What many homeowners don’t know is that chimney fires can happen without anyone’s awareness. When you become aware that a chimney fire has been eating your home from  inside the walls, it may not be the first time. This is part of why prevention is so important!

 

Some signs that there has already been a chimney fire:

♦ ‘Puffy’ creosote, that’s cloud shaped and expanded beyond its normal form

♦ Creosote build up with rainbow colored streaks

♦ Any metal components that show warping (discoloring and distortion): the damper, metal smoke chamber, connector pipe or metal chimney, rain cap

♦ Flue tiles with large chunks missing, or that have cracks or evidence of collapse

♦ Flakes and pieces of creosote on the roof or ground nearby

♦ Burn marks on roofing material damaged by hot creosote

♦ Cracks in exterior masonry

♦ Evidence of smoke escaping through mortar joints of masonry or tile liners

 

If your home has already had a chimney fire, there is a reason it’s happened, and you’re in danger of it happening again until the cause is identified and addressed. Causes of chimney fires all have to do with structural safety and blockages or build-up in the chimney. The only way to be sure your fireplace is safe to use is to have regular chimney cleaning services.

 

How Can Chimney Cleaning Services Prevent These Fires?

There are two main tasks chimney cleaning services can do for you: a chimney inspection and sweeping/cleaning your chimney. If you have concerns about fire safety, it’s best to do both. While inspection is important to identify evidence of previous fires and risk for future fires, it’s the cleaning that removes fuel for fires: creosote and debris.

Always be sure that you have working smoke alarms in appropriate places throughout your home, and that their batteries are fresh. With a little diligence and annual chimney cleaning services, you can minimize your risk for chimney fires.

fireplace chimney cleaning, chimney sweep, fire safety

 

Chimneys need to be swept to remove residue that can block the flue and prevent proper drafting. This also removes flammable deposits which can cause a chimney fire. All types of appliances which burn fuel and vent to the outdoors should be inspected annually and cleaned when needed.

Plenty of homeowners assume they don’t have to clean their chimneys out if they don’t use them. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work out that way. If you don’t use your chimney, nature will. If you infrequently use your chimney, it can start to look like a great place for a nest to birds, squirrels, or raccoons. Their nesting debris, along with any sticks or leaves blown in, need to be removed to ensure that your chimney isn’t a fire hazard. Have a professional inspect and sweep your chimney to make sure it’s safe.

Have chimneys cleaned at least once a year, usually before cold weather sets in. Scheduling a fall cleaning will also clear out anything that might have fallen into the chimney during the summer.

Signs you need a fireplace chimney cleaning even if you haven’t been using your fireplace:

 

Strong Odors

If you had strong odors coming from your chimney the last time you used it, you probably have an issue with your chimney. Fires should produce a pleasant odor from the burning wood rather than from the soot that is stuck within your chimney. A drafting problem can easily cause smoke to gather in your home rather than going up through the chimney. Avoid smoke damage by paying attention to strong smells when burning a fire.

Creosote Build Up in Fireplaces

Creosote is a flammable substance that builds up in fireplaces and needs regular cleaning to prevent chimney fires. If the last time you had your chimney cleaned was before the previous burning season, then you have creosote in your chimney. Especially if you haven’t had the chimney cleaned since moving into a new place, you can’t know how much creosote is in there, waiting to light at the next fire. The only safe choice is to start a new fall/winter season with a clean chimney.

Hearing Animals Inside

Chimneys that are not in use are warm, dry places for animals and birds to call home. Chimneys are notorious for hiding birds nesting spots, and this can be a safety hazard. Nests can block the exit point of a chimney and cause smoke to back up into your home. Nests can also cause a fire on top of your home. If you hear animals or birds inside your wall or chimney you’ll need help clearing them out.

A Year Has Passed Since Your Last Cleaning

As we noted above, you don’t know who’s been nesting in there, or what’s fallen or blown in from the outdoors. That alone creates enough risk to have a fireplace chimney cleaning before you start using your fireplace again.

Look for a chimney sweep credentialed by the National Chimney Sweep Guild or the Chimney Safety Institute of America, like the Irish Sweep.

