Why Consider Chimney Height Reduction?

Have you ever seen a really tall chimney column that just stands out in the neighborhood? We see them all the time and wonder if the residents are aware of their potential hazard.  Did you know that the section from the roof to the top of the chimney can frequently be reduced in
height?

Potential Collapse Hazard

A taller chimney that is not reinforced is a potential collapse hazard in general, especially when living in high wind areas or earthquake country. With concerns particularly around seismic liability, efficiency, and fire safety.

Inefficient Chimneys

In general, an inefficient chimney can cause several problems and sometimes it is better to just get it removed or reduced in height. The Irish Sweep are experts in this area and have been spending many working days assisting their customers in chimney height reduction goals.

Reasons for Chimney Height Reduction

  1. Prior to installing a gas burning fireplace insert.  This is a perfect time to reduce the height as it isn’t required for proper performance.
  2. Potential collapse hazard and seismic liability concerns. Especially if the chimney could collapse into a bedroom, frequently used living spaces and even where a car is parked in the garage or driveway.
  3. Reclaim space. If the chimney is interior to the home, customers sometimes want to reclaim the space in their house particularly if going through a remodel.
  4. Expert recommendation. If a structural engineer or similar profession deems this to be important.

How Ceramic Coatings Make Your Chimney Safer, and 3 Other Benefits

In this blog post, we’ll explain how ceramic coatings make your chimney safer – and the many other benefits of using them.

If you’re like most homeowners, you probably don’t think about the chimney until there’s a problem with it. And by then, it’s often too late. A broken or deteriorated chimney can lead to all sorts of safety and efficiency problems in the home, from hazardous flue gasses leaking into the living space to an increase in our energy bills due to draft problems. But ceramic coatings can help prevent all that!

How Does a Chimney Lose Integrity Over Time?

With time, even a lightly-used fireplace and chimney can start to deteriorate. Exposure to winds, extreme temperatures, and moisture can cause mortar joints to crack and separate, bricks to crumble or spall, metal dampers to rust through, and clay flue tiles to crack.

This deterioration can lead to all sorts of problems in our home. To stay ahead of damage and keep our chimney functioning efficiently, opt for a chimney inspection at least once a year. We can also prevent deterioration (and fix certain safety issues) by hiring professional services to apply ceramic coatings to our chimney.

How Do Ceramic Coatings Make Your Chimney Safer?

Applied inside a chimney, the ceramic coating seals any gaps or cracks. It covers an even ceramic layer that allows smoke and dangerous chemicals to escape straight out of the chimney’s crown. It also inhibits further acid corrosion and prevents damage that might result from it. This not only ensures that the chimney will continue to function properly but also gives us peace of mind knowing that no expensive repairs will sneak up on us.

Other Benefits of Ceramic Coatings

Lengthens the Chimney’s Lifespan

Ceramic coatings are designed to restore and repair the flue while protecting it against future damage. The heat-resistant, water-resistant, chemical-resistant ceramic surface decreases dangerous heat transfer that would otherwise damage an unreinforced fireplace.

Helps Prevent Chimney Fires

Poorly maintained flues and chimneys are one of the common causes of home fires. When creosote, a combustible byproduct of incomplete combustion, builds up in the flue, it can ignite and cause a dangerous chimney fire. Ceramic coatings help to prevent these types of fires by sealing and protecting the flue and preventing the buildup of creosote. The ceramic coating also makes it easier for the chimney sweep to clean the chimney!

Eco-Friendly and Cost-Effective Choice

Ceramic coatings are a cost-effective and eco-friendly way to protect a chimney. They are manufactured from recycled and natural materials, and are much more economical than rebuilding a chimney! Because the ceramic coating seals all the cracks and gaps in the chimney, often an increase in energy efficiency is noticed – which means we save money on our energy bill.

Our highly skilled experts offer a 20-year warranty on ceramic coatings. The coating will not crack or chip due to temperature changes and is highly resistant to water penetration, so you won’t have to worry about repair costs for a long time!

To learn more about the many benefits of ceramic coating, contact us today!

What Is Stage 3 Creosote and How Do You Deal With It?

A dirty chimney is the leading cause of chimney fires! In this article, we will discuss what leads to stage 3 creosote and how to deal with it.

Creosote is a toxic byproduct of burning wood. The black, tarry substance can build up in your chimney over time, and not only is it corrosive and damaging to the flue liner, but it also presents a serious fire hazard.

What is Creosote and How Does it Build Up?

Creosote is a substance that develops as the byproducts of burning wood adhere to the inside of your chimney. The byproducts, including smoke, water vapor, gasses, particles of burned wood and tar fog, rise up the chimney as you burn your firewood. When they reach the cooler parts of the chimney, they rapidly cool and condense on top of each other until they form a black sticky substance known as creosote.

Stage 1 Creosote

The early stages of creosote buildup usually indicate that your chimney has not been cleaned in some time. This type of creosote is dusty, flaky, and relatively easy to remove with a chimney sweep.

