chimney inspection, chimney sweep appointment,

If you’ve never had your chimney inspected, you might be wondering what exactly happens when the inspector comes. Annual inspections and chimney cleanings are recommended for safe fireplace burning. You’ll want to get it done between your last fireplace usage last year and your first fire this winter to ensure that it’s in good working condition.

At your scheduled chimney inspection, your chimney sweep will likely use a special camera to look inside the system, affording them a better view of what’s going on where your fire and smoke travel.

Here’s what they’ll look for:

1.     Structural Elements and Flue

The chimney sweep will first look at the exterior and interior of the fireplace and chimney, looking for any problems of wear and tear, including the fireplace, chimney, flue and hearth. These structural elements can affect whether your chimney stays standing after earthquakes or severe weather.

2.     Combustibles are Secured

They’ll also look at the structure of the chimney. This is to be sure that combustibles can’t contact any other building materials, which would be a fire hazard. Your fire should stay within a completely secure firebox area. The risk of slow-burning fire within your walls is something to take very seriously.

3.     Obstructions

Your chimney sweep will look for any obstructions. These could possibly block the venting of smoke, combustible byproducts and gas, such as animal nests, leaves and other debris. An obstruction could cause these gasses to build up dangerously inside your home instead of leaving like they should.

4.     Volume and Kind of Combustible Deposits

A chimney sweep will look at the volume and nature of any combustible deposits building up on the walls of the chimney to see if they pose a danger. Creosote can ignite within your chimney or flue and is highly flammable.

To see what a chimney sweep inspection looks like using a camera like we use here at Irish Sweep, watch this video:


fireplace insert, fireplace inserts, heat reflector, heat reflectors

Did you know that there are products that actually maximize useful heat from gas and wood fires, while reducing the amount of fuel needed to heat your home with fire? Many don’t know about heat reflectors for the fireplace, so they accept the efficiency they’re accustomed to. Yet fireplace heat reflectors are a great investment! They not only maximize heat reflected into the home, but they also protect your firebox from any potential heat damage.

If you have a brick and mortar fireplace, it’s susceptible due to the constant cooling and heating from fires. Because of this, fireplaces will crack and shrink over time. Using a fireplace heat reflector or “fireback” will decrease how much heat is absorbed by the back wall of the fireplace, translating to less damage in the long run.

How To Install A Heat Reflector

Installing a heat reflector is fairly easy, and many chimney care companies will do it for you. You’ll want to first measure the back of the wall of the fireplace in inches, and measure the grate where logs rest. A heat reflector is made using a non-combustible metal and features feet that allow it to stand. Measuring your wall will ensure that the grate will either fit in front of or slightly under the reflector.

Once you have the measurements, you know what size heat reflector to get. At home, remove the fire grate and place the reflector at the back of the clean firebox. Do make sure to read the directions that came with the reflector. You’ll want to make sure that the reflector is upright and that it’s stable. When that looks right, replace the fireplace grate and then use your fireplace as normal. You’ll find yourself with a noticeably cozier fire.

Sometimes low tech solutions reap great benefits. If you haven’t invested in a heat reflecting fireback yet, ask us about them at the Irish Sweep.

spring cleaning checklist, household chores, home maintenance

Spring cleaning is a tradition households follow as winter weather gives way to fresh, warm spring days. This is a natural time for fresh starts, including resetting your annual home needs. And going forward knowing all is in order.

Spring cleaning has its own natural task list, plus many things that you could theoretically do any time. It’s convenient and efficient to lump these spring-time and any-time chores together.

So what are these tasks and what’s the best way to get them done? You can actually get a huge amount of home maintenance accomplished if you approach it with good organization. This 3 day plan can leave you with all your spring chores handled easily in just a few days.

Day 1- Doing Walkthroughs

Get a notepad and write these headings on the pages: BUY, MAINTENANCE, REPAIR, and REPLACE. As you go, you’ll be making lots of notes here. This can help you stay organized and efficient, so you can save your time and energy for other things.

