fireplace style refresh, interior design fireplace upgradeIs your fireplace style looking tired, outdated, or even damaged? You might consider restoring your fireplace to make it more attractive and more useable. Here are five outstanding fireplace restoration ideas from the economical to the indulgent!

1. Budget Friendly Coat of Paint

One easy, budget-friendly, and possibly even do-it-yourself approach, is to paint your fireplace. Many people choose to paint their fireplace and mantle white, which can give it a nice, clean, and neutral look. You might choose black paint for a striking and modern appearance. You can also select a color to match your interests and design aesthetic. For example, go bold with a bright red, which would really make the fireplace into a centerpiece of your room. You can also create a unique design with hand-painted patterns or stencils.

2. Go Rustic with a Whitewash

If paint seems too much for you and your design style is a little more rustic, then you can try a whitewash on your fireplace. If you are not familiar with whitewashing, visit this how-to article. You are left with a white coating that is light in color and somewhat faint, perhaps still showing the bricks underneath. If you choose whitewash, you might select a reclaimed wood mantle to complete the look.

3. Add Stone, Brick, or Tile Designs

If brick is not your style you can instead have your fireplace restored with a stone or tile facade or overlay. For a natural and timeless look that will fit in with any other décor choices, you could choose a natural stone-look concrete overlay for your fireplace restoration. For modern lofts, a subway-style tile finish might be the best choice. If you prefer an eclectic look, you can choose patterned tiles that have old-world, unique, and home-made charm.

4. Go Upscale with Marble Tiles

If your budget allows, you can turn your fireplace style into a real marvel with marble. You can also take that marble completely up hearth and wall for an incredible accent to your room. This will give the fireplace a classic and modern look. Marble is pricier, but it is a great investment because it lasts forever, and it is very easy to keep clean.

5. Add a Salvaged Mantlepiece

If modern designs are not to your liking and if you enjoy design pieces that have a bit of history, you can easily bring well-loved architectural pieces into your home with a salvaged mantlepiece. When old homes are torn down, the mantlepiece can often be removed and then reused again. This can easily be affixed over your fireplace. These often have incredible craftsmanship and when you go this route, what you get will likely be one of a kind. Whether you integrate an old-fashioned fireplace in a more modern home for a transitional look or maintain a traditional décor, a salvaged mantlepiece is can be a beautiful focal point in your home.

If you are installing or restoring a fireplace, work with an expert. They’ll be able to make sure the job is done right and the fireplace is structurally sound and ready for use. The experts at Irish Sweep can help you restore your fireplace for a refreshed and secure result.

As winter approaches, you may be looking forward to cozy days around the fire. If you are lucky enough to have a wood burning fireplace, it can be easy to neglect through most of the year up until time to set up that first winter fire. Wood burning fireplaces do require chimney cleaning, inspections, and maintenance. Now you may be wondering, why should I have my chimney cleaned and when?

Advantages of Regular Chimney Cleaning

As wood burns in your fireplace it releases smoke and ash, and over time, creosote can build up. If you have not heard of creosote, it is a flammable substance that builds up like a glaze, coating the interior of your chimney. Creosote needs to be removed regularly so it doesn’t build up and prevent the flow of smoke leaving the chimney. Also, because creosote is flammable, it needs to be removed to prevent chimney fires.

You should have your chimney inspected at least yearly and cleaned as needed. If you recently purchased a home, have the chimney inspected before using the fireplace. Regular maintenance and cleaning help to prevent larger problems and more expensive repairs. Having your chimney inspected, cleaned, and maintained each year will help keep your home and family safe.

When professionals clean your chimney, they remove soot and dangerous creosote built up on the interior. They will also check for any blockages, which could cause smoke to build up in your home if not removed. A professional will make sure everything is in working order for safe and effective operation.

chimney cleaning, the right time to clean your chimney, get your chimney swept.Advantages of Spring or Early Summer Chimney Cleaning

Some say that spring is the best time to have your chimney inspected and cleaned. This is because winter weather might have damaged the masonry, which you would want to catch and repair right away during warm summer months. Additionally, a spring cleaning will get you ready for fall and winter fires, well ahead of the peak cleaning season, so you can avoid waitlists and have it done quickly.

