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.

summer maintenance fireplace chimney safety

 

A fireplace is the visual center of any room. Even when it’s not in use, it’s an attention draw. Here are some ways you can take care of your fireplace needs during dormant months and also keep it attractive and interesting as part of your home.

Hire a Chimney Sweep in Early Summer

Summer is the best time to get your chimneys cleaned and inspected by a professional chimney sweep; because you’re not using them. It’s also after spring and before fall: the perfect time for new animal nests and other fire hazards to be removed. It’s super important to get your chimney safety inspected annually, and in most cases, cleaned annually too. When you hire a pro, you know that any safety issue you have will be noted and dealt with. Inspecting your chimney yourself is not a safe substitute. Without the proper knowledge and tools, something could be missed that would compromise the structure of your home or could cause a fire.

 

Clean the Fireplace

-Always check to make sure your cleanser isn’t flammable. When cleaning brick or stone; cleansers are very difficult to clean off and it’s a serious fire hazard if yours is flammable.

-Be very careful with bleach, it can fade stone.  If there is bleach in your cleaning solution, use it with caution and very sparingly.  Consider diluting it and testing your cleaning solution in an inconspicuous place before continuing. Wait till 24 hours before deciding it’s non-damaging.

-Never clean a fireplace while it’s in use, hot, or warm from use.

-Remove the ashes and debris from the firebox before cleaning the fireplace face. This will keep you and it cleaner, and prevent your inhaling ash while cleaning.

 

Fireplace Decorating Tips

Every home has its own style, and your fireplace will look and feel best if you give it some of your personality. Once the fireplace is all clean and new looking, of course you can fill it will some beautiful logs, placed as though you were going to burn them. But you don’t have to play it so safe. What do you find attractive in a home?

  • -Fill the fireplace with candles. Either all pillars of varying heights, all tapers of the same height but different colors, candle holders or none, whatever appeals to you. Light them and watch the flames flicker without adding notable heat to the home.
  • -If you want the movement and life of fire, but no heat at all, put a mirror in the firebox. You can even paint a mirror so that only a flame-shaped area reflects.
  • -You can fill the fireplace with greenery or blooming flowers lying in the inner hearth, or place vases full of flowers in the firebox.
  • -Fill the entire firebox, top to bottom, with firewood cut to the same length, with the ends facing the room. This makes a clean, natural look.
  • -Place a painting, drawing, collage, or photograph on a table-top style easel in the fireplace.
  • -Find a fireplace cover that will blend in with hearth-front materials, blending in as thought it there were no firebox behind it.
  • -Find a fireplace screen that is a work of art in itself, something you like to look at, and leave it up in the summer.
  • -Fill old wine bottles of various shapes and sizes with water and put some twinkle lights behind and between them. When you turn your light string on, the water will refract the light beautifully.
  • -If you’re a jokester, you can fill the inner hearth with books or other things that you wouldn’t normally burn.

To start the summer chimney maintenance, your first step in getting your chimney and flue cleaned and inspected. Then clean your fireplace front, and decorate your space to match your style! Contact the Irish Sweep to schedule a chimney inspection 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.

As winter approaches, you may be looking forward to cozy days around the fire. If you are lucky enough to have a wood burning fireplace, it can be easy to neglect through most of the year up until time to set up that first winter fire. Wood burning fireplaces do require chimney cleaning, inspections, and maintenance. Now you may be wondering, why should I have my chimney cleaned and when?

Advantages of Regular Chimney Cleaning

As wood burns in your fireplace it releases smoke and ash, and over time, creosote can build up. If you have not heard of creosote, it is a flammable substance that builds up like a glaze, coating the interior of your chimney. Creosote needs to be removed regularly so it doesn’t build up and prevent the flow of smoke leaving the chimney. Also, because creosote is flammable, it needs to be removed to prevent chimney fires.

You should have your chimney inspected at least yearly and cleaned as needed. If you recently purchased a home, have the chimney inspected before using the fireplace. Regular maintenance and cleaning help to prevent larger problems and more expensive repairs. Having your chimney inspected, cleaned, and maintained each year will help keep your home and family safe.

When professionals clean your chimney, they remove soot and dangerous creosote built up on the interior. They will also check for any blockages, which could cause smoke to build up in your home if not removed. A professional will make sure everything is in working order for safe and effective operation.

chimney cleaning, the right time to clean your chimney, get your chimney swept.Advantages of Spring or Early Summer Chimney Cleaning

Some say that spring is the best time to have your chimney inspected and cleaned. This is because winter weather might have damaged the masonry, which you would want to catch and repair right away during warm summer months. Additionally, a spring cleaning will get you ready for fall and winter fires, well ahead of the peak cleaning season, so you can avoid waitlists and have it done quickly.

Advantages of Late Summer or Fall Cleaning for your Chimney

Others would argue that fall is the better time to have your chimney cleaned. This is because when your fireplace has not been used in a while, such as during the spring and summer months, pests can enter and set up their homes. Rodents and birds can build nests that clog the chimney. This could be dangerous as smoke is then unable to flow through, and additional creosote could build up, increasing flammability.

