chimney removal cost, avoid chimney repair, masonry chimney safety

 

When a home has a chimney, and something is awry with it, many homeowners only consider 2 options: fixing it or leaving it in place but declaring the fireplace unusable.

But there are two unexamined options: removing the chimney completely and replacing it with a safer style of chimney.

 

Why Replace Your Chimney?

No amount of repair will make a masonry chimney as safe as a metal one. Masonry chimneys are more likely to fall down and hurt or kill someone during an earthquake than any other part of the house. A full replacement means leaving that risk behind, and still enjoying your fireplace as you always have. It’s all gain, no loss.

 

Why Remove Your Chimney?

Chimney removal is another great option. Why do I call it “great”? Because no chimney means no risk of chimney fires, no risk of a falling chimney, no more place for rain to enter your home, or your hot air to escape in winter.

When having a chimney removed you can opt to remove it below the roof line (if it’s not along on exterior wall), and keep your mantel and firebox area indoors (decorative only). Or you can remove the entire fireplace system. This can create new space in your home, too. The chimney removal cost is often less than repair, and unlike repairs, you’re not going to have to do it again in a few years. No more chimney maintenance for you!

Sometimes a chimney is utilized to vent gas appliances that are connected to the metal flue liner. If your chimney is being used to vent gas appliances such as a furnace, water heater, or boiler, a vent will still need to penetrate the roof to carry the exhaust gases to the exterior after your chimney is gone. This doesn’t mean you can’t remove your chimney. Your chimney removal specialist can help you navigate this safely.

earthquake facts for homeowners, bay area chimney sweep

 

Normally, it’s not the shaking ground itself that claims lives during an earthquake. It’s the associated destruction of man-made structures and the other natural disasters earthquakes cause such as tsunamis, avalanches and landslides. In a city, your biggest earthquake threat is often the safety of your own home.

 

Chimney Danger

One structural engineer told the SF Gate: “Masonry chimneys are perhaps the most urgent earthquake hazard in older homes. The problem is that they’re likely to fall in even a modest shake. A rule of thumb is that brick chimneys extending more than 1 1/2 times their least width above the roof pose a hazard of collapsing above the roof, not to mention any possible hazard they may pose below the roof level. That’s less than 2 feet for a typical 14-inch-wide chimney.”

Be sure your chimney is safe, or have it removed. Simple as that.

 

Gas Lines

After an earthquake, damage to your gas lines can mean a gas leak on your property. Which you won’t detect, because you’ll have evacuated! Best case scenario, your home stinks and you have to air it out. Worst case scenario, it goes up in a fireball. To avoid the whole problem, consider having an earthquake gas shut off valve installed, if you don’t already have one.

 

Earthquakes Aren’t Just For Humans

Most of us know to have a first aid kit, supplies, and an emergency plan for the humans in the house. Do you have an appropriate first aid kit for your parrot, ferret, or dog? What about emergency food set aside? Do you have a “save our pets” decal in your window, just in case? Be sure to include pets in your emergency planning.

 

FEMA has a Preparedness Checklist

Many families try to make their own checklist or plan for earthquake preparedness. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s extremely unlikely you’ll come up with a more thorough and useful document than this: FEMA Earthquake Preparedness Checklist (download link). Compiled by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, this is more than a list. It includes diagrams that teach helpful skills, and much more.

 

Drop, Cover, and Hold

The old wisdom was that doorways were the safest place to be indoors during an earthquake. That is no longer true in most buildings, especially buildings in earthquake prone areas, or new construction. Now Your safest place to be is near the ground, under something solid. The new mantra is drop, cover, hold. Drop to the ground, gain cover by going under a table or other furniture, and hold onto your protective cover with one hand, protect your neck with the other.

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.

 

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.

chimney flue repair, obstructed chimney

A chimney is designed to safely and effectively remove dangerous fire byproducts produced within the fireplace. When it becomes clogged, it can’t properly perform this important role. Birds’ nests, tree foliage, trash, and other debris can clog your home chimney, making it dangerous to use. Soot and crumbling bricks are also hazardous; if the chimney’s flue is not kept clean, your home is at risk every time you kindle the fireplace. Your home’s structure and age may also play a part in the overall health of its chimney. Determine if there is a blockage in your chimney, or if it needs flue repair, by looking at it yourself or hiring a professional maintenance company.

Warning Signs of a Blocked Chimney

A blocked chimney may be hard to diagnose on your own but there are some telltale signs to watch for. These warning signs include:

• A smoky smell when burning a fire

• Falling debris inside the hearth

• Water streaks inside the flue

• Excessive soot

• White residue on the flue walls

What can cause a chimney blockage?

There are three main causes of chimney blockages:

• An excessive build-up of soot or creosote (tar)

• Birds, squirrels, or other small animals nesting in the chimney

• The collapse of the internal chimney bricks

Inspecting the Chimney

1. Wear a safety mask or goggles for eye protection. Don a pair of gloves and place a handkerchief over your mouth and nose to keep you from inhaling loose, falling soot. Wear a hard hat to protect your head. Chimneys that have not been periodically cleaned may have a lot of debris.

2. Open the chimney’s maintenance door. Typically, it is located outside the house, but check your home’s blueprints for the exact location. Hold the mirror through the maintenance door, facing upward. With your other hand, shine the flashlight on the mirror. Adjust the angle to allow you to see up into the chimney.

3. Inspect the chimney flue from the outside of the building and again from the inside of the fireplace. Open the damper, and shine the flashlight up the walls with the mirror. See if you can insert a broom handle or long stick through the fireplace opening.

