Chimney Sweeps Q&A, Part 1

Chimney Sweeps Q&A, Part 1Today, Chimney Sweeps of America would like to present Chimney Sweeps Q&A, Part 1. Here we answer a few questions that we often get from customers and pass this valuable information along to you. With our help, there’s no need to be a chimney expert. We have all the expertise you need. 

 

Is it Necessary to Have My Chimney Inspected?

The National Fire Protection Association recommends that chimneys be cleaned or at least inspected once a year. A good time for this is summer or at the latest early fall so that you know that your chimney is in good shape for the coming winter.

 

Your chimney performs an important function and malfunctions can spell disaster in the form of expensive repairs or even house fires. Most homeowners are not experts in chimney function and will not catch the potential problems that an expert chimney sweep will. Often with chimneys, early detection can end up saving you a lot of money, so it pays off in the end. 

 

How are Chimneys Cleaned? Is it Messy?

You should always look for CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) certified chimney sweeps when contracting a professional sweep. Of course, our staff here at Chimney Sweeps of America are all certified and maintain a high level of professionalism while working on your chimney.

 

It’s true that chimney cleaning is messy work but good sweeps will ensure that they don’t leave a mess behind. Special equipment keeps any ash or dust from blowing back into your home, and clean floor coverings protect your floors during the cleaning process.

 

What is Creosote? Where Does it Come From? And Why is it Dangerous?

Soot is a natural byproduct of burning anything, whether it be wood or gas. It gets carried up the chimney with the smoke as it rises, but some of it is deposited on the chimney walls leaving behind a sticky tar-like substance, creosote. This stuff is pretty flammable which can make it quite dangerous.

 

The CSIA recommends that you have your chimney cleaned when there is as little as ¼ inch buildup present. Depending on how often you use the chimney, this might mean you’ll have to have it cleaned a couple of times a year. Burning as little as one cord of wood can leave enough creosote to start becoming dangerous depending on the efficiency of your system. And don’t think that you can escape because your system burns gas. Burning anything will leave buildup.

 

How Often is it Necessary to Have my Chimney Cleaned?

This is highly dependent on the frequency of use and what type of fuel you use. The age of your chimney and its condition also have an effect–even the weather can affect how quickly it gets dirty. Mild winters are actually worse for chimneys than cold ones.

 

For wood-burning fireplaces and chimneys, plan to have it cleaned once or twice a year, but if you burn green wood or burn a lot (more than two cords of wood in a year), you should have it cleaned even more frequently. Natural gas is, of course, cleaner burning but it still causes its own set of problems and should usually be checked once a year. 

 

How Long Can I Expect a Chimney Cleaning to Take?

The time required to clean a chimney will vary depending on what services you have requested. A simple cleaning usually takes about an hour whereas cleaning plus inspection will naturally take longer. It also depends on the type and size of your chimney, of course.

 

With a Gas Furnace Does the Flue Need to be Cleaned?

As we mentioned earlier, of course, gas is a cleaner burning fuel, but that doesn’t mean it leaves no buildup, it just comes with a different type of issue. As gas burns water vapor and other gases from the air and burning process condense together to form hydrochloric acid that begins to build up inside the flue. This acid is, as you may imagine, corrosive and can start to eat away at the interior of the flue if allowed to build up too much.

 

Another common issue with these types of flues is small animals or birds getting into your chimney and building nests. These blockages don’t allow for the air to flow as freely as it should and gases can get trapped inside and start creating dangerous conditions.

 

Are All Chimney Sweeps Basically the Same?

That’s a resounding no! Just like car mechanics or virtually any other field of service some companies have knowledgeable employees offering top notch service, and others do not. The government does not have a hand in regulating this industry, but there are industry standards regulated by the CSIA that we’ve mentioned previously and also the National Chimney Safety Guild or NCSG.

 

Always be sure that the individual who comes to your home has these certifications to ensure a high quality of service. It just makes sense, when you consider the considerable danger you and your family members can be in if something goes amiss with your chimney. Keep in mind that sometimes companies will have one or two certified employees and advertise themselves as certified, but the individual that they send to your home is not personally certified. Reputable companies will be sure to send out their employees with the proper certification and proof to show you, so it’s a good idea to ask for it.

