How Do I Know if My Chimney is Safe to Use?

Building a fire when it’s cold outside can help you save on heating costs. It can also create a romantic and cozy atmosphere. But how do you know if your fireplace is really safe to use? Don’t ever assume that your chimney is functioning properly. As the cold season approaches, here are some things you need to know about chimney inspection.

The Importance of Chimney Services

Most of us look forward to this time of year when the leaves begin to change, and we can enjoy the holiday season with loved ones and wear our favorite sweaters. But before you light those logs in your fireplace, the chimney should be inspected by a professional.

In this age of DIY, you may be wondering if it’s possible to do your own chimney inspection. We love DIY projects at The Irish Sweep, but we don’t recommend them when it comes to the safety of your home.

An inspection can identify issues with your fireplace and chimney before they become dangerous. When a chimney isn’t functioning as it was designed to, the risk of fire increases. Another concern is that a blockage could cause harmful gas and smoke to build up inside your home. This can  result in serious illness, or even death.

Resolve Issues

If you have any questions about chimney and fireplace maintenance, it’s best to contact an experienced professional who knows the industry inside and out.

One of the benefits of scheduling a regular chimney inspection is that it can cut down on the need for chimney repairs. And, of course, no homeowner wants to pay for expensive repair work, especially when it could have been prevented.

If everything looks good, you’ll have peace of mind while using your fireplace. But if any issues are identified, you’ll be able to take care of them right away. Remember, don’t put off having minor chimney repairs resolved because they can turn into bigger problems. Or, even create risks for your household.

Schedule a Chimney Inspection

This is a great time of year to schedule an appointment with a Bay Area chimney cleaner to verify everything is working the way it should. Fall is ideal because it’s just beginning to get chilly at night.

So, if it’s been a while since your last chimney inspection, give us a call at The Irish Sweep. We’re here to answer all your questions. Contact us at (510) 521-4088.

Factors to Consider in Chimney Cleaning

Chimney cleaning is necessary to guarantee that a fireplace system remains safe to use. In fact, it’s a critical aspect of home maintenance, but the coronavirus pandemic has temporarily limited the availability of Bay Area chimney cleaning services. Still, these are some important factors for homeowners to be aware of before lighting the fireplace.

Key Points to Home Fire Safety

1. An inspection and cleaning are necessary at least once a year. If you haven’t had your chimney inspected or cleaned within the past year, it’s wise to hold off until you’re able to schedule an appointment.

2. Cleaning is also a good idea when animals or insects are found in your chimney. Some other signs it’s time to call your local chimney sweep include odors emanating from an unused system, or a fireplace the smokes. Smoky rooms often indicate a chimney blockage, or a buildup of creosote. Creosote has a dark, greasy appearance and it’s highly combustible, making it a fire hazard.

3. Lastly, be sure to seek professional guidance if you notice crumbling and/or missing fireplace or chimney bricks. Any damage to the system can cause poor airflow, and even prove hazardous to your health.

Hiring a Professional

Professional qualifications are another important factor to consider when thinking about chimney cleaning services. Always review the qualifications of a professional before you hire them.

Keep the following key points in mind… A chimney professional should have experience, as well as state certifications and licenses. Their knowledge should also extend beyond cleaning to include expertise in fireplace system inspection, repair, and installation. And finally, they should have a long-standing, positive history in the region. Don’t be afraid to ask for testimonials. A reputable company will be ready to provide new clients with this information.

Scheduling With Us

The Irish Sweep has provided premium Bay Area chimney cleaning and related services at an affordable price for nearly 40 years. Our team has the skills and experience to provide results in a fast, efficient, and safe manner. For more information, or to schedule a remote or future onsite appointment, contact us today at (510) 521-4088.

REDUCING CREOSOTE

Those who have wood burning fireplaces or stoves know the advantages to a wood burning fire. They are beautiful, warm, and give you a sense of calm. However, with wood burning fires, the buildup of creosote occurs. This goes through some tips to reducing creosote.

WHAT IS CREOSOTE?

