WHAT IS PARGING?

Homes that have chimneys and/or fireplaces are ones with parts that may seem simple but with parts that are unfamiliar. Most only know of these two and maybe the flue and/or damper. However, there are other areas of your chimney that are even more important like the fireplace insert, liner, or even smoke chamber. These are the areas that handle the smoke created by your fires.

As with anything with fire, there is always a danger. Having proper lining and airflow are critical to your safety. If there is buildup, it provide fuel for a potential fire. When the key areas are damaged, parging is required.

THE SMOKE CHAMBER

For instance, this space is shaped like an inverted funnel to direct air up into the flue. It also features a wall that is straight up, and one that is at an angle and a shelf called a “smoke shelf” which prevents the smoke from falling back into the fireplace. The smoke chamber walls should be parged

PARGING

A chimney is generally angled towards a flue to ensure maximum airflow. The surrounding area is then covered in a protective layer to have a smooth coat. This is called parging. By creating this smooth area that goes towards the flue, it creates the ideal flow of air through the chimney system. In addition, it allows the surrounding area to be protected and keep temperatures manageable to protect against a fire hazard.

An annual chimney inspection particularly one using a camera allows a full scale analysis of your fireplace and chimney system to ensure the coating is still there and any other damage that may exist within the area. This is a preventive mechanism to protect against fire hazards and other concerns.

The camera inspections could uncover several things. For instance, if the chimney has cracks or water damage, it would show. If the parging is damaged or non-existent, the camera inspection would show the need to reapply.

At The Irish Sweep, we strongly recommend annual inspections to ensure yours and your family’s safety. If you have questions or have doubts, contact us today.

DAMPER – WHAT IS IT?

DAMPER:  The Chimney Safety Institute defines this word as, “A valve, usually a moveable or retractable plate for controlling the flow of air or smoke.”

Webster’s Dictionary defines it as, “ A valve or plate (as in the flue of a furnace) for regulating the draft.”

Many fireplaces have a damper blade located at the top of the firebox that is opened when a fire is to be lighted or closed once a fire has been suppressed.  During the colder months of the year it is ideal to close the damper when the fireplace is not in use, as that closed damper will help to keep the cold air outside the home while helping to keep the warm air in the home.  This saves money for the homeowner and prevents the warm, heater air from rising up the chimney and out of the home.

Not all but most dampers operate like a drawer.  When the damper handle is pushed in towards the back-wall of the firebox the damper is closed and when the damper handle is pulled forward (like an open drawer) the damper is open.

Most top-sealing dampers open by pulling down on the handle and releasing it from the bracket that has secured it to the sidewall of the firebox.  To close a top-sealing damper, pull down on the handle and lock the cable in the bracket.

CREOSOTE, WHAT IS IT?

The Chimney Safety Institute of America defines this word as, “Chimney and stovepipe deposits originating as condensed wood smoke, including tars, oils.”

Webster’s Dictionary defines it as, “A dark brown or black flammable tar deposited from especially wood smoke on the walls of a chimney.”

In my experience, I find most people do not realize that creosote is the by-product of anything that is burned in a fireplace or wood-burning stove or insert.  This material is flammable and is the major reason to have a chimney cleaned.

In most cases, it is impossible to remove all the creosote in a chimney.  Creosote can be stone hard and burns into the surfaces of a flue.  But creosote is amazing because it oxidizes and changes chemical composition so that hard, burned on material will become cleanable in some amount of time.

FLUE, WHAT IS IT?

FLUE:  Most people say to me, “Will you close the flue once you complete the cleaning process?”  What they are really asking me to do is to close the damper.

So what is the definition of the word flue?  The chimney Safety Institute of America defines this word as, “The passage in a chimney for conveying flue gases to the outside atmosphere.”

And Webster’s Dictionary defines this word as, “A channel or pipe in a chimney for carrying flame and smoke to the outer air.”

The inside of your chimney may contain one or more flues.  It depends upon the number of fireplaces or gas appliances are in the home.

WHAT ARE FACTORY BUILT FIREPLACE?

This is a fireplace and chimney system that was manufactured in a factory (as the name implies) out of metal.  It is a modular system of component parts that was brought to a job site and installed once the wood framing for the house was in place.  It has a firebox lined with refractory panels, with a damper at the top of the firebox and lengths of double or triple-walled

chimney place on top to form a complete fireplace and chimney system.  The chimney above the roofline may be enclosed by a wooden chase.

It has many slang names (which I refuse to use) but some of you may know this fireplace as a Z-Can, ZC, Zero Clearance fireplace (which is a misnomer) as clearances to combustibles are required.  I’ve heard some people refer to it as an insert, which is totally incorrect.

INSERTS, WHAT ARE THEY?

Inserts are either gas or wood burning, could be pellet but we see very few of these in the Bay Area.  They are a highly engineered metal box, fabricated in a factory and designed to be clean burning and they slide into the firebox of either a masonry or factory built fireplace.

The manufacturer of each of these inserts will specify the venting materials required for the insert, the clearances to combustibles and provide installation directions for each model they manufacture.  These appliances have all been tested and approved by some testing laboratory.