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.

insurance claim, insurance claims, chimney inspection, chimney cleaning

 

 

In a moment of planning, you may ask yourself “is my home insurance still valid if I don’t have proof that my chimney is properly maintained?” The answer is, that if something happens involving your chimney or fireplace, no. It’s likely not.

Many insurance policies specify that your chimney and fireplace are only insured when properly maintained. They may not ask you for proof of proper maintenance until you file a claim, but they will want it then. Your chimney is a vulnerable spot in your home’s defense against the elements. Even when covered by a chimney cap, the typical brick chimney presents a large vertical opening to the rain and snow. The mortar of chimney crowns can crack, and lightning can damage the bricks.

Fire statistics show that each year on average over 30 thousand houses have chimney fires. Chimney fires can not only destroy homes but also endanger the occupiers of the dwelling.

Homeowner’s insurance can cover damage to your property caused by sudden and unforeseen events such as fires, flash floods, lightning strikes, and wind damage. In the case of a chimney, an insurance company will closely scrutinize the facts and evidence in the claim. Your policy might exclude damage caused by poor maintenance or normal wear and tear on your house.

 

What Should You Do?

Have a camera-assisted inspection. This creates documentation of the condition your chimney is in, and allows you to know without a doubt whether your chimney is in safe condition for wood burning. The images will reveal whether you need repair, and what repair options are right for you if so. That way, when you do have a fire you can do so knowing your chimney is fully functional.

Not only is sweeping and inspecting your chimney a good idea in general, your home insurance policy may require it. So if you haven’t already, you’ll want to check with them for exact expectations they have regarding sweeping or inspecting your chimney.

 

Your Insurance Claim

Insurance companies differ in their approach to fires that may be caused by a lack of chimney cleaning. There are two dangers to not having a clean chimney: the fire itself and how the insurance company with handle it. Whether your policy is clear or ambiguous, you’ll fare better if you have documentation of annual chimney cleaning.

If a fire occurs you may be required by the terms of your policy to produce a cleaning certificate. However, whether or not required, without it the insurance company could refuse to pay out. If they believe a fire was caused by your failure to have regular chimney cleaning and inspections, your insurance claim won’t be paid.

Whatever the terms of your policy (and the difficulty of proving negligence), the greatest risk may, of course, be to your own personal safety. Also if a fire causes injury or death to third parties, you could well face civil or even criminal proceedings.

You need your chimney flue and ventilation pipes cleaned at least once a year. Having annual chimney sweep service will ensure you’re fulfilling your insurance obligations. Make sure to read your policy carefully. Most policies will require professional chimney sweeping annually. If you need to make a claim, having a recent chimney sweeping certificate shows that you actively maintain your home.

 

Do All Chimney Sweeps Provide Certificates for their Work?

All qualified chimney sweeps provide written documentation of their work. You may receive a digital or paper receipt. This is for the homeowner’s peace of mind and to fulfill insurance conditions.

In Conclusion, contact the Irish Sweep to discuss chimney and fire safety. You’ll benefit from using a quality professional chimney sweep.

fireplace style refresh, interior design fireplace upgradeIs your fireplace style looking tired, outdated, or even damaged? You might consider restoring your fireplace to make it more attractive and more useable. Here are five outstanding fireplace restoration ideas from the economical to the indulgent!

1. Budget Friendly Coat of Paint

One easy, budget-friendly, and possibly even do-it-yourself approach, is to paint your fireplace. Many people choose to paint their fireplace and mantle white, which can give it a nice, clean, and neutral look. You might choose black paint for a striking and modern appearance. You can also select a color to match your interests and design aesthetic. For example, go bold with a bright red, which would really make the fireplace into a centerpiece of your room. You can also create a unique design with hand-painted patterns or stencils.

2. Go Rustic with a Whitewash

If paint seems too much for you and your design style is a little more rustic, then you can try a whitewash on your fireplace. If you are not familiar with whitewashing, visit this how-to article. You are left with a white coating that is light in color and somewhat faint, perhaps still showing the bricks underneath. If you choose whitewash, you might select a reclaimed wood mantle to complete the look.

3. Add Stone, Brick, or Tile Designs

If brick is not your style you can instead have your fireplace restored with a stone or tile facade or overlay. For a natural and timeless look that will fit in with any other décor choices, you could choose a natural stone-look concrete overlay for your fireplace restoration. For modern lofts, a subway-style tile finish might be the best choice. If you prefer an eclectic look, you can choose patterned tiles that have old-world, unique, and home-made charm.

4. Go Upscale with Marble Tiles

If your budget allows, you can turn your fireplace style into a real marvel with marble. You can also take that marble completely up hearth and wall for an incredible accent to your room. This will give the fireplace a classic and modern look. Marble is pricier, but it is a great investment because it lasts forever, and it is very easy to keep clean.