Advantages of Late Summer or Fall Cleaning for your Chimney

Others would argue that fall is the better time to have your chimney cleaned. This is because when your fireplace has not been used in a while, such as during the spring and summer months, pests can enter and set up their homes. Rodents and birds can build nests that clog the chimney. This could be dangerous as smoke is then unable to flow through, and additional creosote could build up, increasing flammability.

Contracting a chimney cleaning company that will provide regular inspections and cleaning is your easiest option. They will remind you when it is time for your inspections. Given the advantage of both spring and fall cleanings, you may opt to have them both in order to maintain your fireplace if you use it often. During inspections, the professionals will look for any problems, clean as needed, and perform or recommend necessary maintenance on your chimney. This can all help to prevent more serious operational issues and maintain a healthy, efficient function of your fireplace all year round.

chimney removal, chimney speed, chimney cleaning, repair, maintenanceChimney removal is often advised, but many homeowners put it off, not considering the benefits of full chimney removal. Many homes have been built with fireplaces for heating, and they also have chimneys. As time has provided the innovation of other, more efficient heating methods, fireplaces and chimneys may not be used so often. Here we look at 5 reasons that you should consider having your chimney removed.

Chimney Removal Aides Home Heating/Cooling

If you are no longer using your fireplace for home heating, it’s possible your chimney is only working against your home heating and cooling efforts. Chimneys left in place may compromise insulation and allow drafts which hamper energy efficient home heating and cooling. Removing a chimney can help to create a more comfortable home environment while reducing energy usage and costs for heating and cooling.

You Want to Reduce Risk of Earthquake Damage

Chimneys are often the first structures to fall in an earthquake. If you haven’t used your chimney for years, it’s likely the chimney is worn out and damaged and at even higher risk of earthquake damage. Even a slight tremor can turn a masonry chimney into brick missiles, causing structural damage, bodily injury and even death to those in the home. With the risk of a major earthquake in California always growing, its best to have your unused chimney removed sooner rather than later.

Your Chimney is Worn and Damaged

In an old and unkempt chimney, bricks may be weak and broken, and mortar may be worn away leaving the bricks insecure. If you’re not using your chimney, it’s easy to neglect chimney care. But a weak chimney faces the possibility of collapse at any time. If your chimney is old and worn it’s better to have it removed than leave it in place.

You Want More Valuable Space

Square footage is valuable in a home, and yet leaving an unused chimney in place can compromise your living space. Removing a chimney can also help you access valuable living space in common areas and bedrooms. A chimney can impact the space in every level and room it passes through. Removing a chimney offers the added benefit of easily accessing more precious space in your home, creating a more modern and comfortable living environment.

You Want To Remodel

Working around an existing chimney when you’re trying to remodel your home can be difficult and costly. In many cases, it can be easier and cheaper to just remove the chimney so you can plan and construct your remodel the way you want. This gives you more space to work with, and freedom from the constraints of needing to work around the chimney.

By contemplating when it really might be worth chimney removal, you can access significant safety and practical benefits. Talk to your local chimney sweep company today about the benefits you could gain from removing your chimney.

At the Irish Sweep, we strive to stay ahead of the latest information and details in our industry through continuing education.  The owner, Sal McKnight, attended a class over the weekend that was taught by Bob Ferrari, a master outdoorsman.  During the seminar, Sal learned some important safety precautions as it relates to harnesses and helmets on the worksite.  In addition, she obtained details about the challenges to some of the OSHA regulations as it relates to our industry.  Check Sal out as she climbs this makeshift roof setting.  In the photo, she is climbing up an 18/12 pitched roof.  Once a roof pitch reaches 8/12 and higher it’s very dangerous to walk.

 

We will continue to learn, grow, and benefit from such continuing education classes in order to provide our customers with the highest level of service.

Earthquake preparedness, chimney inspection and reinforcement

The devastation of the recent Earthquake in Mexico is a reminder that the same could, and has, happened in California. Long term California residents will remember several damaging and in some cases lethal earthquakes in their lifetime. Earthquake preparedness experts warn that the likelihood California will experience another serious quake in the next 20 years is very high, with the San Francisco Bay Area expected to be the worst hit.