Annual cleaning and inspections are very important to the safe and efficient operation of your home’s fireplace. The chimney sweeping process averages 45 minutes to one hour.

earthquake preparedness, earthquake safety planning

 

Did you know why chimney inspectors use cameras to evaluate safety? Anyone who isn’t using a visual inspection from inside the flue is not gaining the information needed to assess fire safety. That’s why Irish Sweep uses the Chim Scan Lighthouse camera.  

Why Hire a Sweep With a Chimney Camera?

To know if your chimney is safe for use, having a camera-assisted inspection is the only way. This is because any other method of assessing the safety of your chimney is akin to making a guess. Not even an “educated guess” because without visual information about the inside of your flue, the education on your specific chimney is missing.

 

 

With the lighthouse camera, the entire interior of your chimney is made visible with a navigable camera. It can take still pictures as well as continuously display during the inspection. It can be backed up or moved forward, and offers a 360 degree view. The camera itself doesn’t diagnose or evaluate safety, instead human chimney experts use it to gather needed information. There are still not computers as intelligent as licensed chimney sweeps!

What do they look for?

Some of the things a sweep looks for during an inspection include cracks in the clay tile, gaps between the joints of the tile, any potential defects, and creosote build up. They may encounter birds or rodent nests or other blockages as well. The sweep’s job is to fully assess the condition of your chimney. This includes the surface, the structure, and any blockages to the airway. The next steps may be a chimney cleaning, repair, or just a cozy fire.

We want to find these things to protect your home. The camera’s view can help you evaluate safety from building fires, build up from toxic gasses, and the danger of a spontaneously collapsing chimney, among other things.

At the Irish Sweep, we use camera technology for all chimney inspections. If you haven’t had your chimney inspected in the last year, you’re taking a risk that becomes more dangerous as time goes on. Contact us today to schedule an inspection and cleaning, so you can enjoy a stress-free night by the fire.

For more about the specific model of camera we use, visit: https://www.chimscan.net/lighthouse-camera.html

earthquake preparedness, earthquake safety planning

Earthquake preparedness is a Californian duty. We don’t know when earthquakes will happen, but we do know we live in an area where they do happen with some regularity.

It’s easy to let years slip by since the last time you evaluated your earthquake kit. Or maybe you don’t have one? Some things to consider about earthquake kits is that they are not evacuation bags or “bug out bags”. You can assume that in an Earthquake you can stay in your home, or at least not have to go far. What you need to plan for is possibly long periods of time without electricity, and possibly without working plumbing or natural gas, as sewage systems may be damaged, or gas may be turned off for safety.

 

Here’s what you should consider for earthquake preparedness:

Fresh Water

Store enough unopened jugs of water for about a gallon per person per day according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Three days is usually considered generous. Don’t forget, we don’t just drink water, we cook with it, wash dishes and ourselve with it, and more. Even though bottled water generally has a one to two year expiration date on the package, there’s no reason for it to become unusable unless the package is opened or damaged. Do not drink distilled water unless there is no other option, and not for long periods. Purified, filtered or spring water is fine.

Food Supplies

Having fresh food it the refrigerator does you no good when the fridge has no power. For the special occasion of feeding your family after a sizeable earthquake, you’ll want to have non-perishable food set aside. You can pack cans of tuna and boxes of crackers, but you’ll likely be happier with dehydrated meals that can be rehydrated. They tend to taste a lot better than the dry goods and canned meats.

First Aid Kit

A well-stocked first aid kit can be bought in many stores, and the pre-stocked variety like this works just fine. No need to put together your own selection of bandages and medications. When selecting your first aid kit, do consider how many people it needs to serve. And make sure to periodically remove expired items and replace them with fresh ones.

Lighting

After an earthquake, power is often out. Flashlights or headlamps for everyone in the home, plus one lantern is usually a good amount of lighting. Even if you only spend one night without electricity, it’s hard to enjoy your evening in a completely dark home.

A Radio

Either a transistor radio or a hand-crank powered radio is a good choice. In an emergency, your internet router will likely be down, and the radio is a reliable way to access news and information. This can help you know where to get supplies if needed, prepare for the weather, or know how when to expect power to come back on.

