Home Owner Tips Can Save You Money!

Prevention is the best way for any Home Owner to save money and benefit from a nicer looking home.  Paint and Caulking for example can save expensive repairs such as window replacement or rotting door frames.  Check your home for needed repairs.

Home Inspection in Orillia

Do You Need a Home Inspection in Orillia

Do You Need a Home InspectionInvesting in a home inspection is probably the wisest decision a home buyer can make.  For a $350.00 you get a detailed report of the problems, maintenance issues and potential problems your new home may have.  Once you have paid for your new home the chances of getting any money back for unknown problems or faulty systems is not very likely.  You can go to your Realtor but they will just tell you that you should have gotten a home inspection.  Most professional Realty Companies will require you to sign a waiver if you decline a home inspection.

If you are buying an older home you should be prepared for items that are very expensive to repair and are found in a lot of the older homes in Orillia.  Common items I have found during home inspections are:  Vermiculite Insulation  (Asbestos Hazard),  aluminum wiring (some insurance companies will not insure), galvanized plumbing (some insurance companies will not insure), asbestos insulation on older plumbing and heating systems and knob and tube wiring.  Many homes have had the easily visible issues removed but unfortunately sometimes leave hard to reach areas in hope that nobody notices.

Many times I have inspected 40 to 50 year old homes and identified asbestos that was not removed between floors and the home owner was totally unaware that it was even present.  Some sellers are upset that their home inspection did not find some of these issues and now they are stuck dealing with them.  Although a home inspection is only a visible inspection of a property,  all areas should be inspected which will usually identify hazards such as asbestos, aluminum wiring, knob and tube or faults in the homes major systems.

Fluke ScreenThe Orillia Home Inspector offers Free Thermal Imaging scans of your entire home during your home inspection.   Thermal Imaging is useful in finding moisture, missing insulation or electrical hot spots in your home.  Although Thermal Imaging requires a difference in temperature to be the most effective, it can even identify mouse trails in attic when it is extremely cold outside,  moisture and heat loss will show up regardless of external temperature.

WETT Certified for fireplace, wood stove and pellet stoves also allows you to ensure your wood burning appliances are properly installed and in good working condition.  Although the regular fee for a WETT Inspection is $150.00 the Orillia Home Inspector only charges $50 per appliance in conjunction with home inspection.

Having performed over 5,000 home inspections in the past 10 years allows us to offer a 100% Money Back guarantee on all our inspections.   Always remember when buying a home,  CAVEAT  EMPTOR – BUYER BEWARE.

Call Roger at 705-795-8255 or Toll Free at 888-818-8608

Email   [email protected]

Understanding Your Home Inspection

Understanding Your Home Inspection

by Orillia Home Inspector

Many Professional Home Inspector’s do not comment of their regions Building Code which is understandable if they have no training in that area. In the Orillia area for instance our local college is pumping out Home Inspector’s with Part 9 courses in Building Envelope and Structure. As far as education in the Building Code this would be equivalent to completing Grade 1 and 2 of Public School, a far cry from graduation. If you don’t know the whole building code then you are unable to determine if the building you are inspecting meets the minimum building requirements set out by the Building Code Act so that leaves the Monkey See, Monkey Do method of education. I personally see the results of this method of training every day and receive countless phone calls from bewildered and scared home sellers wanting clarification on this or that wild statement make during a home inspection by these cowboys armed with a part time diploma and no real practical experience.

The Building Code Act states that: no person shall construct or demolish or cause a building to be constructed or demolished in a municipality unless a permit has been issued therefore by the Chief Building Official. The Building Code Act also defines construct to mean the doing of anything in the erection, installation, extension, material alteration or repair of a building which also includes installation of a building unit fabricated or moved from elsewhere.

Each major phase of construction must be inspected by our Building Officials to make certain the work conforms to the Building Code, the building permit and the approved plans. The mandatory inspections required for your project will be indicated on the permit. Inspections do not happen automatically. It is your responsibility to ensure that either you or your contractor contacts the city to request an inspection at least 24 hours before work proceeds from one inspection stage to the next. Failure to have inspections performed may result in having to uncover and expose work for inspection or the commencement of legal action. Allow 48 hrs notice for an inspection as specified by the building code.

