The Real Truth About Spare the Air Days

After another hot dry summer season with raging California wildfires and ozone pollution, it might feel like sitting beside a cozy fire at the fireplace over the Holidays are a long way off. Yet the Holidays are just around the corner! Your friendly local Orinda Chimney Cleaning Services can help.

Fireplace Safety

It is perfectly safe to have a wood fire if safe burn practices are followed. Staying aware of Spare the Air days and regularly getting the chimney inspected and cleaned can allow us to enjoy our fireplace this winter. 

7 Safe Burn Practices: 

  1. Burn seasoned wood, or wood that has been dried for at least one year. This significantly reduces smoke than fresh, “wet” wood. 
  2. At no time burn plastics, garbage, paper, or other harmful substances.
  3. On no occasion use a liquid firelighter to start a fire in the fireplace  
  4. Get a chimney inspection and cleaning annually. 
  5. Keep flammable materials like curtains and furniture a safe distance from the fireplace.
  6. Make sure that nobody sits so close to a fire that clothing could catch fire 
  7. Check the local Spare the Air alerts before burning. 

When can we have a cozy fire?

A family gathering over the Holidays is often cozier and more memorable with a lovely traditional fire burning. We can use our fireplace when an alert has not been issued. Most people don’t realize that Spare the Air days are normally few and far between. In 2021, there have only been five no-burn days so far. 

Understanding Spare the Air Days 

In the Bay Area, there are two major air pollutants to pay attention to: ozone and fine particulate matter. When these pollutants are in high concentrations and deemed unhealthy for long-term exposure, a Spare the Air alert will go into effect. 

  • Ozone is the primary ingredient in summer smog. It comes from a reaction between sunlight and pollutants emitted by refineries, cars, power and chemical plants, as well as other industrial facilities. 
  • Fine Particulate Matter are small particles which can travel into the lungs. Fine particulate matter comes from vehicle exhaust, chemical reactions to pollutants and other materials. Wildfires can cause particulate matter to travel hundreds of miles. 

Did you know….

In the Bay Area, mandatory Spare the Air Days begin on November 1st and end on the last day of February of any year?

Check the Bay Area’s current air quality on the Bay Area Air Quality Management District organization’s website. 

How Can The Irish Sweep help?

Regular chimney cleaning and inspection services help preserve the structural integrity of the chimney. If a fireplace hasn’t been used over the summer, perhaps a squirrel or other creature has made its home there!

4 Main Reasons for a Chimney Inspection and Clean 

  1. Prevents carbon monoxide poisoning
  2. Prevention of chimney collapse- both the summer and winter months can be harsh on the integrity of the chimney. A dry climate along with heat and strong winds over the summer can harm the integrity of the cement and brickwork. Add in the fact that earthquakes, no matter how small can create tiny fractures in the brickwork. A chimney inspection can be a proactive way to detect this and prevent further or costly damage. 
  3. Reduces the likelihood of chimney fires from dust residues and creosote build-up
  4. Reduces the chance of the house smelling smokey 

We are your friendly local Orinda Chimney Cleaning Services.

Schedule a Chimney Cleaning 

Our services at The Irish Sweep can help maintain and enjoy a wood-burning chimney and fireplace for years to come. We take great pride as being your neighbor offering Orinda chimney cleaning services to the resident community and the local Bay Area.  

To schedule an appointment with our professional Orinda Chimney Cleaning team, call us at (510)521-4088, or use this simple contact form by clicking here.

Enjoy the crackle of a yule log in a roaring fire this Holiday season. 

Preventing Chimney Fires

Call the chimney cleaning company, because the Holiday season is almost here. For some, nothing says the Holidays more than sipping a hot cup of cocoa beside a crackling fire in the fireplace. Feeling the warmth and enjoying the glow of the embers as they waft up the chimney. Before we get too comfortable though, here are a few things to watch out for which might save lives.

You May Not Notice a Chimney Fire

Did you know that most chimney fires go undetected?

Sometimes, chimney fires won’t have enough fuel or air to cause a noticeable fire. Even though there is no sign of visible combustion, these slow-burning fires reach high temperatures and can cause enormous damage to the chimney structure.

8 Main Signs that a professional chimney sweep will look for when providing chimney cleaning services and inspection

  1. A distorted or discolored rain cap
  2. Roof damage near the chimney
  3. Discoloration from smoke escaping through masonry joints or tile liners
  4. A buildup of a creosote residue: black or brown, highly combustible residue, especially if it has a puffy or “honey-comb” appearance 
  5. Evidence of heat damage
  6. Cracked or compromised brickwork
  7. Missing cement/mortar between brickwork
  8. Cracked, collapsed, or missing flue tiles

Best Practice

A damaged chimney poses a danger to the home and those who live there. Regularly scheduled chimney cleaning services and inspections are the best and most proactive way to keep the chimney safe and reduce problems. 

How to Prevent Chimney Fires

It’s tempting sometimes to add items to the fire especially if they give off pretty colors or cause a pop! Resist the temptation to throw anything and everything flammable into the fireplace. To prevent toxic gases and fumes in the air, buildup of flammable creosote on the chimney walls, and other combustible elements from forming, only use what is safe to burn. 

6 Common Items NOT to Burn 

  1. Cardboard – especially with printed ink, may release toxic fumes when burned. 
  2. Unseasoned wood – also known as wet wood. Unseasoned wood contains a high percentage of water and can create thick, excessive smoke when burned. 
  3. Christmas trees – as tempting as it might be, not only are Christmas trees unseasoned wood, if preservatives have been added to the water to prevent needle drop, this preservative is now being burned into the environment. 
  4. Paper – can easily go airborne once it catches fire. Stray embers are a leading cause of fires. Colored paper including wrapping paper is especially dangerous as it releases carcinogens and chemical fumes.  
  5. Painted or treated wood – when burned, painted or treated wood releases toxic chemicals into the air as well as sometimes smelling bad. 
  6. Material products– sometimes thought of as an easy way to light a fire, materials such as clothing release dangerous carcinogens and chemical fumes because of dyes and fire retardant substances. 

