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.

HEAT REFLECTORS AND FIREBACKS

Did you know that there are products that actually maximize useful heat from gas and wood fires, while reducing the amount of fuel needed to heat your home with fire? Many don’t know about heat reflectors for the fireplace, so they accept the efficiency they’re accustomed to. Yet fireplace heat reflectors are a great investment! They not only maximize heat reflected into the home, but they also protect your firebox from any potential heat damage.

If you have a brick and mortar fireplace, it’s susceptible due to the constant cooling and heating from fires. Because of this, fireplaces will crack and shrink over time. Using a fireplace heat reflector or “fireback” will decrease how much heat is absorbed by the back wall of the fireplace, translating to less damage in the long run.

HOW TO INSTALL A HEAT REFLECTOR

Installing a heat reflector is fairly easy, and many chimney care companies will do it for you. You’ll want to first measure the back of the wall of the fireplace in inches, and measure the grate where logs rest. A heat reflector is made using a non-combustible metal and features feet that allow it to stand. Measuring your wall will ensure that the grate will either fit in front of or slightly under the reflector.

Once you have the measurements, you know what size heat reflector to get. At home, remove the fire grate and place the reflector at the back of the clean firebox. Do make sure to read the directions that came with the reflector. You’ll want to make sure that the reflector is upright and that it’s stable. When that looks right, replace the fireplace grate and then use your fireplace as normal. You’ll find yourself with a noticeably cozier fire.

Sometimes low tech solutions reap great benefits. If you haven’t invested in a heat reflecting fireback yet, ask us about them at the Irish Sweep.0

EASY SPRING CLEANING: 3-DAY PLAN

Spring cleaning is a tradition households follow as winter weather gives way to fresh, warm spring days. This is a natural time for fresh starts, including resetting your annual home needs. And going forward knowing all is in order.

Spring cleaning has its own natural task list, plus many things that you could theoretically do any time. It’s convenient and efficient to lump these spring-time and any-time chores together.

So what are these tasks and what’s the best way to get them done? You can actually get a huge amount of home maintenance accomplished if you approach it with good organization. This 3 day plan can leave you with all your spring chores handled easily in just a few days.

DAY 1- DOING WALKTHROUGHS

Get a notepad and write these headings on the pages: BUY, MAINTENANCE, REPAIR, and REPLACE. As you go, you’ll be making lots of notes here. This can help you stay organized and efficient, so you can save your time and energy for other things.

Walkthrough to find out what’s needed:

INSIDE THE HOUSE

  • Press the “test” button on your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Swap out old batteries for fresh ones, if needed. Write down any batteries you need to buy.
  • Check your plumbing for leaks. Include sinks, toilets, and any pipes you can access. Make notes if needed under repair or replace.
  • Turn on all lights as you walk through, list bulb types and number you need under “buy”.
  • Check your walls for dirt and scuffs. Wash walls if needed, or note where you need to repaint.
  • Inspect caulking in the bathroom & kitchen. Also check window seals, and seals on door and window insulation as you go. Make notes if needed under repair and replace.
  • Clean your floors and check for stains and damage. If you need minor repairs, carpet cleaning, or significant floor maintenance, make a note of it.
  • Check your HVAC system and make note of the filter size to buy for replacement.
  • Look at your dryer vent. When was it cleaned last? Have it professionally cleaned if needed.
  • Have you had your chimney swept this year? If not make a note to schedule maintenance.

OUTDOORS

  • Inspect and test your lawnmower, make notes where appropriate if it needs help.
  • Turn on your irrigation system and walk around the grounds to inspect it before the watering season. Move any roots choking it, make notes of any leaking or clogged areas it has.
  • Inspect wooden features like decks and fences to see if they need to be re-sealing or staining, make a note of loose railings and boards to repair.
  • Spray down concrete and look for pools of water on your property. When it rains, are there places where water pools in your grass and soil areas? Look at your driveway, walkways, and patios. Make note if concrete surfaces or drainage need professional help.
  • Visually assess your foundation, siding and roof for repair and maintenance needs. If you can’t see your roof from the ground, make a note to call for a roof inspection.
  • Use a ladder to check your gutters and downspouts for foliage. Make a note under maintenance to clean them if needed.
  • Observe your lawn, landscaping and trees. Make a note of any problems that might need addressing.

