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.

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?

 

Traditional festive christmas decorated fireplace with candles

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.

 

mirrors on a mantel

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.

 

california desert winter mantle

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.

 

 

mantel decorations for winter

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.

 

 

A Beautiful scene of a christmas fireplace with stockings on the mantle.

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.

 

 

monochromatic fireplace decor

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.

wood burning insert, firebox, fireplace upgradeEveryone loves the look of an open fire in a brick fireplace. It’s classic, familiar, beautiful. Did you know it’s also wasteful, inefficient and less clean than a wood burning fireplace insert would be?

The design of an open fireplace allows a large portion of the heat generated to leave through the chimney. Wood burning inserts allow you to have efficient design and classic good looks, both! They work as a more efficient burners in the setting of a traditional fireplace. Wood burning fireplace inserts release less smoke and emissions than open fire and provide even better heating results. Inserts are used to convert traditional stone and brick fireplaces, which are inefficient and polluting, into effective heating systems.

 

How Does a Fireplace Insert Work?

A fireplace insert is similar to a wood stove that’s been modified to fit within the firebox of a masonry fireplace. An insert consists of a firebox surrounded by a steel shell. Air from the room flows between the firebox and shell, taking heat back into the room. Heat distributor fans can be turned on to push heat into the home. They generally have glass doors for safety and you can see vents above, below, or next to the firebox for the circulation of air and heat.

 

Must You Sacrifice Form for Function?

In a short answer, no. Wood burning inserts are actually very natural looking in the setting of an existing fireplace. In fact, many homeowners build their original masonry fireplace with a Wood Burning Insert structure from the beginning because of their rugged good looks and great efficiency. Many people don’t even realize that fireplaces are outfitted with Wood Burning Inserts because the look is so familiar.

 

Why Choose a Wood Burning Insert over Keeping Your Old Fireplace

While it’s certainly possible that your old fireplace may have been dangerous, and a wood burning insert is the safest solution, most people choose them for their advantages.

 

Environmentally Friendly

Wood is actually very environmentally friendly because it is a renewable, sustainable resource and is considered carbon-neutral to burn by the Carbon Trust. Did you know that if wood were naturally decaying in the woods, it would release the same amount of carbon as it does burning in your hearth? Today’s wood burning inserts combust the harmful fire byproducts that a traditional fireplace releases into the atmosphere. They emit less than 1 gram of smoke per hour, which exceeds the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean air standards.

 

Energy Efficient

Some wood burning insert models have over 80% efficiency. The dual combustion system within a wood burning fireplace insert is what generates a hotter, longer lasting fire. The venting system prevents heat from quickly escaping up the chimney and fans push heated air into your home instead. With the right insert you can easily heat a large living space. You’ll go hours without having to add fuel to the fire.

 

Cost Effective

One load of wood can burn for up to 8 hours in the right fireplace insert, saving you on wood costs. Also, the heat provided to your home can allow you to zone heat through the cold months, instead of using a furnace system to heat the entire home. But the advantages are not reserved for winter! Insulation is placed around a fireplace insert during installation. This prevents cool air from escaping during the summer and hot air from leaking out during the winter. The glass doors of the insert also prevent downdraft problems, keeping your home well insulated.

 

Reduced Maintenance Costs

Fireplaces with a wood burning insert do need annual chimney cleaning, but an insert will reduce the cost of repairing and maintaining your fireplace through the years. With the installation of a fireplace insert, the integrity of a fireplace is fortified without the high price of rebuilding or renovating a masonry fireplace. Replacing or repairing a damaged insert is also significantly less expensive than repairing a masonry fireplace.

 

A Wide Range of Looks and Features

Wood Burning Fireplace Inserts come in styles from slick and sleek, to traditional and ornate. The aesthetic range of offerings is almost overwhelming! You’ll surely find something that fits your style in the available selections. Inserts can also offer features not available with traditional fireplaces, like thermostat control, heat distributor fans and self-cleaning glass.

If you have any questions about wood burning fireplace inserts, just ask us at The Irish Sweep.

 

 

 

 

Many older homes have fireplaces that hearken back to a time when fire was relied on as a major heating source. However, with the advent of central heating, your fireplace may no longer be in use, and be kept for decoration and pleasure. Fireplaces make a great centerpiece for a room, making it look more classic and even stately. Fireplaces are becoming standard features even in areas of the country with warm climates, where a fire is not even practical.

