Buying A Home? Why you Need a Chimney Inspection

Before you buy your dream home, it’s important to get a full home inspection. Home inspections can uncover potentially life-threatening problems like toxic mold, faulty wiring that could cause a significant fire, or unstable structures just months away from collapsing. Often as buyers, we expect a professional inspection to cover all aspects of the property, but the chimney needs a separate qualified evaluation for many safety reasons. 

The health and safety of your family could depend on your decision to go through with a chimney inspection. Here’s some important information you need to know about why chimney inspections are crucial when it comes to purchasing new homes. 

What a chimney inspection could uncover:

Potential Water Damage

Did you know that  the foundation of a chimney is typically only 12 inches deep? That means that with earth movement from summer to winter, water damage from sprinklers, downspouts, and weather conditions could render your chimney foundation dangerous. 

Neglected Spaces

 Most inspections are carried out for the purpose of the loan lender or negotiations, and they may not always serve the buyer. Make sure that your home inspection includes often-forgotten spaces like the crawl space, basement, attics, chimney, fireplace, and loft area. A smart buyer can even use details from the full home inspection to negotiate with the seller.

Shifting from New Construction

Has the space around the chimney been newly landscaped, subject to digging, or under construction? Have there been significant earthquakes since the last chimney inspection? Shifting of the earth underneath or around the chimney could cause instability, which is why it’s important to make sure the inspection includes outdoor areas surrounding the chimney. 

Instability from Cold Weather

With the drought and hotter weather, the hard soil can stabilize a chimney to some degree, but only temporarily. As cold weather moves in, dampness and moisture soften the soil around the base of the chimney, allowing movement in the structure which could render the chimney unstable. Even if the house is on a concrete slab and the chimney is surrounded by concrete, the concrete still absorbs the moisture and the chimney can still move. If your area experiences high winds, wet weather, and earthquakes, instability can be particularly dangerous. 

Fireplace Inserts: Extra Credit

Once your fireplace and chimney have been thoroughly inspected and cleaned, you may be looking for ways to enjoy the ambience of a crackling fire. A fireplace insert is a fuel-efficient, heat-efficient method of doing just that. The closed combustion system of a fireplace insert can be 60% to 80% heat efficient, contrasting with traditional or older fireplaces that only convert 5% to 20% of fuel into usable heat. You can enjoy watching the flames through the glass doors of the fireplace insert while needing less firewood to keep them stoked. 

Schedule a Chimney Inspection Now 

Our services at The Irish Sweep can help you safely maintain and enjoy your wood-burning fireplace and chimney for years to come. To schedule an appointment with an expert, call us at (510)521-4088, or use this simple contact form by clicking here.

Summer Tips for Maintaining Your Wood Burning Fireplace

A wood-burning fireplace is a cozy addition to any home. Perfect for warming up or just roasting marshmallows, wood-burning fireplaces are designed to retain heat in your home. Remember: proper safety measures are necessary to prevent chimney fires, structural fragility, carbon monoxide intrusion, and poor indoor air quality. Regularly scheduled maintenance and cleaning keeps a wood burning chimney and fireplace safe, functional, and beautiful.

Your fireplace may not be getting much use during the hottest months of summer, which is exactly why it’s an ideal time to schedule maintenance and cleaning. Here’s how to maintain your wood burning chimney and fireplace this summer:

  1. Cover the fireplace. Fireplace covers can keep a fireplace safe during the summer. When the weather is hot and humid, a low pressure system sucks warm air down your chimney. This can draw trapped, stagnant air back into your living space along with unpleasant smoky odors. It’s a commonly experienced phenomenon known as the reversal of the stack effect. The stack effect is when warm air is at a higher pressure than the cool air outside, which makes it want to rise and escape the house through the chimney and other openings. To maintain the pressure balance, low-pressure cool air from downstairs areas or the lowest floor rush up to replace the rising air, creating an upwards current of air.

In hot weather, the stack phenomenon reverses, causing warm air to flow downward through the chimney and into the home. Several measures can counteract this issue, including closing the fireplace damper during summer, using a glass door fireplace enclosure or cover, and removing debris from the chimney cap if applicable.  

2. Get your chimney checked. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends having chimneys inspected annually by a qualified professional chimney service technician. Annual checks reduce the risk of carbon monoxide buildup and chimney fires. Additionally, having chimneys cleaned annually is recommended to reduce creosote buildup and obstructions in chimneys (these pose several health and safety risks).