Walkthrough to find out what’s needed:

Inside the House

  • Press the “test” button on your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Swap out old batteries for fresh ones, if needed. Write down any batteries you need to buy.
  • Check your plumbing for leaks. Include sinks, toilets, and any pipes you can access. Make notes if needed under repair or replace.
  • Turn on all lights as you walk through, list bulb types and number you need under “buy”.
  • Check your walls for dirt and scuffs. Wash walls if needed, or note where you need to repaint.
  • Inspect caulking in the bathroom & kitchen. Also check window seals, and seals on door and window insulation as you go. Make notes if needed under repair and replace.
  • Clean your floors and check for stains and damage. If you need minor repairs, carpet cleaning, or significant floor maintenance, make a note of it.
  • Check your HVAC system and make note of the filter size to buy for replacement.
  • Look at your dryer vent. When was it cleaned last? Have it professionally cleaned if needed.
  • Have you had your chimney swept this year? If not make a note to schedule maintenance.

Outdoors

  • Inspect and test your lawnmower, make notes where appropriate if it needs help.
  • Turn on your irrigation system and walk around the grounds to inspect it before the watering season. Move any roots choking it, make notes of any leaking or clogged areas it has.
  • Inspect wooden features like decks and fences to see if they need to be re-sealing or staining, make a note of loose railings and boards to repair.
  • Spray down concrete and look for pools of water on your property. When it rains, are there places where water pools in your grass and soil areas? Look at your driveway, walkways, and patios. Make note if concrete surfaces or drainage need professional help.
  • Visually assess your foundation, siding and roof for repair and maintenance needs. If you can’t see your roof from the ground, make a note to call for a roof inspection.
  • Use a ladder to check your gutters and downspouts for foliage. Make a note under maintenance to clean them if needed.
  • Observe your lawn, landscaping and trees. Make a note of any problems that might need addressing.

Day 2- Getting Stuff Done

This would ideally be a full day off from work. Day two doesn’t literally have to be the day after Day 1. It should be a day that you have time to get your hands dirty.

  • Looking at your to-do lists, add anything you need from the store to the to-buy list
  • Buy items on your list from yesterday: batteries, HVAC filters, etc.
  • Complete the tasks you noted to do today.
  • Give your fireplace surround a thorough scrubbing.
  • Dust your home, from top to bottom. Start with things that are higher up, then mid-level, then lower items.
  • Clean your doors, windows and screens — inside and out. If they need repair or replacement, make a note.
  • Flush your water heater, or make a note under maintenance to hire a pro to perform the work for you. Experts recommend flushing annually.
  • If you have a sump pump, test it by slowly pouring water into the sump pit. The pump should activate and the water should drain. Make a note that you need repair if necessary.
  • Do a lawn mower oil change if it’s been a while, and fill it up with gas if needed.
  • Flip the switches on your ceiling fans to move the fan blades counterclockwise and send air downward. This should help clean dust from the blades. If they need extra dusting, get a step ladder and wipe them with a rag.
  • Inspect your HVAC system and replace your filters. Make a note to hire a professional if you’re due for your annual service or an air duct cleaning.
  • At the end of the day, make note of anything still undone to come back to later.

Day 3- Making Plans

This should ideally be a work day, so that businesses are open when you call. Look at your calendar and identify times you can schedule maintenance and repairs. This makes it easier when you make calls to schedule services that you identified a need for. Make the calls to schedule services you need.

You can also use today to finish repairs or maintenance that you weren’t able to finish on the second day. There may have just been a high volume of things to get done, or some tasks may have included more steps than you foresaw. Either way, today’s your day to wrap them up.

Using this system of 1) Doing Walkthroughs, 2) Getting Stuff Done, and 3) Making Plans can keep you organized and ensure that all your Spring Cleaning tasks get handled efficiently.


no chimney cap, protect your chimney from water, chimney flue care

April showers bring May flowers, right? Well, they can also bring leaky chimneys! If you don’t have a chimney cap, you’re in for a wet time. You’ll start seeing symptoms of leaks during spring and summer, and even chimneys that’ve never had problems before can leak.