Certified Master InspectorMany Home Inspectors have very little training in their respective building code requirements, which can sometimes lead to them giving out misleading information. One item I am constantly hearing from clients is the home inspector who tells prospective buyers that there is a problem with insulation, deck construction or electrical GFCI outlets. What these poorly trained individuals fail to realize is that a building only has to meet the building code requirements of when it was built and not the current code requirements that they have recently learned in their two week home inspectors course. Basically the only time a building has to be updated is when there is a Change of Use or Occupancy or the Building comes under the Retrofit Section of the Fire Code for example. For those persons with little of no training a Building Permit would be required for any renovation or addition to a structure and all the requirements would then be addressed prior to Building Permit being issued. A comment made by a rookie inspector, to one of my clients, that her attic insulation was inadequate was totally misleading as the requirement for her home was only R-19 and he made a statement that it should be R-32 at a minimum. So here we have a situation where this “home inspector” is commenting on insulation which is not based on fact or requirements but rather on his personal opinion based on his limited training. So if you are selling your home and are presented with a list of items the buyers want changed or improved, call your local Professional Home Inspector if you are in doubt about any of the requests. Any Professional Home Inspector will give you Free advice over the phone and you can then protect yourself from needless expenses you may incur from a Poor Home Inspection.

A building permit is required for any new building greater than 10m (108 ft), any addition to an existing building, any material alterations to an existing building which effects: the structural design of the building; mechanical; electrical; plumbing services (no limit on size of building); fire separations; exiting; fire protection systems; and the use of buildings or parts thereof.

If your Building Official finds that some work does not conform to the approved plans, he or she will advise (and, possibly, provide written notice) that the situation is to be remedied. If the violation is serious, a stop work order may be posted until the problem is resolved. Another inspection may be necessary before work is resumed.

Learn more about Commercial Building Inspections. Stop by Roger Frost’s site where you can find out all about the Orillia Home Inspector and what a Professional Home Inspector can do for you.

 

Masonry Blocks and Mortar

Masonry Blocks and Mortar Explained.  One of the most common masonry units is the concrete block. It consists of hardened cement and may be completely solid or contain single or multiple hollows. It is made from conventional cement mixes and various types of aggregate. These include sand, gravel, crushed stone, air-cooled slag, coal cinders, expanded shale or clay, expanded slag, volcanic cinders (pozzolan), pumice, and “scotia” (refuse obtained from metal ore reduction and smelting). The term “concrete block” was formerly limited to only hollow masonry units made with such aggregates as sand, gravel, and crushed stone. Today, the term covers all types of concrete block-both hollow and solid—made with any kind of aggregate. Concrete blocks are also available with applied glazed surfaces, various pierced designs, and a wide variety of surface textures. Although concrete block is made in many sizes and shapes (figure 8-4) and in both modular and nonmodular dimensions, its most common unit size is 7 5/8 by 7 5/8 by 15 5/8 inches. This size is known as 8-by-8-by- 16-inch block nominal size. All concrete block must meet certain specifications covering size, type, weight, moisture content, compressive strength, and other characteristics. Properly designed and constructed, concrete masonry walls satisfy many building requirements, including fire prevention, safety, durability, economy, appearance, utility, comfort, and acoustics. Figure 8-4.-Typical unit sizes and shapes of concrete masonry units. Concrete blocks are used in all types of masonry construction. The following are just a few of many examples:

  • Exterior load-bearing walls (both below and above grade)
  • Interior load-bearing walls
  • Fire walls and curtain walls
  • Partitions and panel walks
  • Backing for brick, stone, and other facings; Fireproofing over structural members
  • Fire safe walls around stairwells, elevators, and enclosures
  • Piers and columns; Retaining walls
  • Chimneys
  • Concrete floor units

There are five main types of concrete masonry units:

  1. Hollow load-bearing concrete block
  2. Solid load-bearing concrete block
  3. Hollow nonload-bearing concrete block
  4. Concrete building tile
  5. Concrete brick

Load-bearing blocks are available in two grades: N and S. Grade N is for general use, such as exterior walls both above and below grade that may or may not be exposed to moisture penetration or weather. Both grades are also used for backup and interior walls. Grade S is for above-grade exterior walls with a weather-protective coating and for interior walls. The grades are further subdivided into two types.

Type I consists of moisture-controlled units for use in arid climates.

Type II consists of nonmoisturecontrolled units. Typical unit sizes and shapes of concrete masonry units—Continued.