Many people never use their fireplaces because there’s no need or because they don’t really like fires. You may think that if you never use your fireplace, you can get away with never having it cleaned or having chimney maintenance. There are many reasons you still need to have your fireplace serviced.

 

Chimney Maintenance Protects a Whole Home

 

If your fireplace is powered by gas or oil, then it is connected to the larger systems in your home. A malfunction in your fireplace, if left unnoticed, could have greater repercussions on the functioning of your central heating, water heater, and stove. These are resources and appliances that you likely do use every day. Having your fireplace regularly maintained helps catch problems before they grow into something worse and harder to address.

Your gas burning fireplace chimney is also connected to the exhaust venting for your whole-home. This is the path that toxic gases and by-products (such as dangerous carbon monoxide) leave the home. If there is a blockage, these things can’t exit, which is very dangerous.

 

Keeps the Chimney Clear

 

You may know that when you have a wood-burning fireplace that you use, the chimney can become coated with creosote. Oil-fueled fireplaces can also generate soot. These substances can become dangerous and flammable when they build up in the chimney, risking a fire if left unattended.

Now, you may be thinking that if you don’t use your fireplace there’s no reason to have that chimney cleaned. After all, there is no soot or creosote built up and no risk of fire. However, with the use of other oil-fueled appliances, soot can build up in the chimney system, which needs to be cleaned. Left unchecked, that soot build-up can lead to flue deterioration or cause blockages that prevent fumes from exiting.

Many more things than creosote can enter and block your wood-burning chimney. Leaves and debris can blow into the chimney opening and create a block. Insects and rodents can also enter and set up nests. This is even more likely when the chimney is not frequently used. Their nests block the chimney and they may leave behind materials that over time decay and cause a foul odor.

 

Maintains Chimney Structure

 

Even when you don’t use your fireplace, the structure of the chimney is there, extending to the exterior of your home and exposed to the elements. Weather events such as storms, drought, and earthquakes can all effect the structural integrity of your chimney. It is important to have your chimney inspected, maintained, and repaired when damage occurs, to protect your entire home structure from chimney collapse.

There are many reasons to have fireplace and chimney maintenance, even if you don’t regularly use your fireplace. Consulting with a professional fireplace maintenance company can be helpful. A professional chimney sweep company can even put you on a cleaning schedule, according to their safety recommendations, so you will be assured regular cleaning and maintenance, without needing to keep track of it yourself.

 

As winter approaches, you may be looking forward to cozy days around the fire. If you are lucky enough to have a wood burning fireplace, it can be easy to neglect through most of the year up until time to set up that first winter fire. Wood burning fireplaces do require chimney cleaning, inspections, and maintenance. Now you may be wondering, why should I have my chimney cleaned and when?

Advantages of Regular Chimney Cleaning

As wood burns in your fireplace it releases smoke and ash, and over time, creosote can build up. If you have not heard of creosote, it is a flammable substance that builds up like a glaze, coating the interior of your chimney. Creosote needs to be removed regularly so it doesn’t build up and prevent the flow of smoke leaving the chimney. Also, because creosote is flammable, it needs to be removed to prevent chimney fires.

You should have your chimney inspected at least yearly and cleaned as needed. If you recently purchased a home, have the chimney inspected before using the fireplace. Regular maintenance and cleaning help to prevent larger problems and more expensive repairs. Having your chimney inspected, cleaned, and maintained each year will help keep your home and family safe.

When professionals clean your chimney, they remove soot and dangerous creosote built up on the interior. They will also check for any blockages, which could cause smoke to build up in your home if not removed. A professional will make sure everything is in working order for safe and effective operation.

chimney cleaning, the right time to clean your chimney, get your chimney swept.Advantages of Spring or Early Summer Chimney Cleaning

Some say that spring is the best time to have your chimney inspected and cleaned. This is because winter weather might have damaged the masonry, which you would want to catch and repair right away during warm summer months. Additionally, a spring cleaning will get you ready for fall and winter fires, well ahead of the peak cleaning season, so you can avoid waitlists and have it done quickly.

