Why Consider Chimney Height Reduction?

Have you ever seen a really tall chimney column that just stands out in the neighborhood? We see them all the time and wonder if the residents are aware of their potential hazard.  Did you know that the section from the roof to the top of the chimney can frequently be reduced in
height?

Potential Collapse Hazard

A taller chimney that is not reinforced is a potential collapse hazard in general, especially when living in high wind areas or earthquake country. With concerns particularly around seismic liability, efficiency, and fire safety.

Inefficient Chimneys

In general, an inefficient chimney can cause several problems and sometimes it is better to just get it removed or reduced in height. The Irish Sweep are experts in this area and have been spending many working days assisting their customers in chimney height reduction goals.

Reasons for Chimney Height Reduction

  1. Prior to installing a gas burning fireplace insert.  This is a perfect time to reduce the height as it isn’t required for proper performance.
  2. Potential collapse hazard and seismic liability concerns. Especially if the chimney could collapse into a bedroom, frequently used living spaces and even where a car is parked in the garage or driveway.
  3. Reclaim space. If the chimney is interior to the home, customers sometimes want to reclaim the space in their house particularly if going through a remodel.
  4. Expert recommendation. If a structural engineer or similar profession deems this to be important.

How Ceramic Coatings Make Your Chimney Safer, and 3 Other Benefits

In this blog post, we’ll explain how ceramic coatings make your chimney safer – and the many other benefits of using them.

If you’re like most homeowners, you probably don’t think about the chimney until there’s a problem with it. And by then, it’s often too late. A broken or deteriorated chimney can lead to all sorts of safety and efficiency problems in the home, from hazardous flue gasses leaking into the living space to an increase in our energy bills due to draft problems. But ceramic coatings can help prevent all that!

How Does a Chimney Lose Integrity Over Time?

With time, even a lightly-used fireplace and chimney can start to deteriorate. Exposure to winds, extreme temperatures, and moisture can cause mortar joints to crack and separate, bricks to crumble or spall, metal dampers to rust through, and clay flue tiles to crack.

This deterioration can lead to all sorts of problems in our home. To stay ahead of damage and keep our chimney functioning efficiently, opt for a chimney inspection at least once a year. We can also prevent deterioration (and fix certain safety issues) by hiring professional services to apply ceramic coatings to our chimney.

How Do Ceramic Coatings Make Your Chimney Safer?

Applied inside a chimney, the ceramic coating seals any gaps or cracks. It covers an even ceramic layer that allows smoke and dangerous chemicals to escape straight out of the chimney’s crown. It also inhibits further acid corrosion and prevents damage that might result from it. This not only ensures that the chimney will continue to function properly but also gives us peace of mind knowing that no expensive repairs will sneak up on us.

Other Benefits of Ceramic Coatings

Lengthens the Chimney’s Lifespan

Ceramic coatings are designed to restore and repair the flue while protecting it against future damage. The heat-resistant, water-resistant, chemical-resistant ceramic surface decreases dangerous heat transfer that would otherwise damage an unreinforced fireplace.

Helps Prevent Chimney Fires

Poorly maintained flues and chimneys are one of the common causes of home fires. When creosote, a combustible byproduct of incomplete combustion, builds up in the flue, it can ignite and cause a dangerous chimney fire. Ceramic coatings help to prevent these types of fires by sealing and protecting the flue and preventing the buildup of creosote. The ceramic coating also makes it easier for the chimney sweep to clean the chimney!

Eco-Friendly and Cost-Effective Choice

Ceramic coatings are a cost-effective and eco-friendly way to protect a chimney. They are manufactured from recycled and natural materials, and are much more economical than rebuilding a chimney! Because the ceramic coating seals all the cracks and gaps in the chimney, often an increase in energy efficiency is noticed – which means we save money on our energy bill.

Our highly skilled experts offer a 20-year warranty on ceramic coatings. The coating will not crack or chip due to temperature changes and is highly resistant to water penetration, so you won’t have to worry about repair costs for a long time!

To learn more about the many benefits of ceramic coating, contact us today!

Is Your Chimney Earthquake Safe? Moraga Chimney Cleaner Can Help

The recent earthquake in California has made many homeowners aware of the seismic safety risks associated with their chimneys. As your local Moraga chimney cleaner, we want to share our expertise in earthquake chimney safety.