After a winter of lovely wood fires, with a long hot summer ahead, it’s the perfect time for a cleaning and an inspection of your wood-burning chimney and fireplace. 

3. Choose the right fuel. Best wood-burning practices are especially important during fire season. Mandatory no-burn days begin on November 1st of any given year and end on the last day of February the following year. All other no-burn days are not mandatory. Choose well-seasoned wood (wood that has been split and properly stored for at least six months so it has a low moisture content). Though softwood is usually the cheapest option, hardwood will give a hotter and longer burn. Choosing the right wood also reduces your chimney’s exposure to harmful acids, moisture, and chemicals from green or treated wood.

Schedule a Chimney Inspection Now

Our services at The Irish Sweep can help you maintain and enjoy your wood-burning fireplace for years to come. To schedule an appointment with an expert, call us at (510)521-4088, or use this simple contact form by clicking here.

How to Tell When You Need Fireplace Repairs

The fireplace is the centerpiece of your home. It should be a comforting and familiar focal point. But if you’ve skipped maintenance on your fireplace for a few years, then you might have begun to wonder if it’s really necessary. Many homeowners just aren’t familiar with the signs of fireplace damage, so it’s all too easy to let it deteriorate. Investing in fireplace masonry repair early, however, can keep your fireplace looking and working its best for years to come. So if you’re wondering how to spot whether fireplace repairs are needed, here are the three most obvious signs that you need to repair your fireplace.

1. Cracks in the Mortar Joints

A definite sign that you need a fireplace masonry repair is that the mortar joints are beginning to crack. The stones or bricks used in the masonry will absorb moisture over time. This can eventually lead to crumbling and cracking if it’s not repaired. Once you start to see these cracks appearing, it’s time to think about calling a professional. A simple fireplace masonry repair doesn’t take long, and your home will look a lot nicer once the cracks are dealt with.

2. A Damaged Chimney

The moisture that damages the brick around your fireplace may come from rain. Your chimney exists to protect your fireplace masonry from this rainfall, but if it becomes damaged, then it won’t do its job. In particular, take a look at the chimney crown. This is a piece of concrete that shields the fireplace below. If this is cracked, then rain can easily get through. In this instance, a masonry fireplace repair is almost certainly required.

3. Chimney Fires

Has your chimney caught fire recently? Obviously, this shouldn’t happen. The flames are supposed to be contained within the fireplace, with only smoke going up the chimney. If combustion happens within the chimney itself, then it’s likely that there’s a buildup of flammable creosote, or that the fireplace isn’t working correctly. Something may be damaged, so you should have it looked into as soon as possible.

Fireplace Masonry Repair

Don’t let your fireplace become damaged beyond repair. Schedule yearly maintenance with us at The Irish Sweep, and learn to spot minor issues before they become expensive repairs. This will keep your fireplace looking and performing at its best. Contact us at (510) 521-4088.

Fireplace Inserts and Maintenance Tips During the Shelter-in-Place

There’s nothing cozier than a wood-burning fireplace for warmth. But fireplace maintenance is vital to the health and safety of your home. In fact, improper upkeep is a common reason for house fires. Fireplace inserts are one solution to help safeguard your home, but here’s a look at some other steps you can take.

Sweep the Interior

Sweeping out your fireplace on a regular basis will make it look tidier, as well as cause it to work more efficiently. We suggest wearing a dust mask to avoid inhaling particles from ash and creosote. Sweeping out this buildup also helps to prevent it from catching on fire.

Watch For Smoke

A well-maintained fireplace shouldn’t fill your home with smoke. This is an important warning sign to pay attention to. It’s possible you could simply be burning the wrong wood. But it’s also very likely there’s a layer of soot or flammable creosote in your chimney that isn’t allowing it to properly vent smoke.

Burning the Right Wood

There are as many different kinds of wood as there are trees, but maybe you’ve never considered what you’re putting in your fireplace before. Hardwoods, such as ash and oak, are the best options because they’re denser and give off more heat. Avoid burning unseasoned “green” wood. Ideally, wood needs to be split and dried for 6-12 months in a covered area before use. Green wood just won’t burn as well, and it creates more creosote on your chimney walls.

Fireplace Inserts

Fireplace inserts can be installed with heat-proof glass to contain any burning materials, like stray embers. Most of them have a blower that circulates heat into the room. Fireplace inserts protect your home, while making your fireplace more efficient.

