no chimney cap, protect your chimney from water, chimney flue care

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!

chimney removal cost, avoid chimney repair, masonry chimney safety

 

When a home has a chimney, and something is awry with it, many homeowners only consider 2 options: fixing it or leaving it in place but declaring the fireplace unusable.

But there are two unexamined options: removing the chimney completely and replacing it with a safer style of chimney.

 

Why Replace Your Chimney?

No amount of repair will make a masonry chimney as safe as a metal one. Masonry chimneys are more likely to fall down and hurt or kill someone during an earthquake than any other part of the house. A full replacement means leaving that risk behind, and still enjoying your fireplace as you always have. It’s all gain, no loss.

 

Why Remove Your Chimney?

Chimney removal is another great option. Why do I call it “great”? Because no chimney means no risk of chimney fires, no risk of a falling chimney, no more place for rain to enter your home, or your hot air to escape in winter.

When having a chimney removed you can opt to remove it below the roof line (if it’s not along on exterior wall), and keep your mantel and firebox area indoors (decorative only). Or you can remove the entire fireplace system. This can create new space in your home, too. The chimney removal cost is often less than repair, and unlike repairs, you’re not going to have to do it again in a few years. No more chimney maintenance for you!

Sometimes a chimney is utilized to vent gas appliances that are connected to the metal flue liner. If your chimney is being used to vent gas appliances such as a furnace, water heater, or boiler, a vent will still need to penetrate the roof to carry the exhaust gases to the exterior after your chimney is gone. This doesn’t mean you can’t remove your chimney. Your chimney removal specialist can help you navigate this safely.

replacement chimney, chimney repair and maintenance, chimney safety

 

When you think about home improvements, your chimney may not be something you think about. However, like many other things in you home, it can break down and need replacement. But how do you know when you should replace your chimney since it’s usually not something on your repair list? Well, it all depends on the condition of your chimney.

Chimneys are very sturdy, but they still need some TLC every now and then to functional properly. And if your chimney is in really bad shape, it might be time for a chimney replacement. To see if your chimney needs fixing or replacement, it’s recommended that you do an annual check, usually in a season that you won’t be using your fireplace. You’ll also want to check it out after any severe weather like hail storms or hurricanes.

We’ve rounded up a few obvious signs to check for yourself, right after you schedule a professional chimney inspection.

 

1. A Damaged Chimney Crown

The crown of your chimney is a vital piece of masonry as it protects the chimney from anything that might fall into it (expect for directly above the flue). It keeps out water and weather damage and takes a beating. If it’s injured, the damage can spread down the chimney, resulting in a complete rebuild. It can also degrade and crack due to age, which can be a disaster for the chimney.

 

2. White Salts on Bricks

White bricks can mean water damage inside the bricks, which pulls out the natural salts and minerals to the surface of the bricks. The white staining can wash off easily, but if comes back, you’ll definitely need to call a professional to come in and help.

 

3. Spalling or Shaling

Spalling is the result of water entering brick, concrete, or natural stone. It forces the surface to peel, pop out, or flake off. Spalling can eventually cause crumbling and destruction of a structure. If you have spalling bricks, it means your chimney is damaged and will need to be rebuilt. You’ll want to call a professional ASAP.

Shaling is also caused by water, but describes what happens to affected tiles. If you notice that tiles or pieces of tiles fall into your fireplace, this is shaling. You’ll definitely need a chimney replacement if you see this!

 

4. No Chimney Cap

The chimney cap is like a little hat worn by the flue, to keep debris and water out. Some chimneys don’t have a cap and the ones that do can lose them from time to time. If your chimney doesn’t have one, it’s because it’s most likely sustained some damage at one point. The cap acts as the first line of defense and you’ll want to call a professional for an inspection before any damage gets worse, needing a full chimney replacement.

earthquake preparedness, earthquake safety planning

Earthquake preparedness is a Californian duty. We don’t know when earthquakes will happen, but we do know we live in an area where they do happen with some regularity.

It’s easy to let years slip by since the last time you evaluated your earthquake kit. Or maybe you don’t have one? Some things to consider about earthquake kits is that they are not evacuation bags or “bug out bags”. You can assume that in an Earthquake you can stay in your home, or at least not have to go far. What you need to plan for is possibly long periods of time without electricity, and possibly without working plumbing or natural gas, as sewage systems may be damaged, or gas may be turned off for safety.

