Fireplace Brick Repair: Why Leaving Cracks is Not a Good Idea

The fireplace has been around for thousands of years and in all that time has remained largely unchanged. It’s a remarkable example of human ingenuity and like all the best ideas people have come up with its simple in both concept and execution. In fact it’s so simple that people tend to take it for granted, even to the point that when something happens to the fireplace or chimney they’ll put off repairs. But while the fireplace won’t ever rival the space shuttle in complexity the 2 actually have 1 important thing in common: even seemingly small problems can lead to catastrophic failures.

The Importance of Timely Brick Repair for Toronto Homes

Often times when homes settle cracks will appear in the brickwork of the fireplace. Sometimes these crack are tiny and almost imperceptible and sometimes they’re large. But in any case they can negatively affect the operation of your fireplace and present a very real threat to the health and safety of everyone in the house. How can that be? We’ll tell you.

  • Risk of fire – The fireplace/chimney combo looks sturdy as all get out and for the most part it is. But as we said homes can settle and unless they settle evenly (rare, but possible) you may wind up with cracks in your foundation, cracks in your walls and cracks in your fireplace and chimney. Why should you worry about such things? Because the fireplace gets incredibly hot and if cracks are present there’s the very real possibility that flames could penetrate to the surrounding combustible materials and then, well. Let’s just say that’s not good.
  • Carbon monoxide – If you have cracks in your fireplace brickwork it’s not only a fire hazard it presents a very real possibility of flooding the house with CO2. Carbon dioxide is a silent, invisible, odourless killer that is a byproduct of the fireplace combustion process. Cracks in the fireplace brickwork can allow this quiet killer to seep directly into the living area of your home. In essence it would be like leaving your car running in the living room. If you notice cracks in the brickwork around your fireplace call Cummins Restorations brick repair Toronto
  • Inefficient operation – Your fireplace works on the concept of there being an effective draft that pulls air in from the house to feed the fire. Cracks in the fireplace and/or chimney can undermine the effectiveness of that draft and cause your fires to sputter and burn inefficiently. Not only that but the less efficiently the fire burns the more smoke it typically produces. More smoke equals more CO2 and, as we already know by now, CO2 is potentially deadly.

Don’t take a chance with the health and safety of everyone in the house. If you know of or suspect cracks in your fireplace call Cummins Restorations for expert brick repair in Toronto. We’ve got the experience and expertise to diagnose your fireplace problems in a hurry and set things right.

5 Reasons Your Chimney Might Be Leaking

Chimney Repair TorontoWhen they think about their chimney most folks don’t think about the possibility of it leaking. But leaking is actually more common than you might imagine. Most of the time chimney leaks have pretty straightforward causes that can be repaired fairly easily by a qualified chimney expert. Although in some cases a leak that seems like it’s from the chimney might actually have another source. In this post we’re going to help you determine the cause of your chimney leak (if that’s what it is) and how we’d go about fixing it for you.

Affordable, Reliable Chimney Repair for Toronto Homeowners

Chimney leaks typically have one of 5 causes. They are

  1. Rain – Often times when a homeowner finds water in their fireplace it’s because rain is falling directly down the chimney. The simple way around this problem is to call for chimney repair in Toronto and have us install a chimney cap. The chimney cap will not only keep out the rain it will prevent raccoons and other pests from moving in and blocking up your chimney.
  2. A cracked chimney crown – While your chimney may be 24” x 18” (+/-) the actual opening at the top is much smaller. Cement is typically used to fill in the space at the top around the opening. That cement barrier is called the “crown”. Sometimes the crown develops cracks and allows rain and/or snow melt into the chimney. It’s important to repair a cracked crown ASAP.
  3. The flashing – The flashing is the protective skirt that covers the chimney opening in the roof. Most flashings are properly installed and thus most homeowners are never aware of them. However, if the flashing is poorly installed or you’ve recently had roof work done the flashing can develop leaks. In this case we’d need to get up on the roof and repair the flashing for you.
  4. Leaks in the brickwork – Water is opportunistic. If there are even the tiniest openings in the brickwork water can work its way in and wreak havoc. During the winter this water will freeze and thaw and wind up creating cracks in your brickwork just like it does in the roads. In this case you’ll need us to do a thorough examination of your chimney to find the cracks and repair them.
  5. Condensation inside the chimney – If you’ve had a gas fireplace installed and the chimney wasn’t properly lined to accommodate the moisture-heavy fumes it creates that moisture can collect inside the chimney. Eventually, the walls that come in contact with the wet chimney will suffer from water stains along with peeling paint or wallpaper. The solution here is for us to get in there and install an effective chimney lining for you.