One of the most common types of damage during an earthquake is when your chimney collapses or breaks and falls on the roof, or the ground. When this happens, there are many potential injuries that could result from falling bricks and stones, not to mention the structural damage to your home. Are cars parked under the chimney? Is there a children’s play area? There’s a real risk that someone could be seriously injured by falling bricks.

This blog post will cover what you need to know about protecting your home from this type of disaster – and how a chimney sweep professional service can help. 

Earthquakes Cause Extended Damage to California Chimneys

Newspapers as far back as the 1660s reported on fallen chimneys after an earthquake. It’s not just a historical problem: in California, where the majority of the housing stock was built before the 1950s, unstable chimneys continue to cause problems. Many chimneys are built of unreinforced brick or stone, which means that they do not have reinforcing metal installed in the chimney. This makes them more susceptible to falling apart when they become stressed under the force of an earthquake. 

How to Identify If Your Chimney May be a Hazard

The best thing you can do to protect your home and family is to conduct a cursory inspection yourself. You can do this by checking the following:

  • Do you see any evidence of movement over time, such as spalling brick and crumbling mortar joints? If so, it’s likely that other structural damage has occurred.
  • Are there cracks or other damage visible on the exterior walls of your chimney?
  • Is your chimney leaning or bowing from wind, rain and sun?

Ask An Expert: 

  • If the chimney is made of brick or stone, is it reinforced?
  • Is the chimney cap and flashing in good condition and properly installed?

Consult a Moraga Chimney Cleaner for Earthquake Chimney Safety

If you’re not sure whether your chimney is safe, it’s best to consult with a professional. At The Irish Sweep, we can conduct an inspection to identify any potential hazards and take steps to mitigate them. We offer comprehensive chimney safety services that will ensure your home is protected during an earthquake. Proudly serving Moraga and surrounding areas for over 40 years, we’ve seen it all and gladly offer our services to you.  

After an Earthquake: Dealing with Damage

If you’re finding this article after your chimney has already been damaged by an earthquake or other means, there are a few things you should know.

  1. First of all, if your chimney is still standing but has been damaged, it needs to be repaired as soon as possible by a professional Moraga chimney cleaner who specializes in earthquake damage repair. A crack can only get larger over time and leave your home vulnerable to future damage.
  2. If your chimney has completely collapsed, you will need to have it rebuilt – and again, it’s best to hire a professional who understands the risks associated with rebuilding in an earthquake zone.
  3. Finally, if you’re living in a home with a damaged or collapsed chimney, be sure to keep a close eye on any potential fire hazards while you get it repaired.

Talk to Moraga Chimney Cleaner

We hope this article provides some useful information about earthquake chimney safety. If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at The Irish Sweep! We’re always here to help.  Give us a call at 510-521-4088!

Contact our Moraga chimney cleaner experts for earthquake damage today!

 Our services let you enjoy your chimney safely! 

 

Why you Need a Home Inspection Chimney?

Before you buy your dream home, it’s important to get a full home inspection chimney. Home inspection chimney can uncover potentially life-threatening problems like toxic mold, faulty wiring that could cause a significant fire, or unstable structures just months away from collapsing. Often as buyers, we expect a professional home inspection chimney service to cover all aspects of the property, but the chimney needs a separate qualified evaluation for many safety reasons. 

The health and safety of your family could depend on your decision to go through with a chimney inspection. Here’s some important information you need to know about why home inspection chimney are crucial when it comes to purchasing new homes. 

What a home inspection chimney could uncover:

Potential Water Damage

Did you know that  the foundation of a chimney is typically only 12 inches deep? That means that with earth movement from summer to winter, water damage from sprinklers, downspouts, and weather conditions could render your chimney foundation dangerous. 

Neglected Spaces

 Most inspections are carried out for the purpose of the loan lender or negotiations, and they may not always serve the buyer. Make sure that your home inspection includes often-forgotten spaces like the crawl space, basement, attics, chimney, fireplace, and loft area. A smart buyer can even use details from the full home inspection to negotiate with the seller.

Shifting from New Construction

Has the space around the chimney been newly landscaped, subject to digging, or under construction? Have there been significant earthquakes since the last chimney inspection? Shifting of the earth underneath or around the chimney could cause instability, which is why it’s important to make sure the inspection includes outdoor areas surrounding the chimney. 