 

Chimney Sweeps of America has been operating in the Denver area for over 33 years, and our reputation within the community is strong. We have the proper certifications and are dedicated to providing a level of service that fully satisfies our customers and keeps them using our services year after year. We hold an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, and we are actually the only company in the Denver area with a Master Hearth Professional.

 

We hope that this Chimney Sweeps Q&A, Part 1 has been helpful to you. We can’t stress enough the importance of regularly cleaning, inspecting, and if needed, repairing your chimney to ensure that your home is safe from fire and poisonous gases. Be sure to be on the lookout for the Q&A, Part 2 to get even more answers to common questions.

More Reasons Why You Can’t Get A Fire Going

more reasons why you can’t get a fire goingToday, Chimney Sweeps of America offers even more reasons why you can’t get a fire going in your fireplace. If you were unable to find the source of your trouble with the suggestions offered in the last article, then perhaps one of these tips will help you out.

 

Cold Air in the Chimney

This is more of an issue for a chimney located outside the wall of the house. Cold air sinks and could be weighing down the draft just enough to prevent the smoke from rising. To combat this, you can ignite a piece of newspaper and hold it up near the damper to heat a bit of the air in the chimney. Do this extremely carefully.

 

Not Enough Chimney Draft

Fires need oxygen, and if there isn’t enough of a draft coming down your chimney, it will be nearly impossible to get a blaze going. If the problem is a recent one, it could be that an animal built their home inside your chimney or branches are blocking the opening. Both problems can be fixed with the help of our animal removal and chimney cleaning services.

 

If you notice that you’ve always had this trouble, it could be that your chimney is too short and you could have it enlarged. To give you an idea, a chimney stack should overall be at least 10 feet tall, rise at least 3 feet above the roof and be at least 2 feet higher than any objects within 10 feet of it.

 

Your Home is Buttoned up Too Tight

In these modern days of energy efficiency, it is possible to go a little too far with buttoning up our homes. Fires need a source of air and if your home is too tightly sealed there is not enough airflow for the fire to draw and send up the chimney. This can be dangerous too with carbon monoxide poisoning. Try opening a window to see if this is the problem. If that works, consider more permanent options.

 

Wrong Size Flue

Problems with wrong flue size generally occur when installing wood-burning stoves and connecting them improperly to a chimney. Help from a knowledgeable professional during installation will prevent this problem before it even starts.

 

Dirty Chimney

Especially if it has been over a year since the last time you had your chimney cleaned, it could just simply be that the chimney is dirty. Over time soot builds up in the chimney and begins to create blockages and problems with the airflow. The only way to fix this is to get the chimney cleaned out to allow for proper airflow and chimney stack function.

 

Well, that’s it for more reasons why you can’t get a fire going in your fireplace. From all of us here at Chimney Sweeps of America, we hope that these lists have been helpful. Of course, these issues can easily be detected by one of our professionals during a routine inspection and cleaning visit so you can always just set up an appointment with us and we’ll get your chimney in tip-top shape in no time!

Why You Can’t Get a Fire Going

why you can’t get a fire goingHave you ever wondered why you can’t get a fire going in your fireplace? The folks here at Chimney Sweeps of America have put together a list of reasons why you might be having trouble–and what you can do about it. Hopefully, these troubleshooting tips will help you get your fire going, and your home nice and toasty, once more.

 

The Gas isn’t Making it to the Fireplace

Gas fireplaces obviously need gas to function. There are a few reasons why gas might not be making it to the fireplace. The simplest is that the switch may have gotten turned off, so check that first. You may also be out of gas or had forgotten to pay a gas bill. Worst case scenario you have a leak somewhere, and that should definitely be handled by a professional.

 

The Damper is Blocked or Closed

Sometimes, even though you may have remembered to open the damper, there may be something preventing it from opening up all the way. This could be soot buildup or even water damage. If you can’t find the reason on your own, it may be a good idea to hire a professional to clean the chimney and get the damper functioning properly again.

 

The Pilot Light is Out

Another reason why you can’t get a fire going is that the pilot light has been snuffed out by a downdraft or other occurrence. Without it, there is no spark to ignite the gas and get your fire started. Simply check the pilot light and light it up if that turns out to be the problem.

 

The Gas Valve is Blocked

There is a device in your gas fireplace called a thermo-coupling. This device opens the gas valve by using a spark that it generates from the pilot light. The spark here is very small, and even a speck of dust can block the valve and cause a problem with your gas fireplace.