Stage 2 Creosote

Stage 2 creosote is harder and blacker than stage 1. It is more difficult to remove, but must be dealt with before it progresses to stage 3.

Stage 3 Creosote

Stage 3 creosote is the most severe stage. It is more concentrated, tarry, and far more likely to cause chimney fires. Creosote also restricts air movement within the chimney and blocks parts of the air column. Surprisingly, this stage can develop in a single burning season, and should only be removed by a licensed chimney sweep, using specialized equipment.

Why is Creosote Buildup So Dangerous?

The biggest danger of stage 3 creosote is that it can cause chimney fires. When the buildup ignites, it burns very hot and may spread to other areas if not quickly contained. In addition, stage III creosote will damage or destroy your flue liner as well as the masonry within the chimney system.

What Can You Do to Prevent Creosote Buildup?

The best way to prevent creosote buildup is to have your chimney cleaned on a regular basis. Depending on the size of your fireplace, you should have it swept at least once a year. A good rule of thumb is to schedule a cleaning after 75 fires, or one cord of wood. Also, make sure you are using seasoned wood in your fireplace—freshly-cut wood contains a lot more moisture and causes more creosote buildup.

If it has been a while since you last had your chimney cleaned, contact us today to set up an appointment with one of our CSIA-certified technicians!

Here’s What to Do if You Have Stage 3 Creosote

If you have stage III creosote, do not attempt to clean it yourself. Contact a licensed chimney sweep and schedule an appointment for professional cleaning. The Irish sweep will use specialized equipment to remove the creosote buildup and restore your chimney to a safe condition.

For more information on stage III creosote or any other type of fireplace or chimney service, give us a call at 510.521.4088

How Rain Affects a Chimney Without Cap

April showers bring May flowers, right? Well, they can also bring leaky chimneys! If you have chimney without cap, you’re in for a wet time. You’ll start seeing symptoms of leaks during spring and summer, and even chimneys that’ve never had problems before can leak.

YOUR CHIMNEY WITHOUT CAP

Chimneys are complex structures and are always exposed to the weather. They aren’t designed to go with chimney without cap, but not everyone knows this. Because chimneys are always exposed, rain water, leaves, feathers, and all sorts of things can fall into them and build up or cause damage.

The entrance of rain into your chimney may not sound very dramatic to you. But when the masonry and other components in your chimney degrade and lose stability, or lose fire proofness, it becomes dramatic. Wetness can cause spalling and crumbling brickwork, and things like leaves that fall into your chimney are a fire hazard.

WHY GET A CHIMNEY CAP?

The top reason is to prevent damage to your home. To prevent water coming in, part of a chimney cap acts like an umbrella, and a screen section prevents the debris from falling in or sparks from floating out.

Don’t worry about a chimney cap affecting your draft. If your chimney cap has sufficient clearance and you keep it clean, it will either not affect your chimney draft or improve it. When wind blows, the convex shape of the cap creates a slight vacuum at the top of the flue so your chimney should draw better with the cap in place. Some chimney caps are even specifically designed to improve chimney draft!

IF YOU SEE WATER COMING IN, IT COULD ALSO BE DUE TO: FLASHING

If your chimney flashing starts to wear down, water can get in. Flashing is a tight strip inside your chimney that seals the seam between your roof and chimney to prevent water coming in. If the flashing is damaged or loses its seal due to age or wear and tear, water will get through the gaps. This can in turn water damage to the roof, chimney, ceilings and walls. Metal flashings are preferred over mastic flashings.

INCORRECT CHIMNEY CAP

Water can get in if the chimney cap doesn’t fit well. Chimney without cap that fits, the fireplace and flue are completely exposed to water from the rain. An ill-fitting cap is barely better than no cap at all.

MASONRY DAMAGE

Because your chimney is directly exposed to rain, the masonry components will deteriorate over time. Water can cause bricks to spall and crack (letting in water), in addition to making your chimney look unkempt.

You may know your chimney is leaking because you see visible water in the flue or fireplace. But because of the complexity and size of many chimney systems, leaks can easily go undetected for a while. You might not even know there’s water damage until significant damage has already been done.

To prevent chimney leaks, it’s best if you call in a professional for annual Irish Sweep chimney sweepings and inspections. We’ll be able to detect any damage so that you can get it fixed before the chimney starts to leak!

5 TIPS FOR MAKING YOUR FIREPLACE SAFER

Fireplaces are a captivating home feature and a cozy source of warmth. But as eye-catching as a fireplace may be, it is often forgotten in the grand scheme of home maintenance and repair.

We recommend getting your chimney and fireplace inspected by a professional once a year but, in the meantime, there are plenty of proactive measures you can take.

Here are five useful tips to keep your fireplace safe in any season:

1. Keep Your Chimney Top Clean

First, make sure you’ve installed a chimney cap to keep mother earth outside. Because animals like to seek refuge in there, the Humane Society of the United States recommends using a stainless-steel chimney cap with wire mesh to prevent their access. Clean the cap if it becomes clogged. You can use a wire brush to remove debris from the mesh.