Scheduling With Us

Aside from DIY sweepings, it’s a good idea to have your fireplace and chimney professionally cleaned and inspected at least once a year. It’s less work to maintain your home than to let creosote buildup. Plus, it’s nice to know your fireplace is ready on cold nights. To schedule a chimney cleaning with us, or learn more about fireplace inserts, call (510) 521-4088.

BENEFITS OF CERAMIC COATING IN A FIREPLACE

If you have a fireplace, then you may already know about ceramic coating. But it’s not a paint, like you might imagine. Rather, think of it as an environmentally-friendly, protective skin that improves safety. Read on to learn more about some of the benefits of adding a ceramic coating to your fireplace.

WHAT IS HEATSHIELD?

HeatShield technology is a hybrid ceramic/refractory coating that was developed in Europe. Independent testing has proven that it withstands moisture, harsh flue gases, and extreme temperatures.

ECO-FRIENDLY

Eco-friendly products have gained in popularity, both for the environment and our own health. There’s no reason innovation can’t be green. Manufactured from recycled and natural materials, HeatShield is more economical than rebuilding your chimney. HeatShield ensures using your fireplace is safer, as well as more efficient.

HEAT RESISTANCE

The heat resistant qualities of ceramic coatings are well-known. HeatShield handles temperatures in excess of 2900 degrees Fahrenheit. Ceramic coatings also offer oxidization protection and chemical resistance, plus a firm finish. In fact, high-temperature ceramic coatings work in automotive parts, as well as heavy manufacturing equipment.

EXPERT CHIMNEY REPAIR

All of our independent HeatShield installers are certified and factory-trained. Whether your chimney needs a complete resurfacing, or a quick fix, our professionals have the tools and industry experience to get the job done right. They even use special video cameras to verify completed repairs.

OUR 20-YEAR WARRANTY

You don’t need to install a new chimney liner. Adding a ceramic coating is a quick and affordable way to update your fireplace. Our highly skilled experts use professional products to ensure the best results for our clients. We hope you found this article helpful, and we’re happy to answer any further questions you may have. Ask our HeatShield professionals about our 20-year warranty.

To learn more about the many benefits of ceramic coating, feel free to contact us!

DIY FIREPLACE UPDATES

Any home can achieve a warm and cozy feel throughout winter, while also setting the mood with a subtle romantic effect. A well-maintained fireplace can be a great focal point in the room, but an uncared-for one might be an eyesore. You wouldn’t want to hide this classic feature, would you? Fortunately, breathing new life into your fireplace doesn’t have to be a overpriced affair. There are many budget-friendly options.

Whether you’re just looking to make some minor changes, or you’re desperate to give that outdated fireplace a new look and feel that’s personalized to you, we’ve got some ideas for you.

ADDING OR MODIFYING A MANTEL

A mantel is the brick or wood surrounding the chimney opening. If there’s no mantel on your fireplace, consider building or installing one. It can tie together the aesthetic of the room. Adding a mantel can be easy to install yourself and doesn’t cost a large sum. If you have a mantel and it’s severely chipped, warped, or has irreparable damage, you might think about replacing it. However, some paint will do the trick if your only concern with your existing mantel is its unattractive appearance.

MAKEOVER THE SCREEN AND DOORS

As homes become more modernized, you may be wanting to update old styles. A good place to begin is with the screen and doors of the fireplace. If you adore the current design but want to easily change the look, paint it! You can repaint fireplace doors with high-heat resistant paint, available online or at your local hardware store. A less permanent way to change the look is by getting a new screen.

INSTALL A FLOATING BEAM

In lieu of a mantel, floating beams provide shelf space while keeping the area clear that surrounds the chimney opening. These are an excellent choice if there’s nothing surrounding your fireplace but the hearth.

You can find a new beam in most wood shops or online retailers, as well as salvage shops or even eBay. If you’re handy, you can even cut your own beam from a larger piece of wood and treat it.

ACCESSORIZE, ACCESSORIZE, ACCESSORIZE

The hearth is the area in front of a fireplace, usually a stone, brick, cement, or marble slab. It adds a layer of protection and can be used to store fireplace tools. You can include accessories around the hearth that give it a unique look. A large mirror, piece of artwork, or family portraits may be hung above the mantel to instantly change the aesthetic.

DECORATE WITH AN ARTISTIC TOUCH

Bring out your inner artist by placing a fabric runner on the mantel to complement the wall behind it. Adding small items like picture frames, vases, flowers, or candles are all accessories that can be easily changed out depending on the seasons or holidays. Whatever you decide to do to your fireplace, we’d love to hear about it. Show us your newly designed fireplace here!