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.

Many older homes have fireplaces that hearken back to a time when fire was relied on as a major heating source. However, with the advent of central heating, your fireplace may no longer be in use, and be kept for decoration and pleasure. Fireplaces make a great centerpiece for a room, making it look more classic and even stately. Fireplaces are becoming standard features even in areas of the country with warm climates, where a fire is not even practical.

Many people never use their fireplaces because there’s no need or because they don’t really like fires. You may think that if you never use your fireplace, you can get away with never having it cleaned or having chimney maintenance. There are many reasons you still need to have your fireplace serviced.

 

Chimney Maintenance Protects a Whole Home

 

If your fireplace is powered by gas or oil, then it is connected to the larger systems in your home. A malfunction in your fireplace, if left unnoticed, could have greater repercussions on the functioning of your central heating, water heater, and stove. These are resources and appliances that you likely do use every day. Having your fireplace regularly maintained helps catch problems before they grow into something worse and harder to address.

Your gas burning fireplace chimney is also connected to the exhaust venting for your whole-home. This is the path that toxic gases and by-products (such as dangerous carbon monoxide) leave the home. If there is a blockage, these things can’t exit, which is very dangerous.

 

Keeps the Chimney Clear

 

You may know that when you have a wood-burning fireplace that you use, the chimney can become coated with creosote. Oil-fueled fireplaces can also generate soot. These substances can become dangerous and flammable when they build up in the chimney, risking a fire if left unattended.

Now, you may be thinking that if you don’t use your fireplace there’s no reason to have that chimney cleaned. After all, there is no soot or creosote built up and no risk of fire. However, with the use of other oil-fueled appliances, soot can build up in the chimney system, which needs to be cleaned. Left unchecked, that soot build-up can lead to flue deterioration or cause blockages that prevent fumes from exiting.

Many more things than creosote can enter and block your wood-burning chimney. Leaves and debris can blow into the chimney opening and create a block. Insects and rodents can also enter and set up nests. This is even more likely when the chimney is not frequently used. Their nests block the chimney and they may leave behind materials that over time decay and cause a foul odor.

 

Maintains Chimney Structure

 

Even when you don’t use your fireplace, the structure of the chimney is there, extending to the exterior of your home and exposed to the elements. Weather events such as storms, drought, and earthquakes can all effect the structural integrity of your chimney. It is important to have your chimney inspected, maintained, and repaired when damage occurs, to protect your entire home structure from chimney collapse.

There are many reasons to have fireplace and chimney maintenance, even if you don’t regularly use your fireplace. Consulting with a professional fireplace maintenance company can be helpful. A professional chimney sweep company can even put you on a cleaning schedule, according to their safety recommendations, so you will be assured regular cleaning and maintenance, without needing to keep track of it yourself.

 

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.

3201894-450pxFirst of all, let me be clear, artificial gas log sets can only be installed in a fireplace that is suitable for wood burning.  The only way we can determine the fireplace is fire safe is to clean the chimney and then look at the interior surfaces with our remote vision camera system.

These sets come in various sizes and include ceramic logs of your choice with a burn pan, decorative silica sand, volcanic cinders, dual effect embers, a pedestal grate and damper stop.

A plumbing contactor is required to install a gas valve on the floor or wall near the fireplace and a gas supply line into the firebox.

Vent-free artificial gas log sets are illegal in the State of California.

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.