dryer fires, lint vent screen fire, safety

 

A high number of home fires begin in your laundry room. This is usually a result of your clothes dryer, although the washer is not immune. The source of a dryer fire can be either the machine itself, or the dryer that goes away from the home. Preventing dryer fires in your Bay Area home is critical and not too difficult. Here are some facts from NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) dated June 2017.

  • Fire departments answered to approximately 15,970 home fires involving laundry rooms. These fires resulted in approximately $238 million in property damage per year, 440 injuries, and 13 deaths.
  • Of these fire calls, 92% were the result of the clothes dryers.
  • The main items in the clothes dryer that can lead to a fire are dust, fiber, or lint.
  • In 31% of clothes dryer fires, the lack of proper trap or vent cleaning is what caused it.
  • Most of the clothes dryer fires occur between August and January, which is why cleanings are recommended over the summer.

The above is just the tip of the iceberg. The following are some key steps you can take to avoid such fires:

  • Ensure that you always have your lint filter in your clothes dryer.
  • After each use, clean out the lint filter and any lint within the clothes dryer drum.
  • When you purchase or move a clothes dryer, have it installed by a professional.
  • Make sure your dryer stays in good condition. You should have it inspected annually by a professional.
  • Have the dryer vent cleaned annually.
  • Do not leave your dryer running while you are out of the house or not awake.
  • Within your venting system, use proper materials to reduce the risk.

These tips are the beginning of what you can do to reduce your risk of fires from your clothes dryer. The Irish Sweep is an expert at dryer vent cleaning. We recommend doing this each year, particularly over the summer so you avoid the risks of fires.

carbon monoxide poisoning, hidden danger in your home, safety

 

Some call it the hidden poison. Many still don’t have a detector for it. It is the most common cause of poisoning death in the United States. It causes about 500 deaths and 15,000 visits to the emergency room annually due to unintentional poisoning. Seniors can be impacted the most due to other medical issues. It is preventable through a detector. Carbon monoxide is this danger in your home, and it can be avoided.

 

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide, or CO, is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause illness and death. CO is produced whenever any fuel such as natural gas, propane, gasoline, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned. Devices that produce CO include cars, boats, gasoline engines, kitchen stoves and ovens, barbeques and heating system. CO from these sources can build up in enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces.

 

How do your recognize CO poisoning?

At low levels, a person exposed to CO will notice headaches and trouble breathing after some moderate exercise. Regular or severe exposure to carbon monoxide will lead to flu-like symptoms. Some of these include but are not limited to severe headaches, dizziness, tiredness, nausea, confusion, irritability, and impaired judgment, memory and coordination. Should the above signs not be addressed, then it is possible for carbon monoxide to lead to death. This is why it is sometimes called a “silent killer”.

 

How to Tell the Difference between CO Poisoning and the Flu

While symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to those of the flu, you may not realize that CO is impacting you. The following are the ways you can connect the symptoms with carbon monoxide:

  • The symptoms are more pronounced when you are at home
  • Multiple people get the symptoms at the same time. The flu usually spreads it over time
  • Whoever spends more time at home has more severe symptoms
  • When any device that emits CO is used, the symptoms are worse
  • The impact can be on indoor animals too. The flu generally does not pass to pets.
  • Your body has no achiness.
  • You have no fever or lymph node swelling

 

Prevention

  • Install a carbon monoxide alarm on each level of your home.
  • Have an inspection done of your heater and fuel burning appliances each year.
  • Do not burn fuels inside your home.

Should you have any questions or need your annual inspection done on your dryer vent by our certified expert, contact Sal at the Irish Sweep.

dryer vent lint screen safety fire

 

We’ve discussed the importance of clean dryer vents, but most people don’t even know how a dryer works and the impact the vents have on things. I wanted to take a moment and explain how dryer vents work. The following is the simplistic explanation of how clothes dryers work:

  1. Air comes to the main body of the dryer through a hole in the front.
  2. The air then passes by a heating element in the dryer and goes into its tumbler to begin drying the clothes.
  3. Afterwards, the air then goes through the holes in the door and to the lint screen.
  4. Once it’s through the lint screen, the air goes past a duct in the front of the dryer and into the fan.
  5. The dryer fan pushes the air into the duct and out through the back of the dryer where it should make its way out of the house. However, if this passageway is dirty/clogged, it can be a very serious fire hazard.