Extra Batteries

Extra batteries will serve you well, but don’t just put aside an hodge-podge of options. Choose the specific type of batteries needed for each other item in your Earthquake Kit: your radio, headlamps, lantern, flashlights, and anything else in the group. Have a larger amount of the batteries you expect to go through fastest.

Structural Safety

Chimneys that are either known to be damaged, or whose structural integrity is unknown, are dangerous in an earthquake. This is because they can fall and hurt or kill people either indoors or outdoors. Don’t take this risk, have your chimney inspected by a professional with a camera to view its interior. If structural flaws are found, reduce risk by having them repaired immediately.

Family Plan

This is extremely useful in earthquakes as well as other emergencies. To create your family plan, gather everyone who lives with you and agree on what you’ll do after an emergency. This should include when, where, or how to meet up if you’re not together. Also who’s responsible for accounting for pets or young kids, who’s going to check on older relatives near by, or anything else. A great start is declaring a physical place to meet in an emergency that is outdoors and not under power lines or tall buildings.

With the right preparation, the hours and days after a large earthquake can be safe and even organized. You’ll be glad you had taken steps to create order and minimize risk in advance.

With winter coming, the fireplace becomes a center for seasonal celebration in many homes. Some people decorate their mantles for specific holidays, some for the seasonal and weather changes, and some just make an effort to beautify the space because this is a season that brings many guests into the home.

 

A tried and true favorite I think we’ve all seen before is “put lots of pictures of the family on there”, and that can be creative and lovely. Especially with attention given to selection of frames and placement. We’ve all seen “fill it with symbolic paraphernalia” too. This could be lots of turkeys, dried corn, pilgrims, and natives for Thanksgiving, or maybe a nativity or Santa scene for Christmas. But what else is there?

 

Traditional festive christmas decorated fireplace with candles

Winter Greenery

 

One of the elusive keys to this looks is that there are no pots, no vases of water. Just bright green cuttings like boxwood, eucalyptus, pine or cedar. You can throw in chopped wood with the bark still on, or maybe some lovely dogwood sticks or twigs. If you use any vases or other things, go for glass or white ceramics to keep from drawing attention to them.

 

mirrors on a mantel

Mirrors Share the Light

 

If you burn fires, string twinkle lights or light candles this season, you’ll find mirrors an especially lovely mantle decoration. Mirrors tend to make rooms look bigger and they also throw reflected light across the room, which can be quite amazing if you’ve strung light garlands. If the fire in the fireplace is burning, because the mirrors are above it. they won’t directly reflect the fire. Instead they spread the warm soft light more fully.

 

california desert winter mantle

California Desert Native Mantel

 

Sometimes when you live in a desert, the lush evergreen decor around us just doesn’t feel as genuine as surrounding ourselves with the plants that live and grow easily here. If you want to celebrate the season and your microclimate, go for it with terra cotta pots of the succulents and cacti that know California as home.  You can choose aloe, any number of easy to grow succulents. You even may want to throw a blooming Christmas Cactus or bright grafted cactus in there for color. The terra cotta pots are reminiscent of the clay-sand ground, so if you switch to another color or texture you may miss it.

 

 

mantel decorations for winter

Your Collection

 

The pictured mantel shows off a ceramic birdhouse collection, but you may collect other things entirely. This may be the time that your family and friends are most likely to visit your home. That also makes it the best time to show off the things that you find beautiful! This works best with collections, not a pulled-together hodgepodge of things you like. If you don’t have a collection of anything, do you have a most prized possession? The mantle might be a good place for it this season.

 

 

A Beautiful scene of a christmas fireplace with stockings on the mantle.

Holiday Glitz and Glam

 

Winter seems to make silver, gold, and flashy metallic colors just feel right. Here shiny glass ornaments and glittery gold trees bring the glamour. You can also tap into the power of reflective light with shiny silver menorahs and gold-wrapped hanukkah gelt, or crystal snowflakes and icicles. Whatever you choose, it’ll reflect light in a way that warms the home.

 

 

monochromatic fireplace decor

Choose a Color

 

You can select a color you like, maybe one that complements the room, and center your mantle decorations around that. This photo shows a cream or off-white focus, with some figurines, candle holders, and stockings, all in the same approximate colors. This can work to beautiful effect with any theme, though.