DAY 2- GETTING STUFF DONE

This would ideally be a full day off from work. Day two doesn’t literally have to be the day after Day 1. It should be a day that you have time to get your hands dirty.

  • Looking at your to-do lists, add anything you need from the store to the to-buy list
  • Buy items on your list from yesterday: batteries, HVAC filters, etc.
  • Complete the tasks you noted to do today.
  • Give your fireplace surround a thorough scrubbing.
  • Dust your home, from top to bottom. Start with things that are higher up, then mid-level, then lower items.
  • Clean your doors, windows and screens — inside and out. If they need repair or replacement, make a note.
  • Flush your water heater, or make a note under maintenance to hire a pro to perform the work for you. Experts recommend flushing annually.
  • If you have a sump pump, test it by slowly pouring water into the sump pit. The pump should activate and the water should drain. Make a note that you need repair if necessary.
  • Do a lawn mower oil change if it’s been a while, and fill it up with gas if needed.
  • Flip the switches on your ceiling fans to move the fan blades counterclockwise and send air downward. This should help clean dust from the blades. If they need extra dusting, get a step ladder and wipe them with a rag.
  • Inspect your HVAC system and replace your filters. Make a note to hire a professional if you’re due for your annual service or an air duct cleaning.
  • At the end of the day, make note of anything still undone to come back to later.

DAY 3- MAKING PLANS

This should ideally be a work day, so that businesses are open when you call. Look at your calendar and identify times you can schedule maintenance and repairs. This makes it easier when you make calls to schedule services that you identified a need for. Make the calls to schedule services you need.

You can also use today to finish repairs or maintenance that you weren’t able to finish on the second day. There may have just been a high volume of things to get done, or some tasks may have included more steps than you foresaw. Either way, today’s your day to wrap them up.

Using this system of 1) Doing Walkthroughs, 2) Getting Stuff Done, and 3) Making Plans can keep you organized and ensure that all your Spring Cleaning tasks get handled efficiently.

HOW RAIN AFFECTS A CHIMNEY WITH NO CHIMNEY CAP

April showers bring May flowers, right? Well, they can also bring leaky chimneys! If you don’t have a chimney cap, you’re in for a wet time. You’ll start seeing symptoms of leaks during spring and summer, and even chimneys that’ve never had problems before can leak.

YOUR CHIMNEY WITHOUT A CHIMNEY CAP

Chimneys are complex structures and are always exposed to the weather. They aren’t designed to go without chimney caps, but not everyone knows this. Because chimneys are always exposed, rain water, leaves, feathers, and all sorts of things can fall into them and build up or cause damage.

The entrance of rain into your chimney may not sound very dramatic to you. But when the masonry and other components in your chimney degrade and lose stability, or lose fire proofness, it becomes dramatic. Wetness can cause spalling and crumbling brickwork, and things like leaves that fall into your chimney are a fire hazard.

WHY GET A CHIMNEY CAP?

The top reason is to prevent damage to your home. To prevent water coming in, part of a chimney cap acts like an umbrella, and a screen section prevents the debris from falling in or sparks from floating out.

Don’t worry about a chimney cap affecting your draft. If your chimney cap has sufficient clearance and you keep it clean, it will either not affect your chimney draft or improve it. When wind blows, the convex shape of the cap creates a slight vacuum at the top of the flue so your chimney should draw better with the cap in place. Some chimney caps are even specifically designed to improve chimney draft!

IF YOU SEE WATER COMING IN, IT COULD ALSO BE DUE TO:
FLASHING

If your chimney flashing starts to wear down, water can get in. Flashing is a tight strip inside your chimney that seals the seam between your roof and chimney to prevent water coming in. If the flashing is damaged or loses its seal due to age or wear and tear, water will get through the gaps. This can in turn water damage to the roof, chimney, ceilings and walls. Metal flashings are preferred over mastic flashings.

