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.
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.
Homes that have chimneys and/or fireplaces are ones with parts that may seem simple but with parts that are unfamiliar. Most only know of these two and maybe the flue and/or damper. However, there are other areas of your chimney that are even more important like the fireplace insert, liner, or even smoke chamber. These are the areas that handle the smoke created by your fires.
As with anything with fire, there is always a danger. Having proper lining and airflow are critical to your safety. If there is buildup, it provide fuel for a potential fire. When the key areas are damaged, parging is required.
THE SMOKE CHAMBER
For instance, this space is shaped like an inverted funnel to direct air up into the flue. It also features a wall that is straight up, and one that is at an angle and a shelf called a “smoke shelf” which prevents the smoke from falling back into the fireplace. The smoke chamber walls should be parged
A chimney is generally angled towards a flue to ensure maximum airflow. The surrounding area is then covered in a protective layer to have a smooth coat. This is called parging. By creating this smooth area that goes towards the flue, it creates the ideal flow of air through the chimney system. In addition, it allows the surrounding area to be protected and keep temperatures manageable to protect against a fire hazard.
An annual chimney inspection particularly one using a camera allows a full scale analysis of your fireplace and chimney system to ensure the coating is still there and any other damage that may exist within the area. This is a preventive mechanism to protect against fire hazards and other concerns.
The camera inspections could uncover several things. For instance, if the chimney has cracks or water damage, it would show. If the parging is damaged or non-existent, the camera inspection would show the need to reapply.
At The Irish Sweep, we strongly recommend annual inspections to ensure yours and your family’s safety. If you have questions or have doubts, contact us today.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
A fireplace is the visual center of any room. Even when it’s not in use, it’s an attention draw. Here are some ways you can take care of your fireplace needs during dormant months and also keep it attractive and interesting as part of your home.
HIRE A CHIMNEY SWEEP IN EARLY SUMMER
Summer is the best time to get your chimneys cleaned and inspected by a professional chimney sweep; because you’re not using them. It’s also after spring and before fall: the perfect time for new animal nests and other fire hazards to be removed. It’s super important to get your chimney safety inspected annually, and in most cases, cleaned annually too. When you hire a pro, you know that any safety issue you have will be noted and dealt with. Inspecting your chimney yourself is not a safe substitute. Without the proper knowledge and tools, something could be missed that would compromise the structure of your home or could cause a fire.
CLEAN THE FIREPLACE
-Always check to make sure your cleanser isn’t flammable. When cleaning brick or stone; cleansers are very difficult to clean off and it’s a serious fire hazard if yours is flammable.
-Be very careful with bleach, it can fade stone. If there is bleach in your cleaning solution, use it with caution and very sparingly. Consider diluting it and testing your cleaning solution in an inconspicuous place before continuing. Wait till 24 hours before deciding it’s non-damaging.
-Never clean a fireplace while it’s in use, hot, or warm from use.
-Remove the ashes and debris from the firebox before cleaning the fireplace face. This will keep you and it cleaner, and prevent your inhaling ash while cleaning.
FIREPLACE DECORATING TIPS
Every home has its own style, and your fireplace will look and feel best if you give it some of your personality. Once the fireplace is all clean and new looking, of course you can fill it will some beautiful logs, placed as though you were going to burn them. But you don’t have to play it so safe. What do you find attractive in a home?
-Fill the fireplace with candles. Either all pillars of varying heights, all tapers of the same height but different colors, candle holders or none, whatever appeals to you. Light them and watch the flames flicker without adding notable heat to the home.
-If you want the movement and life of fire, but no heat at all, put a mirror in the firebox. You can even paint a mirror so that only a flame-shaped area reflects.
-You can fill the fireplace with greenery or blooming flowers lying in the inner hearth, or place vases full of flowers in the firebox.
-Fill the entire firebox, top to bottom, with firewood cut to the same length, with the ends facing the room. This makes a clean, natural look.
-Place a painting, drawing, collage, or photograph on a table-top style easel in the fireplace.
-Find a fireplace cover that will blend in with hearth-front materials, blending in as thought it there were no firebox behind it.
-Find a fireplace screen that is a work of art in itself, something you like to look at, and leave it up in the summer.
-Fill old wine bottles of various shapes and sizes with water and put some twinkle lights behind and between them. When you turn your light string on, the water will refract the light beautifully.
-If you’re a jokester, you can fill the inner hearth with books or other things that you wouldn’t normally burn.
To start the summer chimney maintenance, your first step in getting your chimney and flue cleaned and inspected. Then clean your fireplace front, and decorate your space to match your style! Contact the Irish Sweep to schedule a chimney inspection today.
Do you know how to care for your chimney? If you’re wondering what I mean by that, you probably don’t. Which is why you need to learn basic chimney care! As your go-to heating option in the colder months, you’ll want to make sure it’s ready to warm up your home when the weather starts to get chilly. The truth is, not many people think about their chimney much, which is why problems arise when they want to use it. To avoid these problems, here are some basic tips on home chimney care:
1. ALWAYS LEAVE SOME ASH
Although you’ll want to clean the firebox monthly when it’s in use, a clean firebox retains about an inch of ash. This allows your fires to stay strong and retain heat easier.
2. HIRE A CHIMNEY SWEEP
For safety, you’ll want to call a chimney sweep to not only clean it, but also provide an inspection of the fireplace and chimney. They’ll look for any damage or evidence of creosote, which is a tar-like buildup. Do this at least once a year before you begin using the fireplace again.
3. CLEAR THE AREA
As part of basic fire safety, you’ll want to keep the fireplace area clear for the entire fire burning season. Not just while a fire is burning. Any furniture should be at least 36” away from the fireplace to avoid any sparks igniting it, which can be a fire hazard. No flammable decor or plants near the fire.
4. ENSURE THERE’S A CHIMNEY CAP
You’ll want to make sure that your chimney has a cap to prevent any birds from building nests inside or any animals from climbing it. Most importantly, it keeps the flue and fireplace dry, which prevents the breakdown of the materials your chimney is made of.
5. MAKE SURE THAT THE DAMPER IS CLOSED
The damper is the hinged flap that’s above the fireplace and it controls how much air passes through the chimney. You’ll want to leave it open when a fire is on, but close it when it’s out to prevent any heat loss inside your home.