The Irish Sweep is still accepting calls to answer questions and schedule any service needs. However, no on-site visits are currently being conducted pursuant to the government's stay in place order. Please feel free to contact us at 510.521.4088 to get answers to your questions or schedule a future appointment.
The winter rains can cause a lot of damage and destruction. While your fireplace can keep you warm, it is also subject to harm during the cold season. An annual chimney inspection may uncover hidden water damage from these rains or obvious masonry repairs maybe noticeable. The summertime is an ideal time to make such fixes while the weather is good.
When we have a winter like the one we had with record rainfall, a chimney inspection is even more critical than ever. Add to this is the recent earthquakes. These combine to create a combination of scenarios where cracks may lead or have lead to water damage. Along with this, long winters also lead to higher use of chimneys which cause higher levels o buildup of creosote. This is your fireplaces enemy and can lead to safety hazards and corrosion.
Thus, the first thing you should do after a winter with high rain and cold spells is to schedule a chimney inspection before a new winter. This is a lot easier to do over the summer so you don’t have to try to schedule it in the middle of a cold spell. In addition, if repairs are needed, the rain won’t slow down the repair service.
As we discussed, a harsh winter makes chimney inspections even more important to identify chimney damage. Just like with most repairs, time can make the condition worse. Thus, it is imperative that you start repairs as soon as possible.
Since we are approaching Fall, the timing for repairs has become even more critical. It is a huge safety risk to have a damaged chimney or fireplace. Should you start a fire and your chimney is damaged, it could lead to even bigger problems like water seeping into parts of your home from winter rain or even a fire getting ignited.
One are where damage may exist is the masonry. Most of the time, this can solved by replacing damaged masonry. It is critical to use the proper materials to fix it or you could damage the underlying integrity of the chimney.
Some other areas that may need repairs are the flue, liner, firebox, or smoke chamber. Each of these poses its own hazards. Inspections can identify any harm so you can get it remedied quickly.
Call The Irish Sweep if you are uncertain of the damage or have chimney repairs you need done before the next set of winter storms.
Fireplaces are a captivating home feature and a cozy source of warmth. But as eye-catching as a fireplace may be, it is often forgotten in the grand scheme of home maintenance and repair.
We recommend getting your chimney and fireplace inspected by a professional once a year but, in the meantime, there are plenty of proactive measures you can take.
Here are five useful tips to keep your fireplace safe in any season:
1. Keep Your Chimney Top Clean
First, make sure you’ve installed a chimney cap to keep mother earth outside. Because animals like to seek refuge in there, the Humane Society of the United States recommends using a stainless-steel chimney cap with wire mesh to prevent their access. Clean the cap if it becomes clogged. You can use a wire brush to remove debris from the mesh.
While you’re up there, examine the brick mortar for cracks or flakiness. Caulk is a great waterproof filler to patch any damage.
2. Contain The Flame
Gusts of wind from storms can shoot down the chimney and blow embers all over your favorite (and flammable) furnishing. Installing glass screens keeps your fire insulated and protects your home and loved ones.
These screens should be open during the full blaze to maximize airflow. Doing so will promote combustion and minimize the buildup of creosote. Make sure to clear the hearth space of furniture, Christmas trees and other flammable decorations to avoid igniting wandering embers.
3. Don’t Neglect Your Detectors
Check your carbon monoxide detector’s batteries and invest in a quality smoke detector.
The American Society of Home Inspectors suggests a photoelectric detector, which works by aiming light into a sensing chamber and detecting the entrance of smoke through the chamber via reflected light. A photoelectric detector works best for smoldering fires.
Also, don’t burn trash or old tree branches. They will produce more smoke than productive blaze and risk setting off your alarms.
4. Keep It Clean
Ensure your fireplace and your chimney are clean prior to your fire burning season.
To check if it’s time for a sweeping, take a flashlight and your fireplace poker and scratch the black surface above the smoke chamber. If the scratch in creosote is extremely thin, you can leave it a bit longer until your next sweep.
