make a fire, making a fire, fireplace fire, building a fire

 

There’s nothing quite like relaxing with a warm fire at home. Whether you’re snuggling with someone special or just chillin with the family, a warm and cozy fire makes chilly winter nights so much more comfortable. But there’s an art to creating a great wood fire in your fireplace. And no, we’re not talking about electric fireplaces, either! We’re talking about the real thing, so if you’re wondering how to build a great wood fire in your fireplace, here’s how to do it:

 

Have a Clean Chimney

You’ve had your chimney cleaned each year so there are no blockages, right? Without a clean chimney you may end up with a smoky house, or even a chimney  fire. Having creosote buildup and any blockages removed is an important safety step, so if you’re behind on maintenance, schedule a cleaning before you build a wood fire.

 

Always Open the Damper

Don’t forget to open your chimney damper so smoke can exit the home. Smoke inhalation is dangerous, and can be deadly. Your damper is probably closed when not in use, to prevent heat loss from the home.

 

Prime the Chimney Flue

When you start, your flue will be cold. After opening the flue, cold air from outside will sink into the chimney. If you light the fire during this air sink, you’ll end up with smoke inside your home.

If you have a fireplace that uses a gas pipe to supplement the fire, turn it on and light the pilot without any wood in there. Let the flue warm up before adding the wood. To prime it, light a roll of newspaper and then hold it up the opening for a few minutes. When you feel the draft is now going up, the flue is primed!

 

Create an Ash Bed

You’ll want a 1” to 2” ash bed in the fireplace to help insulate it for a hotter fire. If you don’t use your fireplace often enough to have an ash bed already, you can use ashes from your outdoor grill.

 

Make a Fire Upside Down

An “upside down fire” will burn longer than other fire structures. Don’t put the tinder and smaller kindling on bottom and the bigger fuel logs in a teepee shape on top like you’ve seen on tv. Create a square layer of big logs on the bottom, and then a layer of medium logs perpendicular to those, and smaller ones across the top. Finish it off with bunched up newspaper or other tinder and light with a match from the top. This fire needs very little maintenance and may also burn cleaner since smoke won’t need to pass through logs.

Now it’s time to sit back and enjoy your cozy and comfy fire!

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.

With winter coming, the fireplace becomes a center for seasonal celebration in many homes. Some people decorate their mantles for specific holidays, some for the seasonal and weather changes, and some just make an effort to beautify the space because this is a season that brings many guests into the home.

 

A tried and true favorite I think we’ve all seen before is “put lots of pictures of the family on there”, and that can be creative and lovely. Especially with attention given to selection of frames and placement. We’ve all seen “fill it with symbolic paraphernalia” too. This could be lots of turkeys, dried corn, pilgrims, and natives for Thanksgiving, or maybe a nativity or Santa scene for Christmas. But what else is there?

 

Traditional festive christmas decorated fireplace with candles

Winter Greenery

 

One of the elusive keys to this looks is that there are no pots, no vases of water. Just bright green cuttings like boxwood, eucalyptus, pine or cedar. You can throw in chopped wood with the bark still on, or maybe some lovely dogwood sticks or twigs. If you use any vases or other things, go for glass or white ceramics to keep from drawing attention to them.

 

mirrors on a mantel

Mirrors Share the Light

 

If you burn fires, string twinkle lights or light candles this season, you’ll find mirrors an especially lovely mantle decoration. Mirrors tend to make rooms look bigger and they also throw reflected light across the room, which can be quite amazing if you’ve strung light garlands. If the fire in the fireplace is burning, because the mirrors are above it. they won’t directly reflect the fire. Instead they spread the warm soft light more fully.

 

california desert winter mantle

California Desert Native Mantel

 

Sometimes when you live in a desert, the lush evergreen decor around us just doesn’t feel as genuine as surrounding ourselves with the plants that live and grow easily here. If you want to celebrate the season and your microclimate, go for it with terra cotta pots of the succulents and cacti that know California as home.  You can choose aloe, any number of easy to grow succulents. You even may want to throw a blooming Christmas Cactus or bright grafted cactus in there for color. The terra cotta pots are reminiscent of the clay-sand ground, so if you switch to another color or texture you may miss it.

 

 

mantel decorations for winter

Your Collection

 

The pictured mantel shows off a ceramic birdhouse collection, but you may collect other things entirely. This may be the time that your family and friends are most likely to visit your home. That also makes it the best time to show off the things that you find beautiful! This works best with collections, not a pulled-together hodgepodge of things you like. If you don’t have a collection of anything, do you have a most prized possession? The mantle might be a good place for it this season.

 

 

A Beautiful scene of a christmas fireplace with stockings on the mantle.

