Waterproofing to Avoid Efflorescence


What is Efflorescence?

Efflorescence comes from a French word meaning “to flower out.” In chemistry, and in the real world, efflorescence is the loss of water (or a solvent) of crystallization from a hydrated or solvated salt to the atmosphere on exposure to air.

Where does it happen? 

While efflorescence can occur in natural settings it is most commonly seen on built structures. It is especially visible on porous materials like brick. If you do not know what efflorescence is, you may think that it is purely cosmetic. It will appear as a chalky residue on the outside of the brick structure.

What causes efflorescence?

Simply put, if you see efflorescence you have water intrusion. Once water penetrates the brick it will “flower out,” (remember the French definition?) Once water has entered your structure it will freeze and expand causes the integrity of the structure to come into question

What can you do to protect against efflorescence?

Although brick is very durable, extreme weather can have an adverse effect on it over time. Waterproofing your brick/veneer structure will help ensure that your brick work lasts as long as possible. Your brick and your home can benefit tremendously from waterproofing.

“Most sealants are made with siloxane, which chemically bonds to the material and prevents water from passing through it. This type of brick waterproofing sealant is clear, so it does not change the appearance of the building. In fact, rather than staying on the surface of the structure, brick sealant penetrates the material. It will need to be reapplied to older brick structures about every four to seven years, and newer buildings approximately every five to ten years.”

Why Should You Clean Your Pellet Stove Annually?

pelletPellet stoves are extremely efficient and can be plugged into a standard electrical outlet. Fans inside them maximize their efficiency. The fans deliver warm air back into the home, but also present a problem on the other side. Pellet stoves require more maintenance than traditional fireplaces and insert wood burning stoves because the fans push air and soot around to all of the nooks and crannies of your pellet stove. There are several parts to a Pellet stove which makes it prone to malfunction if not cleaned annually. The parts include: A hopper, an auger system, blower fans, main control box and a firebox. Pellets are loaded into the hopper and then the auger system moves them to the firebox where they are burned. Blower fans take in the cool air from the room to provide fuel for the fire, while another fan blows the warm back out into the room. An exhaust fan pushes the soot out of the back to a vent system known as a T-connection. This T-connection has a built in safety feature called the “catch can.” While this safety feature is a good thing (short term), the soot piles up and will eventually present a problem. Soot will clog the vent (T-connection) and will burn out the fan. Fan motors cause costly repairs for homeowners.

Having your Pellet stove serviced each year by a chimney professional is important and will ensure efficient operation. This kind of consumer vigilance will result in being able to enjoy the efficiency of your pellet stove for years.

How Do I Know If I Really Had My Chimney Cleaned Properly?

proper chimney cleaningProper chimney cleaning is very important. Mike’s Mobile Screen & Chimney Service trains our technicians to adhere by CSIA standards when cleaning your chimney. This means you, as the homeowner, will get unmatched service and a thorough cleaning and inspection. All of our chimney cleanings come with a Level I inspection. Our technicians start from the inside and inspect the firebox. At this time we will make sure your damper seals shut. If it doesn’t we will tape up the opening of your fireplace with tarps to avoid any mess to your home.

Once we have taken the proper precautions, and inspected the firebox, our inspection and cleaning moves to the roof of your house. Our technicians check for flashing, water damage, and the structural integrity of your chimney. Mike’s Mobile systematically checks your chimney and fireplace to make sure you have a complete inspection.

How Often Should I Have My Chimney Cleaned?

chimney_sweepSo how often should I have my chimney Cleaned? According to the National Fire Protection Agency (Source: NFPA), ” a yearly inspection and cleaning and repairs done as necessary. Freestanding woodstoves or fire place inserts used to heat the home should be inspected and cleaned if needed every year. Regular, open fireplaces need to be maintained and cleaned on a consistent basis as well. Usually, a cleaning is needed for every cord of wood burned or at least 2-3 years.”