Advantages of Late Summer or Fall Cleaning for your Chimney

Others would argue that fall is the better time to have your chimney cleaned. This is because when your fireplace has not been used in a while, such as during the spring and summer months, pests can enter and set up their homes. Rodents and birds can build nests that clog the chimney. This could be dangerous as smoke is then unable to flow through, and additional creosote could build up, increasing flammability.

Contracting a chimney cleaning company that will provide regular inspections and cleaning is your easiest option. They will remind you when it is time for your inspections. Given the advantage of both spring and fall cleanings, you may opt to have them both in order to maintain your fireplace if you use it often. During inspections, the professionals will look for any problems, clean as needed, and perform or recommend necessary maintenance on your chimney. This can all help to prevent more serious operational issues and maintain a healthy, efficient function of your fireplace all year round.

At the Irish Sweep, we strive to stay ahead of the latest information and details in our industry through continuing education.  The owner, Sal McKnight, attended a class over the weekend that was taught by Bob Ferrari, a master outdoorsman.  During the seminar, Sal learned some important safety precautions as it relates to harnesses and helmets on the worksite.  In addition, she obtained details about the challenges to some of the OSHA regulations as it relates to our industry.  Check Sal out as she climbs this makeshift roof setting.  In the photo, she is climbing up an 18/12 pitched roof.  Once a roof pitch reaches 8/12 and higher it’s very dangerous to walk.

 

We will continue to learn, grow, and benefit from such continuing education classes in order to provide our customers with the highest level of service.

Orinda Danville Chimney Masonry Repair

 

 

 

Chimney masonry repair helps to correct damage and restore the structure to the bricks and mortar of your chimney. While masonry repair is an essential task to keep your chimney safe, many homeowners don’t know how to recognize the signs that a chimney masonry repair is due. Here we look at 4 key signs that you need a chimney masonry repair.

Mortar Worn Away From Between Chimney Bricks

Weather and wear can first affect the softer mortar that fills the space between each brick or stone. Signs of deteriorating mortar joints include mortar crumbling and eroding from the mortar joints or a complete lack of mortar where it’s worn away between the bricks. Mortar repairs, also known as chimney repointing, involve replacing and filling in the joints of brickwork with new mortar. Chimney masonry repair and repointing should be done in warmer months when the mortar can set up correctly, however small repairs can be made using an accelerant mixed in the mortar during winter months.

Cracks In The Masonry And Mortar

Another sign of chimney masonry damage is visible cracks in the bricks or mortar. This can be caused by prolonged weather damage or wear. It’s important to repair chimney cracks rapidly as a cracked chimney can accelerate damage to the remaining bricks and mortar as well as increasing the risk of chimney collapse. Repointing the chimney may help to replace cracked mortar, but larger repairs such as the removal and replacement of bad bricks or a complete or partial tear down may be necessary depending on the damage.

Spalling Bricks

Spalling bricks are caused when moisture and the freeze/thaw cycle disrupt the structure of the bricks and causes them to fail. This causes the brick faces to pop off when water inside the brick freezes in the winter and expands pushing the brick structure outwards. Many chimneys are built with soft style breaks that absorb moisture out more readily and are more prone to spalling. If you notice spalling bricks on your chimney it’s a sign that your chimney needs masonry repair as soon as possible to prevent further deterioration or collapse.

Leaning or Crumbling Chimney

A leaning chimney can either mean that the foundation of the chimney is not right or that there has been movement between the house and the chimney. This can be a difficult problem to diagnose as the foundation of the chimney must be inspected for stability and safety. In many cases this can lead to the need for the chimney to be torn down and rebuilt. A crumbling chimney can be due to cracked bricks or a cracked crown that hasn’t been repaired. If a chimney has already started to significantly crumble or bricks have fallen, it’s essential to have the chimney inspected as soon as possible. The chimney may need to be removed or rebuilt to prevent further damage to your chimney or home.

While many homeowners can ignore a damaged chimney, particularly if it’s not being used, that doesn’t mean that an unstable chimney doesn’t pose a threat to your home. If your chimney shows any signs of needing masonry repair contact your local chimney sweep or chimney specialist as soon as possible to provide a thorough inspection and diagnosis.

