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How to Start a Fire with Less Smoke

Start a Fire With Less Smoke - Cincinnati OH - Chimney Care CompanyOne of my favorite things about the cooler months of the year is spending time next to a warm, cozy fire. The crackling wood and radiant heat just soothe my innards like nothing else ever has. Question: What’s more romantic that snuggling up with your significant other in front of a glowing fire? Rhetorical question, Keefer. Nothing is more romantic than that! Question: What’s more relaxing than coming home from a long day at the office, sitting in your favorite chair, and unwinding next to a glowing fire? Come on Keefer, that’s another rhetorical question. Nothing is more relaxing than that! For those of you who have trouble starting a fire in your fireplace without also filling your entire house with wood smoke or those of you who want a few fire starting pointers, this blog’s for you.

Fireplaces that smoke are simply, for whatever reason, not drawing the smoke up the chimney. There are a lot of possible culprits when this happens. There could be a blockage; perhaps a bird has decided to build a nest and make your chimney home. There could be a large tree in your yard that grows over your chimney and impedes the airflow. Perhaps the opening of your fireplace is simply too large for the size of your flue, which can result in smoke taking the path of least resistance and back puffing into your living space. The issue could also be that there is a downdraft caused by air movement off of your roof. If you’re making home improvements and add storm windows on your house to make it more air tight, this could result in your fireplace being unable to get enough combustion air, which would result in the smoke spilling back into your house. Needless to say, the causes of the smoke are more numerous than you may have originally realized.

Before starting a fire in your fireplace, you’ll first want to ensure that your damper is open; a fireplace requires a large amount of air after all. Once this is done, you’ll want to ignite a fire-starter brick, some newspaper, or dry kindling in the center of your fireplace grate. This will ensure that the hot air begins funneling its way up the chimney and not back into your house. Before adding any wood, it is important to remember to never overload your firebox, as this will not allow the requisite amount of combustion air to flow around the wood.

Next, place one log, lengthwise, behind the starter and another one in front of it. When those two pieces of wood catch fire, place a log diagonally across them. This setup will help to encourage combustion air to flow around all three logs, which is critical for an even burn. To maintain proper airflow, regularly remove ashes from your fireplace into a metal container with a cover; many homeowners will keep these containers outdoors, which is a great idea since it removes a potential fire hazard from the home. This is also similar to a top down burn, where the starter kindeling is at the top of the logs, allowing the wood to burn from the top down more efficiently and bringing more fire heat into the room.

I once heard someone compare fireplaces to young children, and this comparison has stuck with me ever since: “Fireplaces are like children. They need to be watched at all times to make sure they’re doing what you want them to do.” I like to think he was pretty accurate with that comparison. Properly arranging the wood in your fireplace and providing it with enough space for air to flow around the logs is critical to allowing you to get the most out of your fire. By following a few simple steps, you, too, can have a roaring fire in your fireplace this heating season.

If you follow these steps and still have issues with smoke in your home when starting a fire, call or contact the experts here at Chimney Care Company in Cincinnati and we can help you with your chimney and fireplace smoke issues.

By Jeff Keefer | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment

To Remove or Not Remove Ash

Any homeowner with a wood stove or fireplace is faced with the problem of ash removal. If you’re burning wood, you’re going to have to deal with ash. The actual amount of ash that’s generated will be determined by the type of wood you burn (hardwood or softwood) and the temperature at which your fires are burning. Informed homeowners look forward to this ash, as it can be used as a lawn and garden fertilizer to provide vital nutrients and reduce acidity. It can also be used on compost piles to maintain neutral acidity levels as well as on icy driveways and sidewalks to provide much-needed traction. However, don’t be too hasty with your ash removal, as a little bit is actually a good thing!