While you’re up there, examine the brick mortar for cracks or flakiness. Caulk is a great waterproof filler to patch any damage.

2. Contain The Flame

Gusts of wind from storms can shoot down the chimney and blow embers all over your favorite (and flammable) furnishing. Installing glass screens keeps your fire insulated and protects your home and loved ones.

These screens should be open during the full blaze to maximize airflow. Doing so will promote combustion and minimize the buildup of creosote. Make sure to clear the hearth space of furniture, Christmas trees and other flammable decorations to avoid igniting wandering embers.

3. Don’t Neglect Your Detectors

Check your carbon monoxide detector’s batteries and invest in a quality smoke detector.

The American Society of Home Inspectors suggests a photoelectric detector, which works by aiming light into a sensing chamber and detecting the entrance of smoke through the chamber via reflected light. A photoelectric detector works best for smoldering fires.

Also, don’t burn trash or old tree branches. They will produce more smoke than productive blaze and risk setting off your alarms.

4. Keep It Clean

Ensure your fireplace and your chimney are clean prior to your fire burning season.

To check if it’s time for a sweeping, take a flashlight and your fireplace poker and scratch the black surface above the smoke chamber. If the scratch in creosote is extremely thin, you can leave it a bit longer until your next sweep.

But if you have ¼ inch or more of creosote, do not light another fire until the chimney has been swept out. For a thorough job, we recommend calling a professional.

Pro tip: Ashes and creosote can be a source of calcium for your plants.

5. Install and Use Fireplace Dampers

Dampers are used to let smoke out during fires and keep heat inside when the chimney is not in use.

Ensure that the damper or flue is open for the entire duration of fire burning and wait until the embers have stopped burning before closing your dampers. The damper can also be checked by looking up into the chimney with a flashlight or mirror.

For a complete and comprehensive fireplace safety analysis, leave it to the professionals. Contact us for thorough inspections and cleanings if you think your fireplace is ready for a sweep.

6 ESSENTIAL WARNING SIGNS THAT YOUR CHIMNEY NEEDS REPAIR

Keeping your chimney safe is an essential part of keeping your whole home safe. Keep an eye out for these 6 essential warning signs that your chimney needs repair.

  • A Smoky Or Smelly Home

A smoky or smelly home can mean your chimney liner is not working properly. Chimney liners, with clay being the most popular, are channels inside of the chimney that contain and direct combustion products outside, protecting the chimney from corrosion. If these fumes are not redirected, the consequences on your health can be severe.

Unfortunately, it is not always easy to spot liner damage. Consider calling a professional if you detect an overly smoky odor from your chimney.

  • Flakes Or Shards Of Tile/Ceramic In Your Hearth

On the topic of chimney liners, watch out for bits of flue lining in your firebox. Flue liner “shaling” occurs with time and can lead to a host of consequences, as indicated above.

The purpose of the liner is to protect the surrounding home, including combustible materials around your fireplace. Get an inspection to determine whether to replace or repair the lining.

  • White Staining On The Chimney’s Exterior

Efflorescence the name given to the effect created when a white residue of minerals and salts comes to the surface of concrete and mortar. It is a sign that water is leaking into your chimney system and is indicative of present or future structural deterioration.

When the chimney has disintegrated materials or is missing a cap, rain water can more easily make its way into the walls. This can be a sign your chimney needs repair or additional protective structures to prevent further damage.

  • Cracks In The Chimney Crown

On the topic of water damage, let’s discuss the dangers of crown cracks. If you’ve noticed air or water coming in through the fireplace, there may be cracks in the mortar around your chimney. As the cracks grow, so do structural problems so have these repaired quickly to maintain safety.

  • Stained Ceiling Or Walls

We’ve been talking a lot about the dangers of moisture and stained ceilings or walls around the chimney as these are great signs that your chimney may need repair.

Look out for dark patches, dampness, and stains and take steps to investigate the issue. There are countless DIY conversations happening online on websites and forums to help you troubleshoot, but as always, it’s important to reach out to a professional if unsure.

  • A Chimney Fire

Loud cracking and popping? Dense smoke and intense smell? These are signs of a chimney fire.

Flue fires are caused by the release of hydrocarbon gases from heated wood. At around 1100 degrees F, unburned gases condense and harden into creosote.

Creosote is highly flammable and triggers chimney fires. Chimney fires can cause the masonry to expand to the point of blowing out, which in the worst cases means room explosions.

To tell if you’ve had a chimney fire, look for warped metal in the damper, cracks in exterior masonry, smoke escaping through the mortar, or heat damaged TV antennas.

If you’re concerned, call your local chimney sweep for an inspection as soon as possible.

Keeping your chimney safe and in good condition means you can enjoy your fireplace in comfort, peace, and safety.