fireplace insert, fireplace inserts, heat reflector, heat reflectors

Did you know that there are products that actually maximize useful heat from gas and wood fires, while reducing the amount of fuel needed to heat your home with fire? Many don’t know about heat reflectors for the fireplace, so they accept the efficiency they’re accustomed to. Yet fireplace heat reflectors are a great investment! They not only maximize heat reflected into the home, but they also protect your firebox from any potential heat damage.

If you have a brick and mortar fireplace, it’s susceptible due to the constant cooling and heating from fires. Because of this, fireplaces will crack and shrink over time. Using a fireplace heat reflector or “fireback” will decrease how much heat is absorbed by the back wall of the fireplace, translating to less damage in the long run.

How To Install A Heat Reflector

Installing a heat reflector is fairly easy, and many chimney care companies will do it for you. You’ll want to first measure the back of the wall of the fireplace in inches, and measure the grate where logs rest. A heat reflector is made using a non-combustible metal and features feet that allow it to stand. Measuring your wall will ensure that the grate will either fit in front of or slightly under the reflector.

Once you have the measurements, you know what size heat reflector to get. At home, remove the fire grate and place the reflector at the back of the clean firebox. Do make sure to read the directions that came with the reflector. You’ll want to make sure that the reflector is upright and that it’s stable. When that looks right, replace the fireplace grate and then use your fireplace as normal. You’ll find yourself with a noticeably cozier fire.

Sometimes low tech solutions reap great benefits. If you haven’t invested in a heat reflecting fireback yet, ask us about them at the Irish Sweep.

earthquake facts for homeowners, bay area chimney sweep

Normally, it’s not the shaking ground itself that claims lives during an earthquake. It’s the associated destruction of man-made structures and the other natural disasters earthquakes cause such as tsunamis, avalanches and landslides. In a city, your biggest earthquake threat is often the safety of your own home.

Chimney Danger

One structural engineer told the SF Gate: “Masonry chimneys are perhaps the most urgent earthquake hazard in older homes. The problem is that they’re likely to fall in even a modest shake. A rule of thumb is that brick chimneys extending more than 1 1/2 times their least width above the roof pose a hazard of collapsing above the roof, not to mention any possible hazard they may pose below the roof level. That’s less than 2 feet for a typical 14-inch-wide chimney.”

Be sure your chimney is safe, or have it removed. Simple as that.

Gas Lines

After an earthquake, damage to your gas lines can mean a gas leak on your property. Which you won’t detect, because you’ll have evacuated! Best case scenario, your home stinks and you have to air it out. Worst case scenario, it goes up in a fireball. To avoid the whole problem, consider having an earthquake gas shut off valve installed, if you don’t already have one.

Earthquakes Aren’t Just For Humans

Most of us know to have a first aid kit, supplies, and an emergency plan for the humans in the house. Do you have an appropriate first aid kit for your parrot, ferret, or dog? What about emergency food set aside? Do you have a “save our pets” decal in your window, just in case? Be sure to include pets in your emergency planning.

FEMA has a Preparedness Checklist

Many families try to make their own checklist or plan for earthquake preparedness. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s extremely unlikely you’ll come up with a more thorough and useful document than this: FEMA Earthquake Preparedness Checklist (download link). Compiled by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, this is more than a list. It includes diagrams that teach helpful skills, and much more.

Drop, Cover, and Hold

The old wisdom was that doorways were the safest place to be indoors during an earthquake. That is no longer true in most buildings, especially buildings in earthquake prone areas, or new construction. Now Your safest place to be is near the ground, under something solid. The new mantra is drop, cover, hold. Drop to the ground, gain cover by going under a table or other furniture, and hold onto your protective cover with one hand, protect your neck with the other.

earthquake preparedness, earthquake safety planning

Earthquake preparedness is a Californian duty. We don’t know when earthquakes will happen, but we do know we live in an area where they do happen with some regularity.

It’s easy to let years slip by since the last time you evaluated your earthquake kit. Or maybe you don’t have one? Some things to consider about earthquake kits is that they are not evacuation bags or “bug out bags”. You can assume that in an Earthquake you can stay in your home, or at least not have to go far. What you need to plan for is possibly long periods of time without electricity, and possibly without working plumbing or natural gas, as sewage systems may be damaged, or gas may be turned off for safety.