Here are descriptions of some key features of clothes dryers:

Heating element

The dryer heating element is usually made of nichrome wire. Most people do not understand this terminology but think of the wiring you see in your toaster over to make it toast your bread. The heating element uses a high amount of power, up to 6,000 watts. In order to ensure the air goes through this key piece before it goes into the tumbler area, there is a metal stamping to direct the air.

Tumbler

This piece is where you place your clothes for drying. After going through the heating element, the hot air goes through your clothes to dry them.

Door holes

Following the clothes being dried, the air then goes through holes in the dryer door and head to the lint screen.

Lint Screen

This is the dryer section that traps some of the particles that are on clothes and in the air.

Fan

This is a big device that pushes the air out of the dryer and to the outside world through a duct/dryer vent.

Dryer vents serve an important role in being a highway for the exiting air from dryers. If it gets clogged or too dirty, it poses a fire hazard. We highly recommend regular cleanings.

Now that your chimney is clean, take a moment and have your dryer vents cleaned to avoid issues and provide choices. If you have questions or want to have your Bay Area home inspected, please contact Sal at the Irish Sweep.

chimney waterproofing waterproof chimney fireplace inspection

 

While this winter has not been too wet, many are predicting some rain over the next couple months. We don’t anticipate it reaching last year’s levels, but it’s still important that you waterproof your chimney. Water can seep into a chimney and leaks may form. But how does this potentially expensive problem even happen?

What causes chimney leaks?

Chimneys are beautiful, complex structures. The simplistic bricks or stucco columns are filled with a machine of moving parts and instruments to keep you safe and warm. It is also regularly exposed to nature’s elements. Thus, the likelihood of damage occurring and leaks forming is quite possible. However, with all of the nuances of a chimney, it can often be challenging to find the leak. The following are three of the most common sources for chimney leaks.

Chimney Cap

This piece covers the top of the flue. It covers the flue and fireplace so water, animals, and debris do not go in. Should the cap be damaged or missing, this leaves most areas of the fireplace exposed. Thus, a rain shower could cause substantial water damage.

Flashing

Around the chimney and roofline, there is flashing to protect the area against water. Over time, flashing may lose its seal or it could have been improperly installed. Similar to the cap, damaged or missing flashing may dramatically damage your chimney. However, the lack of proper flashing could also harm walls, ceilings, and structures.

Masonry

As you can already tell, water can be very harmful. Bricks are no exception. Water can have a dramatic impact on masonry around chimneys. This can lead to cracks and bricks falling apart. The problem can then get exponentially worse. Damaged bricks absorb greater amounts of water, leading to further harm.

Numerous signs exist to show leaks in chimneys. The easiest way to notice is if you see water dripping in the firebox after a storm. If you hear dripping, then you’ve got issues. At the same time, do not be surprised for there to be a musty smell. Another sign could be damaged bricks around the chimney. If you see this, you should have your chimney inspected.

Prevention

While harm may arise, a homeowner can take proactive measures to prevent damage. First, make sure to do an annual chimney inspection. Second, we recommend sealing your bricks on a regular basis.

Should you have any questions or need your annual inspection done by our certified expert, contact Sal at the Irish Sweep.

Impacts of a Dirty Dryer Vent

 

 

Many people who buy washers and dryers notice the rising inefficiency of their appliances over time. The wash cycle that used to take 30 minutes is now taking almost 1 hour. The dryer can no longer dry the same amount of clothes within the 30 minutes you allotted. While some of this is related to the age of the unit, water supplies, etc, this can often be attributed to dirty dryer vents. Doing regular dryer vent cleaning ensures the following:

Safety:

A dirty dryer vent has been found to pose a fire hazard. The material build-up is quite flammable and if left untreated, it is like kindling for a campfire. When moist air in the dryer is trapped, the air can build up in the dryer. A small spark can develop as metal and air meet and move quickly, and the next thing you know, a house fire has started. It is recommended that you clean your dryer vents annually to prevent issues.

Pest Control:

While the build-up of lint can be a super handy fire starter, it can also be a hidden home for those ugly pests or rodents you hate seeing in the home. Many houses have problems as a result of leaving this entryway untreated. Through proper cleaning, pests won’t find the bedding they desire or have the privacy needed to inhabit your vent as their next home.