As we said if one of these is not the source of your leak there’s a good chance it’s something like damaged roofing shingles or a blocked gutter that’s allowing water into the walls near the chimney. The best course of action if you suspect a leaky chimney is to call Cummings Restorations for first class chimney repair in Toronto.

The Difference Between Tuckpointing and Repointing

Tuckpointing TorontoAlthough they refer to 2 different processes the terms tuckpointing and repointing are often used interchangeably. This perhaps because they both involve replacing mortar in brickwork. However the 2 processes use different approaches; one largely utilitarian the other utilitarian but with an aim that is more overtly cosmetic. Below we’ll take a closer look at both processes as well as what’s involved with each and when you might want or need to call for tuckpointing or repointing.

Repointing or Tuckpointing? Toronto Homeowners Need to Know

When the mortar between your brickwork breaks down you’ll need to have it repaired as quickly and effectively as possible. But do you need repointing or tuckpointing? Toronto brick repair experts Cummins Restorations explain the difference.

  • Repointing – Mortar on brickwork, particularly older brickwork, tends to get brittle over time and either fall out or be forced out by the house settling, the freeze/thaw cycle of water that is trapped in tiny cracks or because of accident. Replacing it as quickly as possible is key to maintaining the integrity of your home’s brickwork and the safety of everyone inside. Repointing involves a straight up replacement of the damaged mortar. Any loose or otherwise compromised mortar is removed from between the bricks and a 1 for 1 replacement occurs with new mortar filling in the space. Repointing is without a doubt the simpler of the two methods and is extremely effective at repairing damage to your mortar.
  • Tuckpointing – Where repointing and tuckpointing converge is that they both involve removing any loose or damage mortar. Where they diverge is in how they go about replacing it. With repointing the damaged mortar is replaced straight up with new mortar, typically white. With tuckpointing two different colour mortars are used with one being the colour of the brickwork itself and the other being (typically) white. Once the compromised mortar is removed the two different colour mortars are used to create the impression that the mortar joint itself is thinner than it actually is. That is, the coloured mortar is used to make the bricks look bigger than they are and the joint look narrower than it is. Tuckpointing evolved more than 200 years ago as a way to imitate the look of expensive “rubbed brick” that was all the rage in England at the time and which featured the thinner joint.

Do You Need Repointing or Tuckpointing?

The mortar in your brickwork will typically start to show signs of age and/or damage 2 to 3 decades after the house is built or the brickwork installed. Signs to look for that indicate your mortar needs some TLC include:

  • Crumbling mortar
  • Fine cracks in the mortar
  • Space between the mortar and brick

If you believe you need brickwork or mortar repair call the company more Toronto homeowners trust than any other, Cummins Restorations. We’ll get someone out to look at your brickwork in a hurry, diagnose the problem and provide you an estimate for repointing, tuckpointing or any other procedure you may require. That’s Cummins Restorations for tuckpointing in Toronto on (416) 992-7965.

5 Ways to Keep Your Masonry Contractors Honest

Masonry Contractors in Toronto

Before

Masonry contractors in Toronto are no different than any other contractors. Some are honest, hardworking professionals dedicated to getting the job done right and others are dedicated to padding the bill, cutting corners and making excuses. While everyone hopes they get the first kind there’s no absolute way to tell if you might actually be getting the second kind. All you can really do is take preventive steps designed to head games off at the pass and keep your masonry contractor honest.