When wood is burned, creosote builds up from the transformation. This builds up along the lining of the stove or chimney and becomes a hidden issue for the home. Just like the ash from the bottom of a fireplace needs to be cleaned up regularly. Creosote should be removed occasionally for the safety of the home and those living there. This is why annual chimney inspections are recommended.

These are some recommendations for reducing creosote buildup:

USE THE RIGHT WOOD

Wood that has less moisture and/or seasoned is the best wood to use. When the wood is in such a state, the fire will burn hotter and create less creosote. If the wood has a lot of moisture, it will still burn but at a lower degree. This leads to more smoke and creosote.

KEEP THE FIRE HOT

When a fire struggles to find its fuel (oxygen), it has a hard time getting hot enough to burn all the materials. By having a fire that is low in temperature, creosote buildup is higher.

DON’T LET IT DIE ON ITS OWN

It is common for fires to just be allowed to burn out. By having them die down, the fires are at a low temperature for a long period of time. This causes more creosote and a higher safety issue.

Creosote is a safety issue. Low temperatures and moisture increase creosote production. Therefore, use the right wood that is very dry and avoid having fires at low temperature. If you have questions or need a clean up, talk to our experts at The Irish Sweep.

HOW TO STORE YOUR FIREWOOD OUTDOORS

If you have a fireplace, then you have use for storing firewood. There is something rustic and cozy about having your own woodpile to feed winter fires. But the time to start saving wood is not winter! The time is now, so that your wood can dry and cure before you burn it.

STORING FIREWOOD

Curing happens when wind and sun are allowed to dry out moisture, preventing mildew and mold growth. This also creates ideal conditions for burning.

Whichever storage method you choose, pile your wood in a way that air can move between the logs and dry timber completely. To aid in this, it helps to split wood, but it’s not necessary to debark logs or to split small diameter branches. One of the best ways of piling wood is in alternating directions, so that each layer lies at a 90 degree angle to those above and below it.

There are several effective ways of storing firewood outdoors. However, they’re all designed for the same two key purposes: The primary objective when storing firewood is to keep it dry. Dry firewood is not only easier to burn but it also produces more heat and less creosote and smoke.  The second purpose is to protect the wood from weather that would re-wet it and from critters. Common firewood storage solutions include covers, storage sheds, and firewood storage racks.

WOOD RACKS

Firewood racks are raised log holders especially designed to increase airflow around and under your wood. Because of this, they allow sun and wind to more quickly and easily cure firewood. Since racks create space separating wood from the ground, they also help keep critters from making nests in the wood. However, racks have their limitations. They don’t provide protection against snow and rain. That’s why firewood racks are often used with covers.

WEATHER PROTECTIVE COVERS

The primary benefit of firewood covers is that they protect wood by keeping off wet weather. These waterproof covers aren’t designed for seasoning purposes, because they can restrict air flow. To get the most advantage from a firewood cover (or tarp) cover your woodpile right before rain, hail, or snow, and remove it when adverse weather has passed.

FIREWOOD STORAGE SHEDS

Firewood storage sheds can be both attractive and very functional! The structures can be built with 4, 3, or 2 walls, but always require a roof or overhang to protect wood from weather. If you’re creating a non-enclosed structure, make sure to place walls carefully to protect wood from inclement weather. A wood rack can be extremely useful in conjunction with a shed or structure, to keep protected wood off the ground.

Whatever tools or techniques you choose to utilize, the important focus is to dry your wood and protect it from threats like insects and mold. Be sure to split logs and choose a stacking technique that maximizes air flow, and you’ll do great.

If you have questions on the best way to store firewood, contact The Irish Sweep and talk to our experts.

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!

THE HIDDEN THREAT OF CHIMNEY FIRES

Most of us know the beauty of fires through the ones we see in our fireplaces. As we’ve seen wild fires burn throughout California, many of us have been reminded of the real dangers of fire.  The fire within a fireplace gives your warmth and comfort, and the chimney carries the gases from the fireplace and out from its top, providing you with safety in your home.

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