Remember that the best fireplace is always a safe fireplace. If you haven’t had your chimney or fireplace inspected or cleaned in the last year, contact us today to schedule a time to ensure that your home is safe.

chimney flue repair, obstructed chimney

A chimney is designed to safely and effectively remove dangerous fire byproducts produced within the fireplace. When it becomes clogged, it can’t properly perform this important role. Birds’ nests, tree foliage, trash, and other debris can clog your home chimney, making it dangerous to use. Soot and crumbling bricks are also hazardous; if the chimney’s flue is not kept clean, your home is at risk every time you kindle the fireplace. Your home’s structure and age may also play a part in the overall health of its chimney. Determine if there is a blockage in your chimney, or if it needs flue repair, by looking at it yourself or hiring a professional maintenance company.

Warning Signs of a Blocked Chimney

A blocked chimney may be hard to diagnose on your own but there are some telltale signs to watch for. These warning signs include:

• A smoky smell when burning a fire

• Falling debris inside the hearth

• Water streaks inside the flue

• Excessive soot

• White residue on the flue walls

What can cause a chimney blockage?

There are three main causes of chimney blockages:

• An excessive build-up of soot or creosote (tar)

• Birds, squirrels, or other small animals nesting in the chimney

• The collapse of the internal chimney bricks

Inspecting the Chimney

1. Wear a safety mask or goggles for eye protection. Don a pair of gloves and place a handkerchief over your mouth and nose to keep you from inhaling loose, falling soot. Wear a hard hat to protect your head. Chimneys that have not been periodically cleaned may have a lot of debris.

2. Open the chimney’s maintenance door. Typically, it is located outside the house, but check your home’s blueprints for the exact location. Hold the mirror through the maintenance door, facing upward. With your other hand, shine the flashlight on the mirror. Adjust the angle to allow you to see up into the chimney.

3. Inspect the chimney flue from the outside of the building and again from the inside of the fireplace. Open the damper, and shine the flashlight up the walls with the mirror. See if you can insert a broom handle or long stick through the fireplace opening.

4. Feel the heat. When a clogged fireplace is operating, heat and moisture will back up into the home. When the chimney is unused, during summertime, for example, soot from a wood-burning fireplace or rust debris from the metal hood of a gas fireplace can amass. 

Chimney Flue Repair

Clearing a blocked chimney is a job best left for a professional. They have the tools necessary to reach and remove the debris clogging the flue. How quickly and easily the chimney is cleared will depend on how compact the blockage is. To prevent clogs in the future, an annual chimney cleaning is recommended. Regular cleanings will keep your flue clear while also warning you of any potential problems before they turn into costly chimney flue repairs. Installing a chimney cap onto the flue can also help limit the number of clogs your chimney experiences. Stopping debris from entering the system in the first place, caps can provide a proactive approach to chimney maintenance.

If you suspect a blocked chimney, contact a professional for assistance. We can diagnose and treat common chimney ailments both large and small.

September 30 – October 6 is
Chimney Safety Week

In the spirit of the Chimney Safety Institute of America’s mission to advance public awareness while educating and certifying industry professionals, National Chimney Safety Week was created to specify a week of outreach and education to the public about chimney and venting safety. Celebrate by scheduling your chimney inspection and cleaning today!

 

 

 

 

insurance claim, insurance claims, chimney inspection, chimney cleaning

 

 

In a moment of planning, you may ask yourself “is my home insurance still valid if I don’t have proof that my chimney is properly maintained?” The answer is, that if something happens involving your chimney or fireplace, no. It’s likely not.

Many insurance policies specify that your chimney and fireplace are only insured when properly maintained. They may not ask you for proof of proper maintenance until you file a claim, but they will want it then. Your chimney is a vulnerable spot in your home’s defense against the elements. Even when covered by a chimney cap, the typical brick chimney presents a large vertical opening to the rain and snow. The mortar of chimney crowns can crack, and lightning can damage the bricks.

Fire statistics show that each year on average over 30 thousand houses have chimney fires. Chimney fires can not only destroy homes but also endanger the occupiers of the dwelling.

