routine chimney care, fireplace care, routine maintenance, firebox

 

Do you know how to care for your chimney? If you’re wondering what I mean by that, you probably don’t. Which is why you need to learn basic chimney care! As your go-to heating option in the colder months, you’ll want to make sure it’s ready to warm up your home when the weather starts to get chilly. The truth is, not many people think about their chimney much, which is why problems arise when they want to use it. To avoid these problems, here are some basic tips on home chimney care:

 

1.     Always Leave Some Ash

Although you’ll want to clean the firebox monthly when it’s in use, a clean firebox retains about an inch of ash. This allows your fires to stay strong and retain heat easier.

 

2.     Hire A Chimney Sweep

For safety, you’ll want to call a chimney sweep to not only clean it, but also provide an inspection of the fireplace and chimney. They’ll look for any damage or evidence of creosote, which is a tar-like buildup. Do this at least once a year before you begin using the fireplace again.

 

3.     Clear The Area

As part of basic fire safety, you’ll want to keep the fireplace area clear for the entire fire burning season. Not just while a fire is burning. Any furniture should be at least 36” away from the fireplace to avoid any sparks igniting it, which can be a fire hazard. No flammable decor or plants near the fire.

 

4.     Ensure There’s A Chimney Cap

You’ll want to make sure that your chimney has a cap to prevent any birds from building nests inside or any animals from climbing it. Most importantly, it keeps the flue and fireplace dry, which prevents the breakdown of the materials your chimney is made of.

 

5.     Make Sure That The Damper Is Closed

The damper is the hinged flap that’s above the fireplace and it controls how much air passes through the chimney. You’ll want to leave it open when a fire is on, but close it when it’s out to prevent any heat loss inside your home.

 

replacement chimney, chimney repair and maintenance, chimney safety

 

When you think about home improvements, your chimney may not be something you think about. However, like many other things in you home, it can break down and need replacement. But how do you know when you should replace your chimney since it’s usually not something on your repair list? Well, it all depends on the condition of your chimney.

Chimneys are very sturdy, but they still need some TLC every now and then to functional properly. And if your chimney is in really bad shape, it might be time for a chimney replacement. To see if your chimney needs fixing or replacement, it’s recommended that you do an annual check, usually in a season that you won’t be using your fireplace. You’ll also want to check it out after any severe weather like hail storms or hurricanes.

We’ve rounded up a few obvious signs to check for yourself, right after you schedule a professional chimney inspection.

 

1. A Damaged Chimney Crown

The crown of your chimney is a vital piece of masonry as it protects the chimney from anything that might fall into it (expect for directly above the flue). It keeps out water and weather damage and takes a beating. If it’s injured, the damage can spread down the chimney, resulting in a complete rebuild. It can also degrade and crack due to age, which can be a disaster for the chimney.

 

2. White Salts on Bricks

White bricks can mean water damage inside the bricks, which pulls out the natural salts and minerals to the surface of the bricks. The white staining can wash off easily, but if comes back, you’ll definitely need to call a professional to come in and help.

 

3. Spalling or Shaling

Spalling is the result of water entering brick, concrete, or natural stone. It forces the surface to peel, pop out, or flake off. Spalling can eventually cause crumbling and destruction of a structure. If you have spalling bricks, it means your chimney is damaged and will need to be rebuilt. You’ll want to call a professional ASAP.

Shaling is also caused by water, but describes what happens to affected tiles. If you notice that tiles or pieces of tiles fall into your fireplace, this is shaling. You’ll definitely need a chimney replacement if you see this!

 

4. No Chimney Cap

The chimney cap is like a little hat worn by the flue, to keep debris and water out. Some chimneys don’t have a cap and the ones that do can lose them from time to time. If your chimney doesn’t have one, it’s because it’s most likely sustained some damage at one point. The cap acts as the first line of defense and you’ll want to call a professional for an inspection before any damage gets worse, needing a full chimney replacement.

metal chimneys, learning about chimneys, masonry chimneys, chimney sweep service

 

If you’re looking to replace or rebuild your chimney soon, you’ll have to decide whether you want masonry or metal chimneys. Not many people really know the difference between the two and can be quite confused as to which option to choose. While both are common options and can be used for a variety of different chimneys, there are some important differences that homeowners should be aware of to make an informed decision. Here are a few differences between masonry and metal chimneys:

 

Weight

When it comes to weight, a masonry chimney is much heavier than metal. Because of their weight, there may even be restrictions about where you can place a masonry chimney in your home. They’re generally used on the first floor of a building. Metal Chimneys can weigh much less and are better suited to multi-floor buildings.

 

Ability to Work Around Obstruction

Generally, metal chimneys are more flexible with complex buildings than masonry options. Depending on the layout of the home and where you want your fireplace, there may be an offset between the chimney and fireplace. This is when your chimney can’t go straight up because of an obstruction, and it’ll need to go around something. Masonry chimneys only function well with a small off-set, whereas metal chimneys can move around most things no problem.

 

Heat Reflection Performance

When it comes to providing high heat reflection, masonry chimneys really earn their keep. The higher the heat reflection there is in a fireplace, the better heat circulation you have in your home. You want increased heat circulation because it keeps the area around the fireplace warmer and strengthens the smoke removing updrafts of the chimney at the same time. Usually, metal chimneys don’t do as well here, so if that matters, go with a masonry chimney.

Taking these three considerations into account will help you decide on a masonry or metal chimney for your home!

 

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

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.

