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.

How to Plan for Chimney Safety During COVID-19

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 will continue to be an ongoing health issue for some time to come. Yet life continues, fireplace-related issues included. With restrictions on how and when service professionals can work in homes and businesses, it’s important to make chimney and fireplace safety plans both while stay-at-home orders persist, and after reopening is complete. Read on to learn how you can be proactive about fireplace safety in your home.

Inspect your Fireplace and Chimney

Fireplace safety requires yearly on-site inspections. Animals can take up residence inside of a chimney, structural materials can break down or shift into hazardous positions, and creosote buildup can result in an uncontrollable fire that goes unnoticed until it spreads through your home. It’s important to take the time to inspect your fireplace and chimney. If the system hasn’t been inspected in the last year, wait to use it until seeking guidance from a professional.

Call an Expert for Assistance

In California, officials have agreed to permit some limited home and business service emergency calls. The best course of action is to contact a qualified professional for guidance related to chimney and fireplace safety inspections, cleaning, and upkeep as soon as you detect a problem.

Remote advice and instruction are available for many common fireplace safety issues. If you’re dealing with animals or nesting insects, please don’t try to smoke them out. Call your local Wildlife Control for help.

Create a Checklist for Future On-Site Appointments

Professional fireplace and chimney services require a technician to work within a confined space. Before you schedule an appointment, confirm that the company has a solid plan in place for limiting the risk of coronavirus.

Anyone visiting your home should perform a virus symptoms review prior to arrival, and wear appropriate protective equipment, such as gloves and a mask. During the appointment, the CDC recommends maintaining a personal distance of at least six feet

We go the Extra Mile

The Irish Sweep goes the extra mile to protect customers from risks related to common fireplace and chimney issues. We’re also taking additional health precautions during the coronavirus pandemic. For more information on the steps we’re taking to prepare for future on-site appointments, contact us at (510) 521-4088.

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.

WHAT ARE “NO BURN DAYS”?

Spare the Air was formed in 1991 by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to inform residents when the air quality is forecast to be harmful and to share information on ways to decrease air pollution. No Burn Days are also called “Winter Spare the Air” days.

In 2008, the Air District approved a rule that makes it illegal to burn firewood on days once a Winter Spare the Air alert is in effect. This guideline was adopted to protect public health.

During winter months, wood smoke is the major source of air pollution in the Bay Area, accounting for more than one-third of fine particulate substance pollution. On cool, peaceful days when there is an inversion layer of warm air acting as a cover over a layer of cold air, wood smoke can build up at ground level to harmful concentrations.

There are numerous things residents can do to decrease their impact on air quality over the winter, when these weather conditions endure. The first line of protection is to limit usage of wood-burning stoves, and ideally switch over to a different heating method, such as gas, or EPA-certified wood stoves.

CHECK FOR ALERTS BEFORE YOU BURN

Never fail to spot an alert by signing up for Winter Spare the Air Alerts. Modify your alert for text, email, or phone call. Winter Spare the Air Alerts will as well be posted to the Spare the Air and Air District websites and social media.

KEEP IN COMPLIANCE

Besides avoiding burning wood on Winter Spare the Air Days, there are additional provisions in the wood-burning rule.

Wood-burning devices are forbidden in new buildings constructed in the Bay Area. Gas-fueled fireplace, gas inserts, and electrical fireplaces are acceptable.

We want you to stay warm this winter, but make sure you first check if that day is a “no burn day” by visiting the Spare the Air website.

HOW TO PREVENT FIREPLACE GRATE MELTDOWN

Gone were the days when you have no options to sit around the smoky fireplace. Nowadays no one talks about those pesky fireplace tool sets, thanks to the fireplace grate! That not only puts an end to fireplace smoke in your home but also increases the efficiency of your fireplace in following ways:

  1. Wood consumption is cut to half.
  2. Fireplace smoke is put to an end.
  3. Eliminate the virtual need of “ tending the fire”.

However, fireplace grate comes with a drawback too. Due to thermal oxidation, or simply rust on metal, the fireplace grate grows thinner, until the time it melts down. So, how do you prevent your fireplace grate from melting? Follow these steps:

AVOID HEAT ONLY AT THE CENTER

First and foremost, the best way you can increase the lifeline of your grate is by spreading the heat from the center. By scattering the firewood and coals over the entire grate width, this will prevent fireplace grate meltdown and prolong the life of your grate.

AVOID WATER AT THE FIREPLACE

Unlike your bonfire in the woods or any champ fire that you put out by dousing beer or water on, when it comes to fireplace grate, water will cause them to corrode over time. Let your fire naturally burn and die down.

GO FOR A CAST IRON GRATE

Last but not least, if you want to replace your fireplace grate with a new one, then this time make sure you look for a fireplace grate that is made out of cast iron. Contrary to steel, cast iron can withstand heat in a better manner. Cast iron can withstand 1,400 degrees whereas steel can only withstand 1,000 degrees, making cast iron grates the optimal choice for your fireplace.