Wood Ashes - Cincinnati OH - ChimneyCareCo.com

Wood Fire Maintenance for Heating Efficiency

The primary objective in maintaining wood fires is to prevent the wood from smoldering because any smoke that passes out of the firebox has the potential to condense as creosote in the chimney and/or be emitted outdoors as air pollution. Believe it or not, there will be little to no visible smoke from your chimney if your wood is burning with bright, active flames. A 1-2” layer of ash and coal at the bottom of your fireplace or wood stove can actually assist with the combustion process, thereby enabling your fire to burn with a much higher intensity. If the ashes are cleaned out too soon, however, you may find that it’s more difficult to build a new fire because you must heat up all of the brick in the firebox to saturation before the fire is able to really take off.

How to Deal with Wood Ashes

Try to remove a small amount of ash frequently. During the coldest part of the heating season, it may be appropriate to remove a small amount of ash each morning before the new fire is kindled to make raking coals and kindling loads throughout the day more convenient. It is important to remember that ashes often contain live coals, which can stay hot and give off carbon monoxide for days. The best practice, whenever possible, is to leave live coals in the fireplace or wood stove to assist with the kindling of a subsequent wood load. When rekindling from coals, it is best to rake the coals towards the air inlet, place the new wood behind the coals, and always place the smallest, driest piece of firewood directly on the coals to act as the ignition source for the rest of the new wood. This small piece of wood should begin flaming almost immediately and will ignite the larger pieces as it burns.

The End of the Heating System Is Different

When the weather starts warming up, many homeowners begin shifting their sights to doing things outdoors and forget all about their fireplace and/or wood stove. This can prove detrimental to both. Wood ashes actually have the potential to draw moisture that can wreak havoc on the metal components and masonry. Ash is extremely acidic and, when combined with moisture, can be extremely destructive. It is best to remove all ashes from your fireplace and stove at the end of the heating season to prevent this from happening.

Here at Chimney Care Company, we’ve been sweeping and cleaning chimneys for 25 years, and we’ve seen the difference that an annual sweep can make in the lifetime and enjoyment of the chimney and fireplace. Don’t wait until you’re experiencing problems with your chimney system—click here to schedule your sweeping and inspection today! We guarantee that our sweeps will get the job done right the first time! When you have your chimney inspected by our trained and experienced crews, you can be sure that is a chimney service you don’t have to worry about anymore.

By Jeff Keefer | Tagged with: Tags: , | Leave a Comment

Why do I Need a New Chimney Cap?

Chimney Cap Replacement - Cincinnati OH - Chimney Care CompanyChimney caps are a lot like the topper on a Christmas tree, with one glaring difference—a chimney cap is much more than decoration. They’re vital organs to a chimney that should be well taken care of and replaced when needed. Chimney caps come in many different designs, shapes and sizes. Just choosing the right one can be a chore sometimes. They’re generally made out of some kind of metal, whether it’s copper, stainless steel or galvanized steel. Some are better quality than others, and some look better than others. No matter which type of chimney cap you have, however, it should be inspected regularly and replaced when necessary.

WHEN TO INSPECT YOUR CHIMNEY CAP

Inspection of the chimney cap should occur right alongside your annual chimney inspection. If the cap becomes clogged with creosote or begins to come loose from the chimney, it can hinder the proper functioning of the chimney and/or allow unwanted things inside your chimney. Pay close attention to the following during cap inspections:

    You’ll need to see how securely the cap is attached to the structure. Generally speaking, caps that are screwed into the chimney crown coming loose should not be much of a problem. However, if not installed correctly using the appropriate masonry screws, the screws may begin to slowly back themselves out over time. As a result, the chimney cap may need to be re-secured via the correct methods and materials.