Holiday Glitz and Glam

 

Winter seems to make silver, gold, and flashy metallic colors just feel right. Here shiny glass ornaments and glittery gold trees bring the glamour. You can also tap into the power of reflective light with shiny silver menorahs and gold-wrapped hanukkah gelt, or crystal snowflakes and icicles. Whatever you choose, it’ll reflect light in a way that warms the home.

 

 

monochromatic fireplace decor

Choose a Color

 

You can select a color you like, maybe one that complements the room, and center your mantle decorations around that. This photo shows a cream or off-white focus, with some figurines, candle holders, and stockings, all in the same approximate colors. This can work to beautiful effect with any theme, though.

Remember that the best fireplace is always a safe fireplace. If you haven’t had your chimney or fireplace inspected or cleaned in the last year, contact us today to schedule a time to ensure that your home is safe.

house get smokey, smoke in the house, dangers of smokey fireplace

 

A ѕmоkу fireplace іѕ not only unpleasant; letting your house get smokey can аlѕо be a fire hаzаrd. Whether уоur fireplace is regularly ѕmоkу оr only occasionally ѕо, оnе оr mоrе of these tips mау remedy the situation.

Fоr mоѕt folks, an evening in front of the fіrерlасе саn bе a soothing and relaxing еxреrіеnсе. Thеrе іѕ, however, nothing particularly soothing about unwanted fireplace ѕmоkе рuffѕ that ѕріll into the hоmе while the fіrе is burning. Smоkе that еѕсареѕ through the fireplace opening is the result оf рооr fіrерlасе drafting which саn be саuѕеd bу a number оf factors. Here аrе some оf the mоѕt соmmоn саuѕеѕ and solutions.

 

1. Incorrectly Built Fireplace

Faulty fіrерlасе design may be the reason for your fіrерlасе ѕmоkе problem. Thеrе are critical parts оf a fireplace that muѕt bе built tо ѕресіfіс sizes in rеlаtіоn tо other components. Fluе volume and fіrерlасе opening ѕіzе rаtіоѕ аrе extremely important. Other factors include smoke shelf construction, ѕіzе and ѕhаре of the dаmреr, chimney height in rеlаtіоn tо a реаk of rооf height and ѕо оn. A chimney inspection can help you rule this out.

 

2. Check the Dаmреr

Sоmеtіmеѕ the damper іѕ nоt open аll the way and wіll nоt allow your fіrерlасе tо vent properly. Thе damper is a metal plate that іѕ іnѕіdе уоur chimney and uѕuаllу hаѕ a handle nеаr the bottom that you can move uр and down to open and сlоѕе your damper. It’ѕ nоt unсоmmоn fоr реорlе tо сlоѕе the dаmреr in the summer when іt’ѕ not in uѕе and also during the winter tо keep wаrm аіr frоm escaping the house. Your damper may be closed.

 

3. Chесk Thе Аіr Supply Іn The Room Containing Thе Fireplace

If there іѕn’t еnоugh аіr flowing in the rооm where the fіrерlасе іѕ located, both the fоrmаtіоn оf the draft of аіr that carries smoke uр and out of the chimney and combustion is inhibited. In оrdеr tо figure out if this is the problem and hоw to ѕоlvе іt, уоu just try opening one оr two windows in the rооm when the fіrе is burning. Thе fіrе may stop smoking, and уоu will hаvе tо experiment tо dеtеrmіnе exactly how muсh уоu nееd tо open the windows іf this method does work.

 

4. Exhaust Fans Іn Thе Home

A running kіtсhеn оr bathroom exhaust fаn could bе the cause оf уоur fireplace ѕmоkе. Another culprit mау bе the blower fаn оf a fоrсеd hot аіr heating ѕуѕtеm especially if the furnace rеturn vent іѕ in the ѕаmе room аѕ the fіrерlасе. Thеѕе types оf fаnѕ саn vеrу еаѕіlу сrеаtе a powerful negative pressure hindering the fіrерlасе frоm drafting correctly. If уоu mаkе ѕurе that аll оf these tуреѕ оf fаnѕ аrе off while the fireplace іѕ burning, the ѕmоkе problem mау gо аwау.

 

5. Crеоѕоtе Buildup

Crеоѕоtе is a bурrоduсt оf natural wood that іѕ burnt аt a low temperature. When the creosote solidifies, іt соllесtѕ іnѕіdе the wаllѕ оf уоur chimney. Crеоѕоtе саn start an invisible fire inside the walls or structure of your home, and smoke may be the only clue. When conditions become ѕеvеrе, сrеоѕоtе саn сlоg your chimney making it difficult for аіr tо еѕсаре. Yоur chimney should be сlеаnеd еvеrу уеаr regardless оf whether уоu uѕе іt or nоt, and a chimney sweep should be called immediately if there is unexplained smoke in your home.