 

Here’s what you should consider for earthquake preparedness:

Fresh Water

Store enough unopened jugs of water for about a gallon per person per day according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Three days is usually considered generous. Don’t forget, we don’t just drink water, we cook with it, wash dishes and ourselve with it, and more. Even though bottled water generally has a one to two year expiration date on the package, there’s no reason for it to become unusable unless the package is opened or damaged. Do not drink distilled water unless there is no other option, and not for long periods. Purified, filtered or spring water is fine.

Food Supplies

Having fresh food it the refrigerator does you no good when the fridge has no power. For the special occasion of feeding your family after a sizeable earthquake, you’ll want to have non-perishable food set aside. You can pack cans of tuna and boxes of crackers, but you’ll likely be happier with dehydrated meals that can be rehydrated. They tend to taste a lot better than the dry goods and canned meats.

First Aid Kit

A well-stocked first aid kit can be bought in many stores, and the pre-stocked variety like this works just fine. No need to put together your own selection of bandages and medications. When selecting your first aid kit, do consider how many people it needs to serve. And make sure to periodically remove expired items and replace them with fresh ones.

Lighting

After an earthquake, power is often out. Flashlights or headlamps for everyone in the home, plus one lantern is usually a good amount of lighting. Even if you only spend one night without electricity, it’s hard to enjoy your evening in a completely dark home.

A Radio

Either a transistor radio or a hand-crank powered radio is a good choice. In an emergency, your internet router will likely be down, and the radio is a reliable way to access news and information. This can help you know where to get supplies if needed, prepare for the weather, or know how when to expect power to come back on.

Extra Batteries

Extra batteries will serve you well, but don’t just put aside an hodge-podge of options. Choose the specific type of batteries needed for each other item in your Earthquake Kit: your radio, headlamps, lantern, flashlights, and anything else in the group. Have a larger amount of the batteries you expect to go through fastest.

Structural Safety

Chimneys that are either known to be damaged, or whose structural integrity is unknown, are dangerous in an earthquake. This is because they can fall and hurt or kill people either indoors or outdoors. Don’t take this risk, have your chimney inspected by a professional with a camera to view its interior. If structural flaws are found, reduce risk by having them repaired immediately.

Family Plan

This is extremely useful in earthquakes as well as other emergencies. To create your family plan, gather everyone who lives with you and agree on what you’ll do after an emergency. This should include when, where, or how to meet up if you’re not together. Also who’s responsible for accounting for pets or young kids, who’s going to check on older relatives near by, or anything else. A great start is declaring a physical place to meet in an emergency that is outdoors and not under power lines or tall buildings.

With the right preparation, the hours and days after a large earthquake can be safe and even organized. You’ll be glad you had taken steps to create order and minimize risk in advance.

house get smokey, smoke in the house, dangers of smokey fireplace

 

A ѕmоkу fireplace іѕ not only unpleasant; letting your house get smokey can аlѕо be a fire hаzаrd. Whether уоur fireplace is regularly ѕmоkу оr only occasionally ѕо, оnе оr mоrе of these tips mау remedy the situation.

Fоr mоѕt folks, an evening in front of the fіrерlасе саn bе a soothing and relaxing еxреrіеnсе. Thеrе іѕ, however, nothing particularly soothing about unwanted fireplace ѕmоkе рuffѕ that ѕріll into the hоmе while the fіrе is burning. Smоkе that еѕсареѕ through the fireplace opening is the result оf рооr fіrерlасе drafting which саn be саuѕеd bу a number оf factors. Here аrе some оf the mоѕt соmmоn саuѕеѕ and solutions.

 

1. Incorrectly Built Fireplace

Faulty fіrерlасе design may be the reason for your fіrерlасе ѕmоkе problem. Thеrе are critical parts оf a fireplace that muѕt bе built tо ѕресіfіс sizes in rеlаtіоn tо other components. Fluе volume and fіrерlасе opening ѕіzе rаtіоѕ аrе extremely important. Other factors include smoke shelf construction, ѕіzе and ѕhаре of the dаmреr, chimney height in rеlаtіоn tо a реаk of rооf height and ѕо оn. A chimney inspection can help you rule this out.

