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.

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.

Orinda Danville Chimney Masonry Repair

 

 

 

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.

Gas Fireplace, Wood Burning Fireplace, Which is the Better Fireplace, Orinda Chimney Service, Oakland Chimney Service, Pleasant Hill Chimney ServiceIf 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.