Tips for Dealing with Masonry Contractors in Toronto

If you’ve decided to engage the services of a particular masonry contractor he’s obviously passed muster with you on some level and that’s great. Now it’s your turn to impress him with the fact that you weren’t born yesterday. You do that by implementing these 5 common sense tips.

  1. Don’t pay in advance – Make sure it’s stipulated in the contract exactly how much you’ll need to pay up front and then stick to that amount. Typically this shouldn’t be more than 10% of the total cost of the job. If the contractor starts telling you tales of woe to try and elicit a larger up-front payment listen respectfully and wish him good luck with all of that.
  2. Get everything in writing – You might feel you don’t really need to lay out all the grisly details in the contract but you’d be mistaken. Thinking you have some sort of bond with the contractor that will ensure he undertakes all the special touches the two of you talked about without it all being written down is kind of like believing in the tooth fairy.
  3. Make it clear who’s securing the permits – It should be stipulated in writing in the contract exactly who will be securing the necessary permit for the work. If a prospective masonry contractor tells you there’s no need for a building permit or simply gives you their word they’ll pick one up first chance they get don’t believe it.
  4. Don’t get bamboozled – Some less than savoury masonry contractors in Toronto will try and pull the ye olde “unforeseen problems” scam on you. If you suddenly hear one day that they’ll need to secure an additional payment because the cost of mortar skyrocketed or they encountered “problems” with your home that are making the job more difficult whip out the contract and ask them to pinpoint the clause that allows them to do that.
  5. Demand to see proof of insurance – There is more than one contractor out there plying their trade without adequate insurance. These guys are ticking time bombs and to ensure one doesn’t go off while working on your home always, that’s always, insist on seeing proof of insurance (both liability and workman’s compensation).

Masonry contractors in Toronto are by and large hard working, reliable, honest folks who do an outstanding job for their customers. Like any trade however there are those who will try to get away with things. It’s up to you not to provide them the opportunity to do so.

How Avoiding Chimney Repair Can REALLY Come Back to Bite You

Many homeowners put “repair the chimney” pretty far down on their “to do” list but they shouldn’t. While it’s tempting to delay fixing a problem with the chimney (because after all, it’s the chimney, not something really important like the TV) delaying could wind up creating a slew of other problems that will make the original chimney repair job seem like pretty small beer indeed. Sure, a chimney is a tough looking character (being brick and all) but if it’s become cracked or otherwise compromised waiting to have if fixed could come back to haunt you big time.

Why Chimney Repair Can’t Wait

When most homeowners become aware of problems with their chimney they take the necessary steps to repair it. Others, however, will tempt fate and see if they can get by as is, usually in an effort to save a few bucks. The thing is the few bucks they save now have a way of turning into beaucoup bucks down the road and here’s 3 of the ways that can happen.

  1. Cracks in the brick work – Water is the indispensable resource, that thing we simply can’t live without and most of the time seems like a pretty benign compound. But water is one of the most persistent and destructive forces on earth. If your chimney has developed freeze/thaw cracks and water is leaking in unchecked your chimney’s damper will rust, the flue liner will become compromised and water will eventually find its way into the walls of your home where it will wreak havoc on the wood joists, insulation and electrical wiring; which will all need to be repaired or replaced.
  2. Rusty damper – As we mentioned above water leaking into the chimney can cause the damper to rust. When that happens you’ll likely be looking at a colder living room and having to pay more for your monthly heating bill. That’s because when dampers get rusty they often get stuck in the open position. This allows cold air to blow down the chimney into the house making your living room colder and requiring you to jack the thermostat to compensate.
  3. Damaged flashing – The point at which your chimney meets the roof is not an exact fit. Something is needed to cover the imperfect join area to prevent, you guessed it, water from leaking in around the chimney and getting into the roof, attic walls and the walls of the lower floors. That something is the flashing. If your flashing needs to be replaced or repaired and you fail to do so you’re looking at problems all the way from the shingles to the cellar.

