What is efflorescence and what causes it? Efflorescence is caused when soluble salts and other water dispersible materials come to the surface of concrete, brick and mortar. This is one of the things that I look for as a Frankfort home inspector. I will discuss efflorescence as it pertains to chimneys in particular because in my experience performing home inspections in Frankfort, Oak Forest, Alsip, or any other city in Illinois, chimneys are often neglected. Take a look at the image below that was taken during an Alsip home inspection. Notice the areas of the arrows.
This could easily be seen at a Frankfort home inspection or a Palos Hills home inspection because it doesn't seem to matter where the home is located, the issue of efflorescence and chimney neglect can be found anywhere in Illinois. Being a Frankfort home inspector I see this mostly in the surrounding areas.
The white pattern you see in the image is the efflorescence. It is the salts and minerals that have been left behind on the brick and mortar, similar to the white substance seen on the streets of Frankfort and other cities in Illinois from the salt used in the winter. The real question that I ask myself as a Frankfort home inspector is 'why is this present'? Well, as discussed earlier chimneys are often neglected; not cleaned out, wrong fuel is burned, liners are missing and usually the homeowners do not have their chimneys cleaned let alone take a look up the flue. Also note that the efflorescence is present on the wall near the window indicating that water may be present behind the wall, this will be noted in the Frankfort home inspection report.
This chimney is having this issue because the liner is missing. The liner can be clay or metal and runs the full length of the chimney and protects the brick and mortar from the effects of the hot air as it rises up the chimney. Sometimes the chimney is venting a fireplace and sometimes it is venting a furnace, water heater or both. The liner does the same job. As the hot air rises it begins to cool, and this cooling causes condensation to form. This condensation is detrimental to the brick and mortar; the condensation and moisture settles on the brick when the liner is missing and as it works through the brick it evaporates and leaves the salts and minerals behind. The other issue that occurs is freezing and thawing of the water/moisture in the brick and mortar. As the water freezes it expands and begins to separate the mortar from the brick and you begin to see large gaps.
As a Frankfort home inspector I will note this condition and try to get a look into the chimney to confirm the condition of the liner. I am not always able to see all the way up and down the chimney but I do suggest that you have a chimney sweep perform a level II scope of the chimney to confirm the liner is intact, if it is not, a liner can be added to an existing chimney, and the brick can be repaired by a qualified mason.
During my home inspection in Frankfort, Palos Hills, Oak Forest or other Illinois cities, I will explain to my client that the fireplace and chimney should have the NFPA level II inspection performed by a qualified chimney sweep before you use the fireplace or chimney because of the neglect that I see as a Frankfort home inspector and I will also note this in the Frankfort home inspection report.
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Illinois Home Inspector License 450.010091
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