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.

Many older homes have fireplaces that hearken back to a time when fire was relied on as a major heating source. However, with the advent of central heating, your fireplace may no longer be in use, and be kept for decoration and pleasure. Fireplaces make a great centerpiece for a room, making it look more classic and even stately. Fireplaces are becoming standard features even in areas of the country with warm climates, where a fire is not even practical.

Many people never use their fireplaces because there’s no need or because they don’t really like fires. You may think that if you never use your fireplace, you can get away with never having it cleaned or having chimney maintenance. There are many reasons you still need to have your fireplace serviced.

 

Chimney Maintenance Protects a Whole Home

 

If your fireplace is powered by gas or oil, then it is connected to the larger systems in your home. A malfunction in your fireplace, if left unnoticed, could have greater repercussions on the functioning of your central heating, water heater, and stove. These are resources and appliances that you likely do use every day. Having your fireplace regularly maintained helps catch problems before they grow into something worse and harder to address.

Your gas burning fireplace chimney is also connected to the exhaust venting for your whole-home. This is the path that toxic gases and by-products (such as dangerous carbon monoxide) leave the home. If there is a blockage, these things can’t exit, which is very dangerous.

 

Keeps the Chimney Clear

 

You may know that when you have a wood-burning fireplace that you use, the chimney can become coated with creosote. Oil-fueled fireplaces can also generate soot. These substances can become dangerous and flammable when they build up in the chimney, risking a fire if left unattended.

Now, you may be thinking that if you don’t use your fireplace there’s no reason to have that chimney cleaned. After all, there is no soot or creosote built up and no risk of fire. However, with the use of other oil-fueled appliances, soot can build up in the chimney system, which needs to be cleaned. Left unchecked, that soot build-up can lead to flue deterioration or cause blockages that prevent fumes from exiting.

Many more things than creosote can enter and block your wood-burning chimney. Leaves and debris can blow into the chimney opening and create a block. Insects and rodents can also enter and set up nests. This is even more likely when the chimney is not frequently used. Their nests block the chimney and they may leave behind materials that over time decay and cause a foul odor.

 

Maintains Chimney Structure

 

Even when you don’t use your fireplace, the structure of the chimney is there, extending to the exterior of your home and exposed to the elements. Weather events such as storms, drought, and earthquakes can all effect the structural integrity of your chimney. It is important to have your chimney inspected, maintained, and repaired when damage occurs, to protect your entire home structure from chimney collapse.

There are many reasons to have fireplace and chimney maintenance, even if you don’t regularly use your fireplace. Consulting with a professional fireplace maintenance company can be helpful. A professional chimney sweep company can even put you on a cleaning schedule, according to their safety recommendations, so you will be assured regular cleaning and maintenance, without needing to keep track of it yourself.

 

At the Irish Sweep, we strive to stay ahead of the latest information and details in our industry through continuing education.  The owner, Sal McKnight, attended a class over the weekend that was taught by Bob Ferrari, a master outdoorsman.  During the seminar, Sal learned some important safety precautions as it relates to harnesses and helmets on the worksite.  In addition, she obtained details about the challenges to some of the OSHA regulations as it relates to our industry.  Check Sal out as she climbs this makeshift roof setting.  In the photo, she is climbing up an 18/12 pitched roof.  Once a roof pitch reaches 8/12 and higher it’s very dangerous to walk.

 

We will continue to learn, grow, and benefit from such continuing education classes in order to provide our customers with the highest level of service.

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.

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.

A fireplace is the centerpiece of a room, a conversation point and a source of warmth and character.  Adding a touch of traditional style and character to your home, there’s nothing like gathering around the fireplace with family and friends on a cool night.  But when it comes to choosing the right fireplace for your home, there are a wide variety of options.  With the five factors discussed below, we look at how you can make a better choice for the right fireplace for your home.

 

Fuel Type

Fuel type is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing your new fireplace.  The type of fuel your fireplace uses will determine the maintenance, running and cleaning costs of your fireplace.  Wood-burning fireplaces have long been the most popular choice because of fuel availability and their traditional style.  Traditional wood-burning fireplaces are known to be quite inefficient when it comes to heat retention and energy usage, so these are often replaced with wood-burning fireplace inserts that also use wood fuel.  Gas fireplace inserts and artificial gas log sets are becoming more popular as a cleaner and more environmentally friendly source of fuel.

Wood-burning fireplaces and inserts also require more intensive flue cleaning as wood releases more by-products than gas when burned.  Gas burning fireplace inserts still require maintenance, but the level of service may be less extreme due to the cleaner fuel. Gas inserts never need their flues cleaned.

 

Design

The design of the fireplace you choose should match the theme and design of your home.  It can be helpful to work with a fireplace professional or architect to analyze the qualities of your home and investigate which style of fireplace would fit best.  For a traditional style home, you may wish to choose a traditional wood-burning fireplace or more energy efficient wood-burning fireplace insert which fits into the structure of your fireplace.  More modern or transitional homes may prefer to have an innovative and dynamic gas-burning fireplace insert or artificial gas log design.

 

Style

The style of fireplace you choose will depend both on the type of fuel you want to use and the characteristics you want your fireplace to possess. Freestanding wood burning stoves are great for heating large spaces, while traditional fireplace and wood-burning fireplace inserts are great when you want to blend heating with style.  Artificial gas log sets can be installed in many creative and diverse ways for a completely new and innovative style of fireplace in your home.  Balancing the right choice of fuel type, fireplace location and home design will help you chose the right fireplace style.

 

Construction

Many homes are built with a designated space for a fireplace to be installed.  However, some homes do not have space for a traditional built-in fireplace.   Choosing which room and location you want your fireplace installed will help determine whether it should be a built-in or freestanding fireplace or appliance.   Your fireplace professional or architect can also help you determine what material your fireplace should be built from to meet the needs of safety, codes, design, and aesthetics.

Choosing the Right Fireplace, Finding the Right Fireplace, Lafayette, Orinda, Berkeley, Walnut Creek, Orinda Chimney Service, Lafayette Chimney Service

Energy Efficiency

Nowadays many people are concerned about heating their homes in an efficient and environmentally friendly manner.  Fireplace style and fuel type can greatly affect how efficient your fireplace is at heating your home.  Freestanding stove, wood or gas burning fireplace insert are generally more efficient than traditional wood-burning fireplaces or artificial gas log sets.  An expert can work with you to find the most efficient and appealing fireplace solution for your home.

Choosing the right fireplace can help you create an inviting atmosphere of warmth and comfort in your space.  Discuss your options with a fireplace expert or architect to balance all the available choices and find the right fireplace for your home.

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.