Instability from Cold Weather

With the drought and hotter weather, the hard soil can stabilize a chimney to some degree, but only temporarily. As cold weather moves in, dampness and moisture soften the soil around the base of the chimney, allowing movement in the structure which could render the chimney unstable. Even if the house is on a concrete slab and the chimney is surrounded by concrete, the concrete still absorbs the moisture and the chimney can still move. If your area experiences high winds, wet weather, and earthquakes, instability can be particularly dangerous. 

Fireplace Inserts: Extra Credit

Once your fireplace and chimney have been thoroughly inspected and cleaned, you may be looking for ways to enjoy the ambience of a crackling fire. A fireplace insert is a fuel-efficient, heat-efficient method of doing just that. The closed combustion system of a fireplace insert can be 60% to 80% heat efficient, contrasting with traditional or older fireplaces that only convert 5% to 20% of fuel into usable heat. You can enjoy watching the flames through the glass doors of the fireplace insert while needing less firewood to keep them stoked. 

Schedule a Home Inspection Chimney Now 

Our services at The Irish Sweep can help you safely maintain and enjoy your wood-burning fireplace and chimney for years to come. To schedule an appointment with an expert, call us at (510)521-4088, or use this simple contact form by clicking here.

Is the Height of Your Chimney a Seismic Liability?

When was the last time you took a good look at your chimney? If you’re like most homeowners, it’s probably been a while since you gave it any thought. But a word of warning from a local chimney cleaner, the height of your chimney can actually become an earthquake liability, especially here in California. Should you reduce the height of your chimney?

Bay Area Chimneys

Chimney height reduction or seismic liability reduction are the same thing. In the Bay Area, we get most of our wet weather coming in from the south. What this ultimately means for homeowners is that south-facing chimneys deteriorate faster than they would if they were built on any other side of the house. Remember, the mortar that holds them together is water soluble. As a Lafayette chimney cleaner, this is one of the most dangerous things we see.

Reasons to Reduce Your Chimney Height

Over time, chimneys in our area become unsupported masonry structures that were exposed to the elements for a hundred years. Just think of what you would look like if you stood outside for decades in the rain and the sun!

A good reason to reduce the height of your chimney is to lower the risk of earthquake damage. More than a couple significant fault lines cross through the Bay Area, including the San Andreas Fault and 6 others that pose considerable risk. Just imagine the destruction of your chimney crashing into the yard, or in the direction of your neighbor’s home. Any Lafayette chimney cleaner will tell you what a serious hazard a leaning or broken chimney is.

Note that an unlined chimney is more susceptible to seismic activity, meaning it’s more likely to break during an earthquake. This is a good reason to reduce your chimney’s height and install a gas burning fireplace insert.

When Mortar Turns to Sand

Here’s an example of a broken chimney that had become a worrisome seismic liability. As you can see in the photo, this is an issue of poor water management around the perimeter foundation of the house. Because mortar is water soluble, chimneys wick up groundwater. So, if there are downspouts dumping water near the base of the chimney, it draws in the water, turning the mortar into sand. Of course, this process doesn’t occur overnight, but given enough time, it creates a dangerous situation that needs to be taken care of.

Bear in mind that the chimney is the heaviest part of any house, so this would be problematic even in states where earthquakes are uncommon. When the soil around the base of the chimney gets wet, that soft soil allows the chimney to sink. This is something most homeowners aren’t aware of, but it’s common knowledge if you’re a Lafayette chimney cleaner. It’s a glacially-slow process, but after enough rainy seasons have passed, it can weaken the entire structure. This creates a chimney that is more vulnerable to seismic activity. In fact, the chimney can be pulled apart from the fireplace fascia.

Talk to a Lafayette Chimney Cleaner

Gas-burning fireplace inserts don’t need a lot of height for venting, so you might consider installing one if you choose to reduce the height of your chimney. To schedule an appointment with The Irish Sweep, call us at (510)521-4088, or use this simple contact form by clicking here. Your safety is our number one priority. That’s why our team is taking special precautions during the pandemic. We look forward to hearing from you.

Can a Wood Burning Fireplace Cause Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

If you have a wood burning chimney, it’s essential to understand what carbon monoxide poisoning is and how to protect your household. Here are the main things you need to know about this deadly gas and the importance of scheduling chimney cleaning services.