 

Here’s what you should consider for earthquake preparedness:

Fresh Water

Store enough unopened jugs of water for about a gallon per person per day according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Three days is usually considered generous. Don’t forget, we don’t just drink water, we cook with it, wash dishes and ourselve with it, and more. Even though bottled water generally has a one to two year expiration date on the package, there’s no reason for it to become unusable unless the package is opened or damaged. Do not drink distilled water unless there is no other option, and not for long periods. Purified, filtered or spring water is fine.

Food Supplies

Having fresh food it the refrigerator does you no good when the fridge has no power. For the special occasion of feeding your family after a sizeable earthquake, you’ll want to have non-perishable food set aside. You can pack cans of tuna and boxes of crackers, but you’ll likely be happier with dehydrated meals that can be rehydrated. They tend to taste a lot better than the dry goods and canned meats.

First Aid Kit

A well-stocked first aid kit can be bought in many stores, and the pre-stocked variety like this works just fine. No need to put together your own selection of bandages and medications. When selecting your first aid kit, do consider how many people it needs to serve. And make sure to periodically remove expired items and replace them with fresh ones.

Lighting

After an earthquake, power is often out. Flashlights or headlamps for everyone in the home, plus one lantern is usually a good amount of lighting. Even if you only spend one night without electricity, it’s hard to enjoy your evening in a completely dark home.

A Radio

Either a transistor radio or a hand-crank powered radio is a good choice. In an emergency, your internet router will likely be down, and the radio is a reliable way to access news and information. This can help you know where to get supplies if needed, prepare for the weather, or know how when to expect power to come back on.

Extra Batteries

Extra batteries will serve you well, but don’t just put aside an hodge-podge of options. Choose the specific type of batteries needed for each other item in your Earthquake Kit: your radio, headlamps, lantern, flashlights, and anything else in the group. Have a larger amount of the batteries you expect to go through fastest.

Structural Safety

Chimneys that are either known to be damaged, or whose structural integrity is unknown, are dangerous in an earthquake. This is because they can fall and hurt or kill people either indoors or outdoors. Don’t take this risk, have your chimney inspected by a professional with a camera to view its interior. If structural flaws are found, reduce risk by having them repaired immediately.

Family Plan

This is extremely useful in earthquakes as well as other emergencies. To create your family plan, gather everyone who lives with you and agree on what you’ll do after an emergency. This should include when, where, or how to meet up if you’re not together. Also who’s responsible for accounting for pets or young kids, who’s going to check on older relatives near by, or anything else. A great start is declaring a physical place to meet in an emergency that is outdoors and not under power lines or tall buildings.

With the right preparation, the hours and days after a large earthquake can be safe and even organized. You’ll be glad you had taken steps to create order and minimize risk in advance.

insurance claim, insurance claims, chimney inspection, chimney cleaning

 

 

In a moment of planning, you may ask yourself “is my home insurance still valid if I don’t have proof that my chimney is properly maintained?” The answer is, that if something happens involving your chimney or fireplace, no. It’s likely not.

Many insurance policies specify that your chimney and fireplace are only insured when properly maintained. They may not ask you for proof of proper maintenance until you file a claim, but they will want it then. Your chimney is a vulnerable spot in your home’s defense against the elements. Even when covered by a chimney cap, the typical brick chimney presents a large vertical opening to the rain and snow. The mortar of chimney crowns can crack, and lightning can damage the bricks.

Fire statistics show that each year on average over 30 thousand houses have chimney fires. Chimney fires can not only destroy homes but also endanger the occupiers of the dwelling.

Homeowner’s insurance can cover damage to your property caused by sudden and unforeseen events such as fires, flash floods, lightning strikes, and wind damage. In the case of a chimney, an insurance company will closely scrutinize the facts and evidence in the claim. Your policy might exclude damage caused by poor maintenance or normal wear and tear on your house.

 

What Should You Do?