Contracting a chimney cleaning company that will provide regular inspections and cleaning is your easiest option. They will remind you when it is time for your inspections. Given the advantage of both spring and fall cleanings, you may opt to have them both in order to maintain your fireplace if you use it often. During inspections, the professionals will look for any problems, clean as needed, and perform or recommend necessary maintenance on your chimney. This can all help to prevent more serious operational issues and maintain a healthy, efficient function of your fireplace all year round.

chimney removal, chimney speed, chimney cleaning, repair, maintenanceChimney 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.

Chimney Removal Aides Home Heating/Cooling

If you are no longer using your fireplace for home heating, it’s possible your chimney is only working against your home heating and cooling efforts. Chimneys left in place may compromise insulation and allow drafts which hamper energy efficient home heating and cooling. Removing a chimney can help to create a more comfortable home environment while reducing energy usage and costs for heating and cooling.

You Want to Reduce Risk of Earthquake Damage

Chimneys are often the first structures to fall in an earthquake. If you haven’t used your chimney for years, it’s likely the chimney is worn out and damaged and at even higher risk of earthquake damage. Even a slight tremor can turn a masonry chimney into brick missiles, causing structural damage, bodily injury and even death to those in the home. With the risk of a major earthquake in California always growing, its best to have your unused chimney removed sooner rather than later.

Your Chimney is Worn and Damaged

In an old and unkempt chimney, bricks may be weak and broken, and mortar may be worn away leaving the bricks insecure. If you’re not using your chimney, it’s easy to neglect chimney care. But a weak chimney faces the possibility of collapse at any time. If your chimney is old and worn it’s better to have it removed than leave it in place.

You Want More Valuable Space

Square footage is valuable in a home, and yet leaving an unused chimney in place can compromise your living space. Removing a chimney can also help you access valuable living space in common areas and bedrooms. A chimney can impact the space in every level and room it passes through. Removing a chimney offers the added benefit of easily accessing more precious space in your home, creating a more modern and comfortable living environment.

You Want To Remodel

Working around an existing chimney when you’re trying to remodel your home can be difficult and costly. In many cases, it can be easier and cheaper to just remove the chimney so you can plan and construct your remodel the way you want. This gives you more space to work with, and freedom from the constraints of needing to work around the chimney.

By contemplating when it really might be worth chimney removal, you can access significant safety and practical benefits. Talk to your local chimney sweep company today about the benefits you could gain from removing your chimney.

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.

Gas Fireplace, Wood Burning Fireplace, Which is the Better Fireplace, Orinda Chimney Service, Oakland Chimney Service, Pleasant Hill Chimney ServiceIf you are building a home or renovating, you may be hoping to add the ambience of a fireplace.  This can give you a cozy setting for winter days.  Fireplaces are popular among buyers, so having one could increase your property values.  While you may be sure about your choice to add a fireplace, you may be more uncertain about whether to add a gas or wood burning fireplace.  There are many points to consider in making this choice:

Advantages of a Wood Burning Fireplace

The major advantage of a wood burning fireplace is that it presents the traditional appearance we would envision.  The vision of flames dancing over logs is also accompanied by the crackle of wood burning sounds and that rustic smoky smell.  Many homeowners enjoy the ambience and effect of a wood burning fireplace.  Sitting by a wood burning fire on a cold fall or winter day is really what many people dream of when the word ‘fireplace’ is mentioned.

Disadvantages of a Wood Burning Fireplace

Wood burning fireplaces require wood as fuel obtained either by chopping it yourself or by purchasing it.  Wood burning fireplaces require clean-up and maintenance to keep them working safely. Unfortunately, despite their impressive appearance and ambience, wood burning fireplaces are exceptionally inefficient, wasting much of the heat produced through the chimney. Wood burning fireplaces are also not environmentally friendly, contributing to smoke pollution while providing little heat.

Advantages of a Gas Burning Fireplace

A major advantage of gas fireplaces is their ease of use.  Starting a fire simply takes the flip of a switch.  Cleaning up a gas fireplace is also exceptionally easy, compared to wood burning fireplaces.  Gas fireplaces generally require less maintenance than wood burning fireplaces, although it is recommended to have a professional occasionally review it to prevent malfunction. Gas fireplaces produce no smoke, and their construction generally helps to conserve heat and energy in the home.

Disadvantages of a Gas Burning Fireplace

A gas burning fireplace, requires access to a natural gas line.  If you do not currently have a natural gas line to your home, it could be difficult and costly to install.  Gas fireplaces may give some of the visual appeal of a wood burning fireplace, but they may feel less authentic.

As you can see, gas and wood burning fireplaces each present their own advantages and disadvantages.  Overall, wood burning fireplaces give more traditional ambience.  However, their environmental side-effects and inefficiency provide a huge drawback. Converting your wood burning fireplace to a wood burning insert or stove provides relatively better efficiency.  In contrast, gas fireplaces are easier to use, cleaner, more efficient and they typically require less maintenance.  However, gas fireplaces don’t create the traditional sights, sounds, and smells associated with a wood burning fireplace.

A fireplace specialist can help you decide which option is best for you.  They can also help you learn more about the care and maintenance of your new fireplace so you get the greatest efficiency and the best results for your home.