Chimney repair is no laughing matter. The chimney has a central role to play in the life of your home and if it’s compromised the home is compromised. Delaying repairs just means the degree of that compromise will grow exponentially and so too will the bills for fixing all the problems that have sprung from it. Call Cummins Restorations Inc. to find out more about chimney repair.

Solid Masonry Vs Brick Veneer

masonry TorontoWhen it comes to building with masonry in Toronto you have two principal choices for your brick home: solid masonry or brick veneer. While solid masonry (also called “solid brick”) and brick veneer buildings both employ real bricks in their construction, they do so in fundamentally different ways that will affect costs, construction times and the durability of your home.

  • Solid brick – With solid brick homes a double thick layer of bricks – or a layer of concrete block and a layer of brick – is used to form the exterior of the house. This method calls for the double layer of brick or adjoining layers of concrete and brick to actually bear the load of the house. In other words the bricks are a structural element.
  • Brick veneer – A so-called “brick veneer” house by comparison has exterior walls with steel or wood framing that bear the load of the house. Once this structural skeleton is in place it’s sheathed in wood and the layer of brick is built immediately in front of the shell and affixed to the structure using metal ties. The brick is thus relieved of load-bearing responsibilities.

More About the Different Types of Masonry in Toronto

While real bricks are employed in both homes made of solid masonry in Toronto and brick veneer homes they’re applied in ways that leave tell-tale signs building inspectors and others can use to determine what type of brick home you have. Some of those signs include:

For Solid Brick

  • Reinforced window arches – In solid brick homes you’ll commonly see inward facing bricks in the area surrounding the windows. This is done to buttress the structural integrity of the opening and is a “tell” that the house is solid brick.
  • “Header” bricks – Header bricks are laid perpendicular to the rest of the bricks and form a bridge between layers that increases stability and strength of the wall. With header bricks only their end will be visible.

For Brick Veneer

  • Weep holes – Typically the layer of brick will sit 1 or 2 inches away from the load bearing wall and “weep holes” are used to ensure moisture in the space between the brick and the wood frame is allowed to vent.
  • Lack of header bricks – Another “tell” that a wall is brick veneer and not solid brick is the lack of header bricks and their distinctive butt-end profile that’s generated by placing the header brick perpendicular to the rest of the wall.

Benefits of Solid Masonry

The benefits of solid brick walls are greater stability and resistance to extreme weather or other environmental conditions. It’s not unusual for solid masonry homes to last centuries. They’re also impervious to termites and the walls will never rot.

Benefits of Brick Veneer

The benefits of brick veneer include affordability, ease of installation, the fact that a lighter (and so less expensive) foundation can be used and the fact that the space between the brick and wood frame acts as an effective insulating layer.

For more information on brick homes or general questions about masonry in Toronto call Cummins Restorations Inc. today on (416) 992-7965.

The Best Time for Chimney Repair?

Chimney RepairIf your chimney is in need of repair it is better to have the work done as soon as possible, to avoid the possibility of any further deterioration. However, right now is not always the most convenient time to have such repairs carried out and certain times of the year may be more practical than others when it comes to major masonry renovation work. With this in mind, you will probably want to schedule the work to start at the next most favourable opportunity and if you are not sure when this might be, we have outlined some of the most important factors to consider below, to help you make your decision.

