routine chimney care, fireplace care, routine maintenance, firebox

 

Do you know how to care for your chimney? If you’re wondering what I mean by that, you probably don’t. Which is why you need to learn basic chimney care! As your go-to heating option in the colder months, you’ll want to make sure it’s ready to warm up your home when the weather starts to get chilly. The truth is, not many people think about their chimney much, which is why problems arise when they want to use it. To avoid these problems, here are some basic tips on home chimney care:

 

1.     Always Leave Some Ash

Although you’ll want to clean the firebox monthly when it’s in use, a clean firebox retains about an inch of ash. This allows your fires to stay strong and retain heat easier.

 

2.     Hire A Chimney Sweep

For safety, you’ll want to call a chimney sweep to not only clean it, but also provide an inspection of the fireplace and chimney. They’ll look for any damage or evidence of creosote, which is a tar-like buildup. Do this at least once a year before you begin using the fireplace again.

 

3.     Clear The Area

As part of basic fire safety, you’ll want to keep the fireplace area clear for the entire fire burning season. Not just while a fire is burning. Any furniture should be at least 36” away from the fireplace to avoid any sparks igniting it, which can be a fire hazard. No flammable decor or plants near the fire.

 

4.     Ensure There’s A Chimney Cap

You’ll want to make sure that your chimney has a cap to prevent any birds from building nests inside or any animals from climbing it. Most importantly, it keeps the flue and fireplace dry, which prevents the breakdown of the materials your chimney is made of.

 

5.     Make Sure That The Damper Is Closed

The damper is the hinged flap that’s above the fireplace and it controls how much air passes through the chimney. You’ll want to leave it open when a fire is on, but close it when it’s out to prevent any heat loss inside your home.

 

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.

Winter tips for maintaining and using your fire place and chimney

 

As the weather has turned colder, it’s time to follow some important winter tips for your chimney.  These practices will help protect you, your chimney, and home.

Chimney Inspection:

Each year, you should have your chimney inspected for damage and abnormalities.  This also includes looking over the gasket areas for any areas of concern.  Along with looking over the actual chimney, do an inspection of the damper.  You want to ensure that it is working as it should so you are protected from harm.

Sweep and Clean:

Beyond just doing a thorough review of the chimney, it is imperative that you do a chimney sweep and cleaning of the blowers.  This removes particles and residue that could pose a fire hazard.  Thus, you won’t have unnecessary build up which could ignite a fire.

Maintain Alarms:

While the inspections and cleaning are likely to prevent most issues, it is very important that you change the batteries on your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Should something go wrong, the alarms could be your last line of defense against a fatal injury.

 

Once you’ve completed these three winter tips, it’s now time to obtain quality firewood.  You can either purchase this or cut your own.  However, if this is fresh wood, you will need to let it sit for a while to allow it to dry out.  The best fire wood generally has less than 20% moisture rate.  This allows it to burn better and stronger fires.

Now that your chimney is clean and you have firewood, it is time to start a beautiful winter fire.  Just make sure to always keep an eye on it.  Cuddle up with a loved one in front of the fire and enjoy the winter. If you have questions or want to have your Bay Area home inspected, please 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.

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.

 

Orinda Danville Chimney Masonry Repair

 

 

 

Chimney masonry repair helps to correct damage and restore the structure to the bricks and mortar of your chimney. While masonry repair is an essential task to keep your chimney safe, many homeowners don’t know how to recognize the signs that a chimney masonry repair is due. Here we look at 4 key signs that you need a chimney masonry repair.

Mortar Worn Away From Between Chimney Bricks

Weather and wear can first affect the softer mortar that fills the space between each brick or stone. Signs of deteriorating mortar joints include mortar crumbling and eroding from the mortar joints or a complete lack of mortar where it’s worn away between the bricks. Mortar repairs, also known as chimney repointing, involve replacing and filling in the joints of brickwork with new mortar. Chimney masonry repair and repointing should be done in warmer months when the mortar can set up correctly, however small repairs can be made using an accelerant mixed in the mortar during winter months.

