wood burning insert, firebox, fireplace upgradeEveryone loves the look of an open fire in a brick fireplace. It’s classic, familiar, beautiful. Did you know it’s also wasteful, inefficient and less clean than a wood burning fireplace insert would be?

The design of an open fireplace allows a large portion of the heat generated to leave through the chimney. Wood burning inserts allow you to have efficient design and classic good looks, both! They work as a more efficient burners in the setting of a traditional fireplace. Wood burning fireplace inserts release less smoke and emissions than open fire and provide even better heating results. Inserts are used to convert traditional stone and brick fireplaces, which are inefficient and polluting, into effective heating systems.

 

How Does a Fireplace Insert Work?

A fireplace insert is similar to a wood stove that’s been modified to fit within the firebox of a masonry fireplace. An insert consists of a firebox surrounded by a steel shell. Air from the room flows between the firebox and shell, taking heat back into the room. Heat distributor fans can be turned on to push heat into the home. They generally have glass doors for safety and you can see vents above, below, or next to the firebox for the circulation of air and heat.

 

Must You Sacrifice Form for Function?

In a short answer, no. Wood burning inserts are actually very natural looking in the setting of an existing fireplace. In fact, many homeowners build their original masonry fireplace with a Wood Burning Insert structure from the beginning because of their rugged good looks and great efficiency. Many people don’t even realize that fireplaces are outfitted with Wood Burning Inserts because the look is so familiar.

 

Why Choose a Wood Burning Insert over Keeping Your Old Fireplace

While it’s certainly possible that your old fireplace may have been dangerous, and a wood burning insert is the safest solution, most people choose them for their advantages.

 

Environmentally Friendly

Wood is actually very environmentally friendly because it is a renewable, sustainable resource and is considered carbon-neutral to burn by the Carbon Trust. Did you know that if wood were naturally decaying in the woods, it would release the same amount of carbon as it does burning in your hearth? Today’s wood burning inserts combust the harmful fire byproducts that a traditional fireplace releases into the atmosphere. They emit less than 1 gram of smoke per hour, which exceeds the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean air standards.

 

Energy Efficient

Some wood burning insert models have over 80% efficiency. The dual combustion system within a wood burning fireplace insert is what generates a hotter, longer lasting fire. The venting system prevents heat from quickly escaping up the chimney and fans push heated air into your home instead. With the right insert you can easily heat a large living space. You’ll go hours without having to add fuel to the fire.

 

Cost Effective

One load of wood can burn for up to 8 hours in the right fireplace insert, saving you on wood costs. Also, the heat provided to your home can allow you to zone heat through the cold months, instead of using a furnace system to heat the entire home. But the advantages are not reserved for winter! Insulation is placed around a fireplace insert during installation. This prevents cool air from escaping during the summer and hot air from leaking out during the winter. The glass doors of the insert also prevent downdraft problems, keeping your home well insulated.

 

Reduced Maintenance Costs

Fireplaces with a wood burning insert do need annual chimney cleaning, but an insert will reduce the cost of repairing and maintaining your fireplace through the years. With the installation of a fireplace insert, the integrity of a fireplace is fortified without the high price of rebuilding or renovating a masonry fireplace. Replacing or repairing a damaged insert is also significantly less expensive than repairing a masonry fireplace.

 

A Wide Range of Looks and Features

Wood Burning Fireplace Inserts come in styles from slick and sleek, to traditional and ornate. The aesthetic range of offerings is almost overwhelming! You’ll surely find something that fits your style in the available selections. Inserts can also offer features not available with traditional fireplaces, like thermostat control, heat distributor fans and self-cleaning glass.

If you have any questions about wood burning fireplace inserts, just ask us at The Irish Sweep.

 

 

 

 

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.

chimney sweep education qualifications certification training

 

You may already know this, but being a chimney sweep takes a lot of education and skill. A worker off the street wouldn’t be ready to understand the details of the work or have the skills to do the job.

Why? Because a chimney sweep doesn’t just clean chimneys, although that alone takes significant safety training. They also detect damage and danger in masonry and can repair or install components of a safe, functional fireplace and chimney system.

 

Chimney Safety Institute of America

The Chimney Safety Institute of America offers certifications in chimney care and related skills. The owner of Irish Sweep and other Irish Sweep employees have various CSIA certifications. These include CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep® and CSIA Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician® credentials. These chimney sweep education certifications are difficult to earn and chimney sweeps must renew regularly.

 

Construction Skills

Masonry work, structural safety, and other construction-type needs often become known during a fireplace and chimney inspection. A good chimney sweep is ready to not only identify these issues, but do upgrades as needed or desired. That’s why it’s important to have a construction background.

Sal of the Irish Sweep has a California State Contractor’s License, a Masonry License, and a specialty license for metal-related work like installation of a wood burning insert. This way you can skip the step of having a chimney specialist explain what you need to a construction specialist. Therefore one highly skilled expert is always best.

 

Continuing Chimney Sweep Education

Some certifications and licenses are required to be a chimney sweep. It’s not required to continually seek out new skills and refresh old ones, like the Irish Sweep does with continuing education. Our awareness of new technology, techniques and  gear keeps your experience with chimney care top quality.

Make no mistake, because the skills and knowledge of a chimney sweep are extensive. If you have any questions or need to schedule chimney or dryer vent servicing, contact the Irish Sweep today.

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.

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.