But if you have ¼ inch or more of creosote, do not light another fire until the chimney has been swept out. For a thorough job, we recommend calling a professional.
Pro tip: Ashes and creosote can be a source of calcium for your plants.
5. Install and Use Fireplace Dampers
Dampers are used to let smoke out during fires and keep heat inside when the chimney is not in use.
Ensure that the damper or flue is open for the entire duration of fire burning and wait until the embers have stopped burning before closing your dampers. The damper can also be checked by looking up into the chimney with a flashlight or mirror.
For a complete and comprehensive fireplace safety analysis, leave it to the professionals. Contact us for thorough inspections and cleanings if you think your fireplace is ready for a sweep.
Keeping your chimney safe is an essential part of keeping your whole home safe. Keep an eye out for these 6 essential warning signs that your chimney needs repair.
A Smoky Or Smelly Home
A smoky or smelly home can mean your chimney liner is not working properly. Chimney liners, with clay being the most popular, are channels inside of the chimney that contain and direct combustion products outside, protecting the chimney from corrosion. If these fumes are not redirected, the consequences on your health can be severe.
Unfortunately, it is not always easy to spot liner damage. Consider calling a professional if you detect an overly smoky odor from your chimney.
Flakes Or Shards Of Tile/Ceramic In Your Hearth
On the topic of chimney liners, watch out for bits of flue lining in your firebox. Flue liner “shaling” occurs with time and can lead to a host of consequences, as indicated above.
The purpose of the liner is to protect the surrounding home, including combustible materials around your fireplace. Get an inspection to determine whether to replace or repair the lining.
White Staining On The Chimney’s Exterior
Efflorescence the name given to the effect created when a white residue of minerals and salts comes to the surface of concrete and mortar. It is a sign that water is leaking into your chimney system and is indicative of present or future structural deterioration.
When the chimney has disintegrated materials or is missing a cap, rain water can more easily make its way into the walls. This can be a sign your chimney needs repair or additional protective structures to prevent further damage.
Cracks In The Chimney Crown
On the topic of water damage, let’s discuss the dangers of crown cracks. If you’ve noticed air or water coming in through the fireplace, there may be cracks in the mortar around your chimney. As the cracks grow, so do structural problems so have these repaired quickly to maintain safety.
Stained Ceiling Or Walls
We’ve been talking a lot about the dangers of moisture and stained ceilings or walls around the chimney as these are great signs that your chimney may need repair.
Look out for dark patches, dampness, and stains and take steps to investigate the issue. There are countless DIY conversations happening online on websites and forums to help you troubleshoot, but as always, it’s important to reach out to a professional if unsure.
A Chimney Fire
Loud cracking and popping? Dense smoke and intense smell? These are signs of a chimney fire.
Flue fires are caused by the release of hydrocarbon gases from heated wood. At around 1100 degrees F, unburned gases condense and harden into creosote.
Creosote is highly flammable and triggers chimney fires. Chimney fires can cause the masonry to expand to the point of blowing out, which in the worst cases means room explosions.
To tell if you’ve had a chimney fire, look for warped metal in the damper, cracks in exterior masonry, smoke escaping through the mortar, or heat damaged TV antennas.
If you’re concerned, call your local chimney sweep for an inspection as soon as possible.
Keeping your chimney safe and in good condition means you can enjoy your fireplace in comfort, peace, and safety.
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.
Chimney removal is often advised, but many homeowners put it off, not considering the benefits of full chimney removal. Many homes have been built with fireplaces for heating, and they also have chimneys. As time has provided the innovation of other, more efficient heating methods, fireplaces and chimneys may not be used so often. Here we look at 5 reasons that you should consider having your chimney removed.
Chimneys keep you warm and can provide a home with a beautiful focal point. However, they can hold hidden dangers and it’s important to regularly check for these signs. Failure to do so can lead to very expensive, dangerous, and preventable conditions.