Homeowner’s insurance can cover damage to your property caused by sudden and unforeseen events such as fires, flash floods, lightning strikes, and wind damage. In the case of a chimney, an insurance company will closely scrutinize the facts and evidence in the claim. Your policy might exclude damage caused by poor maintenance or normal wear and tear on your house.

 

What Should You Do?

Have a camera-assisted inspection. This creates documentation of the condition your chimney is in, and allows you to know without a doubt whether your chimney is in safe condition for wood burning. The images will reveal whether you need repair, and what repair options are right for you if so. That way, when you do have a fire you can do so knowing your chimney is fully functional.

Not only is sweeping and inspecting your chimney a good idea in general, your home insurance policy may require it. So if you haven’t already, you’ll want to check with them for exact expectations they have regarding sweeping or inspecting your chimney.

 

Your Insurance Claim

Insurance companies differ in their approach to fires that may be caused by a lack of chimney cleaning. There are two dangers to not having a clean chimney: the fire itself and how the insurance company with handle it. Whether your policy is clear or ambiguous, you’ll fare better if you have documentation of annual chimney cleaning.

If a fire occurs you may be required by the terms of your policy to produce a cleaning certificate. However, whether or not required, without it the insurance company could refuse to pay out. If they believe a fire was caused by your failure to have regular chimney cleaning and inspections, your insurance claim won’t be paid.

Whatever the terms of your policy (and the difficulty of proving negligence), the greatest risk may, of course, be to your own personal safety. Also if a fire causes injury or death to third parties, you could well face civil or even criminal proceedings.

You need your chimney flue and ventilation pipes cleaned at least once a year. Having annual chimney sweep service will ensure you’re fulfilling your insurance obligations. Make sure to read your policy carefully. Most policies will require professional chimney sweeping annually. If you need to make a claim, having a recent chimney sweeping certificate shows that you actively maintain your home.

 

Do All Chimney Sweeps Provide Certificates for their Work?

All qualified chimney sweeps provide written documentation of their work. You may receive a digital or paper receipt. This is for the homeowner’s peace of mind and to fulfill insurance conditions.

In Conclusion, contact the Irish Sweep to discuss chimney and fire safety. You’ll benefit from using a quality professional chimney sweep.

So you’ve decided to buy or sell your home. What an exciting time! In either case, it’s important to know the condition of the chimney and fireplace system you’re about to either buy or sell.

Buying or selling a home can be a stressful process for everyone involved.  You need to know that the value of the property you’re buying aligns with the amount you invest in it. Naturally, you’ll have the home inspected and you’ll likely have it appraised.

If you have a chimney, hiring a chimney sweep for an inspection and cleaning is something that needs to be done.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the CSIA recommend that you have a Level II chimney inspection performed when a property is changing hands. Level II real estate inspections make use of video scanning technology, which allows us to see things that a home inspector with a flashlight would miss.

During the inspection, they feed a camera into the chimney flue and scan the walls, checking for cracks, holes, buildup, blockages, and damage. With this equipment, we can see the interior of the chimney up close and focus on areas that look concerning. We’re also able to capture photographs to include in the report provided to you. This can be great for insurance purposes or negotiating purposes and can prevent you from getting stuck with a massive chimney repair bill or a fire or safety hazard that you were unaware of at the time of the sale.

4 Reasons to Inspect Before You Sell Your Home

1. A Favorable Chimney Inspection Report Reflects Well on You:

When selling, the prospective buyer will see the current inspection reports, and realize your home is in great condition. The home buyer will be more enthusiastic about putting in an offer on a home that is move-in ready. You’ll be able to command a higher price than a home that needs, or might need, repair.

If you’re buying, requesting the chimney inspection report allows you to know what condition of chimney you’re acquiring.

2. Satisfy the Requirements of Insurance Companies:

Today, many insurance companies require an inspection by a chimney certified technician before issuing insurance on a home that has a chimney system. 

3. Provide the Ambiance on Home Buyers’ Wish Lists:

A fireplace is often an item on the home buyer’s “must have” list. There is no doubt that a functioning chimney system has great charm and aesthetic appeal. Knowing the chimney is safe and usable makes nights by the fire cozier.