 

Wood is Wet or Green

For a wood fireplace to work properly (i.e. vent gases up the chimney), there needs to be heat in the chimney. If you try to light wood that is too wet or green, you will simply end up with a lot of smoke and not enough heat to create the venting action. Even if you can get the wood to light, wet wood produces less heat than dry wood and the excess; unvented smoke will suffocate your fire. Ensure that you use properly dried or seasoned wood to get your wood stove or fireplace fire going.

 

Next time we’ll offer a few more reasons why you can’t get a fire going in your fireplace. Hopefully, these tips from our friendly staff here at Chimney Sweep of America Inc. have been helpful. Our main goal is for our customers to be warm and safe. You can always feel free to call and ask questions. If you find yourself with a problem and don’t know how best to fix it, you can easily schedule an appointment with one of our expert technicians, and we will get you back on the road to success with your fireplace.

Mold in Your Fireplace or Chimney?

Could You Have Mold in Your Fireplace or ChimneyWhile it might sound odd, could you have mold in your fireplace or chimney? According to our Chimney Sweeps of America experts, the answer is yes. While many people are aware of the signs and dangers of mold in other parts of their house, they may never think to check inside their chimney. However, since mold likes dark, damp places, a moisture problem inside your chimney could also mean you have a mold problem! To protect your family’s health and safety, we recommend taking a moment to check it out.

 

Here’s what you need to know. Mold growth is most common in infrequently used chimney stacks. If you didn’t use the fireplace that often this winter, a quick test is the first step. So, give your fireplace a sniff. If it smells musty, that’s a good indication that mold has begun growing inside your chimney.

 

How to Get Rid of Mold

The simplest way to properly determine the presence of mold and have it removed is to call Chimney Sweeps of America to clean your chimney and provide a thorough inspection. We can even apply waterproofing as needed to help minimize the growth of mold in the future. If mold is growing inside your chimney, this is your best option.

 

If the mold is growing on the outside of your chimney, you can get away with a little DIY if you have a free weekend. You can buy a specialized anti-fungus cleaner to be used in conjunction with a wire brush to scrub the outside of your chimney. However, read the instructions carefully. Improper use of these products can be hazardous to your health.

 

How to Prevent the Growth of Mold

As with anything, the best form of treatment is prevention. As with any mold growth, a giant factor is the moisture. Cut down on the amount of water or dampness inside or around your chimney, and you will see a marked decrease in mold issues.

 

Chimneys take a beating during severe weather and because of this should be properly sealed to prevent moisture from getting inside. However, if your bricks (or whatever material your chimney is composed of) are already damaged, this should be addressed before sealing. Sealing already damaged materials does very little to help prevent moisture leaks.

 

Another way to cut down on chimney dampness is to ensure that you not only have a chimney cap but also that it is in good working order. A good chimney cap with expansion joints that allow for expansion and contraction with temperature changes goes a long way toward keeping your chimney safe and dry.

 

If you’ve ever wondered, could you have mold in your fireplace or chimney, we hope that this information will be helpful to you. Of course, if you do see any of the issues mentioned here you should call an expert sweep from Chimney Sweeps of America to ensure that your problem is fixed correctly. The peace of mind and knowing that you are keeping your family safe is invaluable. Who knows, you might even find the source of those allergies that you can’t seem to shake.

Don’t Ignore Your Fireplace this Summer

don’t ignore your fireplace this summerHere at Chimney Sweeps of America in Denver, we wholeheartedly recommend that you don’t ignore your fireplace this summer! We understand the natural tendency during these warmer months to forget about the things you aren’t using – like your fireplace. However, by putting in a little bit of effort during the summer, you will save yourself from a lot more work and headaches in the fall when it comes time to light up and gather around the fire once again.

 

Chimney Cleaning and Maintenance

Summer is an excellent time to schedule a chimney cleaning and inspection appointment. Not only do you get your pick of appointment times because the sweeps aren’t as busy, but if a problem is found during the inspection, you have plenty of time to get it taken care of without having to worry about a cold snap rolling in before your fireplace is ready to use. Knowing that your fireplace has been cleaned and inspected gives you peace of mind throughout the summer and avoids that last-minute rush as the temperature starts to drop and you remember that you haven’t yet prepared your fireplace.