Why You Should Get Your Chimney Swept and Inspected


Getting your chimney swept and inspected are very important for your home. If you are using your fireplace, you should be getting a chimney sweep annually. This will prevent chimney fires as well as maintain your fireplace/chimney safe to burn in. The NFPA suggests that you get your chimney swept after each cord of wood that you burn and/or an annual safety inspection.

One way a chimney inspection can be beneficial is to find water intrusion. If your chimney, cap or flashing is not properly installed and sealed it can lead to a bigger mess. Water can get into cracks a spread. If water freezes, it will expand and further damage an area. If your flashing is not properly installed and sealed it can lead to severe damage on your roof. This can trickle down (excuse the pun!) and cause leaking. Take a look at the pictures to see what water can cause. There will be more articles about this to come! Stay tuned.

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Why Do I Need a Fireplace Grate?

Why Do I Need a Fireplace Grate

Why Do I Need a Fireplace Grate?Let’s start by describing what a fireplace grate is. Shown left, a fireplace grate is the cast iron, or metal, stand that your fire wood sits on. Typically it is centered in your fireplace. If you are having smoking issues you will need to make sure the grate is pushed all the way to the back.

Getting the firewood off of the ground does a couple of importantly thiing.

By raising the wood off of the floor of the fireplace, you are allowing the wood to be burned more efficiently. Air is able to get under the wood causing the fire to burn hotter. When this is achieved you are essentially using less fuel to heat your home, thus saving you money on firewood.

Another benefit of a grate is when your firewood is raised, the coals from burning wood drop to the ground. This allows the fire to burn from the bottom up and subsequently the wood gets completely burned. As the hot coals drop, the need to shift or move the wood is not there because the wood is held by the grate.

A fireplace grate protects the floor of your fireplace. Direct exposure to high temperatures will destroy the concrete ground. The grate slows down the destruction of the ground by lifting the fire instead of the ground getting direct heat.

Fireplace grates are a must when it comes to properly using your fireplace. They help burn a more efficient fire and protect the floor of your fireplace from needing to be repair frequently.

Install an Energy Saving Damper

savemoneyandenergyIf you’re wanting to save money, (via saving energy) an energy saving top mounted damper is something you should take a look at. A traditional damper is metal and closes inside of your firebox. Is yours open or closed? If its shut, often times it doesn’t seal. This presents a problem when running your air conditioning or heater. Air from inside the house that you want, (i.e. cool air or warm air) will end up leaving your house through the chimney. Would you leave a window open while your air conditioner/heater was on?

Lock Top II Dampers are mounted on top of you chimney and offer an air tight seal. This means that you won’t have to worry when you use your air conditioning and heater. Closing a chimney from the top will end the days of having cold air trapped in your chimney. The cold air can cause smoking issues, inside of the house, because of a cold chimney.

Natural Gas Safety: Three Things You Should Know

gassafetyThere are three things you should know when it comes to gas safety. Knowing where PG&E natural gas pipelines are located near you, spotting a leak, and knowing whats below before you dig will keep you safe.

Living in the era of the internet means we have all kinds of information at our fingertips. It has never been easier to find out where pipeline markers are. Markers include an emergency number and indicate the need for extra care around gas transmission pipelines that feed local distribution pipelines. These markers specify the approximate location, but not all pipelines follow a straight path between markers. PG&E has an interactive online map where you can find out about the transmission pipelines in your neighborhood. You can also check out the National Pipeline Mapping System to see the location of all transmission pipelines in the United States, viewable by county, zip code or street address.

Being able to spot a leak is also very important. Spotting a leak requires 3 of your 5 senses. Smell, hearing, and sight.

  • Smell
    • If you smell this distinctive “rotten egg” odor, move to a safe location and immediately call 911 and PG&E at 1-800-743-5000
  • Sound
    • Always pay attention to hissing, whistling or roaring sounds coming from underground or from a gas appliance.
  • Sight
    • Other signs of a possible gas leak can include dirt spraying into the air, continual bubbling in a pond or creek and dead or dying vegetation in an otherwise moist area.

