The Irish Sweep is still accepting calls to answer questions and schedule any service needs. However, no on-site visits are currently being conducted pursuant to the government's stay in place order. Please feel free to contact us at 510.521.4088 to get answers to your questions or schedule a future appointment.
April showers bring May flowers, right? Well, they can also bring leaky chimneys! If you don’t have a chimney 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 A CHIMNEY CAP
Chimneys are complex structures and are always exposed to the weather. They aren’t designed to go without chimney caps, 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. Without a chimney 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.
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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.