 

Close it Down

If your fireplace was frequently used during the winter, the damper may still be open. However, you’ll want to keep the damper closed throughout the summer months so cool air from your AC unit doesn’t escape through your chimney. You’ll be thanking yourself when it comes time to pay the energy bill.

 

Clean out and Wash the Firebox

Along with getting the chimney cleaned, you’ll want to take care of the firebox. It’s not a good idea to leave your firebox full of ashes and soot all summer. Rather, once the ashes have cooled and you will not be using your fireplace anymore for the year, thoroughly clean out all the ash and soot. Start with a shovel to get out the majority and then you can switch to a vacuum cleaner.

 

Once all the ash is out, you can use a cleaning solution with water to wash it out completely. Be sure to select a cleaning solution that is not flammable! Even if you wash your firebox at the start of summer, residue could be left and cause a problem when you light it up again in the fall.

 

Take Care of Odds and Ends

Take advantage of this time to clean up important odds and ends like oiling the hinges or cleaning the glass on a gas fireplace. All these details are so much easier to manage before it has sat dirty all summer when you’re not feeling pressured by cooling temperatures. Plus, you get the added benefit of a shiny fireplace for the summer months. Also complete a visual inspection inside and out for signs of cracks or damage in your bricks, mortar or other structural elements. Again, it will be easier to get fireplace and chimney repairs taken care of during summer instead of waiting until the temperatures drop.

 

If you take our advice and don’t ignore your fireplace this summer, we promise that you will have greater peace of mind in knowing that it’s safe and ready to use. Here at Chimney Sweeps of America, we know that fire safety is crucial and ensuring that your chimney is maintained and inspected every year is an important part of keeping your family protected. We always work hard to ensure that your fireplace is in tip top shape so you get to enjoy this feature in absolute comfort.

Is a Chimney Inspection on Your Spring Cleaning List?

Is a Chimney Inspection on Your Spring Cleaning ListChimney Sweeps of America often asks customers, is a chimney inspection on your spring cleaning list? If it’s not, it should be! You might not think too often about your chimney, figuring that it is a sturdy piece of masonry. The good news is that it probably is. However, even the sturdiest of chimneys can develop a problem occasionally, and sometimes chimney problems can have devastating consequences.

 

Even if you are the type to have your chimney properly cleaned and checked every year, you probably start thinking about it in the fall when you are getting ready to start using it again. While that’s great, Chimney Sweeps of America suggest adding it to your spring cleaning list, for several reasons.

 

  1. Your pick of appointments

Since most don’t think about their chimneys until fall, chimney sweeps get busy around that time of year. With less competition in the springtime, you are virtually assured to get whatever appointment time works the best for you. Plus, you can be sure that when the technician comes, he will be more relaxed and more able to take his time to ensure a thorough job is done.

 

  1. Fresh and clean for the summer

During the winter a lot of creosote and other gunk builds up on the inside of your chimney. It might not be that noticeable, but there is a slight odor associated with this buildup. This smell gets progressively stronger with warmer weather. Having your chimney cleaned in the spring eliminates those odors for the summer and helps keep your home smelling fresh and clean.

 

  1. Helps prevent corrosion

In addition to the smell, leaving that gunk inside your chimney can create a favorable environment for corrosion to take hold, particularly if water or even humidity finds its way inside. Left unchecked, it could eventually lead to serious chimney damage that will be much more expensive than a simple cleaning.

 

  1. Time to make repairs

If the inspection shows that your chimney has suffered damage, a springtime checkup leaves more time to get the issue resolved. Trying to get repairs done in the fall can be difficult because chimney sweeps are often overbooked. You might not be able to get the repairs done in time so that you can start using your chimney with the first cold snap. Taking care of chimney repairs during the spring, or even early summer, eradicates that stress and leaves you with the peace of mind that even if fall rolls in early this year, you are ready for it!

 

Is a chimney inspection on your spring cleaning list? Hopefully, you now understand why we ask and why it’s so important. So, if you need an inspection, repairs or simply have chimney related questions, feel free to have a chat with one of our knowledgeable employees here at Chimney Sweeps of America. Our staff is always ready and willing to answer your questions and alleviate your concerns when it comes to heating your home and keeping everyone and everything safe while doing it.

