – such as inside cracks in the chimney’s masonry. Algae and mold, especially in large infestations, are known to present health risks to humans and animals.

Brown and some black stains

Brown and black (not mold) stains on a chimney, roof or exterior house walls can have several causes. The biggest concern is when the stains are caused by soot and creosote. When this happens, the reason they’re escaping the chimney needs to be identified quickly. In some cases, the root cause may be a problem with drafting inside the chimney. Another cause can be a chimney fire that burned and went out on its own before anyone was aware of it.

Rust stains

If there is rust on your chimney’s masonry, the most likely cause is corrosion and rusting on your chimney cap that is mixing with rain water. A damaged chimney cap eventually will allow water into the flue, where it will begin to erode sections of the chimney structure.

The value of professional chimney inspection and repair

While you may be able to spot signs of discoloration on your chimney, you probably don’t have the training or equipment necessary to resolve the problem safely and thoroughly. Certified chimney services professionals can diagnose the cause(s) of discoloration and quickly get to work to remedy the situation. For example:

Cracks in chimney masonry: First, we want to determine the location and extent of the damage. Then we can either seal coat the chimney or add fresh new mortar to open areas to prevent further water infiltration.

Mold or algae: If the growth of these contaminants originates from moisture being held in cracks in the masonry, we’ll get the problem fixed fast.

Soot Marks on Chimney MasonryCreosote & soot: We can remove these stains from the outside of your chimney and adjacent areas. We also can perform a thorough inspection to find out why these substances are exiting the chimney in the first place. After cleaning creosote and soot from the flue, we’ll be able to determine if a chimney fire has caused internal damage to the structure.

Rust: A damaged, rusted chimney cap needs to be replaced.

If you’re noticing discoloration on your chimney, the smartest move is to have one of our certified chimney technicians look at it. We’ll diagnose the problem and repair it properly and safely. To arrange an appointment or to get your questions answered, call Complete Chimneys of Pasadena, MD, at (410) 544-7600.

Why You Should Have Your Chimney Relined

A well-built chimney can withstand years of intense heat and toxic exhaust gasses and the damage both can  cause.  But even the best-made chimney won’t perform optimally forever.  This is why there are chimney liners.  Made from several different types of materials, chimney liners offer the added protection you need to extend the life of your chimney and avoid many of the repairs that otherwise would be inevitable once a chimney passes a certain age.

Chimney Relining in Annapolis MD

If you don’t have a chimney liner, consider installing one.  If you do have a liner, make sure to schedule yearly inspections with a certified chimney specialist to check for early signs of liner damage and get them fixed quickly.

Types of chimney liners

There are three main types of chimney liners:

  1. Clay tiles
  2. Metal
  3. Cast-in-place

Here’s a brief overview of each.

chimney repair in Russett MDClay tiles:

The most common chimney liner material, clay tiles are economical and generally perform well.  However, they’re not quick to absorb and distribute the rapidly rising temperatures in the event of a chimney fire, which can cause the tiles to crack and split and leave the chimney’s masonry vulnerable.


Metal chimney liners are typically made of aluminum or stainless steel.  Most often used as replacement liners for existing chimneys, these liners are highly durable when temperature insulation is included in the installation.  Metal liners are perfect for use with wood and gas fireplaces.

Cast-in-place chimney liners:

This style of liner is made from a poured cement-like product installed in the flue to provide a smooth, insulated path for heat and combustion gasses.  They add strength to the structural integrity of a chimney and can accommodate all fuel types.

Primary functions of chimney liners

The Chimney Safety Institute of America lists three primary jobs of a chimney liner:

1. Protect the building materials of the home proximal to the chimney.  When the fireplace is operating, intense heat travels up through the flue.  A quality chimney liner acts as a buffer to keep excess heat from harming parts of the home that surround the chimney.  Tests have shown that woodwork adjacent to an unlined chimney can catch fire in as little as three and a half hours.