 

Dangers оf Smоkе to Homeowners

And although smoke may ѕmеll gооd, іt’ѕ nоt gооd fоr уоu. Inhaling ѕmоkе іѕ dangerous and cause ѕеrіоuѕ health problems. Thе bіggеѕt health threat frоm smoke іѕ frоm fіnе particles, also called fine particulate matter or PM2.5. Thеѕе mісrоѕсоріс particles can gеt into your еуеѕ and respiratory system, where they cause burning еуеѕ, runny nose, and illness, ѕuсh аѕ bronchitis. Fіnе particles саn make asthma ѕуmрtоmѕ worse and trigger asthma attacks. Fіnе particles can аlѕо trigger heart attacks, stroke, irregular heart rhythms, and heart failure, especially іn people who аrе already аt rіѕk fоr these conditions.

Nо matter іf уоur fіrерlасе is already ѕmоkу оr nоt, уоu should mоѕt definitely get your chimney inspected or cleaned (or both) every уеаr tо bе sure уоur chimney and fіrерlасе аrе ѕаfе and сlеаn.

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.

Bay chimney sweep, smoke from fireplace, chimney cleaning

If smoke is coming out of your fireplace instead of going up the chimney it indicates there’s an issue that you need to correct. A smoky fireplace is not only unpleasant it can also be a health and fire hazard in your home. Here we look at some of the causes of smoky fireplaces and what you or a San Francisco Bay chimney sweep can do to alleviate the problem and improve air quality.

Chimney Needs To Be Cleaned

One of the reasons that smoke may not be able to exit through your chimney is because the chimney is blocked with creosote buildup. Without smoke being able to exit your home through the chimney, it instead since spills out of the fireplace and fills your rooms. You should have your chimney inspected and cleaned at least once yearly, and immediately if you notice any change in the performance of your fireplace. If it’s been a while since you’ve had your chimney cleaned, a blockage or build up in your chimney could be the culprit of a smoky fireplace.

Damper Is Closed Or Broken

The damper allows air flow through your fireplace with which is essential to feed the flame and create an airflow through your chimney. If the damper is closed, your fireplace will smoke and the smoke will not pass out through the chimney. Check that your damper is fully open when you’re starting to light the fire. If you still experience problems with a smoky fireplace it might be worthwhile having a professional North Bay chimney sweep look at the top of the chimney to check the rain cap or chimney top damper that might be obstructed.

Flue Is Obstructed

Blockages in the flue can be caused by anything ranging from creosote buildup to a birds nest or dead animal stuck in the flue. Having a professional inspected thoroughly clean the chimney flue can help reestablish airflow and reduce chimney smokiness again.

Chimney Is Too Cold Or It’s Too Warm Outside

When the chimney is too cold, the layer of cold air in the chimney can block the smoke from rising to the top of the chimney and instead pushes smoke out of the fireplace. This problem can be fixed by preheating the chimney by either lighting the end of the newspaper and holding it up to the damper for a little while, or blowing hot air from a hairdryer up the chimney to warm the air and establish airflow.

Negative Air Pressure Inside The House

Negative air pressure inside the house can be caused by airtight insulation or exhaust fans within the house. Negative internal air pressure can prevent the fireplace from drafting correctly which causes smoke to flow inside the house rather than out through the chimney. You can correct negative air pressure by opening a window in the fireplace room while burning.

Wet Firewood

Wet firewood is a common cause of smoky fireplaces. Wet firewood smolders or makes hissing sounds while burning, and can’t create sufficient heat for the chimney to draw well. Ensure you use dry wood to build your fire to prevent an overly smoky and smoldering fireplace.

Faulty Fireplace Design

And incorrect or poorly built fireplace will not be able to draw in air properly and have smoke vent through the chimney correctly either. If you’ve exhausted all other reasons for your overly smoky fire place it could be that your actual fireplace design is faulty. Have a fireplace professional inspect the dimensions and measurements of your fireplace to ensure that it’s actually functional.

A smoky fireplace can contribute to greater fire risk and increased air pollution in your home. Correct a faulty smoky fireplace as quickly as possible by calling an East Bay chimney sweep or fireplace professional to inspect your problem and provide the right solution.

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.

Wood burning in fireplaces, though very comforting, have adverse effects on the environment. (Mathew Sumner/San Mateo County Times)Inserts are either gas or wood burning, could be pellet but we see very few of these in the Bay Area.  They are a highly engineered metal box, fabricated in a factory and designed to be clean burning and they slide into the firebox of either a masonry or factory built fireplace.

 

The manufacturer of each of these inserts will specify the venting materials required for the insert, the clearances to combustibles and provide installation directions for each model they manufacture.  These appliances have all been tested and approved by some testing laboratory.

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.