Dryer Vents, Cleaning, Berkeley Chimney, Berkeley Dryer Vents, Orinda Chimney, Orinda Dryer Vents, Oakland Dryer Vents, Oakland Chimney, Lafayette Chimney

 

Although hidden and out of sight, dryer vents perform a vital role in your home. Dryer vents remove hot exhaust air from your clothes dryer to ensure effective and safe operation. However, through the process of drying your clothes and with repetitive use, dryer vents can become clogged with lint, dust and other debris. Cleaning your dryer vent on a regular basis is critical. Not only does this help maintain the efficient functioning of your dryer, cleaning ensures your entire home remains safe.

Why Cleaning Dryer Vents Is Important

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, 15,450 house fires in 2010 were caused by home dryer machines, and the majority of these (32%) were triggered by dryer vents that hadn’t been cleaned. These fires greatly threaten the safety of homes and families as well as cause millions of dollars of damage to property.

Dryer vent fires most often occur due to lint and other debris that builds up in the vents after repeated dryer use. Lint is made up of small fabric fibers and dust particles that are released from clothes when they are washed. Lint is naturally highly flammable, and combined with the heat from a clothes dryer, can quickly kindle a fire. Clothes dryer fires can often cause significant damage to a home before they can be controlled.

Not only can clogged dryer vents lead to fires, they also reduce the efficiency of your dryer, provide the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning, and promote conditions for the spread of mold and allergens. As dryer vents become clogged and the machine has to work harder to remove exhaust, the dryer efficiency drops and your energy consumption climbs. Without being fully removed by the dryer vent, carbon monoxide can leach into your home causing death or long term poisoning. The buildup of lint and dust in the warm moist environment can also lead to mold growth and excess dust mites. Mold and dust mites can make your whole family ill, while potentially triggering severe allergies or asthma in those who are susceptible.

Keep Dryer Vents Clean

Although uncleaned and clogged dryer vents are the leading cause of dryer machine fires, they can be easily prevented with proper dryer vent maintenance and cleaning. One of the simplest things you can do to prevent dryer vent fires is to ensure you remove lint from your dryer filter before and after each load, to eliminate lint buildup. Although this won’t reach all the potential lint buildup in your dryer, it can help to reduce the total lint burden in your dryer.

Another essential component of home dryer maintenance is inspecting your outer vent flap to ensure that it is not obstructed by any debris or build up.

Professional Dryer Vent Cleaning

Professional dryer vent cleaning is an essential aspect of your dryer vent maintenance. While checking your dryer vent yourself at home can help to minimize build up and reduce the chances of a fire, professional dryer vent cleaning can reach areas of the vent that you can’t reach alone. No matter how good your regular dryer vent cleaning is, you will always require professional dryer vent cleaning from time to time. Authorities recommend having your dryer vent professionally inspected and cleaned at least once a year for greater dryer vent safety and performance.

 

Dryer vent maintenance is an essential aspect of keeping your home safe and efficient. Maintain and clean your dryer vent regularly at home and book professional dryer vent cleaning services at least once a year to remove long term lint buildup.

Wood burning in fireplaces, though very comforting, have adverse effects on the environment. (Mathew Sumner/San Mateo County Times)Inserts are either gas or wood burning, could be pellet but we see very few of these in the Bay Area.  They are a highly engineered metal box, fabricated in a factory and designed to be clean burning and they slide into the firebox of either a masonry or factory built fireplace.

 

The manufacturer of each of these inserts will specify the venting materials required for the insert, the clearances to combustibles and provide installation directions for each model they manufacture.  These appliances have all been tested and approved by some testing laboratory.

Factory Built Fireplace, Oakland, Berkeley, Alamo, Lafayette, Orinda, Pleasant Hill, Concord, Danville, Blackhawk, Dryer Vent CleaningThis is a fireplace and chimney system that was manufactured in a factory (as the name implies) out of metal.  It is a modular system of component parts that was brought to a job site and installed once the wood framing for the house was in place.  It has a firebox lined with refractory panels, with a damper at the top of the firebox and lengths of double or triple-walled chimney place on top to form a complete fireplace and chimney system.  The chimney above the roofline may be enclosed by a wooden chase.

It has many slang names (which I refuse to use) but some of you may know this fireplace as a Z-Can, ZC, Zero Clearance fireplace (which is a misnomer) as clearances to combustibles are required.  I’ve heard some people refer to it as an insert, which is totally incorrect.