4. Feel the heat. When a clogged fireplace is operating, heat and moisture will back up into the home. When the chimney is unused, during summertime, for example, soot from a wood-burning fireplace or rust debris from the metal hood of a gas fireplace can amass. 

Chimney Flue Repair

Clearing a blocked chimney is a job best left for a professional. They have the tools necessary to reach and remove the debris clogging the flue. How quickly and easily the chimney is cleared will depend on how compact the blockage is. To prevent clogs in the future, an annual chimney cleaning is recommended. Regular cleanings will keep your flue clear while also warning you of any potential problems before they turn into costly chimney flue repairs. Installing a chimney cap onto the flue can also help limit the number of clogs your chimney experiences. Stopping debris from entering the system in the first place, caps can provide a proactive approach to chimney maintenance.

If you suspect a blocked chimney, contact a professional for assistance. We can diagnose and treat common chimney ailments both large and small.

September 30 – October 6 is
Chimney Safety Week

In the spirit of the Chimney Safety Institute of America’s mission to advance public awareness while educating and certifying industry professionals, National Chimney Safety Week was created to specify a week of outreach and education to the public about chimney and venting safety. Celebrate by scheduling your chimney inspection and cleaning today!

 

 

 

 

artificial gas log set, choosing a gas log fireplace

Do you miss out on the joy of watching flickering flames in the fireplace because chopping, hauling, and storing logs just is not for you? With a cozy fire, the fireplace is often a favorite gathering place in the home. There’s no need to let your fireplace go to waste! Gas log sets provide the ambiance of a roaring fire without the hassle and smoke that goes along with wood burning. The natural gas or liquid propane gas used by gas logs is clean-burning. In fact, gas logs are an efficient and environmentally friendly choice, that is ultra-convenient and easy to use.

Gas log sets can change the look and ambiance of your existing wood or masonry fireplace and are available in a wide range of colors, sizes, and shapes. Gas logs come in two basic varieties, vented log sets and vent-free log sets. 

How to Choose the Right Gas Log Set

A gas log set must be used in a regular fireplace, designed to burn a wood fire. The benefits are numerous and they can offer some unique advantages. With all of the different types and options, it can be hard to know what the set is right for you, so let’s take a look at the key differences between gas log sets.

How Do Gas Logs Work?

Gas log sets are used in a regular fireplace designed for wood that releases the gas fumes through the chimney. Flame size is typically large, lending to a more realistic look, however, they aren’t especially efficient for heating since the heat goes up the chimney. Log sets must be operated with the damper wide open. Only a few varieties of vented gas logs will give off heat, otherwise, you will want to look into a Gas Log Heater, which will provide up to 25,000 BTUs of heat into the room and can be used with or without glass doors. Gas log sets can be connected to a manual on/off  gas valve, or a manual safety pilot.

Gas Log Advantages:

  • Large flames not unlike wood-burning fire flames
  • Increased safety
  • Reasonable purchase price

Gas Log Disadvantages:

  • Higher fuel input than wood fires
  • Lower heat output that wood-burning fires

Vent-Free Gas Logs

You may have heard about vent-free logs because they do exist; however, they are illegal in California.

What Size Gas Log Set Do I Need?

Most gas log sets range from 18 “to 30”. The size is determined by the length of the front log, which is typically the largest. To choose a size you’ll need to measure your fireplace front width, back width and depth.

• Measure the front and back widths, the depth, and the height of your enclosure

• Choose a log size based on the available enclosure space

• Uncommon sizes of gas logs are available from 16 “up to 70” 

• Be sure to account for clearing of the gas valve or any added remote receiver box

Why Choose Gas Logs

Convenience: Lighting gas logs is quick and easy, which means there is minimum hassle to enjoy a delightful fire in your home.

Easy Maintenance

Chimney Fire Prevention: Maintenance and cleaning are still important. Because gas logs produce a lot less creosote and soot in the chimney lining, they bring safety. There is much smaller risk of a dangerous chimney fire when you enjoy the warmth provided by a gas log set.

Environmentally Friendly

Affordable Installation: The total cost involved with buying and installing a gas fireplace in your home can be as little as $ 5,000, and the potential return on your investment if you sell your home is high. In fact, if you sell, you can count on getting back about 90% of the cost to add a gas log set to your home.

Authentic Appearance: Today’s gas logs are much more than realistic than the sets of the past. You can now find artificial logs that are very convincing! 

Lower Utility Costs: You can practice zone heating with convenient gas logs sets. When zone heating, you only heat the part of your home that you are currently occupying.

Style: There are a wide variety of gas log sets to choose from, and you’ll find one that fits into your decor.

Choosing Your Gas Log Accessories

There are a large variety of accessories available for gas logs, so we’ll just highlight a few. Platinum Embers are a low-cost addition to your set that really makes it sparkle. They are significantly brighter than regular embers, mix both regular and Platinum for the most realistic look. You can connect your set to a thermostat, a remote starter, or both.

Does Your House Use Natural Gas Or Liquid Propane?

Always make sure you buy a gas set that matches the gas already in use in your home. You will have either liquid propane or natural gas already set up for other appliances. When you buy vented and vent-free log sets, they are often pre-set to either natural gas or liquid propane. 

In Conclusion, gas log sets are a great way to reinvigorate your existing fireplace and create a more convenient and affordable heating solution. The safety and reliability of a gas log set are matched only by the efficiency and convenience they offer. Be sure to find a unit that matches your preference and enjoy the many benefits of a gas log set.

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.