Have a camera-assisted inspection. This creates documentation of the condition your chimney is in, and allows you to know without a doubt whether your chimney is in safe condition for wood burning. The images will reveal whether you need repair, and what repair options are right for you if so. That way, when you do have a fire you can do so knowing your chimney is fully functional.

Not only is sweeping and inspecting your chimney a good idea in general, your home insurance policy may require it. So if you haven’t already, you’ll want to check with them for exact expectations they have regarding sweeping or inspecting your chimney.

 

Your Insurance Claim

Insurance companies differ in their approach to fires that may be caused by a lack of chimney cleaning. There are two dangers to not having a clean chimney: the fire itself and how the insurance company with handle it. Whether your policy is clear or ambiguous, you’ll fare better if you have documentation of annual chimney cleaning.

If a fire occurs you may be required by the terms of your policy to produce a cleaning certificate. However, whether or not required, without it the insurance company could refuse to pay out. If they believe a fire was caused by your failure to have regular chimney cleaning and inspections, your insurance claim won’t be paid.

Whatever the terms of your policy (and the difficulty of proving negligence), the greatest risk may, of course, be to your own personal safety. Also if a fire causes injury or death to third parties, you could well face civil or even criminal proceedings.

You need your chimney flue and ventilation pipes cleaned at least once a year. Having annual chimney sweep service will ensure you’re fulfilling your insurance obligations. Make sure to read your policy carefully. Most policies will require professional chimney sweeping annually. If you need to make a claim, having a recent chimney sweeping certificate shows that you actively maintain your home.

 

Do All Chimney Sweeps Provide Certificates for their Work?

All qualified chimney sweeps provide written documentation of their work. You may receive a digital or paper receipt. This is for the homeowner’s peace of mind and to fulfill insurance conditions.

In Conclusion, contact the Irish Sweep to discuss chimney and fire safety. You’ll benefit from using a quality professional chimney sweep.

So you’ve decided to buy or sell your home. What an exciting time! In either case, it’s important to know the condition of the chimney and fireplace system you’re about to either buy or sell.

Buying or selling a home can be a stressful process for everyone involved.  You need to know that the value of the property you’re buying aligns with the amount you invest in it. Naturally, you’ll have the home inspected and you’ll likely have it appraised.

If you have a chimney, hiring a chimney sweep for an inspection and cleaning is something that needs to be done.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the CSIA recommend that you have a Level II chimney inspection performed when a property is changing hands. Level II real estate inspections make use of video scanning technology, which allows us to see things that a home inspector with a flashlight would miss.

During the inspection, they feed a camera into the chimney flue and scan the walls, checking for cracks, holes, buildup, blockages, and damage. With this equipment, we can see the interior of the chimney up close and focus on areas that look concerning. We’re also able to capture photographs to include in the report provided to you. This can be great for insurance purposes or negotiating purposes and can prevent you from getting stuck with a massive chimney repair bill or a fire or safety hazard that you were unaware of at the time of the sale.

4 Reasons to Inspect Before You Sell Your Home

1. A Favorable Chimney Inspection Report Reflects Well on You:

When selling, the prospective buyer will see the current inspection reports, and realize your home is in great condition. The home buyer will be more enthusiastic about putting in an offer on a home that is move-in ready. You’ll be able to command a higher price than a home that needs, or might need, repair.

If you’re buying, requesting the chimney inspection report allows you to know what condition of chimney you’re acquiring.

2. Satisfy the Requirements of Insurance Companies:

Today, many insurance companies require an inspection by a chimney certified technician before issuing insurance on a home that has a chimney system. 

3. Provide the Ambiance on Home Buyers’ Wish Lists:

A fireplace is often an item on the home buyer’s “must have” list. There is no doubt that a functioning chimney system has great charm and aesthetic appeal. Knowing the chimney is safe and usable makes nights by the fire cozier.

4. Close on Time:

Don’t be delayed by missing inspection reports, have the chimney inspected before listing to sell your home. The prospective purchaser wants confirmation that your beautiful chimney is in good working order. Having to wait until the chimney inspection is scheduled and performed delays the purchaser’s final decision. Make it easy to say yes.

In Conclusion, make selling a home a little less stressful by having your chimney inspection by a certified chimney sweep.