BLOCK SIZES AND SHAPES Concrete masonry units are available in many sizes and shapes to tit different construction needs. Both full- and half-length sizes are shown in figure 8-4. Because concrete block sizes usually refer to nominal dimensions, a unit actually measuring 7 5/8-by-7 5/8-by-15 5/8-inches is called an 8-by-8-by-16-inch block. When laid with 3/8-inch mortar joints, the unit should occupy a space exactly 8-by-8-by- 16 inches. ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) specifications define a solid concrete block as having a core area not more than 25 percent of the gross cross-sectional area. Most concrete bricks are solid and sometimes have a recessed surface like the frogged brick shown in figure 8-4. In contrast, a hollow concrete block has a core area greater than 25 percent of its gross cross-sectional area-generally 40 percent to 50 percent. Blocks are considered heavyweight or lightweight, depending on the aggregate used in their production. A hollow load-bearing concrete block 8-by-8-by- 16-inches nominal size weighs from 40 to 50 pounds when made with heavyweight aggregate, such as sand, gravel, crushed stone, or air-cooled slag. The same size block weighs only 25 to 35 pounds when made with coal cinders, expanded shale, clay, slag, volcanic cinders, or pumice.

The choice of blocks depends on both the availability and requirements of the intended structure. Blocks may be cut with a chisel. However, it is more convenient and accurate to use a power-driven masonry saw (figure 8-5). Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s manual for operation and maintenance, As with all electrically powered equipment, follow all safety guidelines.

BLOCK MORTAR JOINTS The sides and the recessed ends of a concrete block are called the shell. The material that forms the partitions between the cores is called the web. Each of the long sides of a block is called a face shell. Each of the recessed ends is called an end shell. The vertical ends of the face shells, on either side of the end shells, are called the edges. Bed joints on first courses and bed joints in column construction are mortared by spreading a 1-inch layer of mortar. This procedure is referred to as “full mortar bedding.” For most other bed joints, only the upper edges of the face shells need to be mortared. This is referred to as “face shell mortar bedding.” Head joints may be mortared by buttering both edges of the block being laid or by buttering one edge on the block being laid and the opposite edge on the block already in place.

MASONRY MORTAR Properly mixed and applied mortar is necessary for good workmanship and good masonry service because it must bond the masonry units into a strong, well-knit structure. The mortar that bonds concrete block, brick, or clay tile will be the weakest part of the masonry unless you mix and apply it properly.

When masonry leaks, it is usually through the joints. Both the strength of masonry and its resistance to rain penetration depend largely on the strength of the bond between the masonry unit and the mortar. Various factors affect bond strength, including the type and quantity of the mortar, its plasticity and workability, its water retentivity, the surface texture of the mortar bed, and the quality of workmanship in laying the units. You can correct irregular brick dimensions and shape with a good mortar joint. Workability of Mortar Mortar must be plastic enough to work with a trowel. You obtain good plasticity and workability by using mortar having good water retentivity, using the proper grade of sand, and thorough mixing.

You do not obtain good plasticity by using a lot of cementitious materials. Mortar properties depend largely upon the type of sand it contains. Clean, sharp sand produces excellent mortar, but too much sand causes mortar to segregate, drop off the trowel, and weather poorly. Water Retentivity Water retentivity is the mortar property that resists rapid loss of water to highly absorbent masonry units. Mortar must have water to develop the bond. If it does not contain enough water, the mortar will have poor plasticity and workability, and the bond will be weak and spotty. Sometimes, you must wet brick to control water absorption before applying mortar, but never wet concrete masonry units.

Mortar Strength and Durability The type of service that the masonry must give determines the strength and durability requirements of mortar. For example, walls subject to severe stress or weathering must be laid with more durable, stronger mortar than walls for ordinary service. 

Type M— One part portland cement, one-fourth part hydrated lime or lime putty, and three parts sand; or, one part portland cement, one part type II masonry cement, and six parts sand. Type M mortar is suitable for general use, but is recommended specifically for below-grade masonry that contacts earth, such as foundations, retaining walls, and walks. Type S— One part portland cement, one-half part hydrated lime or lime putty, and four and one-half parts sand; or, one-half part portland cement, one part type II masonry cement, and four and one-half parts sand. Type S mortar is also suitable for general use, but is recommended where high resistance to lateral forces is required.