 

2. Check the Dаmреr

Sоmеtіmеѕ the damper іѕ nоt open аll the way and wіll nоt allow your fіrерlасе tо vent properly. Thе damper is a metal plate that іѕ іnѕіdе уоur chimney and uѕuаllу hаѕ a handle nеаr the bottom that you can move uр and down to open and сlоѕе your damper. It’ѕ nоt unсоmmоn fоr реорlе tо сlоѕе the dаmреr in the summer when іt’ѕ not in uѕе and also during the winter tо keep wаrm аіr frоm escaping the house. Your damper may be closed.

 

3. Chесk Thе Аіr Supply Іn The Room Containing Thе Fireplace

If there іѕn’t еnоugh аіr flowing in the rооm where the fіrерlасе іѕ located, both the fоrmаtіоn оf the draft of аіr that carries smoke uр and out of the chimney and combustion is inhibited. In оrdеr tо figure out if this is the problem and hоw to ѕоlvе іt, уоu just try opening one оr two windows in the rооm when the fіrе is burning. Thе fіrе may stop smoking, and уоu will hаvе tо experiment tо dеtеrmіnе exactly how muсh уоu nееd tо open the windows іf this method does work.

 

4. Exhaust Fans Іn Thе Home

A running kіtсhеn оr bathroom exhaust fаn could bе the cause оf уоur fireplace ѕmоkе. Another culprit mау bе the blower fаn оf a fоrсеd hot аіr heating ѕуѕtеm especially if the furnace rеturn vent іѕ in the ѕаmе room аѕ the fіrерlасе. Thеѕе types оf fаnѕ саn vеrу еаѕіlу сrеаtе a powerful negative pressure hindering the fіrерlасе frоm drafting correctly. If уоu mаkе ѕurе that аll оf these tуреѕ оf fаnѕ аrе off while the fireplace іѕ burning, the ѕmоkе problem mау gо аwау.

 

5. Crеоѕоtе Buildup

Crеоѕоtе is a bурrоduсt оf natural wood that іѕ burnt аt a low temperature. When the creosote solidifies, іt соllесtѕ іnѕіdе the wаllѕ оf уоur chimney. Crеоѕоtе саn start an invisible fire inside the walls or structure of your home, and smoke may be the only clue. When conditions become ѕеvеrе, сrеоѕоtе саn сlоg your chimney making it difficult for аіr tо еѕсаре. Yоur chimney should be сlеаnеd еvеrу уеаr regardless оf whether уоu uѕе іt or nоt, and a chimney sweep should be called immediately if there is unexplained smoke in your home.

 

Dangers оf Smоkе to Homeowners

And although smoke may ѕmеll gооd, іt’ѕ nоt gооd fоr уоu. Inhaling ѕmоkе іѕ dangerous and cause ѕеrіоuѕ health problems. Thе bіggеѕt health threat frоm smoke іѕ frоm fіnе particles, also called fine particulate matter or PM2.5. Thеѕе mісrоѕсоріс particles can gеt into your еуеѕ and respiratory system, where they cause burning еуеѕ, runny nose, and illness, ѕuсh аѕ bronchitis. Fіnе particles саn make asthma ѕуmрtоmѕ worse and trigger asthma attacks. Fіnе particles can аlѕо trigger heart attacks, stroke, irregular heart rhythms, and heart failure, especially іn people who аrе already аt rіѕk fоr these conditions.

Nо matter іf уоur fіrерlасе is already ѕmоkу оr nоt, уоu should mоѕt definitely get your chimney inspected or cleaned (or both) every уеаr tо bе sure уоur chimney and fіrерlасе аrе ѕаfе and сlеаn.

At the Irish Sweep, we pride ourselves on doing the highest quality work. We accomplish this through having excellent training and experience, but also through using top quality materials. One of the truly remarkable materials we use is HeatShield cerfractory flue sealant for resurfacing flues.

According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, problems such as gaps, cracks and spalling in your chimney’s flue can present serious risks to your home and family, because your chimney can no longer perform its intended function – to safely contain and vent the products of combustion to the outside. It’s because of this that the inner surface of your flue is so important.