Your Chimney Without A Chimney Cap

Chimneys are complex structures and are always exposed to the weather. They aren’t designed to go without chimney caps, but not everyone knows this. Because chimneys are always exposed, rain water, leaves, feathers, and all sorts of things can fall into them and build up or cause damage.

The entrance of rain into your chimney may not sound very dramatic to you. But when the masonry and other components in your chimney degrade and lose stability, or lose fire proofness, it becomes dramatic. Wetness can cause spalling and crumbling brickwork, and things like leaves that fall into your chimney are a fire hazard.

Why Get a Chimney Cap?

The top reason is to prevent damage to your home. To prevent water coming in, part of a chimney cap acts like an umbrella, and a screen section prevents the debris from falling in or sparks from floating out.

Don’t worry about a chimney cap affecting your draft. If your chimney cap has sufficient clearance and you keep it clean, it will either not affect your chimney draft or improve it. When wind blows, the convex shape of the cap creates a slight vacuum at the top of the flue so your chimney should draw better with the cap in place. Some chimney caps are even specifically designed to improve chimney draft!

If you see water coming in, it could also be due to:

Flashing

If your chimney flashing starts to wear down, water can get in. Flashing is a tight strip inside your chimney that seals the seam between your roof and chimney to prevent water coming in. If the flashing is damaged or loses its seal due to age or wear and tear, water will get through the gaps. This can in turn water damage to the roof, chimney, ceilings and walls.  Metal flashings are preferred over mastic flashings.

Incorrect Chimney Cap

Water can get in if the chimney cap doesn’t fit well. Without a chimney cap that fits, the fireplace and flue are completely exposed to water from the rain. An ill-fitting cap is barely better than no cap at all.

Masonry Damage

Because your chimney is directly exposed to rain, the masonry components will deteriorate over time. Water can cause bricks to spall and crack (letting in water), in addition to making your chimney look unkempt.

You may know your chimney is leaking because you see visible water in the flue or fireplace. But because of the complexity and size of many chimney systems, leaks can easily go undetected for a while. You might not even know there’s water damage until significant damage has already been done.

To prevent chimney leaks, it’s best if you call in a professional for annual chimney sweepings and inspections. We’ll be able to detect any damage so that you can get it fixed before the chimney starts to leak!

chimney removal cost, avoid chimney repair, masonry chimney safety

When a home has a chimney, and something is awry with it, many homeowners only consider 2 options: fixing it or leaving it in place but declaring the fireplace unusable.

But there are two unexamined options: removing the chimney completely and replacing it with a safer style of chimney.

Why Replace Your Chimney?

No amount of repair will make a masonry chimney as safe as a metal one. Masonry chimneys are more likely to fall down and hurt or kill someone during an earthquake than any other part of the house. A full replacement means leaving that risk behind, and still enjoying your fireplace as you always have. It’s all gain, no loss.

Why Remove Your Chimney?

Chimney removal is another great option. Why do I call it “great”? Because no chimney means no risk of chimney fires, no risk of a falling chimney, no more place for rain to enter your home, or your hot air to escape in winter.

When having a chimney removed you can opt to remove it below the roof line (if it’s not along on exterior wall), and keep your mantel and firebox area indoors (decorative only). Or you can remove the entire fireplace system. This can create new space in your home, too. The chimney removal cost is often less than repair, and unlike repairs, you’re not going to have to do it again in a few years. No more chimney maintenance for you!

Sometimes a chimney is utilized to vent gas appliances that are connected to the metal flue liner. If your chimney is being used to vent gas appliances such as a furnace, water heater, or boiler, a vent will still need to penetrate the roof to carry the exhaust gases to the exterior after your chimney is gone. This doesn’t mean you can’t remove your chimney. Your chimney removal specialist can help you navigate this safely.