Our Company Blog
Chimney 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!
People 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!
If sitting in front of a crackling fire is your favorite way to warm up during the cold winter months, but your traditional fireplace isn’t quite cutting the mustard anymore, we have a solution for you that will add both beauty and heat to your family room. Fireplaces are a highly desired feature for many new homebuyers; unfortunately, they’re also a major air gap, sending as much as 8% of valuable heated air straight up the chimney. An energy-saving wood, pellet or gas insert will help you transform your existing hearth into a super-efficient heater that can significantly cut your energy bills.
Wood-burning inserts create real heat with real logs. This firebox slides into your existing masonry or metal fireplace. Your installer will snake a stainless steel liner down your chimney to connect to the top of the insert before fitting a decorative cast iron, steel, or colored porcelain flange around the insert to provide you with a finished look. Many front doors come with ceramic glass to help with radiating heat into the room. Adding logs to the fire is as easy as opening the front door and tossing some in. Wood-burning inserts can easily heat anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 square feet of living space, depending on their size. Inserts designed to heat 1,500 square feet will typically burn for three to five hours before needing more wood, whereas inserts designed to heat upwards of 3,000 square feet will typically provide an 8- to 10-hour burn window.
Instead of burning wood logs, a pellet insert burns wood pellets—rabbit-food-sized bits of compressed, recycled wood waste and other renewable substances—that are poured into a hopper. Like its wood-burning counterpart, a pellet insert is a sealed combustion box with a partially glass front door that’s surrounded by a decorative flange. To operate the system, you buy a bag of pellets, pour them into the hopper, press a button, and sit back and enjoy the fire. Unlike their wood-burning counterparts, pellet stoves need electricity—to start the fire, operate the blowers, run the auger that feeds the pellets into the burn pot, and run the computer board that monitors the whole system. Pellet inserts can easily heat anywhere from 1,000 to 2,500 square feet of living space, depending on their heat-generating capacity and the size of the fuel hopper.
Converting to gas has never been easier. Unlike the older generation of gas fireplaces, today’s gas inserts are real heat producers that can use propane or natural gas to power a steady flame that dances across fake logs, decorative glass chips, or stones, all behind a sealed glass face. A gas insert can be used in masonry or prefab fireplaces and can be vented through the existing chimney or directly through an adjacent exterior wall. In comparison to the other options, a gas insert is the easiest to use and requires very little maintenance beyond the customary annual check. Lighting the fire is as easy as flipping a switch. It is ideal for zone heating (heating the room you’re in while turning down the thermostat in the rest of your house).
An insert, installed by a factory-trained professional, will help to keep your heated air in the room. Inserts generally run anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000, including installation (prices can vary depending on the current state of your fireplace and existing chimney liner). Choosing the fuel type you want to use is the first step in the conversion process. To help with this decision, you’ll need to decide what’s most important to you—burning real wood and having heat even if the power goes out (wood insert), burning bio-fuel without the hassle of chopping and hauling wood (pellet insert), or push-button convenience for flipping on fast heat in a specific area of your home (gas insert). Regardless of the route you choose to go, the professionals at The Chimney Care Company can help you every step of the way.
Whenever you burn a solid fuel (wood, coal or pellets) in your stove, fireplace or insert, you will be left with ashes that need to be removed. These ashes must be removed periodically, as they can affect the performance and durability of your unit. The frequency of the ash removal will depend on the product itself and the type of fuel being burned.
ASHES THROUGHOUT HISTORY
Ancient man transported fire from one location to another by wrapping hot coals insulated by ashes in animal skins. Once he arrived at the new home site, rekindling the fire was easy. He removed the coal—which was still hot—and placed it on a small pile of leaves and twigs. He then blew on the hot ember and restarted the fire. It’s important to point out that fires are still started this way today, and often, it’s an accidental fire.
THE DANGERS OF IMPROPER ASH REMOVAL
Improper ash removal from fireplaces and wood burning stoves causes thousands of fires in the U.S. every year. According to the NFPA, almost 10,000 fires are caused yearly due to improperly removing and discarding ashes. Hot coals, hidden in a pile of ashes and thus well insulated, can stay hot for up to four days because the ash acts as an insulator that keeps the coals from burning out. All these coals need to flare up again is more oxygen. It’s for this reason that fire departments often return to a scene to spray more water on smoldering timbers and newly flared coals.