  • You’ll need to check the assembly of the chimney cap. Over time, whether it’s due to the weather, the heat of the chimney or animals, parts of the chimney cap may begin loosening. The metal top of the cap could have warped over the years and could be pulling away from the sides. If this is the case, it should be repaired or replaced. Sometimes, tightening or adding screws may also fix the problem.
  • You’ll need to ensure that the metal mesh is in good shape. Just because it’s there to keep birds and animals out doesn’t mean they won’t still try to get in. Hopefully, the mesh will be in good shape when one of your friendly neighborhood squirrels starts tugging at it. If not, it’ll eventually work its way in to the chimney liner. Also, creosote buildup can occur on the mesh, which can limit the airflow and hinder the chimney draft.
  • You’ll need to check for rust. This shouldn’t be an issue with stainless steel or copper caps, however, the galvanized steel caps, which are of lower quality, will eventually begin to rust. These caps are usually treated with heat-resistant paint to hinder rusting, but the paint will eventually start to crack and peel, thereby enabling rust to set in. The best thing to do in this instance is to replace the chimney cap altogether, preferably with a stainless steel variety.

WHEN TO HAVE YOUR CHIMNEY CAP REPLACED

If the mesh on the cap is heavily clogged or separating from the rest of the cap, the entire cap should be replaced. The mesh is one of the most important parts and should be kept in excellent condition. You never know when an animal will attempt to get in there by pulling at it. If it’s weak, the animal will be successful and you’ll have to call an animal removal specialist to get it out. Any time you’ve had a chimney fire, the cap should be replaced. Chances are, it’ll be warped and damaged beyond repair, leaving you no choice but to replace it. If your cap is on a metal chimney liner, and you’ve had a chimney fire, you’ll have to replace the liner, too.

The chimney cap protects the upper opening of your chimney and prevents rainwater, debris and animals from entering. Inspect it regularly and, if necessary, don’t be hesitant to have it replaced by a certified chimney sweep. Your home is an investment, and those of us at Chimney Care Company want to help you protect that investment. Do your part to protect your home and family from the devastation of fire and structural compromise by keeping up with your annual maintenance service. For more information of to set up your appointment, please click here or call us at 513-248-9600. We look forward to serving you!

By Jeff Keefer | Tagged with: Tags: , | Leave a Comment

Help – A critter is in my chimney!

Animals in Chimney - Cincinnati OH - Chimney Care CompanyWe may be partially through winter already, but there’s a lot left to go. Children around the world spent the first portion picturing Santa Claus coming down their chimneys; many of them could now be wondering if it’s possible for anything else to come down them as well. One thing in particular—a wild animal—can cause huge problems and wreak absolute havoc inside your chimney and home. They can bring an assortment of parasites and/or diseases with them and, at the same time, can cause a blockage in your chimney that could ultimately result in dangerous (and potentially deadly) byproducts of combustion being unable to travel up and out of your chimney. Most birds, squirrels, and other animals can get trapped and die in the chimney; only raccoons bats, and chimney swifts are capable of getting themselves out of the chimney once they’ve gotten themselves in.

WHY ARE ANIMALS ATTRACTED TO YOUR CHIMNEY IN THE FIRST PLACE?

Animals are drawn to your chimney because it acts as a perfect nursery for them. In the wild, these same animals could very well search out a tall, hollow tree (which is quite similar in many ways to your chimney). Both provide a safe place for their young seeing, providing a location in which it makes it very difficult for predators to get to and harm them. Unfortunately, deforestation is quickly removing their natural habitats and leaving them with fewer and fewer alternatives. This results in your chimney looking too inviting for them to pass up.

HOW CAN YOU PREVENT THESE ANIMALS FROM ENTERING YOUR CHIMNEY?

Placing a chimney cap on your chimney is the best way, by far, to prevent animals from entering and nesting inside your chimney. A cap with wire mesh that is small enough to keep even the smallest of pests out (e.g. bats), while at the same time large enough to allow the harmful combustion byproducts (e.g. carbon monoxide) to escape is the ideal solution. Making your chimney look a little less welcoming is a key to keeping the wild things outside and leaving you with more time to focus on keeping your family safe inside.

HOW DO YOU GET THEM OUT ONCE THEY’VE GOTTEN IN?

