This posting was found on Google Groups and I thought it was an interesting and relevant post on this blog.
Q: My wood burning fireplace has a lot of missing mortar between the bricks right behind where the logs go. I went to Home Depot and they sell fireplace mortar in a tube (the kind you need to use a caulking gun). The area that needs the mortar has a lot of soot around it. Would I need to clean the soot off before applying this mortar stuff? If so, how do one clean year of soot? Thanks. -RR
A: RR, I don’t throw around the term “have a pro look at it” a lot but in this case, your description of “a lot of missing mortar” concerns me. If it is that way in the hearth it is bound to be that way in the chimney and you need to know if it is. Cracked or missing mortar is a serious problem and can easily lead to a house fire.
If that suggestion doesn’t appeal to your wallet but you still like the fireplace then you are just like me. My fireplace was in bad shape due to mortar issues, a bad crusty worn & damper, but I still liked the look of the fireplace. I didn’t want to bother with repairs so I bought a nice candelabra and a Chimney Balloon. I use the candelabra and light it up when I want some ambiance (just like I used the fireplace). Doing this actually saved money on my gas bill since the fireplace didn’t suck the heat out on my home when I was using it. The Chimney Balloon helped me seal up the damper nice and tight when I wasn’t using it at all which also prevented the den from feeling so cold in the winter. I know this is a different way to look at the issue with your fireplace, but the best I can offer is what worked for me. -GJ