ASH CONTAINER 101
Never empty ashes into a paper or plastic bag, cardboard box, or other similar container. The only suitable means for ash storage is a metal container with a tight-fitting lid, as this helps keep air from blowing through and disturbing the ashes, which can leave hot coals exposed and easily reignited. For optimum safety, wet the wood ashes prior to attaching the metal lid to the pail. As a safety precaution, never store your metal ash container on your deck, in your garage, or in any location that may allow heat to transfer from those hot coals to nearby flammable items. Innumerable wooden decks catch fire every year because of this simple oversight. Instead, place the container on a non-combustible surface such as stone, concrete, brick, or slate.
Wood ash, once completely cooled, can safely be disposed of in your garden because natural firewood ash makes a great soil additive that your plants will enjoy because they are high in potassium, calcium, sodium, magnesium, and phosphorous. Just make sure you have removed any mulching materials such as dried leaves and other dried plants first, so there’s nothing to catch fire in your garden. Spray the dispersed ashes with water as an added safety precaution.
For additional information on this and many other topics, contact the Chimney Care Company today. We offer complete chimney and fireplace services to the Cincinnati, southwest Ohio and northern Kentucky area. You can always count on us for friendly service and quality workmanship.
A burning question for many homeowners with fireplaces is which type of wood they should be using. There is no simple answer to this question, however, as the options available to you are quite numerous. Nevertheless, Chimney Care Company is here to help you make a more informed decision when the time comes. Our long-term customers know we’ll take care of them and you can rest assured that we’ll take care of you as well.
There are two basic types of firewood available to those with a wood-burning fireplace: softwood and hardwood.
QUICKER IGNITING FIRES WITH SOFTWOODS
Softwoods—pines, spruces and firs—start burning easily. Typically, these woods have less potential BTU [British Thermal Unit] energy than their hardwood counterparts. Softwoods also produce a much more significant amount of smoke. The one true advantage softwood has is that it lights very quickly because it’s less dense; this quality makes it an excellent choice for kindling for any fire; using it for anything beyond that is like sending your money straight up the chimney.
LONGER BURNING FIRES WITH HARDWOODS
Hardwoods—oaks, maples and cedars—on the other hand, don’t start burning quite as easily but burn for a long time, which makes them ideal for prolonged burns. Per square inch, when compared to softwoods, they have much more BTU potential than other types of wood and, therefore, burn hotter and more steadily for extended periods.
BETTER BURNING FIRES MARRY THE TWO TYPES OF WOOD
The easiest and best fire is built by using a mixture of both softwoods and hardwoods. A bed of ashes underneath the grate produces steady heat and aids in igniting new fuel as it‘s added. This will ensure that the fire will continue burning as long as small amounts of wood are added at regular intervals. As a matter of fact, more efficient wood burning results from burning small loads of wood with sufficient air than from burning large loads of wood with minimal air.
MORE EFFICIENT FIRES WITH SEASONED WOOD
It’s also important to season your firewood, whether it’s hard or soft, as all of it contains moisture. Seasoning takes place when the moisture content in the wood reaches equilibrium with that of the surrounding air. A common method of seasoning wood is simply stacking it outdoors in a spot that allows for good air circulation and is dry, sunny and open for approximately six months out of the year. Seasoning in this manner will produce wood that is dry enough to support efficient combustion and has a higher heating value than unseasoned wood.
For the most part, it is far more important that your firewood is dry and seasoned; the particular type of wood you’re burning is merely a secondary concern. Having both softwood and hardwood on hand is a good idea. You can use the softer woods for kindling and for fires during cooler months when only a small amount of heat output is desired and save the harder woods for the coldest months. Keeping these things in mind will make you a much happier homeowner and will make the cold months of the year much more enjoyable for you and your family.
Call Chimney Care Company today to have our professional chimney technicians take care of your fireplace.