It’s not easy to get animals out of your chimney once they’ve managed to get themselves in. Because of the afore-mentioned parasites and diseases these animals could be carrying, coming in direct contact with them is something you’ll want to avoid if at all possible. They will, however, need some sort of help getting out since flue linings don’t make it easy or even possible for most of them to climb back out. If you believe you have an animals or nest in your chimney, call a certified chimney sweep immediately. We’re trained to inspect and handle circumstances such as these.

Your home is designed to give you and your family a place where you can feel safe and warm. Animal carcasses and their nesting materials can quickly compromise this safety and warmth. As such, keeping them out of your chimney is crucial! Here at Chimney Care Company, your family’s sense of security and safety is important to us. We know how hard it can be to trust someone with the safety and well being of your home and family. But with us, you can rest assured that we’ll take care of your family as if it were our very own. We appreciate your business and look forward to helping you keep your family safe and warm for years to come!

Direct Vent Gas vs. Vent Free Gas – What’s the Difference?

Direct Vent and Vent Free Fireplaces - Cincinnati OH - Chimney Saver SolutionsPeople have been enjoying the warmth of a crackling wood fire since long before they even had a fireplace in which to burn it. As wonderful as wood is, however, many have grown tired of the messy ash that is left behind. Needless to say, the love affair many have had with wood-burning fireplaces has burned out. Fortunately, there’s a relatively painless solution to this problem—converting from a wood-burning to a gas-burning fireplace. This conversion will likely provide you with more free time as well, as it will relieve you of your wood hauling, cutting, and stacking duties. No more wood-induced backaches for you!

Gas log sets come in two basic varieties, vented log sets and vent-free log sets. A vented gas log must be used in a regular fireplace, designed to burn a wood fire, and run with the damper fully open; vented log sets have the option of connecting to a manual on/off valve (which is lit with a match) or can be connected to a manual safety pilot or a millivolt pilot valve. Vent-free gas logs can be used in a regular fireplace or in approved vent-free firebox enclosures. Because they don’t require you to open a damper, more heat is sent directly into the room as opposed to up the chimney.

When shopping for a gas log set, there are several things to consider. Remember, good things are seldom cheap and cheap things are seldom good. A cheap price usually means something is missing or the set is of lower quality, whereas higher priced log sets have more detail to their logs and better burner systems, thereby producing a larger and more visually-appealing flame pattern. It is also important to get a log set that is properly sized to your fireplace. The log size you can use in your fireplace should meet the following minimum dimensions:

  • A front-opening dimensions of your fireplace should provide a minimum of 2”-6” on each side of the nominal log set size. Translation: if you’re planning to use a 24” log set, the front opening dimension of your fireplace should be at least 28”.
  • The rear dimensions of your fireplace should not be less than the nominal log set size. Translation: if you’re planning to use a 24” log set, the rear dimensions should be at least 24” wide.

No matter which option you choose, however, there are some important things to consider. Check with your local building and/or codes officials to determine the necessary permits, applicable fees, requirements, and restrictions. Remember to have all work involving the actual gas lines themselves done by a licensed professional. Purchase the manufacturer’s recommended log set/insert for your space. Always follow the manufacturer’s scheduled maintenance and inspection recommendations to ensure you get the most out of your investment. Keeping these considerations in mind will help to provide you with the best opportunity to rekindle the love you once had for your fireplace.

Here at Chimney Care Company, your family’s sense of security and safety is important to us, which is why we’ve spent the last 25 years installing, repairing, cleaning and maintaining the chimneys, fireplaces and dryer vents of our neighbors in Cincinnati, southwest Ohio and northern Kentucky. Whatever your fireplace, chimney or dryer vent needs, if you’re looking for high-quality, professional services from industry experts, you’ve come to the right place. To schedule an appointment, please give us a call. We appreciate your business and look forward to helping you keep your family safe and warm for years to come!

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Chimney Care Company | 413 Wards Corner Road, Loveland, Ohio 45140

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