10 Components of an Optimized Chimney System

10 Components of an Optimized Chimney SystemTo help educate our customers about their homes, Chimney Sweeps of America proudly presents 10 components of an optimized chimney system. Of course, we don’t expect you as our customer to be an expert on proper chimney function, that’s why we’re here! But, for the curious, it can be fun to know a little bit about your chimney and how it all works.

 

Back in the old days, it was somewhat of a given that your chimney was going to be drafty. In modern times, however, it’s a different story. Houses are buttoned up tight to help save on energy bills, and a properly built chimney falls in line. If you have a drafty chimney, you might be able to find the culprit on this list. One of our experts can also inspect your chimney to locate and address the issue for you.

 

  1. Changes in direction cause flow resistance and thereby drafting issues. Therefore, the flue lining should go in a straight line from the firebox to the chimney.

 

  1. If your chimney is outside the wall, it is easier for cold air to get into the chimney and cause a draft. A chimney stack constructed within the wall significantly reduces the chances of this happening.

 

  1. On the outside of your house, the chimney should be the highest thing. That doesn’t just mean higher than the house but also any trees or any other structures that could obstruct wind flow and interfere with the chimney’s ability to create a stable draft.

 

  1. To help prevent your chimney falling prey to strong wind pressures there should be a chimney cap or rain cap installed on the chimney.

 

  1. The house should be properly vented with a balanced system. If a house is buttoned up tight and only has an exhaust system, your chimney will not be able to function properly.

 

  1. The chimney flue should be properly sized by a professional. Any leaks around the flue connection can lead to issues with adverse wind pressures.

 

  1. Warm air rises quicker up the flue and is expelled more efficiently; therefore, your flue should be properly insulated for best results.

 

  1. When buying a wood stove, be sure to choose one that the Environmental Protection Agency has certified as a low emissions appliance. Alternatively, you can check to see if it is properly built to prevent smoldering, which is usually the cause of smoke spillage.

 

  1. Always follow recommendations when using the appliance and keeping it maintained. Just as a machine works best when it is well-oiled, a fireplace or stove works best when optimally used and maintained.

 

  1. Be sure to have the chimney professionally cleaned at least once a year. In some cases, you may need to have it done more often to keep it clear and functioning properly.

 

So now that you know the 10 components of an optimized chimney system you might be able to determine why your chimney isn’t working at full capacity. Or maybe you still don’t know or need the help of experienced professionals to fix the issue. Give us a call today at Chimney Sweeps of America, and we’ll get it taken care of quickly!

Why Hiring a Certified Chimney Sweep Is Important

Why Hiring a Certified Chimney Sweep Is ImportantThe professionals at Chimney Sweeps of America know that your chimney is an important aspect of your home which is why hiring a certified chimney sweep is important. Not only can it be one of the largest structures in your home, but it plays a critical function in keeping your home and family safe. A chimney that doesn’t work properly at the very least can cause damage to your home and at the very worst, can even cause injury, death, or destroy your home. So, let’s break down what it means to be certified.

Chimney sweeping is a largely unregulated industry, and as such, it can be hard to know if a company’s credentials are as legitimate as they claim to be. Customers must be wary of who they are entrusting with this job. An improperly cleaned or malfunctioning chimney can spell disaster for homeowners. This is why it’s important to have an independent third party controlling certification and offering consumers the peace of mind that one organization is measuring each company by the same standards. This is the best way, of course, to have a fair comparison between companies.

So, who is this organization, and what gives them the authority to hand out credentials? The Chimney Safety Institute of America, or CSIA, offers credentials that are now recognized as the industry standard. Of course, Chimney Sweeps of America along with virtually all other legitimate chimney cleaning businesses, have been certified by them.

Why are CSIA Credentials the Industry Standard?

Let’s take a look at the reasons behind what makes this organization a legitimate certifying one. First, the Indiana State Workforce Innovation Council, Office for Career and Technical Schools, regulates the CSIA and ensures that it meets the very strict educational standards. Here’s more:

It’s Been Around a While

Since 1983, companies have been seeking the CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep credential or CCS. That means that for over 30 years, homeowners have been trusting this certification to help them find a qualified chimney sweep.

It’s Not-for-Profit

The CSIA is a non-profit organization which gives consumers the peace of mind that they are not out looking to make a buck. In fact, the governing body of the CSIA is made up of volunteer technical experts and industry professionals.