2. Protect the chimney’s masonry from heat, moisture and combustion byproducts.  As strong as chimney bricks and mortar are, they eventually will deteriorate after years of intense heat, moisture and gasses.  A chimney liner protects against this deterioration, which can damage a chimney to the point the entire structure must be rebuilt.

3. Create a properly sized flue.  In order for fireplaces to operate at maximum efficiency, the right flue size is required.  Smoke and gasses must exit the fireplace system at a specific pace to avoid excess creosote buildup from wood-burning appliances and the creation of excess carbon monoxide from gas units.  Flue size in relation to fireplace output also affects drafting and burn-efficiency.

If it’s time to have your chimney liner inspected or repaired, Complete Chimneys of Pasadena, MD, is ready to help.  Need a new chimney liner installed?  Our certified chimney technicians will get it done safely and quickly.  Call (410) 544-7600 with questions or to arrange an appointment.

Safety Tips for Your Prefab Fireplace

Prefab Fireplace Change in Baltimore | CompleteChimneys.com

While prefab fireplaces are extensively tested at the factory for safety, they must be installed correctly to be safe in your home. Be sure that replacement parts are made for your specific fireplace, as some prefab fireplaces burn wood while others burn gas or both wood and gas. Factory-built fireplaces have an excellent safety record because they are built to meet strict standards, and they pass rigorous testing standards. However, safe use of these fireplaces is essential. The following safety tips are important to remember when you have a prefabricated fireplace in your home:

  • Never use liquid fire starters like gasoline, charcoal lighter fluid, lantern fuel, or kerosene, Prefab fireplaces are made to burn solid fuel only.
  • Always close the screen on the fireplace to prevent sparks or hot embers from entering your home and possibly causing combustible materials to ignite.
  • Always open the flue damper before you light a fire.
  • Be careful not to overload the fireplace because burning wood might fall out.
  • Refrain from burning Christmas trees or a lot of paper in the fireplace because these types of fires are extremely hot and can cause joints to separate or metal to warp.

Make a prefab fireplace change in Baltimore with the professionals from Complete Chimneys.


The Lifespan of Prefabricated Fireplaces

Factory Built Fireplace Baltimore | CompleteChimneys.com

Many people purchase factory-built fireplace systems because they are a cost-efficient alternative to traditional masonry fireplaces. However, the prefabricated units sometimes have a shorter lifespan than their traditional counterparts, which means they need to be replaced more frequently. At the same time, some factory-built fireplaces are seen more as decorative heating appliances than primary heat sources, which means they are typically used with less frequency. With regular care, upkeep, and maintenance, some of these fireplace systems may last up to 20 years.

Like their masonry counterparts, factory-built fireplaces need to be regularly swept and inspected in order to burn safely and efficiently.  They need repairs and part replacements as necessary. Keep in mind that one of the most common reasons prefabricated units need to be swapped out is because their original replacement parts are no longer available. That’s why installing a new unit is often easier than attempting an after-market repair.

You may also need to replace your factory-built fireplace due to water damage, rusting on the chimney chase cover, or damaged chimney liners. If you need a factory-built fireplace replacement in Baltimore, turn to Complete Chimneys. You should have a chimney professional swap out your prefabricated fireplace in order to be safe and to be sure that your fireplace system is up to date.


What Is a Factory-Built Fireplace?

Prefab Fireplace Change in Baltimore | CompleteChimneys.com

Factory-built or prefabricated fireplaces are designed and manufactured in a factory and arrive at their destinations ready for installation. Typically they are made of metal, with glass doors, air-cooled pipes, and insulated walls. The major advantage for homeowners is that they can be installed at any time before or after a home is remodeled or constructed. Although they do require ventilation, they are easier to ventilate than chimney fireplaces. If you decide to make a prefab fireplace change in Baltimore, you’ll find that they will adhere to the local fire codes. They are constructed in such a way that they can be placed in areas of a home where a masonry fireplace may not be allowed.