Efficiency:

When a simple drying task is now taking twice the time, it shows that the dryer is having difficulty. What can you do? Work with your local dryer vent cleaner to get rid of its excess lint.

Now that your dryer vents are clean, take a moment and have your chimney cleaned to avoid issues and provide choices. If you have questions or want to have your Bay Area home inspected, please contact Sal at the Irish Sweep.

Winter tips for maintaining and using your fire place and chimney

 

As the weather has turned colder, it’s time to follow some important winter tips for your chimney.  These practices will help protect you, your chimney, and home.

Chimney Inspection:

Each year, you should have your chimney inspected for damage and abnormalities.  This also includes looking over the gasket areas for any areas of concern.  Along with looking over the actual chimney, do an inspection of the damper.  You want to ensure that it is working as it should so you are protected from harm.

Sweep and Clean:

Beyond just doing a thorough review of the chimney, it is imperative that you do a chimney sweep and cleaning of the blowers.  This removes particles and residue that could pose a fire hazard.  Thus, you won’t have unnecessary build up which could ignite a fire.

Maintain Alarms:

While the inspections and cleaning are likely to prevent most issues, it is very important that you change the batteries on your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Should something go wrong, the alarms could be your last line of defense against a fatal injury.

 

Once you’ve completed these three winter tips, it’s now time to obtain quality firewood.  You can either purchase this or cut your own.  However, if this is fresh wood, you will need to let it sit for a while to allow it to dry out.  The best fire wood generally has less than 20% moisture rate.  This allows it to burn better and stronger fires.

Now that your chimney is clean and you have firewood, it is time to start a beautiful winter fire.  Just make sure to always keep an eye on it.  Cuddle up with a loved one in front of the fire and enjoy the winter. If you have questions or want to have your Bay Area home inspected, please contact Sal at the Irish Sweep.

Most of us know the beauty of fires through the ones we see in our fireplaces. As we’ve seen wild fires burn throughout California, many of us have been reminded of the real dangers of fire.  The fire within a fireplace gives your warmth and comfort, and the chimney carries the gases from the fireplace and out from its top, providing you with safety in your home.

 

However, many chimneys have underlying problems that can lead to fires inside the chimney. Some of them are visible as they come out the top but many of them are hidden. Sometimes a slow-burning fire is hidden somewhere inside the chimney, without enough fuel to make it grow noticable. Even though they may not be visible, these fires are very hot and can damage the chimney’s infrastructure.

 

chimney fire danger

 Warning Signs

There are generally three signs of a possible chimney fire even when you may not see it. First, you might hear a loud sound. Second, you might see an unusually high amount of thick smoke. Lastly, you will notice a very strong, hot smell.

 

Fuel

A key fuel for these fires is creosote. What is that? It is basically the build-up that covers the inner lining of your chimney. When using a fireplace, certain products are created as a result of fire. Chimneys are designed to take them out through the top. As they go to the top, the cooler temperature hitting these items causes condensation which creates a flaky residue on the inner lining which is highly flammable. This is creosote.

When the quantity of the creosote gets large enough, it can fuel a chimney fire. The main causes for such a build up is a restricted air supply, unseasoned wood, or cooler than normal chimney temperature. These are all preventable with regular chimney inspections and cleaning.

 

Why does it matter?

The high temperature of these chimney fires can damage the interior lining of the chimney, melt mortar, crack tiles, or even destroy prefabricated chimneys. Get your chimney inspected and cleaned each year. If you have questions or want to have your Bay Area home inspected, please contact Sal at the Irish Sweep.

Chimney inspection, fireplace inspection, safety

 

Chimneys keep you warm and can provide a home with a beautiful focal point. However, they can hold hidden dangers and it’s important to regularly check for these signs. Failure to do so can lead to very expensive, dangerous, and preventable conditions.

White Staining

When moisture is seeping into the chimney, white staining may result. While this is actually salt and can be cleaned off easily, identifying the underlying cause needs to be identified to ensure it doesn’t get more serious. A common term for this condition is efflorescence. This can be remedied or prevented through chimney repairs.

Rust

As with most other things, rust is a sign of trouble. It should not arise in the fireplace or damper.  Rust is another sign of moisture issues. Poor sealing or issues with the damper could be the source of this issue. However, these areas may not always be visible so this is why an annual chimney inspection is recommended.

