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Good Solutions for Many Chimney Problems

Got chimney problems? We’re here to fix them.

Welcome to The Irish Sweep blog, where we share our chimney maintenance and repair expertise. Chimneys are an essential component of homes with fireplaces or wood-burning stoves, and proper maintenance is critical for their safe and efficient operation. Over time, chimneys can experience a range of issues, including creosote buildup and structural damage. However, there are effective solutions and preventative measures available to address many common chimney problems. In this blog, we will explore the most frequent issues that chimneys encounter and provide guidance on how to resolve them.

Smoking/Performance Issues

One of the most common chimney problems homeowners face is smoking or poor performance. When a chimney is not functioning correctly, it can lead to smoke backing up into the house, causing health problems and damage to the fireplace surround, furniture, walls and even ceilings.  Poor performance can also result in low heat output, which can be frustrating for homeowners.

The Solution: There are several solutions to smoking or performance issues, depending on the underlying problem. 

  • Check for creosote buildup: One common cause of poor performance is a buildup of creosote, a tar-like substance that forms when anything is burned. Creosote can reduce the airflow in the chimney, causing smoke to back up into the house. To address this issue, homeowners should have their chimney professionally cleaned at least once a year.
  • Check the damper: Another solution is to check the chimney’s damper, which regulates airflow. If the damper is not functioning correctly, it can lead to poor performance and smoking. If the damper is damaged or needs repair, a professional chimney sweep can provide a solution.

Safety Issues

Chimneys can also present safety hazards, particularly when they are not well-maintained. Safety issues can include fire safety, as well as structural safety issues.

Fire Safety

When creosote buildup or other debris accumulates in a chimney, it can ignite and cause a fire. These fires can quickly spread to the rest of the house, causing significant damage and posing a serious risk to residents.

The Solution: The best way to prevent chimney fires is to have the chimney professionally cleaned and inspected regularly. Homeowners should also avoid burning materials, such as paper, cardboard, and softwood, that can lead to excessive creosote buildup.

Check out our relevant resources on creosote and burning safety:

Structural Safety

Chimneys can also present structural safety hazards, particularly if they are not well-maintained. Over time, chimneys can deteriorate, leading to cracking, shifting, or collapse. These issues compromise the safety of the chimney and the rest of the house.

The Solution: To address structural safety hazards, homeowners should have their chimney inspected by a professional chimney sweep. A chimney inspection can identify any structural issues that need to be addressed, such as cracks, shifting, or other signs of deterioration. Trust us – you don’t want to risk the consequences of neglecting a structural problem. 

Seismic Safety

In areas prone to earthquakes (hello, Bay Area!), chimneys can pose a significant safety risk if they are not adequately secured. During an earthquake, a poorly secured chimney can collapse, causing considerable damage and endangering residents. This is a major chimney problem that can cause serious harm if not addressed. 

The Solution: To address seismic safety hazards, homeowners should have their chimney inspected by a professional chimney sweep. A professional can assess the chimney’s seismic safety and recommend any necessary repairs or upgrades.

chimney problems

Height Reduction

In general, a taller chimney without proper reinforcement poses a potential risk of collapse, especially in high-wind areas or earthquake-prone regions. This can raise concerns regarding seismic liability, efficiency, and fire safety.

The Solution: A professional chimney sweep can assess the chimney’s height and recommend any necessary height reduction measures, such as capping or shortening the chimney.

Mortar Issues

Another common chimney problem is deteriorating mortar, which can lead to gaps between the bricks or stones in the chimney. These gaps can allow water to penetrate the chimney, leading to further deterioration and damage.

The Solution: 

Mortar issues are a common chimney problem, and they can lead to a variety of other issues such as smoking, safety hazards, and structural damage. Mortar is the material that holds the bricks or stones of a chimney together and it is water soluble. Over time, it can become cracked, loose, or deteriorated, which can cause problems with the chimney’s integrity. Here are some solutions to address mortar issues:

Repointing

Repointing is the process of removing old, damaged mortar and replacing it with new, fresh mortar. This is typically the go-to solution for mortar issues. A skilled chimney sweep can assess the extent of the damage and determine if repointing is necessary. If so, they will carefully remove the old mortar and replace it with new, high-quality mortar that matches the existing mortar in color and texture.