Type N— One part portland cement, one part hydrated lime or lime putty, and six parts sand; or, one part type II masonry cement and three parts sand. Type N mortar is suitable for general use in above-grade exposed masonry where high compressive or lateral strength is not required. Type O— One part portland cement, two parts hydrated lime or lime putty, and nine parts sand; or, one part type I or type II masonry cement and three parts sand. Type O mortar is recommended for load-bearing, solid-unit walls when the compressive stresses do not exceed 100 pounds per square inch (psi) and the masonry is not subject to freezing and thawing in the presence of a lot of moisture.

MIXING MORTAR The manner in which mortar is mixed has a lot to do with the quality of the final product. In addition to machine and hand mixing, you need to know the requirements for introducing various additives, including water, to the mix in order to achieve optimum results. Machine Mixing Machine mixing refers to mixing large quantities of mortar in a drum-type mixer. Place all dry ingredients in the mixer first and mix them for 1 minute before adding the water. When adding water, you should always add it slowly. Minimum mixing time is 3 minutes. The mortar should be mixed until a completely uniform mixture is obtained. Hand Mixing Hand mixing involves mixing small amounts of mortar by hand in a mortar box or wheelbarrow. Take care to mix all ingredients thoroughly to obtain a uniform mixture. As in machine mixing, mix all dry materials together first before adding water. Keep a steel drum of water close at hand to use as the water supply.

You should also keep all your masonry tools free of hardened mortar mix and dirt by immersing them in water when not in use. Requirements You occasionally need to mix lime putty with mortar. When machine mixing, use a pail to measure the lime putty. Place the putty on top of the sand. When hand mixing, add the sand to the lime putty. Wet pails before filling them with mortar and clean them immediately after emptying. Mixing water for mortar must meet the same quality requirements as mixing water for concrete. Do not use water containing large amounts of dissolved salts. Salts weaken the mortars. You can restore the workability of any mortar that stiffens on the mortar board due to evaporation by remixing it thoroughly. Add water as necessary, but discard any mortar stiffened by initial setting. Because it is difficult to determine the cause of stiffening, a practical guide is to use mortar within 2 1/2 hours after the original mixing. Discard any mortar you do not use within this time.

Do not use an antifreeze admixture to lower the freezing pint of mortars during winter construction. The quantity necessary to lower the freezing point to any appreciable degree is so large it will seriously impair the strength and other desirable properties of the mortar. Do not add more than 2-percent calcium chloride (an accelerator) by weight of cement to mortar to accelerate its hardening rate and increase its early strength. Do not add more than 1-percent calcium chloride to masonry cements. Make a trial mix to find the percentage of calcium chloride that gives the desired hardening rate. Calcium chloride should not be used for steel-reinforced masonry. You can also obtain high early strength in mortars with high-early-strength portland cement.

MODULAR PLANNING Concrete masonry walls should be laid out to make maximum use of full- and half-length units. This minimizes cutting and fitting of units on the job. Length and height of walls, width and height of openings, and wall areas between doors, windows, and corners should be planned to use full-size and half-size units, which are usually available . This procedure assumes that window and door frames are of modular dimensions which fit modular full- and half-size units. Then, all horizontal dimensions should be in multiples of nominal full-length masonry units.

Average Concrete Masonry Units and Mortar per 100 sq. ft. of Wall  Number of 16-Inch Blocks per Course You should always use outside measurements when calculating the number of blocks required per course. For example, a basement 22 feet by 32 feet should require 79 blocks for one complete course. Multiply 79 by the number of courses needed. Thus, a one-course basement requires a total of 790 blocks for a solid wall, from which deductions should be made for windows and doors. If any dimension is an odd number, use the nearest smaller size listed in the table. For example, for a 22-foot by 31-foot enclosure, use 22 feet by 30 feet and add one-half block per row. As a Builder, you might find yourself in the field without the tables handy, so here is another method. Use 3/4 times the length and 3/2 times the height for figuring how many 8-by-8-by-16-inch blocks you need for a wall. Let’s take an example: Given: A wall 20 ft long x 8 ft high

3/4 x 20 = 60 + 4 = 15    (8? x 8? x 16?  block per course) 3/2 x 8 = 24 ÷ 2  = 12 courses high 15 x 12 = 180 total blocks