Mortar Joints Deterioration

If you see any mortar joints that are damaged, they should be promptly replaced. These joints could be a source of excess moisture coming in and thereby speed up damage to the chimney. This could be particularly troublesome in very cold conditions where the moisture could freeze and cause much larger cracking within the chimney.

Shaling

A damaged flue lining is a major issue with chimneys. A sign of this issue is small thin shaling or tiles at the bottom of a fireplace, this can look like the ridges on the back of a sea shell. This is a sign that your flue lining may not be in good working condition for your safety. As a result, having this inspected annually is essential for your safety.

Chimney Crown Damage

During the holidays, you may go on your roof to put up lights. This is also a good time to take a look at your chimney crown. If you see it’s damaged, contact us promptly as this can cause moisture to go into your chimney and result in substantial cracking and damage.

Spalling

Spalling is a moisture problem. Should the masonry towards the bottom of a chimney be flaking or popping out, this could be another sign of moisture seeping into the chimney. This is repairable, and it’s important to repair the masonry to protect the chimney.

Damaged Wallpaper

When the wallpaper near a fireplace looks damaged, this can be another sign that you need to have your chimney repaired. When you are in your Bay Area home, periodically check the areas near your chimney.

Most of the above items can be observed by anyone, but there are some that should be done through an annual professional inspection to identify needed chimney repairs. If you have questions or want to have your Bay Area home inspected, please contact Sal at the Irish Sweep.

Many older homes have fireplaces that hearken back to a time when fire was relied on as a major heating source. However, with the advent of central heating, your fireplace may no longer be in use, and be kept for decoration and pleasure. Fireplaces make a great centerpiece for a room, making it look more classic and even stately. Fireplaces are becoming standard features even in areas of the country with warm climates, where a fire is not even practical.

Many people never use their fireplaces because there’s no need or because they don’t really like fires. You may think that if you never use your fireplace, you can get away with never having it cleaned or having chimney maintenance. There are many reasons you still need to have your fireplace serviced.

 

Chimney Maintenance Protects a Whole Home

 

If your fireplace is powered by gas or oil, then it is connected to the larger systems in your home. A malfunction in your fireplace, if left unnoticed, could have greater repercussions on the functioning of your central heating, water heater, and stove. These are resources and appliances that you likely do use every day. Having your fireplace regularly maintained helps catch problems before they grow into something worse and harder to address.

Your gas burning fireplace chimney is also connected to the exhaust venting for your whole-home. This is the path that toxic gases and by-products (such as dangerous carbon monoxide) leave the home. If there is a blockage, these things can’t exit, which is very dangerous.

 

Keeps the Chimney Clear

 

You may know that when you have a wood-burning fireplace that you use, the chimney can become coated with creosote. Oil-fueled fireplaces can also generate soot. These substances can become dangerous and flammable when they build up in the chimney, risking a fire if left unattended.

Now, you may be thinking that if you don’t use your fireplace there’s no reason to have that chimney cleaned. After all, there is no soot or creosote built up and no risk of fire. However, with the use of other oil-fueled appliances, soot can build up in the chimney system, which needs to be cleaned. Left unchecked, that soot build-up can lead to flue deterioration or cause blockages that prevent fumes from exiting.

Many more things than creosote can enter and block your wood-burning chimney. Leaves and debris can blow into the chimney opening and create a block. Insects and rodents can also enter and set up nests. This is even more likely when the chimney is not frequently used. Their nests block the chimney and they may leave behind materials that over time decay and cause a foul odor.

 

Maintains Chimney Structure

 

Even when you don’t use your fireplace, the structure of the chimney is there, extending to the exterior of your home and exposed to the elements. Weather events such as storms, drought, and earthquakes can all effect the structural integrity of your chimney. It is important to have your chimney inspected, maintained, and repaired when damage occurs, to protect your entire home structure from chimney collapse.

There are many reasons to have fireplace and chimney maintenance, even if you don’t regularly use your fireplace. Consulting with a professional fireplace maintenance company can be helpful. A professional chimney sweep company can even put you on a cleaning schedule, according to their safety recommendations, so you will be assured regular cleaning and maintenance, without needing to keep track of it yourself.

 

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.