And yet despite these risks, homeowners neglect the one thing that could prevent the most common form of damage in an earthquake: chimney repair.

Chimney Collapse is The Most Common Form of Earthquake Damage

Historically, chimney collapse is the most common form of damage due to earthquakes across the country. And yet chimney repair and reinforcement is the most commonly ignored effort for earthquake preparation.

Chimney masonry repair or even chimney removal is likely to slip your mind if you no longer use your masonry chimney. But simply leaving your chimney standing with no reinforcement or maintenance is a recipe for earthquake disaster.

Even with low-level ground shaking, chimneys start to fail and bricks fall. This is particularly common in masonry chimneys built before 1980 where the mortar may be already worn down and the structure of the chimney is brittle. But even in younger chimneys the mortar can become weak or cracked due to weather and time, leaving masonry chimneys vulnerable to collapse even with a small earthquake.

Collapsing Chimneys Extremely Hazardous

Structural engineers say that masonry chimneys are usually the first thing to go  in a quake of any size, and can rapidly cause damage to surrounding buildings, cars, and people. At least 15,000 brick chimneys were damaged in Los Angeles during the 1994 Northridge earthquake, while in Napa, about half of the residential buildings damaged were due to brick chimneys.

Several deaths and injuries have also been caused by falling chimney bricks in the last significant California earthquakes, many of them involving children. When chimneys start to collapse, even during a relatively minor earthquake, bricks become deadly projectiles capable of causing severe damage.

Earthquake Preparedness To Prevent Chimney Damage

When quake-proofing your home, don’t overlook your chimney. If you have a masonry chimney in your home, it is essential you call a chimney professional for an inspection and analysis of the chimney strength. This is very difficult to assess with an untrained eye. But if you can see visible cracks or gaps in the mortar of your chimney, it’s a clear sign your chimney needs urgent repair.

Masonry chimneys can be repaired and retrofitted to increase their strength, which prevents the likelihood of collapse in the event of an earthquake. Chimney repointing can help to replace masonry chimney mortar, but may not be enough earthquake preparedness on it’s own to reinforce a chimney. Retrofitting is the minimum step you should take to keep your home and your family safe from chimney damage during an earthquake. You can also discuss other options, such as chimney removal or replacement, after an inspection and consultation with a chimney professional.

Ensuring your chimney is safe and secure is essential for earthquake preparation, and shouldn’t be put off any longer. Call your local chimney professional today to book an inspection and discuss the best solution to keep your chimney earthquake safe.

 

 

Bay chimney sweep, smoke from fireplace, chimney cleaning

If smoke is coming out of your fireplace instead of going up the chimney it indicates there’s an issue that you need to correct. A smoky fireplace is not only unpleasant it can also be a health and fire hazard in your home. Here we look at some of the causes of smoky fireplaces and what you or a San Francisco Bay chimney sweep can do to alleviate the problem and improve air quality.

Chimney Needs To Be Cleaned

One of the reasons that smoke may not be able to exit through your chimney is because the chimney is blocked with creosote buildup. Without smoke being able to exit your home through the chimney, it instead since spills out of the fireplace and fills your rooms. You should have your chimney inspected and cleaned at least once yearly, and immediately if you notice any change in the performance of your fireplace. If it’s been a while since you’ve had your chimney cleaned, a blockage or build up in your chimney could be the culprit of a smoky fireplace.

Damper Is Closed Or Broken

The damper allows air flow through your fireplace with which is essential to feed the flame and create an airflow through your chimney. If the damper is closed, your fireplace will smoke and the smoke will not pass out through the chimney. Check that your damper is fully open when you’re starting to light the fire. If you still experience problems with a smoky fireplace it might be worthwhile having a professional North Bay chimney sweep look at the top of the chimney to check the rain cap or chimney top damper that might be obstructed.

Flue Is Obstructed

Blockages in the flue can be caused by anything ranging from creosote buildup to a birds nest or dead animal stuck in the flue. Having a professional inspected thoroughly clean the chimney flue can help reestablish airflow and reduce chimney smokiness again.

