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.
If you’ve never had your chimney inspected, you might be wondering what exactly happens when the inspector comes. Annual inspections and chimney cleanings are recommended for safe fireplace burning. You’ll want to get it done between your last fireplace usage last year and your first fire this winter to ensure that it’s in good working condition.
At your scheduled chimney inspection, your chimney sweep will likely use a special camera to look inside the system, affording them a better view of what’s going on where your fire and smoke travel.
Here’s what they’ll look for:
1. STRUCTURAL ELEMENTS AND FLUE
The chimney sweep will first look at the exterior and interior of the fireplace and chimney, looking for any problems of wear and tear, including the fireplace, chimney, flue and hearth. These structural elements can affect whether your chimney stays standing after earthquakes or severe weather.
2. COMBUSTIBLES ARE SECURED
They’ll also look at the structure of the chimney. This is to be sure that combustibles can’t contact any other building materials, which would be a fire hazard. Your fire should stay within a completely secure firebox area. The risk of slow-burning fire within your walls is something to take very seriously.
Your chimney sweep will look for any obstructions. These could possibly block the venting of smoke, combustible byproducts and gas, such as animal nests, leaves and other debris. An obstruction could cause these gasses to build up dangerously inside your home instead of leaving like they should.
4. VOLUME AND KIND OF COMBUSTIBLE DEPOSITS
A chimney sweep will look at the volume and nature of any combustible deposits building up on the walls of the chimney to see if they pose a danger. Creosote can ignite within your chimney or flue and is highly flammable.
To see what a chimney sweep inspection looks like using a camera like we use here at Irish Sweep, watch this video:
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.
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.
Chimney removal is often advised, but many homeowners put it off, not considering the benefits of full chimney removal. Many homes have been built with fireplaces for heating, and they also have chimneys. As time has provided the innovation of other, more efficient heating methods, fireplaces and chimneys may not be used so often. Here we look at 5 reasons that you should consider having your chimney removed.
While this winter has not been too wet, many are predicting some rain over the next couple months. We don’t anticipate it reaching last year’s levels, but it’s still important that you waterproof your chimney. Water can seep into a chimney and leaks may form. But how does this potentially expensive problem even happen?
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.
When you think about home improvements, your chimney may not be something you think about. However, like many other things in you home, it can break down and need replacement. But how do you know when you should replace your chimney since it’s usually not something on your repair list? Well, it all depends on the condition of your chimney.
Chimneys are very sturdy, but they still need some TLC every now and then to functional properly. And if your chimney is in really bad shape, it might be time for a chimney replacement. To see if your chimney needs fixing or replacement, it’s recommended that you do an annual check, usually in a
season that you won’t be using your fireplace. You’ll also want to check it out after any severe weather like hail storms or hurricanes.
We’ve rounded up a few obvious signs to check for yourself, right after you schedule a professional chimney inspection.
1. A DAMAGED CHIMNEY CROWN
The crown of your chimney is a vital piece of masonry as it protects the chimney from anything that might fall into it (expect for directly above the flue). It keeps out water and weather damage and takes a beating. If it’s injured, the damage can spread down the chimney, resulting in a complete rebuild. It can also degrade and crack due to age, which can be a disaster for the chimney.
2. WHITE SALTS ON BRICKS
White bricks can mean water damage inside the bricks, which pulls out the natural salts and minerals to the surface of the bricks. The white staining can wash off easily, but if comes back, you’ll definitely need to call a professional to come in and help.
3. SPALLING OR SHALING
Spalling is the result of water entering brick, concrete, or natural stone. It forces the surface to peel, pop out, or flake off. Spalling can eventually cause crumbling and destruction of a structure. If you have spalling bricks, it means your chimney is damaged and will need to be rebuilt. You’ll want to call a professional ASAP.
Shaling is also caused by water, but describes what happens to affected tiles. If you notice that tiles or pieces of tiles fall into your fireplace, this is shaling. You’ll definitely need a chimney replacement if you see this!
4. NO CHIMNEY CAP
The chimney cap is like a little hat worn by the flue, to keep debris and water out. Some chimneys don’t have a cap and the ones that do can lose them from time to time. If your chimney doesn’t have one, it’s because it’s most likely sustained some damage at one point. The cap acts as the first line of defense and you’ll want to call a professional for an inspection before any damage gets worse, needing a full chimney replacement.