Ethical Code

In order to become CSIA Certified, each person must pass a very thorough examination. In addition, they have to agree to follow a strict ethical code laid out by the CSIA. This is one of the ways that the CSIA protects homeowners from potential scams and ensures the quality of work as well as service that a CSIA certified technician will provide. If a chimney sweep that has been certified by the CSIA is found to be violating this code, they could have their certification revoked!

Industry Leadership

In addition to issuing certifications, the CSIA is also actively involved in advancing the industry and keeping the public safe. They offer both public and professional education on a mission to decrease the occurrence of residential fires, the intrusion of carbon monoxide and any other threats or hazards that an improperly functioning chimney can contribute to.

Further Education

As with any industry, the CSIA realizes that the chimney industry is not remaining stagnant. To that end, they have requirements that each chimney sweep must fulfill in order to keep their certification. Every three years a chimney sweep must either take an examination or provide proof of continuing education credits. In this way, they ensure that all certified chimney sweeps are up to date on current information and able to provide the best possible service to their customers.

Maintains Relationships with Affiliated Trades

Your chimney is one part of your home, but it does not stand on its own, and neither does the industry. Being aware of this, the CSIA is involved with other professionals and groups such as realtors, home inspectors, and even homeowner associations. They maintain these relationships through traditional and social media channels in order to work together in the homeowner’s best interest.

Reputation

The CSIA has established itself as the place to go for correct chimney information. Over the years CSIA chimney sweeps have appeared in the mainstream media as well as many regional and local channels. The public needs to know that this is a trustworthy organization that can help homeowners choose the right chimney sweep to get the job done right and ensure the safety of their home and family.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind

As a customer, you should always be aware of what you are getting yourself into when you are looking for chimney sweeps. Be mindful of the fact that there are unscrupulous individuals that will advertise themselves as “certified” even though it’s through an organization that has fewer requirements or lower ethical standards than CSIA. This makes it easier for them to pass the test and have something to hang on the wall. When checking out chimney sweep companies, find the name of the certifying organization.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that all other certifying organizations are disreputable, or not even that they are not as good. However, the CSIA is the industry standard and having this clear standard to go by makes it easier for homeowners to shop around without having to vet each company and or certifying agency they run across.

Here at Chimney Sweeps of America, we’ve earned our CSIA certification and are members of a few prestigious national groups like the National Chimney Sweep Guild (NCSG) and the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA). We’ve been operating our family-owned and operated business in the greater Denver area for over 30 years, so we have years of experience backing our work. We also keep up with our education and have the right answers to your questions. Whatever the job is that you need done, our sweeps have the right qualifications to make it happen.

Now you that understand why hiring a certified chimney sweep is important we hope to hear from you the next time you are on the lookout for one. At Chimney Sweeps we are dedicated to offering excellent service and great work. That’s why we’ve been around for so long!

The Facts About Water Damage to Your Chimney

The Facts About Water Damage to Your ChimneyChimneys, especially big heavy-duty masonry types, are often seen as indestructible and without need for care or upkeep. While this is true for the most part, the experts here at Chimney Sweeps of America want you to know all the facts about water damage to your chimney. With this information, you can avoid any issues with your chimney or damage to your wallet.

 

Now, most chimneys are hardy and don’t require a lot of effort on your part to keep performing without any major issues. However, a chimney that’s improperly protected from the elements and doesn’t receive occasional maintenance can end up suffering expensive problems. Plus, some issues such as flue obstructions, loose masonry materials, and lining systems damaged by the weather can pose a dangerous threat to your home and everyone who lives under your roof. 

 

Masonry Chimneys

 

Let’s quickly clarify what we’re talking about when we say masonry chimneys just in case any of our readers are unsure if their chimney falls into this category or not. Masonry chimneys consist of masonry materials such as brick, stone, flue tile, mortar, concrete, concrete block, as well as a few metals such as cast iron and steel.

 

If you have a masonry chimney, it will have been built with some combination of these materials. As we mentioned, water under the right conditions is incredibly powerful and virtually all these materials will at some point or another succumb to its effects, often sustaining heavy and costly damage. 

 

The Force of Water

 

How does water cause thousands of dollars of damage to a fortified (or so it would seem) masonry chimney? Let’s think back to high school science. Water in its liquid form takes up a certain amount of space. When water freezes, it takes up more space and therefore must expand. Water is strong, and this process is remarkably challenging to contain, so if water has managed to penetrate even the strongest of masonry materials, start watching for cracks to appear when the temperature drops.