ESTIMATING MORTAR You can use “rule 38? for calculating the raw material needed to mix 1 yard of mortar without a great deal of paperwork. This rule does not, however, accurately calculate the required raw materials for large masonry construction jobs. For larger jobs, use the absolute volume or weight formula. In most cases, though, and particularly in advanced base construction, you can use rule 38 to quickly estimate the quantities of the required raw materials. Builders have found that it takes about 38 cubic feet of raw materials to make 1 cubic yard of mortar. In using rule 38 for calculating mortar, take the rule number and divide it by the sum of the quantity figures specified in the mix. For example, let’s assume that the building specifications call for a 1:3 mix for mortar, 1 + 3 = 4. Since 38 ÷ 4 = 9½, you’ll need 9½ sacks, or 9½ cubic feet, of cement. To calculate the amount of fine aggregate (sand), you multiply 9½ by 3. The product (28½ cubic feet) is the amount of sand you need to mix 1 cubic yard of mortar using a 1:3 mix. The sum of the two required quantities should always equal 38. This is how you can check whether you are using the correct amounts. In the above example, 9½ sacks of cement plus 28½ cubic feet of sand equal 38. SAFE HANDLING OF MATERIAL When you handle cement or lime bags, wear goggles and snug-fitting neckbands and wristbands. Always practice good personal cleanliness and never wear clothing that has become stiff with cement. Cement-impregnated clothing irritates the skin and may cause serious infection. Any susceptibility of the skin to cement and lime burns should be reported. Personnel who are allergic to cement or lime should be transferred to other jobs. Bags of cement or lime should not be piled more than 10 bags high on a pallet. The only exception is when storage is in bins or enclosures built for such storage. The bags around the outside of the pallet should be placed with the mouths of the bags facing the center, The first five tiers of bags each way from any corner must be cross piled. A setback starting with the sixth tier should be made to prevent piled bags from falling outward. If you have to pile bags above 10 tiers, another setback must be made. The back tier, when not resting against an interior wall of sufficient strength to withstand the pressure, should be set back one bag every five tiers, the same as the end tiers. During unpiling, the entire top of the pile should be kept level and the necessary setbacks maintained. Lime and cement must be stored in a dry place. This helps prevent lime from crumbling and the cement from hydrating before it is used.

 

Century Home Inspections

Century Home Inspections

Real estate buyers cannot seem to get enough good quality Century Homes.  Anytime I am inspecting a fairly well maintained century home it seems that the buyers were just about always in a bidding war with someone else who also wanted the property.  Considering the work and expense usually involved in fixing up one of these older homes, I find it amazing the lure these older homes have on people. Century homes can be a money pit or a beautiful piece of history,  and sometimes  it is hard for the novice home owner to recognize the difference.  Any home that has been around this long has most likely had many renovations over the years and at least some of them were do it yourself type improvements.  It takes a trained eye to spot the differences in workmanship but the end result could be thousands of dollars in repairs if home buyer is not aware of some of the common pitfalls involved in buying a century home.

There are some basic items that usually are an issue in century homes and if the previous owners have not properly dealt with them the home buyers will most likely be shocked to find the amount of work and expense they may be facing.  Common items are structural, asbestos, knob and tube wiring, 60 amp service and galvanized plumbing.

Every foundation on a century home is different.  There were no strict building codes a hundred years ago and everyone built their homes a little different although the concept was basically the same.  Most structures are supported on rock and cement walls.  These old walls will still be standing after we are long gone and are usually in pretty good shape.  Water problems can affect the mortar between stones and if you have any movement you may have to bring in a structural engineer for advice.  If your mortar is deteriorating you can remove loose bits and re-point the stones and even give it a coat  of white wash for more appealing look.  If your wall is bowing or showing other signs of significant movement there may be an issue with expansive soils causing pressure on your foundation wall.  This will require the services of a an experienced foundation contractor and will most likely be an expensive repair.  Some foundations may require a sister wall to be poured to strengthen the existing foundation, this also is a job for an experienced contractor.  Many older homes have a concrete base poured around the existing foundation to add to stability and prevent movement.

 

Asbestos was used as an insulator for heating equipment and plumbing wrap in older homes.  Although it is un-common to still find asbestos still in place in older homes there are areas where it may have been installed and very difficult to remove, so has been left in place.  Service areas between floors is a common place to find left behind asbestos and can be very difficult to remove without replacing piping.  Attics in century homes are common places to find vermiculite insulation.  Any vermiculite manufactured in the Libby Montana mines is contaminated with asbestos.  Asbestos cannot be visually detected in vermiculite and samples have to be sent out to labs for testing.  Depending on amount and size of asbestos presence the cost of removal can be very expensive.  Large amounts require encapsulated workers to have a completed sealed off work area and a decontamination area plus a clean zone.  All asbestos must be properly bagged, tagged and disposed of in specific locations.

