When and How Often Should You Get a Chimney Inspection?

Scheduling a chimney inspection is a great way to stay proactive and avoid future problems. Failure to maintain your chimney can lead to a variety of issues and cost you a lot of money over time. Reaching out to professionals to inspect your chimney before the winter season will keep your chimney working well and ensure the safety of your home and your family.

Frequency of Chimney Inspections

Typically, you should have your chimney inspected yearly for the best results. Safety is the number one reason for scheduling an inspection, as chimneys are the second most common cause for house fires. Creosote is a highly flammable substance inside your chimney that tends to build up over time. It can catch on fire if it’s not cleaned out. Carbon monoxide poisoning is another major safety concern. An annual inspection plays a key role in keeping you and your family safe.

While experts recommend a yearly inspection, you may opt to have your chimney cleaned more often if it’s used frequently. The more a chimney is used, the more creosote builds up. Because creosote is the substance that can present a fire hazard, it should be cleaned away whenever it begins to coat the flue. You should also have your chimney inspected if you’re experiencing any performance issues.

Benefits of a Chimney Inspection

While safety is the number one benefit of having your chimney inspected, there are additional advantages to be gained. For example, a professional inspector can identify any structural issues due to an obstruction in your chimney. Checking for structural issues on your own isn’t an easy task for most homeowners. Chimney inspection professionals use the latest equipment in the industry to ensure your chimney is working optimally.

What if I Don’t Use My Chimney?

Even if you don’t often use your chimney, it should still be inspected once per year. This is because small animals sometimes make homes in chimney openings. Alternatively, debris may have found its way into the chimney, making it dangerous to use. A chimney inspector is able to identify and remove obstructions, maintaining the soundness of your chimney, and ensuring that it’s safe for use.

Contact Us

At The Irish Sweep, we understand the importance of fireplace safety and strive to meet the unique needs of each customer. Our team of experts follows national standards. Your comfort and safety are our number one priority. Contact us today at 510.521.4088 to learn more about our professional chimney inspection and cleaning services.

Signs That Your Chimney Needs to be Inspected

Having a fireplace can make a home feel warm, cozy, and comfortable, but there are also dangers to be aware of as a responsible homeowner. If your chimney isn’t kept in good condition, it could result in a devastating fire. For this reason, it’s important to make sure that your chimney is always in full working order. But if you’re unsure whether you need a chimney inspection, there are signs to keep an eye out for.

 Rust

Your firebox or damper should be free from rust. If rust does begin to develop, this could be a sign that there’s too much moisture in the chimney. While the rust itself won’t cause any significant problems, the moisture inside the chimney can be problematic. For example, it could cause the flue tiles to become cracked.

Damaged Flue

If the flue becomes damaged, you may begin to notice pieces of tile falling into the fireplace. This is known as shaling and can potentially lead to a very serious fire hazard. It’s best to call on an expert for a chimney inspection.

Similarly, if the walls around the fireplace appear to be damaged, this could also suggest that there’s moisture within the chimney. Peeling wallpaper is a good example.

Wildlife

Another thing to be mindful of is wildlife. If you hear animal noises from within the chimney or find debris that could have been left by an animal, such as twigs, this could suggest that a critter has built a home inside the chimney or become trapped. If this happens, definitely don’t try to smoke the animal out by lighting a fire.

A Smoking Fireplace

Another thing to watch out for is a fireplace that lets smoke into the room. Not only is this unpleasant, but it’s a sign that a dangerous amount of flammable soot and creosote may have built up on the walls of your chimney.

Weather Damage

In times of extreme weather, there’s extra potential for your chimney to sustain damage. This might include the development of cracks, loosened bricks, or other issues. A damaged chimney won’t perform as well as it was intended to, and can even be dangerous.

Time

Ideally, you should schedule a chimney inspection each year, but many people put off this essential home maintenance. If it’s been more than twelve months since your last professional chimney inspection, it’s a good idea to remedy this.

Scheduling Your Chimney Inspection

While there are risks associated with a chimney that’s not regularly cared for, these issues can be eliminated through proper maintenance. Protect your home today by calling us at 510.521.4088. Or, reach out online by emailing staff@theirishsweep.com.

What Does a Dirty Chimney Look Like?

When wood burns in a fireplace, there are natural byproducts that result. The chimney is the place where it all accumulates. Some of these byproducts are flammable and can ignite to cause a chimney fire if left unswept. So, it’s important to have a dirty chimney cleaned for safety reasons. Here’s what you need to know…

CREOSOTE

Creosote is the most common buildup inside a dirty chimney. It’s a combination of tar and soot that accumulates in layers. Over time, the layers of creosote thicken and need to be removed.

It’s visible to both chimney technicians and the average homeowner. Using a flashlight, peek inside your chimney. If you see an accumulation of black material, it’s likely creosote. A service professional can remove this buildup to restore your chimney to a state of cleanliness and improved function.

DIRTY CHIMNEY?

How dirty the inside of your chimney is will depend on when it was last cleaned. According to industry standards, a fireplace and chimney are required to be cleaned at least once a year to remove the buildup of creosote and other debris. However, fireplaces and chimneys that are used more frequently require additional maintenance. Your technician will evaluate the inside of your chimney to determine the best method of cleaning.