HeatSheild is a durable coating applied by experts, like us at the Irish Sweep, to restore safety and efficiency to your chimney’s flue by filling in gaps and cracks. This can salvage a chimney flue that would otherwise have needed removed and rebuilt or retired.

The key to a safe chimney is a flue that properly contains dangerous gases, heat and flames. The rest of your home isn’t a safe place for these elements to be, and your flue is the barrier that protects you. But only until it weakens and develops cracks, spalled clay, and deteriorated mortar. This used to mean the end of life for a flue, but HeatSheild allows us to renew your flue safely.

 

How Does HeatShield Sealant Work?

To start restoring your chimney’s flue by resurfacing the interior, we make a custom foam applicator plug. It’s then placed at the bottom of the flue, attached to a winch on top the chimney. When the applicator it pulled up with the winch, it evenly applies the lining to flue.

First, a “tie coat” material is applied to the flue walls as the plug is pulled upward by the winch. The “tie coat” cleans any remaining dust in your flue and acts as a primer for the HeatShield® Cerfractory® Flue Sealant.

After the tie coat dries, we apply the HeatShield® material to the flue at about ¼” thickness. Our unique application method is known as “slip casting” or “slip cast extrusion”.

We then verify that your new chimney lining has a complete seal and is smoke-tight by using cameras and video scanning your completed repair.

chimney sweep education qualifications certification training

 

You may already know this, but being a chimney sweep takes a lot of education and skill. A worker off the street wouldn’t be ready to understand the details of the work or have the skills to do the job.

Why? Because a chimney sweep doesn’t just clean chimneys, although that alone takes significant safety training. They also detect damage and danger in masonry and can repair or install components of a safe, functional fireplace and chimney system.

 

Chimney Safety Institute of America

The Chimney Safety Institute of America offers certifications in chimney care and related skills. The owner of Irish Sweep and other Irish Sweep employees have various CSIA certifications. These include CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep® and CSIA Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician® credentials. These chimney sweep education certifications are difficult to earn and chimney sweeps must renew regularly.

 

Construction Skills

Masonry work, structural safety, and other construction-type needs often become known during a fireplace and chimney inspection. A good chimney sweep is ready to not only identify these issues, but do upgrades as needed or desired. That’s why it’s important to have a construction background.

Sal of the Irish Sweep has a California State Contractor’s License, a Masonry License, and a specialty license for metal-related work like installation of a wood burning insert. This way you can skip the step of having a chimney specialist explain what you need to a construction specialist. Therefore one highly skilled expert is always best.

 

Continuing Chimney Sweep Education

Some certifications and licenses are required to be a chimney sweep. It’s not required to continually seek out new skills and refresh old ones, like the Irish Sweep does with continuing education. Our awareness of new technology, techniques and  gear keeps your experience with chimney care top quality.

Make no mistake, because the skills and knowledge of a chimney sweep are extensive. If you have any questions or need to schedule chimney or dryer vent servicing, contact the Irish Sweep today.

chimney waterproofing waterproof chimney fireplace inspection

 

While this winter has not been too wet, many are predicting some rain over the next couple months. We don’t anticipate it reaching last year’s levels, but it’s still important that you waterproof your chimney. Water can seep into a chimney and leaks may form. But how does this potentially expensive problem even happen?

What causes chimney leaks?

Chimneys are beautiful, complex structures. The simplistic bricks or stucco columns are filled with a machine of moving parts and instruments to keep you safe and warm. It is also regularly exposed to nature’s elements. Thus, the likelihood of damage occurring and leaks forming is quite possible. However, with all of the nuances of a chimney, it can often be challenging to find the leak. The following are three of the most common sources for chimney leaks.

Chimney Cap

This piece covers the top of the flue. It covers the flue and fireplace so water, animals, and debris do not go in. Should the cap be damaged or missing, this leaves most areas of the fireplace exposed. Thus, a rain shower could cause substantial water damage.

Flashing

Around the chimney and roofline, there is flashing to protect the area against water. Over time, flashing may lose its seal or it could have been improperly installed. Similar to the cap, damaged or missing flashing may dramatically damage your chimney. However, the lack of proper flashing could also harm walls, ceilings, and structures.