Scheduling Your Chimney Repair

All of the following factors should be taken into consideration when you are deciding on the best time to have your chimney repaired:

  • The Current Condition of Your Chimney – It should go without saying but if your chimney is currently in such a bad state of repair that it poses a danger to your family or others in the vicinity, you should have it repaired immediately. The factors listed below may mean that now is not the best time to do so but when there is the possibility of injury or worse, you should never delay your chimney repair.
  • The Weather – Snow, rain and heavy winds are not the ideal conditions in which to work on the roof of a house so if at all possible, you should schedule the necessary repairs for sometime in the summer. If this is not possible, watch the weather forecasts carefully and coordinate with your repair team so that you are able to avoid the worst conditions if at all possible.
  • Your Work and Home Life – If you are going through a very busy period at work and could do without the additional stress of masonry repairs when you get home, it might be a good idea to postpone the work until things have quietened down a little. Similarly, if you have a lot to contend with at home right now, you may wish to put off your chimney repair for a few weeks. Assuming that your chimney does not pose a danger to you or your neighbours and the weather is likely to be fine for some time to come, there should be no harm in waiting for a while.
  • Availability of Local Contractors – Last but not least, you need to consider the availability of the people you would like to perform the necessary work on your chimney. There is little point in scheduling the work for a time when the weather is fine and you have no other distractions unless you can guarantee the availability of skilled masonry specialists at the same time.

To make sure that your chimney repair is carried out by a team of highly-skilled professionals who know exactly what they are doing, call Cummins Restorations today to arrange your free initial consultation.

Factors that Can Affect the Cost of Chimney Repair

chimney repair torontoFirst of all, we recommend that you contact 2 or 3 reputable contractors for quotations, even if you are sure that you would like to use our services! We know that we are highly competitive as well as highly skilled but we want you to be sure you are making the right choice when you hire us to repair your chimney. To give you an idea of the type of estimates you are likely to receive, we have put together a list of the factors that are most likely to influence the overall cost, which you can find in the section below.

How Much Will Your Chimney Repair in Toronto Cost?

Whilst not an exhaustive list, most of the more obvious factors are contained in the following list. By reading through it and looking at your own chimney, you should be able to ascertain whether it is going to be a relatively inexpensive job or one that might require a substantial outlay.

  • Size – The most obvious factor to consider, especially when a fairly comprehensive rebuild is in order, is the height of your chimney. The width is probably standard but height can vary significantly from one building to the next. Generally speaking, the taller your chimney, the more it is going to cost to rebuild or repair. Relatively minor repair jobs, such as repointing the mortar joints, can also be estimated fairly accurately by considering the height of the chimney first and foremost.
  • Condition – The worse the current condition of your chimney, the more it is going to cost to repair. No matter who you hire to carry out your chimney repair in Toronto, the amount that they charge for labour and repairs will reflect the state of your chimney as it stands right now. While this may give you pause for thought, especially if your chimney is in a particularly poor state of repair, you should bear in mind that it is only going to get worse so the sooner you have it fixed, the cheaper it will be.
  • Location – If your property is of a fairly standard size and design, this factor may not play much of a part in the final price. On the other hand, if you live in a house that is particularly tall and features a chimney in a hard-to-reach location, you can expect to pay more for your chimney repair in Toronto than would otherwise be the case. A higher roof, for example, will require more scaffolding and will therefore increase the cost of both materials and labour.
  • Additional Parts – If the condition of your chimney is such that it requires the replacement of certain major parts, such as the crown, this will inevitably lead to higher costs than if all that needs doing is a simple repointing of the mortar joints between the masonry.

Call Cummins Restorations right now to request a comprehensive quotation for chimney repair in Toronto. We look forward to assisting you in the very near future.

4 Masonry Projects to Invest in in 2017

masonry Toronto If you want to protect your investment and ensure that your home remains in excellent condition, you may wish to consider spending a little money on one of the masonry projects that we discuss in this article. If you are not sure which one would be most suitable for your property or whether any of them are really necessary at this point in time, please feel free to call and ask for our advice at any time. We will be more than happy to arrange a no-obligation inspection of your home so that we can give you our professional, unbiased opinion.

Repairing Masonry in Toronto: Call Your Local Experts

We can deal with any of the following repair & renovation tasks and if you are not sure whether they are necessary, we can, as mentioned above, inspect your property and let you know what we think. As a reputable local firm with plenty of loyal clients we never recommend having masonry work done unless it is absolutely necessary so you have nothing to worry about on that score.