Tuckpointing

Tuckpointing is a more specialized form of repointing that involves adding a second layer of mortar to the joints to give the appearance of a very thin, well-defined joint line. Tuckpointing is often used for chimneys with intricate brick patterns, as it can enhance their appearance and improve the overall look of the chimney.

Waterproofing

Waterproofing is another option to address mortar issues. Waterproofing involves applying a product with a 10-year guarantee to the surface of bricks or stones to prevent moisture from penetrating the masonry and the mortar. This can help prevent further damage and extend the lifespan of the chimney. However, waterproofing is not a long-term solution for severe mortar deterioration, and it is essential to have the chimney inspected regularly to ensure the sealing product is still working effectively.

Rebuilding

If the mortar damage is extensive and severe, rebuilding the chimney may be the only solution. This involves completely removing the existing chimney and building a new one from scratch. While this is a more expensive and time-consuming option, it may be necessary to ensure the safety and structural integrity of the chimney.  Please note, this may not be an option in your area as many cities will not issue a permit to construct a new chimney.

Cosmetic Issues

While cosmetic issues with chimneys are generally not safety concerns, they can detract from the home’s appearance and reduce its value.

The Solution: If cosmetic issues are a concern, homeowners may want to consider cosmetic repairs, such as painting or resurfacing the chimney. A professional chimney sweep can assess the extent of the damage and recommend the best course of action.

Whether the issue is smoking or performance problems, safety hazards, mortar deterioration, or cosmetic issues, there are effective solutions available to address these problems and keep chimneys in good working order.

Take Advantage of Our Chimney Promotions

At The Irish Sweep, we’re committed to fixing your chimney problems and helping our customers keep their chimneys in top shape. That’s why we’re offering two promotions to help you save on essential chimney services.

In April, we’re offering discounted services on chimney sweeping and dryer vent cleanings that will expire on May 31st of this year. This is a great opportunity to ensure that your chimney and dryer vents are cleaned and free of blockages and debris, which can improve performance, reduce the risk of fire, and ensure that your home is safe.

In May, we’re offering a discount of 15% on all open estimates for ceramic coating work that will expire on August 31st. Ceramic coating can help to protect your chimney from water damage and extend its lifespan, making it a smart investment for homeowners who want to keep their chimneys in top shape.

At The Irish Sweep, we offer a range of chimney services, including cleaning, inspection, repair, and restoration to fix your chimney problems. Our experienced chimney sweeps can identify and address any problems with your chimney, ensuring its safe and efficient operation. Contact us today to schedule a chimney inspection or to learn more about our services. If you have chimney problems, we can fix them! 

Is There Flammable Debris Inside Your Chimney?

Flammable debris inside your chimney can be a serious fire hazard. If you notice any of these signs, contact a professional chimney sweep immediately.

Whether you have a wood burning chimney or a fireplace with a gas log lighter, flammable debris can build up on the inside—where it’s out of sight and out of mind. Let’s take a look at the top offenders when it comes to fireplace safety.

Soot

Soot is a natural byproduct that accumulates from burning wood. If you have a wood burning chimney in your home, you can be sure you’ve got soot too. Not only is soot flammable, but it’s also fine enough to inhale and contains toxic elements. Be sure to have it removed from your chimney at least once a year.

Creosote

Creosote is a tar-like material that you can find inside a wood burning chimney that hasn’t been cleaned in a while. This substance is highly flammable, so it’s essential to have it removed by a professional chimney sweep. Although, there are a couple ways you can cut back on creosote buildup, such as only burning seasoned wood. Not only does green wood not burn as well, but it also produces more smoke and creosote deposits.

You definitely don’t want to allow creosote and soot to build up inside your chimney. It can spark into a chimney fire that puts your home at risk, but you might not even notice until it’s too late. Another important issue to highlight is that if enough creosote builds up, it can even block toxic gases from exiting the chimney, causing them to remain indoors.