Masonry

As you can already tell, water can be very harmful. Bricks are no exception. Water can have a dramatic impact on masonry around chimneys. This can lead to cracks and bricks falling apart. The problem can then get exponentially worse. Damaged bricks absorb greater amounts of water, leading to further harm.

Numerous signs exist to show leaks in chimneys. The easiest way to notice is if you see water dripping in the firebox after a storm. If you hear dripping, then you’ve got issues. At the same time, do not be surprised for there to be a musty smell. Another sign could be damaged bricks around the chimney. If you see this, you should have your chimney inspected.

Prevention

While harm may arise, a homeowner can take proactive measures to prevent damage. First, make sure to do an annual chimney inspection. Second, we recommend sealing your bricks on a regular basis.

Should you have any questions or need your annual inspection done by our certified expert, contact Sal at the Irish Sweep.

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.

 

However, many chimneys have underlying problems that can lead to fires inside the chimney. Some of them are visible as they come out the top but many of them are hidden. Sometimes a slow-burning fire is hidden somewhere inside the chimney, without enough fuel to make it grow noticable. Even though they may not be visible, these fires are very hot and can damage the chimney’s infrastructure.

 

chimney fire danger

 Warning Signs

There are generally three signs of a possible chimney fire even when you may not see it. First, you might hear a loud sound. Second, you might see an unusually high amount of thick smoke. Lastly, you will notice a very strong, hot smell.

 

Fuel

A key fuel for these fires is creosote. What is that? It is basically the build-up that covers the inner lining of your chimney. When using a fireplace, certain products are created as a result of fire. Chimneys are designed to take them out through the top. As they go to the top, the cooler temperature hitting these items causes condensation which creates a flaky residue on the inner lining which is highly flammable. This is creosote.

When the quantity of the creosote gets large enough, it can fuel a chimney fire. The main causes for such a build up is a restricted air supply, unseasoned wood, or cooler than normal chimney temperature. These are all preventable with regular chimney inspections and cleaning.

 

Why does it matter?

The high temperature of these chimney fires can damage the interior lining of the chimney, melt mortar, crack tiles, or even destroy prefabricated chimneys. Get your chimney inspected and cleaned each year. If you have questions or want to have your Bay Area home inspected, please contact Sal at the Irish Sweep.

Chimney inspection, fireplace inspection, safety

 

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.

White Staining

When moisture is seeping into the chimney, white staining may result. While this is actually salt and can be cleaned off easily, identifying the underlying cause needs to be identified to ensure it doesn’t get more serious. A common term for this condition is efflorescence. This can be remedied or prevented through chimney repairs.

Rust

As with most other things, rust is a sign of trouble. It should not arise in the fireplace or damper.  Rust is another sign of moisture issues. Poor sealing or issues with the damper could be the source of this issue. However, these areas may not always be visible so this is why an annual chimney inspection is recommended.

Mortar Joints Deterioration

If you see any mortar joints that are damaged, they should be promptly replaced. These joints could be a source of excess moisture coming in and thereby speed up damage to the chimney. This could be particularly troublesome in very cold conditions where the moisture could freeze and cause much larger cracking within the chimney.

Shaling

A damaged flue lining is a major issue with chimneys. A sign of this issue is small thin shaling or tiles at the bottom of a fireplace, this can look like the ridges on the back of a sea shell. This is a sign that your flue lining may not be in good working condition for your safety. As a result, having this inspected annually is essential for your safety.

Chimney Crown Damage

During the holidays, you may go on your roof to put up lights. This is also a good time to take a look at your chimney crown. If you see it’s damaged, contact us promptly as this can cause moisture to go into your chimney and result in substantial cracking and damage.

Spalling

Spalling is a moisture problem. Should the masonry towards the bottom of a chimney be flaking or popping out, this could be another sign of moisture seeping into the chimney. This is repairable, and it’s important to repair the masonry to protect the chimney.

Damaged Wallpaper

When the wallpaper near a fireplace looks damaged, this can be another sign that you need to have your chimney repaired. When you are in your Bay Area home, periodically check the areas near your chimney.

Most of the above items can be observed by anyone, but there are some that should be done through an annual professional inspection to identify needed chimney repairs. If you have questions or want to have your Bay Area home inspected, please contact Sal at the Irish Sweep.