A DIRTY CHIMNEY IS DANGEROUS

Having a large accumulation of creosote inside your chimney might also mean the spark arrestor mesh in the flue cap is clogged, creating a downdraft of smoke into your home and cause fires to burn less efficiently and effectively, creating less warmth and greater particulate matter into the environment. These are all inconveniences of a dirty chimney.

But it’s not just an inconvenience. It’s unsafe. The creosote that accumulates on the inner walls of the chimney is a flammable substance and, if not removed periodically, can ignite to cause a chimney fire that could spread to other areas of your home.

SERVICE APPOINTMENT FOR YOUR CHIMNEY OR DRYER EXHAUST VENT

For safety, efficiency, and convenience, make sure your chimney isn’t dirty. Call us at (510) 521-4088 or email our Office Manager, Sarah, at staff@theirishsweep.com to schedule an appointment today.  Once we are deemed to be an essential business, our expertly trained crew will be so happy to be back at work and address all of your service concerns.

Animal in the Chimney?

Critters are cute, but they certainly don’t belong in the chimney. If you ever hear unusual sounds from your fireplace, like wings, or scratching, odds are you have a wild guest trying to escape. From cats to birds, we’ve been told all kinds of stories about wildlife trapped in flues. But if you find an animal in the chimney, what should you do about it?

DON’T LIGHT YOUR FIREPLACE

First and foremost, don’t light your fireplace. While it might seem logical to try to smoke the animal out, it’s more likely to injure the animal, and possibly your chimney, too.

Instead, close off the fireplace so the animal can’t get loose in your home. The last thing you want is to be chasing a raccoon around the house.

ANIMAL IN THE CHIMNEY? CALL ANIMAL CONTROL

There’s no need to panic. If you open the damper, the animal may be able to get out on its own. But if that isn’t the case, give your local animal control service a call. They’re better equipped to deal with an animal in the chimney than the fire department.

KEEP CRITTERS OUT

Animals search for warm places to build their nests, especially in wintry months. They don’t understand what a fireplace is. So, it’s best to simply prevent finding an animal in the chimney before it becomes an issue.

To protect both your home and your chimney, it’s important to have a qualified chimney sweep examine the inner components of your chimney for damage. A missing or faulty rain cap, as well as gaps where animals can squeeze in, pose risks to your chimney.

Having your chimney professionally inspected and cleaned before you begin building fires in cold weather will help you avoid not only unwelcome nests, but other hazards. For more information on our services, please give us a call at (510) 521-4088.

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.

PREPARING YOUR FIREPLACE FOR FALL AND WINTER

Nothing is more pleasing when the temperature drops than the soft amber blaze of a crackling fire. But before you light up that firewood, there are numerous steps you need to take to get your fireplace ready, and for excellent reason. Prepping your fireplace for fall can:

  • Improve the air quality in your house
  • Avert fires
  • Save energy
  • Keep your home warm

Chimney preparation steps are given below:

ARRANGE A YEARLY INSPECTION

All chimneys should be examined and cleaned by a chimney cleaning company at least once a year. A careful cleaning will eliminate any buildup of creosote, an oily and extremely flammable byproduct of burning wood, gives you a safer fireplace.

CLEAN THE FIREBOX

Eliminate and clean the grate and other accessories that are inside the firebox. Vacuum or remove the ash and store it in a metal container with a sealed lid. There are several ways you can recycle the ash. You can use it in your backyard as a fertilizer, to dissolve ice, and even clean the fireplace doors, for example. Be sure to keep a small amount of ash. It will help with starting your initial fire of the season.

CHECK FOR CRACKS AND DAMAGE

Check for cracks and wobbly joints of the firebricks inside the fireplace, and check the external masonry for damage. Hire an expert mason to do any repairs—never try to repair firebrick with ordinary mortar, as the blend cannot stand up to high heat.

EXAMINE THE CHIMNEY CAP AND DAMPER

Ensure the fireplace damper is working accurately and that there is no wreckage preventing it from opening and closing. Make sure that the chimney cap is firmly attached and in good condition. The cap should comprise protective screening to keep birds, squirrels, and other pests from entering the chimney.

CLEAR AWAY TREE LIMBS

While you are outside examining the chimney cap, trim any overhanging tree limbs that may be squeezing on the chimney. Tree limbs can restrict the proper draft of the chimney and spoil the cap.

CLEAR OUT ASHES

Clean out the firebox once in a week, or whenever the ash is more than an inch deep. Coals can stay hot for up to three days, so ensure everything is completely cold. Remove or vacuum the cold ashes and dispose it outside—wood ashes are just right for garden beds and compost piles.

HOW TO PREP A GAS-BURNING FIREPLACE

Clean the blower

Check your gas-burning fireplace to see if it has a blower. If it does, clean it. Distinct from furnace blowers, the blowers of gas-burning fireplaces do not have a filtering system to stop buildup. Dust buildup can cause early wearing of the bearings. Dust can insulate the motor, which prevents it from cooling correctly, eventually leading to motor failure.

Replace batteries

Before every season, change the batteries in any remote transmitters and receivers, if appropriate. Also, replace the batteries and examine any smoke or carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they are working properly.