Crucial Tips for preparing your home for cold winter months

Insulate Windows                                 

Winter drafts can drive up your energy bill — and detract from the cozy vibe you want inside your home when it’s cold outside — if your windows have any air leaks. But by reducing drafts you can lower your home’s energy costs by up to 20% per year, according to the U.S. Energy Department, while also making your living space more comfortable.

Here are five simple solutions that will allow you to insulate your windows quickly:

V-seal weather stripping. Add this plastic weather stripping along the sides of the sashes. Windows can open and shut evenly with the V-seal in place. (Pro tip: Weather stripping also works wonders on doors.)

Rope caulk. This soft, sticky stuff can be molded to fill the gap — and the caulk removes easily at the end of the cold season.
Shrink film. Applied with double-sided tape, this clear plastic sheeting shrinks drum-tight when heated with a hair dryer. The film seals off drafts and captures an insulating buffer of air. Use rubbing alcohol to help release the tape in the spring to avoid stripping off any paint.

Nail polish. If carefully applied, clear polish fills the crack almost invisibly. Once hardened, it will stabilize the glass until you can replace it in the spring.

Draft snake. If the bottom of your window is letting in cold air, buy a foam-and-fabric draft snake kit. Cut the 36-inch foam tube provided to length and slip the washable cover over it. Then place the snake on the sill, and shut the window on to seal the deal.

Trim Tree Branches

The last thing you need is a winter storm loosing the wrath of that mighty tree whose branches are angling over your roof. Not to mention, overhanding limbs can cause excess water to seep into cracks in your home’s roof or siding, which is why you want to make sure any tree limbs or branches surrounding your home are at least 3 feet away from the house.

Inspect Your Fireplace

A visual inspection, both inside and outside your home, can ensure that your wood-burning fireplace is in good shape (read: safe) for the burning season.

During an outdoor inspection, make sure:

  • A chimney cap is present and in good condition.
  • There is no bird nest or debris buildup on the cap.
  • There are no tree limbs above or near the chimney.
  • The mortar and bricks on the chimney aren’t crumbling or missing.
  • The chimney rises at least 2 feet above where it exits the roof.
  • The chimney crown — the sloping cement shoulders at the top of the chimney — is beveled, which helps air flow.
  • The flue liner is visible above the chimney crown.
  • The chimney is plumb and not leaning to one side or the other.·
  • The roof flashing is tight against the chimney.

Inside your home, confirm that:

  • The flue damper opens, closes, and seals properly.
  • There are no combustible materials, such as animal nests, or other foreign objects in the flue.
  • The fireplace surround, hearth, and firebox have no cracked bricks or missing mortar.

If you spot any damage, order a professional fireplace and chimney inspection.

Gas fireplaces require less maintenance, but you should still:

  • Inspect the glass doors for cracks or latch issues.
  • Check that the gas logs are in the proper position.
  • Turn gas off at the shut-off valve and test the igniter.
  • Ignite the fire and look for clogged burner holes. If present, turn off gas and clear obstructions with a pin or needle.

Check the Roof

You certainly don’t want to find out you have a leaky roof after the first snow hits. A roof inspection can help you spot any potential issues.

Squeamish about heights? Don’t worry — you can call Lathrop Contracting to do a full roof inspection.

Work your way around your house, looking for these defects:

  • Cracked caulk or rust spots on flashing.
  • Shingles that are buckling, curling, or blistering.
  • Missing or broken shingles.
  • Cracked and worn rubber boots around vent pipes.
  • Masses of moss and lichen, which could signal the roof is decaying underneath. Black algae stains are just cosmetic.

Some roofing fixes are easy to do yourself, such as repairing shingles or calking flashing, if you’re comfortable working on a roof. If you’re not, you’ll want to consult a specialized roof inspector. Be prepared to pay between $119 and $296 for a standard roof inspection.

Clear Out Gutters and Downspouts

Clogged rain gutters or downspouts can damage your home’s foundation or cause ice dams, which can lead to expensive repairs. So, after the leaves have fallen, clean your gutters to remove leaves, twigs, and gunk. Also, make sure the gutters aren’t sagging and trapping water, tighten gutter hangers and downspout brackets, and replace any worn or damaged materials.