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.

chimney removal, fireplace removal, chimney safety inspection

The reasons for removing an old chimney and fireplace removal may vary. Maybe the chimney is damaged, or you just do not use it often enough? A chimney and fireplace add character and warmth to a home, but there is more to these architectural features than cozy aesthetics.

Here are some reasons that some people choose existing chimney and fireplace removal:

 

Lack of Utility

These fireplaces are often relics of a different time when fires were the only source of heat in a home. Modern families are increasingly less likely to use a fire. Fireplaces are often nothing more than an ornamental feature in a room, and the chimney is just a place for heat and cold to pass through. 

 

Fireplace Removal Frees Up Valuable Space

Maybe your home lacks storage, has cramped living space, or you just want more free room. Removing a fireplace can give you the space you want. You can often remove a fireplace inside the building, leaving the chimney stack intact above roof level. This can free up valuable floor space inside.

 

Keeping It May Be As Costly As Chimney and Fireplace Removal

Removing an old chimney and fireplace is one way to avoid costs. Cost like repairing your current chimney, upkeep and future maintenance, and also save you on utilities by increasing your effective insulation.

Weigh up the cost of repairing and retaining a fireplace/chimney in working order. The cost of installing, repairing or maintaining new hearths, chimney linings or flues may well equal to or even more than the cost of removing an old one. 

 

Safety Reasons

Older chimneys, especially brick ones, can pose an earthquake danger. For a family that doesn’t gain much joy from their fireplace, the risk of a falling chimney is not worth taking. To fulling understand the likelihood of your chimney falling in an earthquake, schedule a safety inspection with professionals like The Irish Sweep.

If you’re considering removing your fireplace or chimney, you have options. You can install a gas fireplace, have no fireplace, or build a new one, depending on the architecture involved. If you have any questions or concerns, call The Irish Sweep today.

At the Irish Sweep, we pride ourselves on doing the highest quality work. We accomplish this through having excellent training and experience, but also through using top quality materials. One of the truly remarkable materials we use is HeatShield cerfractory flue sealant for resurfacing flues.

According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, problems such as gaps, cracks and spalling in your chimney’s flue can present serious risks to your home and family, because your chimney can no longer perform its intended function – to safely contain and vent the products of combustion to the outside. It’s because of this that the inner surface of your flue is so important.

HeatSheild is a durable coating applied by experts, like us at the Irish Sweep, to restore safety and efficiency to your chimney’s flue by filling in gaps and cracks. This can salvage a chimney flue that would otherwise have needed removed and rebuilt or retired.

The key to a safe chimney is a flue that properly contains dangerous gases, heat and flames. The rest of your home isn’t a safe place for these elements to be, and your flue is the barrier that protects you. But only until it weakens and develops cracks, spalled clay, and deteriorated mortar. This used to mean the end of life for a flue, but HeatSheild allows us to renew your flue safely.

 

How Does HeatShield Sealant Work?

To start restoring your chimney’s flue by resurfacing the interior, we make a custom foam applicator plug. It’s then placed at the bottom of the flue, attached to a winch on top the chimney. When the applicator it pulled up with the winch, it evenly applies the lining to flue.

First, a “tie coat” material is applied to the flue walls as the plug is pulled upward by the winch. The “tie coat” cleans any remaining dust in your flue and acts as a primer for the HeatShield® Cerfractory® Flue Sealant.

After the tie coat dries, we apply the HeatShield® material to the flue at about ¼” thickness. Our unique application method is known as “slip casting” or “slip cast extrusion”.

We then verify that your new chimney lining has a complete seal and is smoke-tight by using cameras and video scanning your completed repair.

chimney waterproofing waterproof chimney fireplace inspection

 

While this winter has not been too wet, many are predicting some rain over the next couple months. We don’t anticipate it reaching last year’s levels, but it’s still important that you waterproof your chimney. Water can seep into a chimney and leaks may form. But how does this potentially expensive problem even happen?

What causes chimney leaks?

Chimneys are beautiful, complex structures. The simplistic bricks or stucco columns are filled with a machine of moving parts and instruments to keep you safe and warm. It is also regularly exposed to nature’s elements. Thus, the likelihood of damage occurring and leaks forming is quite possible. However, with all of the nuances of a chimney, it can often be challenging to find the leak. The following are three of the most common sources for chimney leaks.

Chimney Cap

This piece covers the top of the flue. It covers the flue and fireplace so water, animals, and debris do not go in. Should the cap be damaged or missing, this leaves most areas of the fireplace exposed. Thus, a rain shower could cause substantial water damage.

Flashing

Around the chimney and roofline, there is flashing to protect the area against water. Over time, flashing may lose its seal or it could have been improperly installed. Similar to the cap, damaged or missing flashing may dramatically damage your chimney. However, the lack of proper flashing could also harm walls, ceilings, and structures.

Masonry

As you can already tell, water can be very harmful. Bricks are no exception. Water can have a dramatic impact on masonry around chimneys. This can lead to cracks and bricks falling apart. The problem can then get exponentially worse. Damaged bricks absorb greater amounts of water, leading to further harm.

Numerous signs exist to show leaks in chimneys. The easiest way to notice is if you see water dripping in the firebox after a storm. If you hear dripping, then you’ve got issues. At the same time, do not be surprised for there to be a musty smell. Another sign could be damaged bricks around the chimney. If you see this, you should have your chimney inspected.

Prevention

While harm may arise, a homeowner can take proactive measures to prevent damage. First, make sure to do an annual chimney inspection. Second, we recommend sealing your bricks on a regular basis.

Should you have any questions or need your annual inspection done by our certified expert, contact Sal at the Irish Sweep.