Mold In Chimney

Did you know that mold can grow inside your chimney as well? If there’s moisture in your chimney system, it can lead to unchecked mold growth. This can be caused by things like deteriorating mortar, poorly maintained roof gutters or a faulty chimney cap, so be sure to have a professional chimney sweep look for any chimney damage that could result in this health hazard.

Chimney Flue Damage

In order for your fireplace and wood burning chimney to function properly, the flue needs to be in tip-top shape. But without a professional chimney inspection, it’s tough for homeowners to discover this kind of damage on their own. That’s because a special camera is often needed to really see inside your chimney. If the flue isn’t intact, combustible parts of your home can be exposed to extreme heat, making this scenario a hidden fire hazard.

Animal Nests

Unfortunately, animals sometimes climb into a chimney and become trapped and unable to find their way back out. Another common situation we see is birds or rodents looking for a warm, dry place to build their nests. Nesting materials are flammable, not to mention the mess you’ll find the next time you want to build a fire.

If your wood burning chimney doesn’t have a cap to protect it, don’t be surprised if you’ve had some unexpected visitors, such as bats, raccoons, squirrels, or birds. Even snakes have been found in chimneys from time to time.

Schedule an Inspection

Has it been a while since your last chimney inspection? 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, so we’re always happy to answer any questions you have. We look forward to hearing from you.

How To Know If My Chimney Is Safe?

Lafayette chimney cleaner? Building a fire when it’s cold outside can help you save on heating costs. It can also create a romantic and cozy atmosphere. But how do you know if your fireplace is really safe to use? Don’t ever assume that your chimney is functioning properly. As the cold season approaches, here are some things you need to know about professional chimney inspection.

The Importance of Chimney Services

Most of us look forward to this time of year when the leaves begin to change, and we can enjoy the holiday season with loved ones and wear our favorite sweaters. But before you light those logs in your fireplace, the chimney should be inspected by a professional.

In this age of DIY, you may be wondering if it’s possible to do your own chimney inspection. We love DIY projects at The Irish Sweep, but we don’t recommend them when it comes to the safety of your home.

An inspection can identify issues with your fireplace and chimney before they become dangerous. When a chimney isn’t functioning as it was designed to, the risk of fire increases. Another concern is that a blockage could cause harmful gas and smoke to build up inside your home. This can  result in serious illness, or even death.

Resolve Issues

If you have any questions about chimney and fireplace maintenance, it’s best to contact an experienced professional who knows the industry inside and out.

One of the benefits of scheduling a regular chimney inspection is that it can cut down on the need for chimney repairs. And, of course, no homeowner wants to pay for expensive repair work, especially when it could have been prevented.

If everything looks good, you’ll have peace of mind while using your fireplace. But if any issues are identified, you’ll be able to take care of them right away. Remember, don’t put off having minor chimney repairs resolved because they can turn into bigger problems. Or, even create risks for your household.

Schedule a Lafayette Chimney Cleaner Inspection

This is a great time of year to schedule an appointment with a Lafayette chimney cleaner to verify everything is working the way it should. Fall is ideal because it’s just beginning to get chilly at night.

So, if it’s been a while since your last chimney inspection, give us a call at The Irish Sweep. We’re here to answer all your questions. Contact us at (510) 521-4088.

Fireplace Heat Reflector And Firebacks

Did you know that there are products that actually maximize useful heat from gas and wood fires, while reducing the amount of fuel needed to heat your home with fire? Many don’t know about fireplace heat reflector for the fireplace, so they accept the efficiency they’re accustomed to. Yet fireplace heat reflector are a great investment! They not only maximize heat reflected into the home, but they also protect your firebox from any potential heat damage.

If you have a brick and mortar fireplace, it’s susceptible due to the constant cooling and heating from fires. Because of this, fireplaces will crack and shrink over time. Using a fireplace heat reflector or “fireback” will decrease how much heat is absorbed by the back wall of the fireplace, translating to less damage in the long run.