Chimney Is Too Cold Or It’s Too Warm Outside

When the chimney is too cold, the layer of cold air in the chimney can block the smoke from rising to the top of the chimney and instead pushes smoke out of the fireplace. This problem can be fixed by preheating the chimney by either lighting the end of the newspaper and holding it up to the damper for a little while, or blowing hot air from a hairdryer up the chimney to warm the air and establish airflow.

Negative Air Pressure Inside The House

Negative air pressure inside the house can be caused by airtight insulation or exhaust fans within the house. Negative internal air pressure can prevent the fireplace from drafting correctly which causes smoke to flow inside the house rather than out through the chimney. You can correct negative air pressure by opening a window in the fireplace room while burning.

Wet Firewood

Wet firewood is a common cause of smoky fireplaces. Wet firewood smolders or makes hissing sounds while burning, and can’t create sufficient heat for the chimney to draw well. Ensure you use dry wood to build your fire to prevent an overly smoky and smoldering fireplace.

Faulty Fireplace Design

And incorrect or poorly built fireplace will not be able to draw in air properly and have smoke vent through the chimney correctly either. If you’ve exhausted all other reasons for your overly smoky fire place it could be that your actual fireplace design is faulty. Have a fireplace professional inspect the dimensions and measurements of your fireplace to ensure that it’s actually functional.

A smoky fireplace can contribute to greater fire risk and increased air pollution in your home. Correct a faulty smoky fireplace as quickly as possible by calling an East Bay chimney sweep or fireplace professional to inspect your problem and provide the right solution.

Chimney masonry repair helps to correct damage and restore the structure to the bricks and mortar of your chimney. While masonry repair is an essential task to keep your chimney safe, many homeowners don’t know how to recognize the signs that a chimney masonry repair is due. Here we look at 4 key signs that you need a chimney masonry repair.

Mortar Worn Away From Between Chimney Bricks

Weather and wear can first affect the softer mortar that fills the space between each brick or stone. Signs of deteriorating mortar joints include mortar crumbling and eroding from the mortar joints or a complete lack of mortar where it’s worn away between the bricks. Mortar repairs, also known as chimney repointing, involve replacing and filling in the joints of brickwork with new mortar. Chimney masonry repair and repointing should be done in warmer months when the mortar can set up correctly, however small repairs can be made using an accelerant mixed in the mortar during winter months.

Cracks In The Masonry And Mortar

Another sign of chimney masonry damage is visible cracks in the bricks or mortar. This can be caused by prolonged weather damage or wear. It’s important to repair chimney cracks rapidly as a cracked chimney can accelerate damage to the remaining bricks and mortar as well as increasing the risk of chimney collapse. Repointing the chimney may help to replace cracked mortar, but larger repairs such as the removal and replacement of bad bricks or a complete or partial tear down may be necessary depending on the damage.

Spalling Bricks

Spalling bricks are caused when moisture and the freeze/thaw cycle disrupt the structure of the bricks and causes them to fail. This causes the brick faces to pop off when water inside the brick freezes in the winter and expands pushing the brick structure outwards. Many chimneys are built with soft style breaks that absorb moisture out more readily and are more prone to spalling. If you notice spalling bricks on your chimney it’s a sign that your chimney needs masonry repair as soon as possible to prevent further deterioration or collapse.

Leaning or Crumbling Chimney

A leaning chimney can either mean that the foundation of the chimney is not right or that there has been movement between the house and the chimney. This can be a difficult problem to diagnose as the foundation of the chimney must be inspected for stability and safety. In many cases this can lead to the need for the chimney to be torn down and rebuilt. A crumbling chimney can be due to cracked bricks or a cracked crown that hasn’t been repaired. If a chimney has already started to significantly crumble or bricks have fallen, it’s essential to have the chimney inspected as soon as possible. The chimney may need to be removed or rebuilt to prevent further damage to your chimney or home.