 

 

Many century homes had galvanized plumbing installed at one time in their past.  This is a steel pipe which has been covered with a protective coating of zinc. One of the problems with galvanized pipe is that the minerals in the water react with galvanized material and cause scale build up.  Life expectancy of most galvanized pipe is generally considered to be from 50 to 70 years, which becomes a problem if it is still in place in your potential new home.  Some insurance companies will refuse to cover a home containing galvanized plumbing.  Again many people will replace the accessible galvanized plumbing but may leave areas between floors and walls which are hard to access.

Knob and tube wiring is still in use in many older homes and many home owners don’t even know it is in their home.  This is electrical wiring which is run between exposed porcelain insulators and looks a little like a train track as there are two conductors running beside each other.  Most insurance companies will not ensure a home with knob and tube wiring and you will have to get an electrical contractor to replace any found in the home.  Attics are common places where knob and tube was left and even connected to the newer type of Romex cable by either lazy electricians or un-educated home owners.

Many older homes can have a 100 amp panel installed and the listing may even list the property as having a 100 amp service, but this may not always be true.  There are many times where the property owner has installed a 100 amp panel but has not upgraded the service.  Always check the main switch where the service enters the building to ensure that it is not a 50 or 60 amp service that has just had a newer panel board installed.  In Ontario most insurance companies will not insure a home with a 60 amp service and you will be required to upgrade service and sometimes the mast also may require an upgrade.

There are many other issues that potential buyers of century homes may encounter and some maybe very expensive to repair.  Protect yourself and your investment with a professional home inspection which can prevent expensive surprises and allow you to objectively evaluate the property prior to purchase.

 

Typical Orillia Home Defects at Inspections

Typical Orillia Home Defects at Inspections.  Poor grading is a typical landscaping issue which is commonly found during a home inspection. Sidewalks are especially prone to settling and directing water against the foundation of the home. Directing water away from your home should be your number one outside priority. Check all downspouts and other sources of water to ensure that all water is directed away from home.

In my experience roof shingles last on an average of 18 to 20 years on the average home. The south side roof shingles will typically deteriorate first as they are in contact with more sunlight than the remaining sides. Curling of shingles is the first sign that they will require replacement. Although there are many shingles which are advertised as 25 or 30 year shingles, it is unusual to see them last more than a couple of extra years when compared to regular shingles.

Electrical wiring issues is by far the most common problem found in most older homes with a renovated basement. The wiring issues are usually un-supported electrical cables, missing junction boxes and adding circuits to existing breakers in main panel. This is always an indication that the home owner has done the work and a licensed electrician should be called in to inspect and repair all the wiring. I will typically recommend that potential buyers ask for an electrical certificate for home which indicates that all wiring has been inspected and passed by licensed electrician.

Any renovation in your home is required to have a building permit. Part of the building permit process is having plumbing, structure, electrical and insulation inspected by your local building officials or electrical authority. When a renovation is done with out taking out a building permit you run the risk of un-seen problems coming back to haunt you and most likely costing a great deal of money to repair.

Exterior maintenance of your home can prevent thousands of dollars in needless repairs. Caulking seams in window sills and ensuring mortar is still in place on brick window sills can save a lot of repairs for a couple of dollars. Just caulking your asphalt driveway at joint where it meets your garage can prevent separation and sinking of driveway.

Attic insulation is commonly found to have been disturbed by trades people and home owners. When you do work in the attic and compact your blown insulation you should add insulation to ensure even coverage and un-necessary heat loss. Improperly installed pot lights are another commonly found issue which can create a huge energy loss in your home. It is important to install the proper pot light when installing in your insulation. The possibility also exists of starting a fire if not properly installed.

Exterior chimney flues are often cracked and brick is spalled simply because home owner did not install a rain cap on their chimney.  Water can penetrate small cracks and in the winter season this water freezes and expands causing further cracking.  If left un-checked eventual you will be replacing your whole chimney.  Older masonry chimney caps do not have a drip edge and this allows water to get underneath cap and start penetrating your brick.  It is a wise investment to have your chimney check every year to find cracks before they become expensive repairs.