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.

Wood burning fireplaces offer a certain charm and ambience to your home, but when it comes to heating and environmental efficiency they are far from the best choice. If you have a fireplace at home, you may want to keep it, while also making it safer, more efficient, and more environmentally friendly. That’s where fireplace conversion can be the ideal way to transform your inefficient wood burning fireplace into a more efficient and functional heating installation.

Gas fireplace conversionThe Problem With Wood Burning Fireplaces

Wood burning fireplaces can be one of the most inefficient options, with much of the heat from within the home and as well as the heat generated from the fire simply being lost through the chimney. Wood burning fireplaces also add smoke, pollution, and particulate matter to the air which can trigger allergies and asthma and contribute to environmental pollution. Wood burning fireplaces increase the risk of chimney fires and home fires due to the buildup of creosote as a byproduct of wood burning.

Fortunately, when it comes to switching out your wood burning fireplace for a cleaner, more efficient version, you have a number of options.

Wood Burning Fireplace Inserts

Wood burning fireplace inserts retain the charm of traditional wood burning fireplaces, while lessening the environmental impact. Wood burning inserts reduce drafts and heat escaping from the fireplace, while ensuring wood burns hotter and more completely. Wood burning fireplace inserts can fit right into a traditional fireplace, converting it into a more efficient option.

Artificial Gas Logs

Artificial gas log fireplaces can offer an economical option that gives the effect of a real wood-burning fireplace without the pollution and the mess. Artificial gas logs may still need to be installed with glass door enclosures to reinforce insulation and prevent heat loss. Gas log fireplaces use gas as a fuel which can be more economical than firewood (if you need to pay for firewood). Gas log fireplaces provide reliable heat without the pollution of smoke and the mess of ash and creosote.

Gas Fireplace Insert

A gas fireplace insert is like a gas heater installed within the firebox of the existing fireplace. Because they are sealed, they are more efficient than gas logs and can provide reliable heat with adjustable flames. Gas fireplace inserts can cost more to install initially but can offer a more efficient heating solution without the health and environmental concerns of other fireplace options.

Electric Fireplace Insert

Electric fireplaces can be useful as they don’t require a chimney to vent. That means if your chimney is not functioning you can still create the effect of the fireplace with an electric insert. The drawback of an electric fireplace is that there are no flames, so it doesn’t have the same effect as other installations. While Electric inserts are inexpensive to install, electricity is generally not the most efficient fuel source. However electric inserts can provide a good source of heat as a nonpolluting alternative to an open fire place.

For environmental, health, and economical reasons, swapping out your traditional fireplace for a more efficient version makes sense. If you’re not sure which fireplace alternative is right for you, talk to our fireplace experts today to learn more about which fireplace conversion will work best for your home.

Dryer Vents, Cleaning, Berkeley Chimney, Berkeley Dryer Vents, Orinda Chimney, Orinda Dryer Vents, Oakland Dryer Vents, Oakland Chimney, Lafayette Chimney

 

Although hidden and out of sight, dryer vents perform a vital role in your home. Dryer vents remove hot exhaust air from your clothes dryer to ensure effective and safe operation. However, through the process of drying your clothes and with repetitive use, dryer vents can become clogged with lint, dust and other debris. Cleaning your dryer vent on a regular basis is critical. Not only does this help maintain the efficient functioning of your dryer, cleaning ensures your entire home remains safe.

Why Cleaning Dryer Vents Is Important

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, 15,450 house fires in 2010 were caused by home dryer machines, and the majority of these (32%) were triggered by dryer vents that hadn’t been cleaned. These fires greatly threaten the safety of homes and families as well as cause millions of dollars of damage to property.

Dryer vent fires most often occur due to lint and other debris that builds up in the vents after repeated dryer use. Lint is made up of small fabric fibers and dust particles that are released from clothes when they are washed. Lint is naturally highly flammable, and combined with the heat from a clothes dryer, can quickly kindle a fire. Clothes dryer fires can often cause significant damage to a home before they can be controlled.

Not only can clogged dryer vents lead to fires, they also reduce the efficiency of your dryer, provide the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning, and promote conditions for the spread of mold and allergens. As dryer vents become clogged and the machine has to work harder to remove exhaust, the dryer efficiency drops and your energy consumption climbs. Without being fully removed by the dryer vent, carbon monoxide can leach into your home causing death or long term poisoning. The buildup of lint and dust in the warm moist environment can also lead to mold growth and excess dust mites. Mold and dust mites can make your whole family ill, while potentially triggering severe allergies or asthma in those who are susceptible.

Keep Dryer Vents Clean

Although uncleaned and clogged dryer vents are the leading cause of dryer machine fires, they can be easily prevented with proper dryer vent maintenance and cleaning. One of the simplest things you can do to prevent dryer vent fires is to ensure you remove lint from your dryer filter before and after each load, to eliminate lint buildup. Although this won’t reach all the potential lint buildup in your dryer, it can help to reduce the total lint burden in your dryer.

Another essential component of home dryer maintenance is inspecting your outer vent flap to ensure that it is not obstructed by any debris or build up.

Professional Dryer Vent Cleaning

Professional dryer vent cleaning is an essential aspect of your dryer vent maintenance. While checking your dryer vent yourself at home can help to minimize build up and reduce the chances of a fire, professional dryer vent cleaning can reach areas of the vent that you can’t reach alone. No matter how good your regular dryer vent cleaning is, you will always require professional dryer vent cleaning from time to time. Authorities recommend having your dryer vent professionally inspected and cleaned at least once a year for greater dryer vent safety and performance.

 

Dryer vent maintenance is an essential aspect of keeping your home safe and efficient. Maintain and clean your dryer vent regularly at home and book professional dryer vent cleaning services at least once a year to remove long term lint buildup.

3201894-450pxFirst of all, let me be clear, artificial gas log sets can only be installed in a fireplace that is suitable for wood burning.  The only way we can determine the fireplace is fire safe is to clean the chimney and then look at the interior surfaces with our remote vision camera system.

These sets come in various sizes and include ceramic logs of your choice with a burn pan, decorative silica sand, volcanic cinders, dual effect embers, a pedestal grate and damper stop.

A plumbing contactor is required to install a gas valve on the floor or wall near the fireplace and a gas supply line into the firebox.

Vent-free artificial gas log sets are illegal in the State of California.

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.

Factory Built Fireplace, Oakland, Berkeley, Alamo, Lafayette, Orinda, Pleasant Hill, Concord, Danville, Blackhawk, Dryer Vent CleaningThis is a fireplace and chimney system that was manufactured in a factory (as the name implies) out of metal.  It is a modular system of component parts that was brought to a job site and installed once the wood framing for the house was in place.  It has a firebox lined with refractory panels, with a damper at the top of the firebox and lengths of double or triple-walled chimney place on top to form a complete fireplace and chimney system.  The chimney above the roofline may be enclosed by a wooden chase.

It has many slang names (which I refuse to use) but some of you may know this fireplace as a Z-Can, ZC, Zero Clearance fireplace (which is a misnomer) as clearances to combustibles are required.  I’ve heard some people refer to it as an insert, which is totally incorrect.

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.