While many homeowners can ignore a damaged chimney, particularly if it’s not being used, that doesn’t mean that an unstable chimney doesn’t pose a threat to your home. If your chimney shows any signs of needing masonry repair contact your local chimney sweep or chimney specialist as soon as possible to provide a thorough inspection and diagnosis.

If you are building a home or renovating, you may be hoping to add the ambience of a fireplace.  This can give you a cozy setting for winter days.  Fireplaces are popular among buyers, so having one could increase your property values.  While you may be sure about your choice to add a fireplace, you may be more uncertain about whether to add a gas or wood burning fireplace.  There are many points to consider in making this choice:

Advantages of a Wood Burning Fireplace

The major advantage of a wood burning fireplace is that it presents the traditional appearance we would envision.  The vision of flames dancing over logs is also accompanied by the crackle of wood burning sounds and that rustic smoky smell.  Many homeowners enjoy the ambience and effect of a wood burning fireplace.  Sitting by a wood burning fire on a cold fall or winter day is really what many people dream of when the word ‘fireplace’ is mentioned.

Disadvantages of a Wood Burning Fireplace

Wood burning fireplaces require wood as fuel obtained either by chopping it yourself or by purchasing it.  Wood burning fireplaces require clean-up and maintenance to keep them working safely. Unfortunately, despite their impressive appearance and ambience, wood burning fireplaces are exceptionally inefficient, wasting much of the heat produced through the chimney. Wood burning fireplaces are also not environmentally friendly, contributing to smoke pollution while providing little heat.

Advantages of a Gas Burning Fireplace

A major advantage of gas fireplaces is their ease of use.  Starting a fire simply takes the flip of a switch.  Cleaning up a gas fireplace is also exceptionally easy, compared to wood burning fireplaces.  Gas fireplaces generally require less maintenance than wood burning fireplaces, although it is recommended to have a professional occasionally review it to prevent malfunction. Gas fireplaces produce no smoke, and their construction generally helps to conserve heat and energy in the home.

Disadvantages of a Gas Burning Fireplace

A gas burning fireplace, requires access to a natural gas line.  If you do not currently have a natural gas line to your home, it could be difficult and costly to install.  Gas fireplaces may give some of the visual appeal of a wood burning fireplace, but they may feel less authentic.

As you can see, gas and wood burning fireplaces each present their own advantages and disadvantages.  Overall, wood burning fireplaces give more traditional ambience.  However, their environmental side-effects and inefficiency provide a huge drawback. Converting your wood burning fireplace to a wood burning insert or stove provides relatively better efficiency.  In contrast, gas fireplaces are easier to use, cleaner, more efficient and they typically require less maintenance.  However, gas fireplaces don’t create the traditional sights, sounds, and smells associated with a wood burning fireplace.

A fireplace specialist can help you decide which option is best for you.  They can also help you learn more about the care and maintenance of your new fireplace so you get the greatest efficiency and the best results for your home.

 

Wood burning fireplaces offer a certain charm and ambience to your home, but when it comes to heating and environmental efficiency they are far from the best choice. If you have a fireplace at home, you may want to keep it, while also making it safer, more efficient, and more environmentally friendly. That’s where fireplace conversion can be the ideal way to transform your inefficient wood burning fireplace into a more efficient and functional heating installation.

The Problem With Wood Burning Fireplaces

Wood burning fireplaces can be one of the most inefficient options, with much of the heat from within the home and as well as the heat generated from the fire simply being lost through the chimney. Wood burning fireplaces also add smoke, pollution, and particulate matter to the air which can trigger allergies and asthma and contribute to environmental pollution. Wood burning fireplaces increase the risk of chimney fires and home fires due to the buildup of creosote as a byproduct of wood burning.

Fortunately, when it comes to switching out your wood burning fireplace for a cleaner, more efficient version, you have a number of options.

Wood Burning Fireplace Inserts

Wood burning fireplace inserts retain the charm of traditional wood burning fireplaces, while lessening the environmental impact. Wood burning inserts reduce drafts and heat escaping from the fireplace, while ensuring wood burns hotter and more completely. Wood burning fireplace inserts can fit right into a traditional fireplace, converting it into a more efficient option.