To enjoy a fire, burn seasoned wood, keep the damper open, and opt for an annual chimney cleaning and inspection. The cozy warmth of a fireplace in wintertime can help get us into the holiday spirit.

Schedule a Chimney Cleaning 

Our services at The Irish Sweep can help safely maintain and enjoy a wood-burning fireplace and chimney for years to come. 

To schedule an appointment with a professional, call us at (510)521-4088, or use this simple contact form by clicking here.

CHIMNEY LEAK: HOW RAIN CAN DAMAGE A CHIMNEY

Chimney leaks are one of the most common issues we see during the rainy season. Though chimneys may appear to be a solid block or marble column, they actually have several distinct parts. And since they’re always exposed to the elements, they’re more vulnerable to damage.

Chimney leaks are one of the most common issues we see during the rainy season. Though chimneys may appear to be a solid block, they actually have several distinct parts. And since they’re always exposed to the elements, they’re more vulnerable to damage.

Sometimes the impact of a rough climate on a chimney isn’t obvious, but here are some things to watch out for.

DAMAGED FLUE

Chimney flues are constructed of one or two foot sections of terracotta clay liner. Some chimneys are unlined without the safety benefit of a series of clay flue liners. Both of these substances are subject to water damage without appropriate treatment. Water can do a lot of harm once it gets into a house. These are some signs your flue might be cracked and leaking:

  • Mold and rot
  • Dripping roof
  • Dank smells
  • Warped floors
  • Efflorescence on the firebox brick or fireplace facing material
  • Peeling or paint or plaster on a wall next to the fireplace facade

The chimney is often one of the most overlooked parts of a home. It seems solid, but the interior is fairly delicate.

Chimney leaks are one of the most common issues we see during the rainy season. Though chimneys may appear to be a solid block or marble column, they actually have several distinct parts. And since they’re always exposed to the elements, they’re more vulnerable to damage.

Sometimes the impact of a rough climate on a chimney isn’t obvious, but here are some things to watch out for.

BROKEN FLUE

Chimney flues are usually made of terracotta tiles or metal. Both of these substances are subject to water damage without appropriate treatment. Water can do a lot of harm once it gets into a house. These are some signs your flue might be cracked and leaking:

  • Mold and rot
  • Dripping roof
  • Dank smells
  • Warped floors

The chimney is often one of the most overlooked parts of a home. It seems solid, but the interior is fairly delicate.

DETERIORATING MASONRY

Cracks in the masonry are not uncommon, but unfortunately, they’re usually the most costly to repair. On the upside, you’re less likely to overlook the damage until it turns into a chimney leak.

BROKEN OR MISSING COVER

It seems so simple, yet we often see chimneys that have faulty covers, or no cover at all. Luckily, this is an easy issue to fix. A chimney cap with mesh netting keeps rain out of the chimney and attic, as well as animals.

CHIMNEY CLOG

Moisture damage can cause bricks to tumble down inside the chimney. This is mostly an issue with older homes that aren’t lined properly. Nests can also stop up a chimney. The resulting clog interferes with airflow, which is dangerous if carbon monoxide is able to build up.

It’s best to have your chimney cleaned and inspected at least once a year, especially before winter. A certified professional will be able to spot damage before it turns into a costly chimney leak.

CHIMNEY REPAIRS

The winter rains can cause a lot of damage and destruction. While your fireplace can keep you warm, it is also subject to harm during the cold season. An annual chimney inspection may uncover hidden water damage from these rains or obvious masonry repairs maybe noticeable. The summertime is an ideal time to make such fixes while the weather is good.

CHIMNEY INSPECTION

When we have a winter like the one we had with record rainfall, a chimney inspection is even more critical than ever. Add to this is the recent earthquakes. These combine to create a combination of scenarios where cracks may lead or have lead to water damage. Along with this, long winters also lead to higher use of chimneys which cause higher levels o buildup of creosote. This is your fireplaces enemy and can lead to safety hazards and corrosion.

Thus, the first thing you should do after a winter with high rain and cold spells is to schedule a chimney inspection before a new winter. This is a lot easier to do over the summer so you don’t have to try to schedule it in the middle of a cold spell. In addition, if repairs are needed, the rain won’t slow down the repair service.

CHIMNEY REPAIRS

As we discussed, a harsh winter makes chimney inspections even more important to identify chimney damage. Just like with most repairs, time can make the condition worse. Thus, it is imperative that you start repairs as soon as possible.

Since we are approaching Fall, the timing for repairs has become even more critical. It is a huge safety risk to have a damaged chimney or fireplace. Should you start a fire and your chimney is damaged, it could lead to even bigger problems like water seeping into parts of your home from winter rain or even a fire getting ignited.

REPLACING MASONRY

One are where damage may exist is the masonry. Most of the time, this can solved by replacing damaged masonry. It is critical to use the proper materials to fix it or you could damage the underlying integrity of the chimney.

OTHER REPAIRS

Some other areas that may need repairs are the flue, liner, firebox, or smoke chamber. Each of these poses its own hazards. Inspections can identify any harm so you can get it remedied quickly.

Call The Irish Sweep if you are uncertain of the damage or have chimney repairs you need done before the next set of winter storms.