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is responsible for most poisoning fatalities in the United States, but CO poisoning is completely preventable. Awareness is key for homeowners with a wood burning chimney. The main reason CO is so dangerous is that it’s a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that can’t be detected through your senses. In contrast, most of us have smelled the rotten egg stink of propane. But unfortunately, there’s no way to recognize this silent killer by scent alone.

What happens on an anatomical level? Carbon monoxide can actually replace the oxygen (O2) in your blood because red blood cells pick up CO more readily than O2. Without enough oxygen, permanent tissue damage can occur, including injury to your organs, nervous system, and respiratory system. At high enough levels, CO poisoning can quickly result in death, sometimes within minutes. This is especially dangerous for children, the elderly, pregnant women, or anyone with underlying health conditions.

According to the Center for Disease Control, close to 500 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning each year in the US, and an average of 50,000 seek critical emergency services. Most of these incidents occur from December through February, during the cold winter months when people are trying to stay warm in their homes, only to accidentally poison themselves with fuel-burning appliances. Bear in mind that symptoms of exposure can initially be mistaken for a sudden onset of flu.

Let’s review what causes CO emissions so you know how to spot potential risks and prevent them from becoming a danger to you or your loved ones.

What Produces Carbon Monoxide?

CO occurs whenever a fuel source is burned, such as wood, oil, charcoal, or gas. Several things can produce carbon monoxide. For example, turning on a gas oven for warmth when the power goes out, using a charcoal barbecue grill inside your home, or not having your wood burning chimney cleaned on a regular basis. In fact, CO can even pose a risk on larger boats that have generators.

Wood Burning Chimney

An obstruction in your wood burning chimney can lead to a buildup of CO, as well as a broken connector pipe, backdrafting in the chimney, or a rusted heat exchanger. Scheduling regular maintenance with a professional chimney sweep helps to prevent dangerous situations like these. An experienced specialist will be able to point out any area of concern with your wood burning chimney and advise you on the best solution. This is another reason why DIY chimney cleaning can be so dangerous to attempt. It’s just not worth the risk.

Gas Fireplace

If you have a gas fireplace instead of a wood burning chimney, note that it can also be a hazard without proper chimney maintenance. A poorly maintained or ventilated gas fireplace can result in a dangerous buildup of toxic gas.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Even with precautions in place, it’s useful to know the main symptoms that someone has been exposed to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Knowledge is power, as they say. The most common signs of CO poisoning include:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Disorientation
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Chest pain
  • Clumsiness
  • Weakness

Again, many of these symptoms can, at first, be mistaken for flu. Fresh air and immediate medical attention are vital to anyone suffering from CO exposure.

Safety Precautions

Preventative measures help to protect your household from CO buildup. Here are some basic precautions you can take in order to ensure that your home is safeguarded from this silent killer.

  1. Be sure to fully open the dampers before using your wood burning chimney. This will allow the smoke to escape.
  2. Schedule maintenance with a professional chimney sweep at least a minimum of once a year. It’s important to also have a specialist look over your wood burning chimney to make sure everything is in order and functioning properly. It’s better to discover the need for chimney repair sooner rather than later. Although, depending on how often you use your fireplace, you may need more than one chimney cleaning a year if you love to cozy up by the fire.
  3. Install carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home, as well as smoke alarms. They are designed to emit a loud, high-pitched sound if they sense levels of CO in your home. There are different brands on the market, but they’re all affordably priced. Remember, it’s important to have a battery-operated backup, just in case the power ever goes out. Be sure to place them in bedrooms because you’re more vulnerable while you’re asleep.
  4. Additionally, verify that the models you select comply with the latest safety standards.
  5. Only use fuel-burning appliances outside or in fully ventilated areas.
  6. Never leave a vehicle, lawnmower, or generator, etc. running in a  closed garage. Carbon monoxide can enter your home, not to mention it creates a dangerous environment in your garage.
  7. Paint remover contains methylene chloride and shouldn’t be used in the presence of children or in spaces that lack proper ventilation. It’s best to use paint remover outside because methylene chloride is actually converted to carbon monoxide within our bodies.

Schedule a Professional Chimney Inspection

A chimney professional can check to make sure that your fireplace is properly vented. If it’s been a while since your last chimney inspection, give us a call at The Irish Sweep. Your well-being is our number one priority. We’re committed to educating our communities on fireplace safety, so if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to reach out. We’re happy to help in any way that we can. If you’re in the Alameda area, contact our team of experts by phoning (510) 521-4088. You can also email us your questions by clicking here.