Artificial Gas Logs

Artificial gas log fireplaces can offer an economical option that gives the effect of a real wood-burning fireplace without the pollution and the mess. Artificial gas logs may still need to be installed with glass door enclosures to reinforce insulation and prevent heat loss. Gas log fireplaces use gas as a fuel which can be more economical than firewood (if you need to pay for firewood). Gas log fireplaces provide reliable heat without the pollution of smoke and the mess of ash and creosote.

Gas Fireplace Insert

A gas fireplace insert is like a gas heater installed within the firebox of the existing fireplace. Because they are sealed, they are more efficient than gas logs and can provide reliable heat with adjustable flames. Gas fireplace inserts can cost more to install initially but can offer a more efficient heating solution without the health and environmental concerns of other fireplace options.

Electric Fireplace Insert

Electric fireplaces can be useful as they don’t require a chimney to vent. That means if your chimney is not functioning you can still create the effect of the fireplace with an electric insert. The drawback of an electric fireplace is that there are no flames, so it doesn’t have the same effect as other installations. While Electric inserts are inexpensive to install, electricity is generally not the most efficient fuel source. However electric inserts can provide a good source of heat as a nonpolluting alternative to an open fire place.

For environmental, health, and economical reasons, swapping out your traditional fireplace for a more efficient version makes sense. If you’re not sure which fireplace alternative is right for you, talk to our fireplace experts today to learn more about which fireplace conversion will work best for your home.

Keeping your chimney safe is an essential part of keeping your whole home safe. Keep an eye out for these 6 essential warning signs that your chimney needs repair.

  1. A Smoky Or Smelly Home

A smoky or smelly home can mean your chimney liner is not working properly. Chimney liners, with clay being the most popular, are channels inside of the chimney that contain and direct combustion products outside, protecting the chimney from corrosion. If these fumes are not redirected, the consequences on your health can be severe.

Unfortunately, it is not always easy to spot liner damage. Consider calling a professional if you detect an overly smoky odor from your chimney.

  1. Flakes Or Shards Of Tile/Ceramic In Your Hearth

On the topic of chimney liners, watch out for bits of flue lining in your firebox. Flue liner “shaling” occurs with time and can lead to a host of consequences, as indicated above.

The purpose of the liner is to protect the surrounding home, including combustible materials around your fireplace. Get an inspection to determine whether to replace or repair the lining.

  1. White Staining On The Chimney’s Exterior

Efflorescence the name given to the effect created when a white residue of minerals and salts comes to the surface of concrete and mortar. It is a sign that water is leaking into your chimney system and is indicative of present or future structural deterioration.

When the chimney has disintegrated materials or is missing a cap, rain water can more easily make its way into the walls. This can be a sign your chimney needs repair or additional protective structures to prevent further damage.

  1. Cracks In The Chimney Crown

On the topic of water damage, let’s discuss the dangers of crown cracks. If you’ve noticed air or water coming in through the fireplace, there may be cracks in the mortar around your chimney. As the cracks grow, so do structural problems so have these repaired quickly to maintain safety.

  1. Stained Ceiling Or Walls

We’ve been talking a lot about the dangers of moisture and stained ceilings or walls around the chimney as these are great signs that your chimney may need repair.

Look out for dark patches, dampness, and stains and take steps to investigate the issue. There are countless DIY conversations happening online on websites and forums to help you troubleshoot, but as always, it’s important to reach out to a professional if unsure.

  1. A Chimney Fire

Loud cracking and popping? Dense smoke and intense smell? These are signs of a chimney fire.

Flue fires are caused by the release of hydrocarbon gases from heated wood. At around 1100 degrees F, unburned gases condense and harden into creosote.

Creosote is highly flammable and triggers chimney fires. Chimney fires can cause the masonry to expand to the point of blowing out, which in the worst cases means room explosions.

To tell if you’ve had a chimney fire, look for warped metal in the damper, cracks in exterior masonry, smoke escaping through the mortar, or heat damaged TV antennas.

If you’re concerned, call your local chimney sweep for an inspection as soon as possible.

Keeping your chimney safe and in good condition means you can enjoy your fireplace in comfort, peace, and safety.