The last tip is certainly not least. Damage from excavation is a common cause of pipeline accidents. That’s why you must always call Underground Service Alert (USA) at 811 at least two working days before you dig—even in your own yard. USA is a free service that will notify underground utility operators in the area of your planned work. PG&E will then locate and mark our underground gas and electric facilities.

What Kind Of Inspection Do You Need?

levelsThere are 3 Levels to chimney inspections.  Mike’s Mobile includes a Level I inspection with every chimney sweep. Here is a breakdown so you can see what happens during each type of inspection.


Level One Chimney Inspection

If your chimney performance, appliance or venting system has not changed and you simply want to be confident in the continued safe use of the system, you will need the Level 1 inspection done on an annual schedule. We usually combine this service with the annual cleaning and sweeping that should be scheduled to guarantee continued safe use of your stove, chimney or furnace.
Our chimney inspection tech will examine the readily accessible portions of the interior and exterior areas of the chimney and the appliance or chimney connection. This includes the firebox, smoke chamber and damper along with the cap and crown on the exterior of your chimney if accessed with cleaning. We will be looking for any chimney structure or flue defect or underperforming areas with the appliance installation or connections. The whole system must be found to be clear of any blockage or deposits that may be combustible.

Level Two Chimney Inspection

A Level 2 inspection is recommended when you have had any changes done to your system. If you have changed fuel type, or had the chimney relined, if you have replaced your furnace or appliance (especially if the rating or efficiency differs from what was there prior). If you recently bought the home and are not familiar with the system performance, plan to do modifications to your chimney, stove or heating system or have had a chimney fire recently a Level 2 inspection is in order.
A Level 2 inspection is an in-depth look at the entire chimney, stove or furnace system. It includes all steps covered with a Level 1 inspection and also includes a visual inspection of all internal surfaces and joints. If necessary, we use a color video inspection camera to look inside the chimney or flue. This allows for a complete top to bottom visual inspection of your system.
A written report is produced that details all areas that may be of concern.

Level Three Chimney Inspection

Level 1 and 2 methods are included with Level 3 inspections, but with this type inspection portions of the structure or chimney will be required to fully investigate the deficiencies that exist. Many areas that are concealed from visual examination may need to be opened up by removing bricks, masonry, metal flue pipes, interior chimney walls, chimney crowns or other components of your system. These inspections are only required when the earlier inspection Level 1 or 2 reveals a serious problem and we need to gain access to the problem areas hidden from view. Level 3 inspections are needed on less than 2% of all inspections when serious problems are suspected that require immediate action.

Does It Meet Code?

angry_codesMost homeowners want to know if the work they will have done to their home “meets code.” This is a tricky question with many answers and many prerequisites that need to be addressed before you answer. Codes are an ever-changing thing. They are written by large national organizations made up by government, and industry officials. The question “Does it meet code” depends on many factors and isn’t a clear yes or no.

Understanding Codes

Codes are a moving object. By that I mean that they are always changing. In fact, codes are changed, adjusted and made about every 3 years. They get changed because we want to improve upon them as well as make structures safer. An indirect result of these changes is the ability to understand how things hold up or deteriorate.

Does it meet code?

The answer to this question depends on when, who and where you ask. Something that meets code perfectly today might not meet code tomorrow. Houses that were built a short while ago could have been perfectly built to meet code, but today they do not. You could also build the same house in two different states or even cities, and one may not pass

Inconsistent Code

As with a lot of things, codes start at the Federal level and trickle down the bureaucratic ladder. State, county, city and municipality codes are enough to make a person scream. Who’s got time to research all of this?

The Code Police

Private home inspectors have no authority to enforce the building code. The municipal inspectors are the only people who can determine whether or not something meets code. And since they are people, even that can vary.

Grandfathered Code

The word ‘grandfather’ does not appear in the building codes. What?! Yes, Grand fathered in doesn’t mean anything since building codes are for new buildings only. Codes aren’t retroactive. In conclusion, safety takes precedent over all things when doing construction. Things that are unsafe are more important than minor changes over the years that don’t present a danger.