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.

Chimney Inspection

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.

Chimney Repairs

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.

Replacing Masonry

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.

Other Repairs

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.

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.

chimney flue repair, obstructed chimney

A chimney is designed to safely and effectively remove dangerous fire byproducts produced within the fireplace. When it becomes clogged, it can’t properly perform this important role. Birds’ nests, tree foliage, trash, and other debris can clog your home chimney, making it dangerous to use. Soot and crumbling bricks are also hazardous; if the chimney’s flue is not kept clean, your home is at risk every time you kindle the fireplace. Your home’s structure and age may also play a part in the overall health of its chimney. Determine if there is a blockage in your chimney, or if it needs flue repair, by looking at it yourself or hiring a professional maintenance company.

Warning Signs of a Blocked Chimney

A blocked chimney may be hard to diagnose on your own but there are some telltale signs to watch for. These warning signs include:

• A smoky smell when burning a fire

• Falling debris inside the hearth

• Water streaks inside the flue

• Excessive soot

• White residue on the flue walls

What can cause a chimney blockage?

There are three main causes of chimney blockages:

• An excessive build-up of soot or creosote (tar)

• Birds, squirrels, or other small animals nesting in the chimney

• The collapse of the internal chimney bricks

Inspecting the Chimney

1. Wear a safety mask or goggles for eye protection. Don a pair of gloves and place a handkerchief over your mouth and nose to keep you from inhaling loose, falling soot. Wear a hard hat to protect your head. Chimneys that have not been periodically cleaned may have a lot of debris.

2. Open the chimney’s maintenance door. Typically, it is located outside the house, but check your home’s blueprints for the exact location. Hold the mirror through the maintenance door, facing upward. With your other hand, shine the flashlight on the mirror. Adjust the angle to allow you to see up into the chimney.

3. Inspect the chimney flue from the outside of the building and again from the inside of the fireplace. Open the damper, and shine the flashlight up the walls with the mirror. See if you can insert a broom handle or long stick through the fireplace opening.

4. Feel the heat. When a clogged fireplace is operating, heat and moisture will back up into the home. When the chimney is unused, during summertime, for example, soot from a wood-burning fireplace or rust debris from the metal hood of a gas fireplace can amass. 

Chimney Flue Repair

Clearing a blocked chimney is a job best left for a professional. They have the tools necessary to reach and remove the debris clogging the flue. How quickly and easily the chimney is cleared will depend on how compact the blockage is. To prevent clogs in the future, an annual chimney cleaning is recommended. Regular cleanings will keep your flue clear while also warning you of any potential problems before they turn into costly chimney flue repairs. Installing a chimney cap onto the flue can also help limit the number of clogs your chimney experiences. Stopping debris from entering the system in the first place, caps can provide a proactive approach to chimney maintenance.

If you suspect a blocked chimney, contact a professional for assistance. We can diagnose and treat common chimney ailments both large and small.

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.