Cracks In The Masonry And Mortar

Another sign of chimney masonry damage is visible cracks in the bricks or mortar. This can be caused by prolonged weather damage or wear. It’s important to repair chimney cracks rapidly as a cracked chimney can accelerate damage to the remaining bricks and mortar as well as increasing the risk of chimney collapse. Repointing the chimney may help to replace cracked mortar, but larger repairs such as the removal and replacement of bad bricks or a complete or partial tear down may be necessary depending on the damage.

Spalling Bricks

Spalling bricks are caused when moisture and the freeze/thaw cycle disrupt the structure of the bricks and causes them to fail. This causes the brick faces to pop off when water inside the brick freezes in the winter and expands pushing the brick structure outwards. Many chimneys are built with soft style breaks that absorb moisture out more readily and are more prone to spalling. If you notice spalling bricks on your chimney it’s a sign that your chimney needs masonry repair as soon as possible to prevent further deterioration or collapse.

Leaning or Crumbling Chimney

A leaning chimney can either mean that the foundation of the chimney is not right or that there has been movement between the house and the chimney. This can be a difficult problem to diagnose as the foundation of the chimney must be inspected for stability and safety. In many cases this can lead to the need for the chimney to be torn down and rebuilt. A crumbling chimney can be due to cracked bricks or a cracked crown that hasn’t been repaired. If a chimney has already started to significantly crumble or bricks have fallen, it’s essential to have the chimney inspected as soon as possible. The chimney may need to be removed or rebuilt to prevent further damage to your chimney or home.

While many homeowners can ignore a damaged chimney, particularly if it’s not being used, that doesn’t mean that an unstable chimney doesn’t pose a threat to your home. If your chimney shows any signs of needing masonry repair contact your local chimney sweep or chimney specialist as soon as possible to provide a thorough inspection and diagnosis.

Keeping your chimney safe is an essential part of keeping your whole home safe. Keep an eye out for these 6 essential warning signs that your chimney needs repair.

  • A Smoky Or Smelly Home

A smoky or smelly home can mean your chimney liner is not working properly. Chimney liners, with clay being the most popular, are channels inside of the chimney that contain and direct combustion products outside, protecting the chimney from corrosion. If these fumes are not redirected, the consequences on your health can be severe.

Unfortunately, it is not always easy to spot liner damage. Consider calling a professional if you detect an overly smoky odor from your chimney.

  • Flakes Or Shards Of Tile/Ceramic In Your Hearth

On the topic of chimney liners, watch out for bits of flue lining in your firebox. Flue liner “shaling” occurs with time and can lead to a host of consequences, as indicated above.

The purpose of the liner is to protect the surrounding home, including combustible materials around your fireplace. Get an inspection to determine whether to replace or repair the lining.

  • White Staining On The Chimney’s Exterior

Efflorescence the name given to the effect created when a white residue of minerals and salts comes to the surface of concrete and mortar. It is a sign that water is leaking into your chimney system and is indicative of present or future structural deterioration.

When the chimney has disintegrated materials or is missing a cap, rain water can more easily make its way into the walls. This can be a sign your chimney needs repair or additional protective structures to prevent further damage.

  • Cracks In The Chimney Crown

On the topic of water damage, let’s discuss the dangers of crown cracks. If you’ve noticed air or water coming in through the fireplace, there may be cracks in the mortar around your chimney. As the cracks grow, so do structural problems so have these repaired quickly to maintain safety.

Chimney Needs Repair, Lafayette Chimney Repair, Berkeley Chimney Repair, Walnut Creek Chimney Service, Lafayette Chimney Service, Oakland Chimney Inspection

  • Stained Ceiling Or Walls

We’ve been talking a lot about the dangers of moisture and stained ceilings or walls around the chimney as these are great signs that your chimney may need repair.

Look out for dark patches, dampness, and stains and take steps to investigate the issue. There are countless DIY conversations happening online on websites and forums to help you troubleshoot, but as always, it’s important to reach out to a professional if unsure.