4. Close on Time:

Don’t be delayed by missing inspection reports, have the chimney inspected before listing to sell your home. The prospective purchaser wants confirmation that your beautiful chimney is in good working order. Having to wait until the chimney inspection is scheduled and performed delays the purchaser’s final decision. Make it easy to say yes.

In Conclusion, make selling a home a little less stressful by having your chimney inspection by a certified chimney sweep.

wood burning insert, firebox, fireplace upgradeEveryone loves the look of an open fire in a brick fireplace. It’s classic, familiar, beautiful. Did you know it’s also wasteful, inefficient and less clean than a wood burning fireplace insert would be?

The design of an open fireplace allows a large portion of the heat generated to leave through the chimney. Wood burning inserts allow you to have efficient design and classic good looks, both! They work as a more efficient burners in the setting of a traditional fireplace. Wood burning fireplace inserts release less smoke and emissions than open fire and provide even better heating results. Inserts are used to convert traditional stone and brick fireplaces, which are inefficient and polluting, into effective heating systems.

 

How Does a Fireplace Insert Work?

A fireplace insert is similar to a wood stove that’s been modified to fit within the firebox of a masonry fireplace. An insert consists of a firebox surrounded by a steel shell. Air from the room flows between the firebox and shell, taking heat back into the room. Heat distributor fans can be turned on to push heat into the home. They generally have glass doors for safety and you can see vents above, below, or next to the firebox for the circulation of air and heat.

 

Must You Sacrifice Form for Function?

In a short answer, no. Wood burning inserts are actually very natural looking in the setting of an existing fireplace. In fact, many homeowners build their original masonry fireplace with a Wood Burning Insert structure from the beginning because of their rugged good looks and great efficiency. Many people don’t even realize that fireplaces are outfitted with Wood Burning Inserts because the look is so familiar.

 

Why Choose a Wood Burning Insert over Keeping Your Old Fireplace

While it’s certainly possible that your old fireplace may have been dangerous, and a wood burning insert is the safest solution, most people choose them for their advantages.

 

Environmentally Friendly

Wood is actually very environmentally friendly because it is a renewable, sustainable resource and is considered carbon-neutral to burn by the Carbon Trust. Did you know that if wood were naturally decaying in the woods, it would release the same amount of carbon as it does burning in your hearth? Today’s wood burning inserts combust the harmful fire byproducts that a traditional fireplace releases into the atmosphere. They emit less than 1 gram of smoke per hour, which exceeds the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean air standards.

 

Energy Efficient

Some wood burning insert models have over 80% efficiency. The dual combustion system within a wood burning fireplace insert is what generates a hotter, longer lasting fire. The venting system prevents heat from quickly escaping up the chimney and fans push heated air into your home instead. With the right insert you can easily heat a large living space. You’ll go hours without having to add fuel to the fire.

 

Cost Effective

One load of wood can burn for up to 8 hours in the right fireplace insert, saving you on wood costs. Also, the heat provided to your home can allow you to zone heat through the cold months, instead of using a furnace system to heat the entire home. But the advantages are not reserved for winter! Insulation is placed around a fireplace insert during installation. This prevents cool air from escaping during the summer and hot air from leaking out during the winter. The glass doors of the insert also prevent downdraft problems, keeping your home well insulated.

 

Reduced Maintenance Costs

Fireplaces with a wood burning insert do need annual chimney cleaning, but an insert will reduce the cost of repairing and maintaining your fireplace through the years. With the installation of a fireplace insert, the integrity of a fireplace is fortified without the high price of rebuilding or renovating a masonry fireplace. Replacing or repairing a damaged insert is also significantly less expensive than repairing a masonry fireplace.

 

A Wide Range of Looks and Features

Wood Burning Fireplace Inserts come in styles from slick and sleek, to traditional and ornate. The aesthetic range of offerings is almost overwhelming! You’ll surely find something that fits your style in the available selections. Inserts can also offer features not available with traditional fireplaces, like thermostat control, heat distributor fans and self-cleaning glass.

If you have any questions about wood burning fireplace inserts, just ask us at The Irish Sweep.