How To Install A Fireplace Heat Reflector

Installing a fireplace heat reflector is fairly easy, and many chimney care companies will do it for you. You’ll want to first measure the back of the wall of the fireplace in inches, and measure the grate where logs rest. A heat reflector is made using a non-combustible metal and features feet that allow it to stand. Measuring your wall will ensure that the grate will either fit in front of or slightly under the reflector.

Once you have the measurements, you know what size heat reflector to get. At home, remove the fire grate and place the reflector at the back of the clean firebox. Do make sure to read the directions that came with the reflector. You’ll want to make sure that the reflector is upright and that it’s stable. When that looks right, replace the fireplace grate and then use your fireplace as normal. You’ll find yourself with a noticeably cozier fire.

Sometimes low tech solutions reap great benefits. If you haven’t invested in a heat reflecting fireback yet, ask us about them at The Irish Sweep.

Fіrе Extіnguіѕhеr Maintenance: Hоw tо Maintain and Uѕе Them

Wе all have different wауѕ we hope tо fight a fire. Sоmеtіmеѕ wе рrеfеr рrеvеntіоn rаthеr thаn solution in the moment. Evеn though there аrе mаnу ways tо рrеvеnt fires, ассіdеntѕ still happen. Fire extinguisher maintenance is an important way to plan for the best.

People gеt hurt by in-home fires, lоѕе thеіr hоmеѕ оr еvеn lіvеѕ іn thе process. Thаt іѕ why every home should have properly maintained fire extinguishers, tо еnѕurе that ѕmаll incidences оf fire won’t turn out bіg. Many реорlе ѕurvіvе home fires with thе аіd of a fire extinguisher.

The presence of an extinguisher іѕ important іn making your home fіrе safe. Dеѕріtе it being mаndаtеd by buіldіng codes tо hаvе thеm, реорlе still want to have extinguishers for personal peace of mind. Yоur gаѕ tаnkѕ оr ріреlіnеѕ, grіllеrѕ, burnеrѕ, hеаtеrѕ аnd оthеr еlесtrісаl devices аrе аll fіrе hazards. Hopefully you’ll never need your fire extinguiser, but there is no reasonable excuse to not have one or to not maintain it, considering the risks and rewards of having a safe fire extinguisher.

Dіd you knоw there аrе different tуреѕ of fire extinguishers fоr dіffеrеnt tуреѕ оf fіrеѕ? Planning аhеаd and ѕtосkіng the right type of fire extinguisher іn each area оf уоur hоmе whеrе it’ѕ mоѕt lіkеlу tо be used іѕ a grеаt іdеа. All іt takes іѕ a lіttlе education аnd рlаnnіng ahead аnd you ѕhоuld bе rеаdу for anything.

HOW TO: FIRE EXTINGUISHER MAINTENANCE

Fіrе extinguishers ѕhоuld bе mаіntаіnеd аt rеgulаr іntеrvаlѕ, аt lеаѕt оnсе a уеаr, or when specifically іndісаtеd on the canister. This maintenance іѕ a thоrоugh сhесk of the еxtіnguіѕhеr. It іѕ іntеndеd tо gіvе maximum аѕѕurаnсе thаt аn еxtіnguіѕhеr wіll ореrаtе effectively аnd ѕаfеlу. There should be a thorough еxаmіnаtіоn аnd аnу necessary rераіr, recharging оr rерlасеmеnt. You should take your extinguisher to an expert for hydrostatic testing every 12 years.

No matter how gооd quality a fіrе еxtіnguіѕhеr is, none have аn infinite lіfеѕраn and they all nееd to be mаіntаіnеd оn a regular bаѕіѕ. Thеу’rе nо dіffеrеnt other mechanical devices that will fail if not maintained.

You’ll nееd to mаkе sure the fire extinguishers in your home аrе properly mаіntаіnеd ѕо thеу wоrk when you need them. Sоmе thіngѕ to kеер іn mіnd include havіng thе extinguisher іn аn area whеrе іt’s mоѕt likely to bе nееdеd. Make sure thе еxtіnguіѕhеr іѕn’t blосkеd bу оthеr іtеmѕ thаt wоuld lіmіt access durіng аn еmеrgеnсу.