Indianapolis masonry and chimney repair by Lathrop Contracting

You Cannot Afford to Put Off Chimney Repair

As winter starts heading towards its conclusion, chimney owners are starting to think about packing away their firewood and getting ready to let their chimney sit inactive until next winter.

But, before you put your chimney completely out of mind for the spring, summer, and fall, it is important to make sure you take care of any chimney maintenance or repairs for damage sustained over the winter as soon as possible.

Because chimneys are typically only in use for a relatively small portion of the year, it can be easy for homeowners to neglect the condition of their chimney and put off work as long as possible. However, chimney repairs are something you simply cannot afford to put off.

Ignoring cracked or broken masonry, substantial damage to the chimney flue, clogs or ventilation problems, or other issues you could potentially be putting your chimney, your home, and even your family at risk of danger.

Total Collapse

Chimneys may seem strong as a rock, but even they have their breaking point. Weakened or damaged masonry may even still seem sturdy, but all it takes is one severe storm or one fallen tree branch to finish the job and cause a complete or at the very least and significant portion of your chimney to collapse. Believe us, when a chimney is in rough condition it may not take much to finish the job.

In the event that your chimney sustains this level of damage, you won’t just be put in a position where you now have to completely replace your chimney, but you will also likely need to address damage to your roof as well. If you think hail and wind can damage shingles and roofs, you can imagine what some tumbling bricks or stones can do too.


Cracks or damage in chimney masonry can be expanded or made worse by continued use and exposure to heat. If you get through the whole year without addressing significant chimney damage, you are only going to make it worse by continuing to use it.

On top of that, continuing to use a damaged chimney can be dangerous to your home. Any damage that causes high levels of heat or flame to escape anywhere but the flue of your chimney can risk exposing the flammable wood frame of your house and sparking a house fire.

Deadly Gases

Using a chimney that has sustained damage to its flue or results in improper ventilation could have other deadly consequences as well. Without proper ventilation, deadly Carbon Monoxide, the Silent Killer, produced by fire may not be able to escape your chimney and enter into your home.

Odorless and tasteless, even small or limited exposure to Carbon Monoxide can be lethal. Low concentrations can be deadly in 8 hours, but high concentration can kill in around 5 minutes. Not only is this a good lesson in ensuring those with chimneys have monitors in place, but it is also a lesson on the importance of maintaining proper chimney ventilation. If chimney damage is putting ventilation at risk, you are putting your life at risk.

Don’t let lingering chimney problems put your home and family in harm’s way. Let Lathrop Contracting help protect your home by repairing your chimney and let you return to worry-free winter comfort. Our free estimate can identify the root of your chimney damage and put our experience to work to fix it.

Lathrop Contracting has proudly served the roofing and masonry needs of residential and commercial buildings for many years, from repairs to installations. Call (317) 783-6929 to schedule your free roofing, gutter, or masonry estimate today.


[sc_fs_faq sc_id=”fs_faqhkk00dx0j” html=”true” headline=”h2″ img=”” question=”How often should I repair chimney brickwork?” img_alt=”” css_class=”” ]It is important to regularly check on the condition of your chimney’s masonry to ensure it is in good shape. Before winter and after winter is the ideal time to have your chimney checked and serviced or repaired. If there are any signs of damage, make sure your chimney is repaired as soon as possible.[/sc_fs_faq]

old chimney on roof

Leaking Chimney Can Come Heavy Summer Rains

Summer rainstorms are often a welcome for cooling off hot sunny days and for keeping our lawns and gardens nice and green! Unfortunately, heavy rain can also lead to a leaking chimney. During the summer, chimney leaks are the among some other common chimney issues that we encounter as we meet and talk with homeowners. Even chimneys with no history of issues can develop leaks and water damage over the course of just one summer.

What causes chimney leaks?

Chimney cap: The chimney cap protects the top of your flue from water entry, as well as animals and debris. Without a properly fitted chimney cap, the flue and fireplace are left completely exposed to water entry from rain.

Flashing: Flashing is the water tight strips that seal the seam between your roof and the chimney structure. If flashing is incorrectly installed, damaged, or merely loses its seal due to wear and tear or age, water can easily seep through any gaps. This can cause water damage to not only the roof and chimney, but also the ceilings and walls around the chimney.