 

If water has gotten inside your masonry materials and begins freezing, thawing, and refreezing again, this constant expansion and contraction will cause the chimney to quickly begin deteriorating. The only exception to this is stone. However, keep in mind that stone is held together with large amounts of mortar so even if you have a stone chimney and think you are safe, the mortar is susceptible to the force of water so you are not out of the woods at all and still should think about proper weather protection.

 

Water also causes problems for the metal parts of your masonry chimney. Both cast iron and steel can rust in the extended presence of water which will begin weakening and eventually destroy any metal parts of your chimney.

 

Still not convinced that water can be so harmful? Here’s a handy list of things that water can do to your chimney. It can:

 

  • Cause the damper assembly to rust
  • Cause the metal or masonry firebox assembly to deteriorate
  • Leave water stains on the ceiling and walls
  • Clog up the clean out area
  • Cause any adjacent wood to rot
  • Ruin wall coverings
  • Cause the exterior mortar to decay
  • Stain the exterior or the chimney
  • Cause the flue lining system to crack or deteriorate
  • Cause the chimney to settle
  • Cause the hearth support to collapse
  • Or cause the entire chimney structure to collapse

 

As you can see, water is a heavy-duty force, and the dangers should not be taken lightly. One additional, annoying fact is that if you have a wood burning chimney, water can mix with the creosote and create a nasty smell that can fill your home.

 

Now that we’ve got all the bad news out of the way, it’s time for some good news. Water damage is preventable, and the steps you should take are not necessarily expensive, especially once you compare it to the cost of rebuilding or repairing your chimney. 

 

Chimney Caps

 

A chimney cap, sometimes called a rain cover, is a very popular and relatively inexpensive method for preventing water damage. As part of the basic design of a chimney, it has a large opening (the flue) at the top. Some chimneys have more than one of these. Rainwater can easily get into this opening and start wreaking havoc as soon as freezing temperatures arrive. A chimney cap is an effective method to prevent water from entering the flue.

 

It has some other great side benefits as well. Sometimes, small animals or birds will get inside during the summer. They can cause clogs and their own brand of damage, but a correctly designed chimney cap will keep them out also. Another important function is it prevents any live sparks from escaping your chimney and landing on your roof or any other nearby combustible materials.

 

There are a few requirements that chimney caps should meet to be effective and well-designed including a design to be easily removable so that it can be properly inspected and cleaned. Plus, for obvious reasons, it should be made of a corrosion resistant, durable, and sturdy material. 

 

Crickets

 

If your chimney is located on the downhill slope of your roof and water runoff is always being thrown against it, installing a cricket to divert water is a good idea. This deflector will direct runoff away from the chimney and help prevent any leaks into your home. If your chimney is over 30 inches wide or you have a very steep roof, a cricket is highly recommended. 

 

Waterproofing Products

 

Most masonry materials are very porous, which means they will quickly wick water and moisture into the interior of the chimney. To prevent this, there are several waterproofing products you can buy and apply to your chimney. Always use products specially designed for this and not paints or clear sealers. These products might block moisture, but they also prevent vapors from escaping. A product specifically designed for waterproofing a chimney will protect it without trapping vapors inside the chimney.

 

We hope that these facts about water damage to your chimney have been helpful. Of course, you can always ask one of our experts here at Chimney Sweeps of America if you have any other questions. If it has been a while since the last time your chimney had a checkup, give us a call today and we will make sure everything is in proper and safe shape!

 

Anatomy Of A Fireplace

Anatomy Of A FireplaceWhile closely understanding all the ins and outs of a fireplace is not required as a homeowner, having basic knowledge regarding the anatomy of a fireplace can come in handy. As a homeowner, if you take the time to educate yourself, you can better protect your family from an unfortunate, even devastating chimney fire. To get you started, our experts here at Chimney Sweeps of America has put together this handy guide to the basic anatomy of a fireplace. Read on to get acquainted with yours.

First, fireplaces are available in two general types. Masonry fireplaces are the impressive structures of brick, blocks, or stone and mortar that we often think of in reference to memorable family get-togethers around the holidays, or as magnificent centerpieces in stylish living rooms. Factory-built fireplaces are generally made of metal, including a lightweight metal firebox and round metal chimney.

