Masonry Repairs and Fireplace Repairs, What's the Difference?

Unless you are in the industry, many may think that masonry repair and fireplace repairs are the same, but they are very different. We will explore what each term means so that if you find yourself with an issue, you will choose the right way to fix the item at hand.

What is Masonry?

Most buildings are built using stones and bricks with mortar holding them together, meaning they are built using masonry. Many buildings are completely made with masonry, while others use other construction materials and install a masonry façade on the exterior.


What is Masonry Repair?

If a building, structure, wall or sidewalk has broken bricks and cracked mortar, they need to have a masonry repair. Often, the structure will be discolored, (which may be due to moisture absorption). Signs of crumbling mortar may show signs of problems that need to be repaired before further issues arise.

How is Masonry Repaired?

Masonry repair usually isn’t a big deal if the issue is caught right away. If this is the case, all that will be needed is to remove and replace the old bricks that are no longer structurally competent. The same with stones, the stone is removed and replaced. Typically, masonry repairs also include patching the mortar around the brick to hold them in place and create a strong bond between layers of bricks.

When the masonry repair involved replacing significant stone, brick, or mortar, it is best to leave this job to an expert, who can fix the building and make sure that the strength of the structure is not compromised during the repair process.


Fireplace Repair:

Repairing a fireplace may involve some masonry repair but may include some other processes as well.

The word fireplace describes the structure found in and outside the home. Inside, the fireplace is used to heat the home interior. Outside, fireplaces are often found in exterior entertainment areas. But a typical fireplace has a lot of components. When it comes to building a fireplace or having fireplace repairs, there are many different materials used in addition to masonry.


The Anatomy of a Fireplace:

If you have a fireplace, there are many repairs that you may need over the life of the fireplace. Here is a list of all the parts that comprise a fireplace.

  • Chimney Cap/Spart Arrestor: This prevents rain, wild animals, birds, and debris from falling through the chimney into your fireplace.
  • Chimney Crown Cap: This is like a protective helmet that stops rain and debris from coming down the chimney.
  • Height: The chimney height is crucial in determining how effective the heat source is to heat your home. If the chimney is too close to the roof, it could produce sparks and catch fire.
  • Brick and Mortar: Bricks and mortar are used to construct the chimney’s exterior surface.
  • Fireplace Flue Liner: The flue liner takes the exhaust from the fireplace outside.
  • Flashing: The flashing in the chimney prevents water from entering the home from the rooftop. Flashing is a thin layer of sheet metal that is applied where the chimney meets the roof.
  • Firestops: These are built-in, and you won’t see them, but firestops are required during building and will prevent fires in the fireplace from spreading to other parts of the home.
  • Wythe: A wythe is the vertical section of the masonry wall and separates the flues.
  • Mantel: This is a decorative display shelf added above the firebox opening. They must be far enough from the top of the firebox to avoid overheating and fire.
  • Smoke chamber: This s a pyramid-shaped passageway between the firebox and the beginning of the chimney liner.
  • Damper: The fireplace damper is a door used to control the air accessing the open fireplace.
  • Glass or screen door: They control the sparks and smoke that could start a fire within the house.
  • Firebox: This is built of non-combustible materials to retain heat without burning.
  • Firewood grate: This is a heavy structure that holds wood off the floor to enhance circulation during the active fire.
  • Chimney thimble: The opening in the chimney’s wall is called the chimney thimble.
  • Clean-out opening: This opening aids in the removal of debris and ashes. It must be 6-12 inches above the flue base.
  • Footings: These should extend at least six inches beyond the brick structure.


Fireplace Repair:

Now that you see how many parts are involved in the structure of a fireplace, you understand that the term fireplace repair can mean a lot of different things.

Fireplace owners need to be clear when explaining the problem with their fireplace when looking for repair work. Fireplace repair may include masonry repair, but the masonry repair is more visual since most of the exterior consists of masonry. However, there may also be issues with flashing, the flue, and other components that have nothing to do with the cosmetic masonry repair to the structure.


Fireplace Masonry and Other Repairs:

Many fireplace issues are quick fixes. For instance, a chimney sweep can keep your chimney clean and free from dust, leaves, and bird nests from causing a fire when the flue is opened.

There can also be firebox problems, the most common is cracked brick and mortar on the back wall. When this occurs, it is usually due to water leaking and the improper dimensions of the firebox.

Design flaws are a common issue. Some chimneys are built too short to prevent downdrafts and may cause smoke to infiltrate living areas.

Cracks in the walls of the firebox or interior of the chimney lining are dangerous and potential fire hazards, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Smoke leaves its waste particles on the walls and can reach inside cracks. The oily build-up is called creosote, and it is highly flammable and can cause a fire if the cracks are not properly repaired.

Brick Masonry Fireplace Repairs:

If you have cracked or deteriorating bricks or mortar, you will need to have a masonry expert look at the issues with the fireplace and let you know what repairs you need. Before repairing the bricks and mortar, they will conduct an audit to ensure all the internal components of the fireplace are working properly. This way they can fix other issues before they begin to work on the outermost surface of the chimney.

Broken bricks and mortar issues are often caused by lightning strikes which happen more often than most people know. The majority of other damage is caused by use and weather. This can also vary based on the climate where the fireplace and building are built. In the perfect situation, most bricks are hard-fired and should last at least 100 years. Adobe or antique bricks are softer and absorb more moisture, this will last around 50 years before they start to deteriorate.

Most brick and mortar issues are in and around the chimney. These are cited as the most common reasons for masonry repairs.

In most cases, an experienced brick mason will be able to inspect the roof, and if there are no other issues, begin the job of replacing the brick and mortar.

In most cases, bricks that are beginning to disintegrate are replaced by newer bricks, that don’t compromise the look or feel of the existing structure. They will use matching to keep the same look and feel. They will then check the structure to make sure it is stable, strong, and able to withstand heat and weather for a long time to come.

This is not a job for a DIYer! An experienced fireplace repair expert should do this job to make sure everything is in order, and the structure can heat the home with no fire hazards. Before choosing a repair expert, review their Website and look for testimonials that show a history of jobs well done.