Masonry damage: If one side or part of your chimney is often directly exposed to rainfall or other sources of water, masonry repairs may be needed due to the deterioration or become damaged faster than the rest of the chimney.

Symptoms of a leaking chimney

Many homeowners falsely assume that all leaky chimneys present themselves as visible water in the fireplace or flue. However, because of the size and complexity of most chimney systems, chimney leaks are often not recognized until they’ve already caused significant damage.

Below are some of the signs that may indicate your chimney is leaking.

  • Water or condensation inside the firebox
  • Sound of dripping water in the chimney
  • Moisture, leaks, or water staining on walls or ceilings around chimney
  • Musty or dank odors, especially after it rains
  • Cracked or chipped interior or exterior masonry

Preventing a leaking chimney

The best way to prevent chimney leaks is by having regular preventative maintenance done on your fireplace and chimney. Annual chimney sweepings and inspections can often identify any new chimney or masonry damage, allowing you to have it repaired before it leads to a chimney leak.

Another option for preventing leaks and water damage to your chimney is to have your masonry waterproofed. The waterproofing process involves the application of a specially designed sealant that keeps water out while allowing the masonry to retain its semi porous nature. These products can even be applied to chimneys with existing water damage as a way to keep it from getting worse.

Indianapolis Masonry Contractor

Chimney and Fireplace Maintenance Guide

A well-maintained fireplace can make your home warm and cozy. A poorly maintained fireplace can put you and your home in danger. Chimney fires are incredibly hazardous because your chimney is not built to contain fire above a certain temperature, meaning it can spread rapidly to other parts of your home. You can avoid chimney fires, smoke damage and deadly carbon monoxide poisoning with regular maintenance of your fireplace and chimney.

What is creosote?

One of the main culprits of chimney fires in a wood-burning fireplace is creosote. Creosote is a byproduct that builds up inside your chimney as a result of burning wood. It is highly flammable and can block airflow, sending smoke and carbon monoxide back into your home. Creosote forms in phases:

  1. Begins as a flaky deposit that can be easily brushed away.
  2. Turns into a tar-like deposit which can be difficult to remove.
  3. Becomes a hardened glaze and is very difficult to remove.

Professional inspection and repair

Your fireplace maintenance schedule should include regular professional inspections.  Chimney sweeps and installation and repair professionals will be highly trained in the construction and operation of different types of fireplaces. They will also have access to video inspection equipment to get a full picture of the health of your system. A professional will use video and visual inspections to:

  • Spot and repair damage – They will examine and repair all the masonry, brick, and metal components of your fireplace and chimney including the interior and exterior of your whole system, from firebox to the chimney cap
  • Find and clean creosote at all stages – Creosote in its third stage is very difficult to remove
  • Find and clear debris – They will clear sticks, leaves and dirt that have entered from the chimney
  • Repair a malfunctioning cap – A working chimney cap stops rain, snow, debris and animals from entering your home, so a broken cap can lead to both danger and massive inconvenience
  • Identify and repair exterior wear and cracks – Cracks can occur on the chimney and along the roofline, which can lead to water damage, mold in your walls and roof, and smoke seeping into your home

If you have a wood-burning fireplace, at minimum you should schedule an annual inspection and cleaning. You should also schedule an inspection if you purchase a new home with a fireplace or plan to make modifications to your chimney or fireplace. If your fireplace gets heavy use, schedule cleanings and inspections more frequently. Regular cleanings will not only keep you safe but also make your fireplace more pleasant and efficient.

DIY maintenance

Between professional inspections, you can do a lot to maintain your fireplace.

  • Burn only seasoned (dry) wood – Do not burn green wood or household trash as these contribute to excessive soot and creosote buildup
  • Keep a screen in front of your fireplace – This helps prevent ash and sparks from entering your living space
  • After each fire, thoroughly sweep out ash and debris after it has cooled
  • Use only specially formulated fireplace cleaners – Regular household cleaners can leave a flammable residue
  • Purchase and regularly test home carbon monoxide detectors – Even with regular maintenance and inspections, your fireplace can send smoke and carbon monoxide back into your home.