The Irish Sweep is still accepting calls to answer questions and schedule any service needs. However, no on-site visits are currently being conducted pursuant to the government's stay in place order. Please feel free to contact us at 510.521.4088 to get answers to your questions or schedule a future appointment.
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.
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!
Regular chimney cleaning helps your chimney to function efficiently and safety, boosting the chimney’s function and reducing the risk of chimney fires. But how often do you need a professional chimney sweep? It’s an important question to which there is no one right answer. However, understanding how often you should sweep your chimney is important to keep your fireplace in top condition.
Why is Chimney Cleaning Important?
Chimney cleaning helps to remove buildup of ash, soot, dust and debris from inside your chimney, and most importantly helps remove creosote. Creosote builds up on the inside of chimneys and flues when wood fuel is burned. The less efficiently wood is burned, the more quickly creosote builds up. This makes it difficult to determine when a fireplace needs cleaning based on usage alone. One fire where the wood is burned inefficiently may contribute much more creosote than many fires where the wood is burned properly. Creosote is highly flammable and can trigger a chimney fire if left to build up to more than 1/4 inch. Regular cleaning helps to remove buildup such as creosote and keep your chimney safe from fires.
How Often Should You Clean Your Chimney?
Because the degree of creosote buildup can vary depending on how wood is burned, it can be tricky to work out just how often you should have your fireplace cleaned.
Ideally, it’s best to ask a chimney professional to provide a chimney inspection to gauge the level of creosote buildup and determine whether a clean is necessary.
Otherwise, as a rule of thumb the National Fire Prevention Association and the Chimney Safety Institute of America both recommend a chimney should be cleaned and inspected for structural soundness and integrity at least once a year.
If I Haven’t Used My Fireplace Much, Can I Avoid Cleaning It?
Because creosote buildup can occur after relatively few fires where wood has burned incompletely, using your fireplace rarely isn’t necessarily a good reason to avoid cleaning it. Fireplaces can also deteriorate structurally due to water or impact damage and become clogged with debris or even pests, so it’s best to schedule chimney inspection and cleaning at least once a year at the minimum.
Should My Chimney Be Cleaned More Frequently?
If you know that your fireplace is used often and your fireplace burns wood inefficiently, you may need to have your chimney cleaned more often. Chimney cleanings should be aligned with creosote buildup, so in chimneys where creosote buildup is happening more rapidly, cleanings should be more regular. This can also be the case where certain types of wood are burned, such as pine, which naturally releases more creosote. If you use your fireplace very frequently, or are aware that your fireplace is burning fuel inefficiently, it is advisable to consult with your local chimney expert about how often your chimney sweeps should be.
Regular chimney cleaning and inspection helps to keep your fireplace safe, tidy, strong and chimney fire free. Talk to your local chimney sweep about how often your chimney should be cleaned based on your individual needs.