INCORRECT CHIMNEY CAP

Water can get in if the chimney cap doesn’t fit well. Without a chimney cap that fits, the fireplace and flue are completely exposed to water from the rain. An ill-fitting cap is barely better than no cap at all.

MASONRY DAMAGE

Because your chimney is directly exposed to rain, the masonry components will deteriorate over time. Water can cause bricks to spall and crack (letting in water), in addition to making your chimney look unkempt.

You may know your chimney is leaking because you see visible water in the flue or fireplace. But because of the complexity and size of many chimney systems, leaks can easily go undetected for a while. You might not even know there’s water damage until significant damage has already been done.

To prevent chimney leaks, it’s best if you call in a professional for annual chimney sweepings and inspections. We’ll be able to detect any damage so that you can get it fixed before the chimney starts to leak!

HEATSHIELD CHIMNEY LINER REPAIR

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.

BEAUTIFUL WINTER MANTELS

With winter coming, the fireplace becomes a center for seasonal celebration in many homes. Some people decorate their mantles for specific holidays, some for the seasonal and weather changes, and some just make an effort to beautify the space because this is a season that brings many guests into the home.A tried and true favorite I think we’ve all seen before is “put lots of pictures of the family on there”, and that can be creative and lovely. Especially with attention given to selection of frames and placement. We’ve all seen “fill it with symbolic paraphernalia” too. This could be lots of turkeys, dried corn, pilgrims, and natives for Thanksgiving, or maybe a nativity or Santa scene for Christmas. But what else is there?

Dryer Vent Cleaning

WINTER GREENERY

One of the elusive keys to this looks is that there are no pots, no vases of water. Just bright green cuttings like boxwood, eucalyptus, pine or cedar. You can throw in chopped wood with the bark still on, or maybe some lovely dogwood sticks or twigs. If you use any vases or other things, go for glass or white ceramics to keep from drawing attention to them.

Alameda Chimney Cleaner

 

MIRRORS SHARE THE LIGHT

If you burn fires, string twinkle lights or light candles this season, you’ll find mirrors an especially lovely mantle decoration. Mirrors tend to make rooms look bigger and they also throw reflected light across the room, which can be quite amazing if you’ve strung light garlands. If the fire in the fireplace is burning, because the mirrors are above it. they won’t directly reflect the fire. Instead they spread the warm soft light more fully.

Orinda Chimney Cleaner

 

CALIFORNIA DESERT NATIVE MANTEL

Sometimes when you live in a desert, the lush evergreen decor around us just doesn’t feel as genuine as surrounding ourselves with the plants that live and grow easily here. If you want to celebrate the season and your microclimate, go for it with terra cotta pots of the succulents and cacti that know California as home.  You can choose aloe, any number of easy to grow succulents. You even may want to throw a blooming Christmas Cactus or bright grafted cactus in there for color. The terra cotta pots are reminiscent of the clay-sand ground, so if you switch to another color or texture you may miss it.

Chimney Cleaner

 

YOUR COLLECTION

The pictured mantel shows off a ceramic birdhouse collection, but you may collect other things entirely. This may be the time that your family and friends are most likely to visit your home. That also makes it the best time to show off the things that you find beautiful! This works best with collections, not a pulled-together hodgepodge of things you like. If you don’t have a collection of anything, do you have a most prized possession? The mantle might be a good place for it this season.

 

Oakland Chimney Cleaner

HOLIDAY GLITZ AND GLAM

Winter seems to make silver, gold, and flashy metallic colors just feel right. Here shiny glass ornaments and glittery gold trees bring the glamour. You can also tap into the power of reflective light with shiny silver menorahs and gold-wrapped hanukkah gelt, or crystal snowflakes and icicles. Whatever you choose, it’ll reflect light in a way that warms the home.

Concord Chimney Cleaner

 

CHOOSE A COLOR

You can select a color you like, maybe one that complements the room, and center your mantle decorations around that. This photo shows a cream or off-white focus, with some figurines, candle holders, and stockings, all in the same approximate colors. This can work to beautiful effect with any theme, though.

Remember that the best fireplace is always a safe fireplace. If you haven’t had your chimney or fireplace inspected or cleaned in the last year, contact us today to schedule a time to ensure that your home is safe.