  1. Brick Cleaning – Dirty, stained bricks can make the exterior of your home look shabby and uncared for but there is no need to worry because with our brick cleaning service, you can restore your home to its former glory in no time at all. Before we start as new brick cleaning project, we always inspect the walls in question to make sure that the mortar is in a good state of repair. If this is not the case, our masonry Toronto repair team can repoint the joints before cleaning the bricks.
  2. Parging – The covering of interior and exterior masonry bricks to protect them from the elements is something that we recommend doing on properties that have a few layers of exposed above-grade bricks below wooden or aluminum cladding. We use a special mortar mix for parging that guarantees first-class results.
  3. Tuckpointing – Most mortar joints in brick walls only last for around 20 years or so before they need attention. We can remove the outer part of your crumbling mortar and replace it with a fresh layer that will not only make your home look instantly more attractive, it will also help to protect your walls from moisture damage in all seasons.
  4. Chimney Repair – If your chimney has seen better days, our team can almost certainly repair it at very competitive rates. We have worked on a wide variety of projects involving the repair of masonry in Toronto but chimneys have to be at or near the top of the list as far as the frequency of client requests is concerned. Common problems with chimneys include damaged mortar, damage to the crown and cracked flue tiles.

Whether you have a specific project in mind concerning your masonry in Toronto or you would simply like us to give your house the once over, to make sure it is in good condition, please do not hesitate to call during business hours.

Brick Repair and Common Causes of Cracking

brick repair torontoBricks have been a popular building material for well over 2,000 years and the things that attract people to them today are the same things that made them popular with the Etruscans and the Romans after them. They’re durable, easy to use, they provide a rock-solid defence against Mother Nature and they look good. But while bricks have a host of things going for them they’re not indestructible and it’s not at all uncommon to be mowing the lawn and spot cracks running through your home’s exterior walls or chimney. In this post we’ll take a look at some of the most common reasons for cracks that will have you calling for brick repair in Toronto.

4 Causes of Cracked Bricks

Given enough time brickwork will deteriorate. But cracks are not always the result of the passage of time. Sometimes they result from other causes that bring undue pressure to bear on the bricks. Here are some of those causes.

  • Settlement of the house: All houses settle to some degree. If the settlement is severe enough what are known as “stair step cracks” can form in the brickwork. This type of crack forms a zigzag pattern that works its way up through the brickwork on the outside of the house. If left unattended this type of crack can lead to water intrusion which can freeze and expand, aggravating the original crack structure and causing an even more serious problem.
  • Thermal expansion: Just as concrete roads and driveways are susceptible to cracking due to the freeze/thaw cycle so your brickwork can be compromised by expansion and contraction. Brickwork expands when heated by the sun and contracts when the sun goes down. If expansion joints were not built into the brickwork this continual expansion and contraction will take a toll on the structural integrity of the brickwork and cracks will begin to appear.
  • Support-related cracks: Above doors and windows bricks are often supported by steel bars that allow the brickwork to bridge the top of the opening without collapsing. Problem is this steel undergoes temperature related expansion and contraction that is different than that of the brick it’s supporting. The difference between the expansion/contraction rates of the different materials creates stress that can cause the weaker material (the brick) to crack.
  • Cracks due to bulging: If brickwork has not been properly reinforced it can begin to bow or bulge with the passage of time. The bulging will put incredible stresses on the brick causing it to develop cracks. A bulging wall is no laughing matter and needs to be addressed promptly and effectively lest the wall give in to the forces of gravity and collapse.

First Class Brick Repair Toronto

Cummins Restorations are experts in the field of brickwork installation and brick repair in Toronto. We can effectively fix any cracking issues you may be having with your brickwork in a fast and affordable manner. To schedule brick repair in Toronto or if you have masonry-related questions or issues call Cummins Restorations on (416) 992-7965.