  • A Chimney Fire

Loud cracking and popping? Dense smoke and intense smell? These are signs of a chimney fire.

Flue fires are caused by the release of hydrocarbon gases from heated wood. At around 1100 degrees F, unburned gases condense and harden into creosote.

Creosote is highly flammable and triggers chimney fires. Chimney fires can cause the masonry to expand to the point of blowing out, which in the worst cases means room explosions.

To tell if you’ve had a chimney fire, look for warped metal in the damper, cracks in exterior masonry, smoke escaping through the mortar, or heat damaged TV antennas.

If you’re concerned, call your local chimney sweep for an inspection as soon as possible.

Keeping your chimney safe and in good condition means you can enjoy your fireplace in comfort, peace, and safety.

Fireplace, Berkeley Chimney Repair, Lafayette Chimney Repair, Walnut Creek Chimney Service, Lafayette Chimney Service, Walnut Creek Chimney Inspection, chimney sweep, dryer vent, alameda, oakland, Artificial Log Set, artificial logs, bay area, berkeley, chimney sweep, clean, Concord, danville, fireplace inserts, frequently asked questions, Irish Sweep, lafayette, oakland, orinda, Pleasant Hill, walnut creek, Wood Burning Chimney, Wood Burning Device, Wood HeatersFireplaces are a captivating home feature and a cozy source of warmth. But as eye-catching as a fireplace may be, it is often forgotten in the grand scheme of home maintenance and repair.

We recommend getting your chimney and fireplace inspected by a professional once a year but, in the meantime, there are plenty of proactive measures you can take.

Here are five useful tips to keep your fireplace safe in any season:

  1. Keep Your Chimney Top Clean

First, make sure you’ve installed a chimney cap to keep mother earth outside. Because animals like to seek refuge in there, the Humane Society of the United States recommends using a stainless-steel chimney cap with wire mesh to prevent their access. Clean the cap if it becomes clogged. You can use a wire brush to remove debris from the mesh.

While you’re up there, examine the brick mortar for cracks or flakiness. Caulk is a great waterproof filler to patch any damage.

  1. Contain The Flame

Gusts of wind from storms can shoot down the chimney and blow embers all over your favorite (and flammable) furnishing. Installing glass screens keeps your fire insulated and protects your home and loved ones.

These screens should be open during the full blaze to maximize airflow. Doing so will promote combustion and minimize the buildup of creosote. Make sure to clear the hearth space of furniture, Christmas trees and other flammable decorations to avoid igniting wandering embers.

  1. Don’t Neglect Your Detectors

Check your carbon monoxide detector’s batteries and invest in a quality smoke detector.

The American Society of Home Inspectors suggests a photoelectric detector, which works by aiming light into a sensing chamber and detecting the entrance of smoke through the chamber via reflected light. A photoelectric detector works best for smoldering fires.

Also, don’t burn trash or old tree branches. They will produce more smoke than productive blaze and risk setting off your alarms.

  1. Keep It Clean

Ensure your fireplace and your chimney are clean prior to your fire burning season.

To check if it’s time for a sweeping, take a flashlight and your fireplace poker and scratch the black surface above the smoke chamber. If the scratch in creosote is extremely thin, you can leave it a bit longer until your next sweep.

But if you have ¼ inch or more of creosote, do not light another fire until the chimney has been swept out. For a thorough job, we recommend calling a professional.

Pro tip: Ashes and creosote can be a source of calcium for your plants.

  1. Install and Use Fireplace Dampers

Dampers are used to let smoke out during fires and keep heat inside when the chimney is not in use.

Ensure that the damper or flue is open for the entire duration of fire burning and wait until the embers have stopped burning before closing your dampers. The damper can also be checked by looking up into the chimney with a flashlight or mirror.

For a complete and comprehensive fireplace safety analysis, leave it to the professionals. Contact us for thorough inspections and cleanings if you think your fireplace is ready for a sweep.