The popularity of factory-built or prefab fireplaces is growing exponentially. Complete Chimneys is your go-to source for an effective, affordable, and efficient installation of a prefab fireplace. In addition to their affordability and ease of installation, prefab fireplaces are tested extensively by the manufacturers to ensure their safety. Depending on your taste, you can find a prefab fireplace that burns either wood or gas. They are known for being extremely energy-efficient because of their closed combustion. If you purchase a wood-burning prefabricated fireplace, one load of wood will burn for significantly longer. Also, your monthly utility bill is sure to be smaller because you are using your fireplace as an alternative heat source.

Prepare Your Chimney for Winter

Chimney Contractors in Baltimore | CompleteChimneys.com

You can be sure that winter brings rain, dew, and fog along with occasional snow and ice events. Now is the time to prepare your chimney for winter, which is greatly impacted by all forms of moisture. When the chimney in your home is exposed to moisture, it can change the state and structure of your chimney, especially if the water exposure occurs during a time of extremely high or low temperatures and for a prolonged period of time. Without the proper preparation any of the following may occur as a result of chimney moisture:


Metal plus moisture equals rust. Rust can deteriorate the cap and the flashing on your chimney if not addressed properly by a professional chimney inspector.

Buildup of Creosote

Creosote is a black sludge that can build up inside your chimney flue with increased exposure to moisture. Your chimney should be free of creosote for safety reasons. Over time it can increase the likelihood of a chimney fire.

Damaged Masonry

Moisture can damage a chimney’s brick exterior. If the chimney bricks crack they may fall out, which makes your chimney extremely exposed to moisture. Masonry cracks should be repaired as soon as possible so that small issues don’t turn into high-cost problems.


Chimney leaks are not safe or effective if you want a warm, cozy fire in your fireplace this winter. Make sure there is no water dripping into your chimney or drafty air inside the firebox.

Contact Complete Chimneys, leading chimney contractors in Baltimore to address any leaks or other problems you want repaired before winter.

The Benefits of a Factory-Built Fireplace

Factory-Built Fireplace Replacement in Baltimore

Factory-built fireplaces are extremely popular as a modern option to keeping households warm and comfortable throughout the winter months. They are a good investment because they increase the value of your home. Also, in homes that lack a chimney, homeowners can still enjoy a fire because they don’t need a pre-existing chimney in order to be installed. A factory-built fireplace is designed to be installed either for new construction or for a home that is adding a fireplace. Made up of a firebox inside a steel cabinet, with a steel chimney or flue, you can have a factory-built fireplace installed with very little need for clearance. In fact, these fireplaces are known as “zero-clearance” fireplaces due to their minor safety requirements.  They are made with an insulation air blanket built into the design to keep the outer wall of the fireplace cool, which means they can be safely installed in close proximity to wood framing. Some of the additional benefits of a factory built fireplace include:

  • Affordability
  • Designed with an Entire Chimney System
  • Lifespan of Up to 30 Years
  • Different Styles for Any Décor
  • Flexible Installation Options
  • Efficient Heating

Contact Complete Chimneys to find out more about obtaining a factory-built fireplace replacement in Baltimore.




When Should You Replace Your Prefab Fireplace?

Prefab Fireplace Change in Baltimore

How often do prefab fireplaces need to be replaced? That depends on the condition they are in and how well they have been maintained. However, replacing your prefabricated fireplace is simple when you work with the crew at Complete Chimneys for a prefab fireplace change in Baltimore. A well-maintained prefab fireplace should last up to 30 years, but, unlike brick fireplaces, they don’t last for generations.

As the majority of homeowners want fireplaces in their homes, prefabricated fireplaces are growing in popularity because they are a cost-effective heating option for both new and existing homes. Think of your prefab fireplace as just another appliance that may have a lifespan like other major appliances such as refrigerators or stoves. Depending on how much your prefabricated fireplace system is used the more quickly it will deteriorate. For example, if you use your fireplace every day in the long winter months, it will need replacing much sooner than one that is only used several times a year.

You may need to replace your prefabricated fireplace sooner rather than later if water has come through the chimney. In that case, the water may damage the whole fireplace system and require it to be replaced. Rely on Complete Chimneys to inspect, repair, or replace your prefab fireplace.