Sometimes, the outside of factory-built fireplaces is decorated with stone or brick so it may take a bit of detective work on your part to figure out which type you have. However, it’s not all that difficult to determine the difference. Just check inside the firebox and chimney. If they’re made of brick, you have a  masonry fireplace. If they’re made of metal, it is factory-built even if the outside is decorated with stone or brick. There are also some hybrid varieties that usually consist of a metal box connected to a brick chimney, so be on the lookout for that as well.

Now that you know about the basic two types let’s look at each one a little bit closer. The basic premise is the same for both types fireplaces of course, but some differences are helpful to be aware of.

Masonry Fireplaces

As we mentioned earlier, masonry fireplaces are impressive structures. Because of their materials and size, these fireplaces can end up weighing 6 or 7 tons – not something to be trifled with! Along with looking fabulous, these fireplaces are very durable and will last for years with minimal maintenance. In fact, the general perception is that these fireplaces are indestructible. But don’t fall into a false sense of security. While masonry fireplaces are very durable, there are still a few things to keep an eye out for.

Because they are so heavy, masonry fireplaces need to have a very sturdy and extensive foundation to hold them up over the years. If the foundation is not built well, the fireplace will shift and crack over time, potentially allowing flames to escape and ignite nearby combustibles. Keep an eye out for cracks to avoid a potentially dangerous situation. Inside the firebox, where the facing material comes together with the brick, is a common place for cracks so be sure to check there regularly.

Ensure that downspouts or any other type of water runoff runs away from the structure and consider a quality chimney cover. Protecting your material from water, rain, and the cycle of freezing and thawing will go a long way towards ensuring a long life for your fireplace.

The firebox is built to be strong as it takes the most heat abuse. However, eventually, all that expanding and contracting will beat up the joints. A chimney cover will also help with this so that rainwater doesn’t get inside and exacerbate the issue. You can also use a refractory mortar to protect the joints further.

Most masonry fireplaces have a tile liner in the chimney that you don’t have to worry too much about. However, one chimney fire can crack the tiles considerably so be sure to keep it clean. A good rule of thumb is to have it cleaned once there is barely a ¼ inch of soot built up inside. If a chimney fire does occur, do not use the fireplace until it has been inspected by a professional and cleared for use.

Factory-Built Fireplaces

These fireplaces are relative newcomers to the fireplace scene, only having been available for about 25 years or so. Instead of being built on-site like a masonry fireplace, these fireplaces come in a complete set with firebox, chimney and miscellaneous parts necessary to assemble the fireplace.

These parts are specifically tested and designed to go together, and the exact instructions from the manufacturer should be followed when installing. Minimum clearances should always be strictly observed to ensure that nothing eventually catches fire. You might think that nearby wood will be all right, but with prolonged exposure to high temperatures that wood will dry excessively and become combustible at a much lower than average temperature.

It is a good idea to have these fireplaces professionally installed, or at the very least professionally inspected before use. These types of inspections reveal that more than half of them are not correctly installed. As this can have dire consequences for your home and family, the peace of mind that comes with a professional installation is well worth it!

Birds can pose a hazard for factory built fireplaces–particularly those that have a fake brick housing. They find this to be an ideal nesting area. Virtually all their nest building materials are combustible and can catch fire directly or block essential airflow and cause the chimney to overheat. Either way, you end up with a potentially devastating house fire. Be sure to screen over any possible access points and regularly check your chimney for signs of these unwanted house guests to prevent this.

It is also important to be aware that factory built fireplaces are not as sturdy and durable as masonry fireplaces, and you cannot expect them to last as long. Repairs may be possible, but after many years, models are often discontinued, or manufacturers go out of business, and it becomes difficult to find the proper replacement parts. It is always safer and worth it to replace a factory-built fireplace before it gets to the point of being a serious safety hazard.

Of course, always keep in mind that you don’t have to be an expert in fireplace care and maintenance, that’s what we are here for! Knowing the basic anatomy of a fireplace and keeping an eye out for these signs is just a helpful aid. If you have questions or see something that you are not certain about, call us here at Chimney Sweeps of America, and one of our friendly professionals will be happy to help.

If it has been a while since your last inspection and cleaning, then it’s a good idea to schedule one today!