Chimney Care Company's Blog
If you have a masonry chimney, chances are you will have a chimney leak at some point. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) , water is your masonry chimney’s biggest enemy. Every part of your chimney will suffer damage if water is able to penetrate into it, which is why it is so important to practice maintenance steps like waterproofing your chimney. However, if you notice stained ceilings or walls, loose bricks on the outside of your chimney, or even a musty smell coming from your fireplace, you more than likely have already suffered a chimney leak, and now you need to call a professional chimney company like Chimney Saver Solutions to locate the leak and repair it.
Finding the source of a chimney leak can be a difficult task. Being a more informed homeowner and knowing the four major causes of a leaky chimney can save you a lot of time and frustration:
- Your chimney cap is missing or damaged. Made from stainless steel or copper, chimney caps are your best defense against water penetration, as they cover the top of your chimney. Bad weather or animals trying to get into your chimney can damage your chimney cap, leaving your chimney open to the elements and allowing rainwater to enter freely. At Chimney Saver Solutions, we carry and professionally install a wide variety of chimney caps to keep your chimney safe from damaging water penetration.
- Your chimney crown is worn out. Sitting underneath your chimney cap, your chimney crown is a layer of concrete that seals off your chimney. However, if your crown is not made from the correct material or if it is improperly installed, damage and deterioration occurs sooner, enabling water to leak into your chimney. Our technicians at Chimney Saver Solutions will assure you that you have a well constructed and well-maintained chimney crown to replace your old, damaged one.
- Your flashing is damaged or missing. The metal sheeting that sits in between your chimney and your roof to protect that area from water leaks, flashing is often improperly installed, as not every chimney company takes the time to customize the flashing itself to perfectly fit your roof. At Chimney Saver Solutions, our technicians carefully measure each part of your chimney and its surrounding areas to customize the flashing to fit exactly, leaving no holes or cracks, thereby allowing no room for water penetration.
- Your mortar joints have deteriorated over time. When water penetrates into your chimney and gets into your bricks and mortar, it wears down the important mortar joints that hold everything together causing holes and cracks to form within the masonry. Many times, water within your chimney will freeze during the winter, and when it thaws out, bricks break and crumble, leading to more holes and eventual structural damage of your chimney. At Chimney Saver Solutions, we can fix the masonry work inside your chimney by tuckpointing. Once that repair work is finished, we can apply our waterproofing treatment to ensure the masonry work in your chimney is protected from any future water leaks.
If you suspect you have a leaky chimney, contact Chimney Saver Solutions today to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced technicians, who will solve your leak problem for you as quickly as possible and protect your home from future water penetration damage.
Wood smoke from home heating is the primary source of wintertime air pollution in our country. It contains fine particulates, gases, and even toxic compounds. These pollutants can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, as well as respiratory disease. Wintertime wood burning for residential home heating can be a significant source of pollution both inside your home and out. Wood smoke impacts occur during the winter months when cold temperatures contribute to increased burning. Frequent winter inversions cause air stagnation, which causes pollutant levels to exceed healthy air quality standards.
PROGRAMS TO ASSIST WITH CHANGING OUT WOODSTOVES
As a result of the increased attention now being given to air quality, many states have begun to offer tax credits and incentives (in the form of woodstove change-out programs) that offer rebates to replace old uncertified stoves with new cleaner stoves. Most programs allow consumers to trade in an old woodstove for a new one, at a discounted price, but some only allow trade outs to lower emitting appliances such as pellet and gas stoves, or give much higher rebates for pellet or gas stoves. The Alliance for Green Heat believes that “many wood stove change out programs haven’t taken a holistic approach and, as a result, air quality improvements have been somewhat undermined.” The Alliance has urged the EPA to use their leverage in directing funds to areas that have demonstrated a level of commitment, such as banning the installation of new exempt woodstoves, old, second hand uncertified woodstoves and/or unregulated outdoor wood boilers.
MAKING STRIDES IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
Unlike cars, refrigerators and virtually every other appliance, woodstoves can last so long that they remain in use for upwards of 50 years. As a result, most woodstoves are still not EPA certified, a program that wasn’t started until 1990. Pollution from older stoves, or from incorrectly used new stoves, is a serious health concern, and one of the best ways to get them out of circulation is a changeout program.
CONSIDERING WHAT THE EPA HAS TO SAY
Back in the late 1980’s, the EPA established a mandatory smoke emission limit for catalytic woodstoves (4.1g/h) and for non-catalytic woodstoves (7.5g/h). Today, all woodstoves sold in the U.S. must meet these limits, and many are certified for emissions down in the 1 to 4g/h range. The EPA certified emission rate is a reliable number that can be compared from one model to the next.
When shopping for a new woodstove, you’ll have two main sources of information to help you in making your decision: manufacturer’s literature and the advice you receive from the woodstove dealer. This is where knowing who to trust is of the utmost importance. The professionals at The Chimney Care Company would like to be your trusted resource for this information. We can help you find the perfect heating appliance, one of which might just be perfect for your needs, and install it for you, too. Our technicians can help you weigh your choices and their benefits and land on the perfect new appliance. Stop by our showroom and talk to our home heating experts about what you’re envisioning for your home, and we’ll do the rest.
One 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.
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 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.
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!