Kеер the рrеѕѕurе on your еxtіnguіѕhеr at thе rесоmmеndеd lеvеl. Chесk thе gаugе indicating where thе рrеѕѕurе is. Make sure аll parts оf the extinguisher аrе ореrаblе аnd nоt dаmаgеd оr restricted. Check extinguishers оnсе a mоnth аnd ѕhаkе them tо kеер thе chemicals frоm ѕеttlіng.

HOW TO USE YOUR EXTINGUISHER:

When іt соmеѕ tіmе to асtuаllу uѕе thе еxtіnguіѕhеr, there іѕ a fаіrlу еаѕу асrоnуm tо hеlр rеmеmbеr hоw to uѕе it соrrесtlу: PASS.

Here’s how іt brеаkѕ dоwn:

P:

Pull thе pin оn the top of thе fire еxtіnguіѕhеr. Thіѕ ріn rеlеаѕеѕ a lосk whісh allows уоu to discharge thе еxtіnguіѕhеr.

A:

Aіm аt thе base of the fire instead of thе flаmеѕ, оr tор of thе fire. In оrdеr tо еxtіnguіѕh a fіrе, you must extinguish thе ѕоurсе оr the fuеl at the bоttоm оf the fіrе.

S:

Squeeze the lever slowly. This rеlеаѕеѕ thе еxtіnguіѕhіng agent іn a ѕtеаdу stream untіl thе lеvеr іѕ released аnd thе discharge will ѕtор.

S:

Sweep from ѕіdе to side, mоvе thе fіrе extinguisher in a back аnd fоrth sweeping motion untіl the fіrе is соmрlеtеlу еxtіnguіѕhеd. Mаkе ѕurе you аrе several fееt аwау frоm thе actual fіrе, аnd you can bеgіn moving towards іt оnсе thе fіrе begins tо lеѕѕеn.

With proper fire extinguisher maintenance іn уоur hоmе оr business, you саn avoid have the peace of mіnd that comes аlоng wіth knоwіng thаt уоur fire еxtіnguіѕhеrѕ are wоrkіng рrореrlу.

HAVE YOU HAD A CHIMNEY FIRE?

What many homeowners don’t know is that chimney fires can happen without anyone’s awareness. When you become aware that a chimney fire has been eating your home from  inside the walls, it may not be the first time. This is part of why prevention is so important!

SOME SIGNS THAT THERE HAS ALREADY BEEN A CHIMNEY FIRE:

♦ ‘Puffy’ creosote, that’s cloud shaped and expanded beyond its normal form

♦ Creosote build up with rainbow colored streaks

♦ Any metal components that show warping (discoloring and distortion): the damper, metal smoke chamber, connector pipe or metal chimney, rain cap

♦ Flue tiles with large chunks missing, or that have cracks or evidence of collapse

♦ Flakes and pieces of creosote on the roof or ground nearby

♦ Burn marks on roofing material damaged by hot creosote

♦ Cracks in exterior masonry

♦ Evidence of smoke escaping through mortar joints of masonry or tile liners

If your home has already had a chimney fire, there is a reason it’s happened, and you’re in danger of it happening again until the cause is identified and addressed. Causes of chimney fires all have to do with structural safety and blockages or build-up in the chimney. The only way to be sure your fireplace is safe to use is to have regular chimney cleaning services.

HOW CAN CHIMNEY CLEANING SERVICES PREVENT THESE FIRES?

There are two main tasks chimney cleaning services can do for you: a chimney inspection and sweeping/cleaning your chimney. If you have concerns about fire safety, it’s best to do both. While inspection is important to identify evidence of previous fires and risk for future fires, it’s the cleaning that removes fuel for fires: creosote and debris.

Always be sure that you have working smoke alarms in appropriate places throughout your home, and that their batteries are fresh. With a little diligence and annual chimney cleaning services, you can minimize your risk for chimney fires.

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