5. Add a Salvaged Mantlepiece

If modern designs are not to your liking and if you enjoy design pieces that have a bit of history, you can easily bring well-loved architectural pieces into your home with a salvaged mantlepiece. When old homes are torn down, the mantlepiece can often be removed and then reused again. This can easily be affixed over your fireplace. These often have incredible craftsmanship and when you go this route, what you get will likely be one of a kind. Whether you integrate an old-fashioned fireplace in a more modern home for a transitional look or maintain a traditional décor, a salvaged mantlepiece is can be a beautiful focal point in your home.

If you are installing or restoring a fireplace, work with an expert. They’ll be able to make sure the job is done right and the fireplace is structurally sound and ready for use. The experts at Irish Sweep can help you restore your fireplace for a refreshed and secure result.

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.

Bay chimney sweep, smoke from fireplace, chimney cleaning

If smoke is coming out of your fireplace instead of going up the chimney it indicates there’s an issue that you need to correct. A smoky fireplace is not only unpleasant it can also be a health and fire hazard in your home. Here we look at some of the causes of smoky fireplaces and what you or a San Francisco Bay chimney sweep can do to alleviate the problem and improve air quality.

Chimney Needs To Be Cleaned

One of the reasons that smoke may not be able to exit through your chimney is because the chimney is blocked with creosote buildup. Without smoke being able to exit your home through the chimney, it instead since spills out of the fireplace and fills your rooms. You should have your chimney inspected and cleaned at least once yearly, and immediately if you notice any change in the performance of your fireplace. If it’s been a while since you’ve had your chimney cleaned, a blockage or build up in your chimney could be the culprit of a smoky fireplace.

Damper Is Closed Or Broken

The damper allows air flow through your fireplace with which is essential to feed the flame and create an airflow through your chimney. If the damper is closed, your fireplace will smoke and the smoke will not pass out through the chimney. Check that your damper is fully open when you’re starting to light the fire. If you still experience problems with a smoky fireplace it might be worthwhile having a professional North Bay chimney sweep look at the top of the chimney to check the rain cap or chimney top damper that might be obstructed.

Flue Is Obstructed

Blockages in the flue can be caused by anything ranging from creosote buildup to a birds nest or dead animal stuck in the flue. Having a professional inspected thoroughly clean the chimney flue can help reestablish airflow and reduce chimney smokiness again.

Chimney Is Too Cold Or It’s Too Warm Outside

When the chimney is too cold, the layer of cold air in the chimney can block the smoke from rising to the top of the chimney and instead pushes smoke out of the fireplace. This problem can be fixed by preheating the chimney by either lighting the end of the newspaper and holding it up to the damper for a little while, or blowing hot air from a hairdryer up the chimney to warm the air and establish airflow.

Negative Air Pressure Inside The House

Negative air pressure inside the house can be caused by airtight insulation or exhaust fans within the house. Negative internal air pressure can prevent the fireplace from drafting correctly which causes smoke to flow inside the house rather than out through the chimney. You can correct negative air pressure by opening a window in the fireplace room while burning.

Wet Firewood

Wet firewood is a common cause of smoky fireplaces. Wet firewood smolders or makes hissing sounds while burning, and can’t create sufficient heat for the chimney to draw well. Ensure you use dry wood to build your fire to prevent an overly smoky and smoldering fireplace.

Faulty Fireplace Design

And incorrect or poorly built fireplace will not be able to draw in air properly and have smoke vent through the chimney correctly either. If you’ve exhausted all other reasons for your overly smoky fire place it could be that your actual fireplace design is faulty. Have a fireplace professional inspect the dimensions and measurements of your fireplace to ensure that it’s actually functional.

A smoky fireplace can contribute to greater fire risk and increased air pollution in your home. Correct a faulty smoky fireplace as quickly as possible by calling an East Bay chimney sweep or fireplace professional to inspect your problem and provide the right solution.

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.

Wood burning in fireplaces, though very comforting, have adverse effects on the environment. (Mathew Sumner/San Mateo County Times)FLUE:  Most people say to me, “Will you close the flue once you complete the cleaning process?”  What they are really asking me to do is to close the damper.

So what is the definition of the word flue?  The chimney Safety Institute of America defines this word as, “The passage in a chimney for conveying flue gases to the outside atmosphere.”

And Webster’s Dictionary defines this word as, “A channel or pipe in a chimney for carrying flame and smoke to the outer air.”

The inside of your chimney may contain one or more flues.  It depends upon the number of fireplaces or gas appliances are in the home.