Posts made in December 2010

Four Common Chimney Problems

1. Bricks cracking and falling off the chimney:

The problem is that your chimney bricks are absorbing water and then during normal freeze/thaw cycles the bricks are breaking apart and falling off. The solution is to apply a waterproofing to the outside of the chimney. Waterproofing will prevent water penetrating your chimney and the cracking and flaking of the bricks. A chimney professional will apply a waterproofing coating to the outside of the chimney that will reduce water penetration into the masonry by 99%, and it is also vapor permeable, which means it won’t trap water vapors when using the chimney. Waterproofing your chimney with a chimney liner gives an added layer of protection to this section of your home.

2. Water stains on the mantel or the face of the fireplace:

One possible problem could be water entering through cracks in the crown. To fix this we would, depending on the damage, either rebuild the entire crown, or seal the crown with a crown coating and sealant.

3. Water inside the firebox:

If you notice the inside of your firebox is wet after a rain storm then the most likely cause will be an uncapped chimney or chimney with an improperly sized chimney cap. The fix should be quite simple, install a properly sized chimney cap to keep water from entering the flue.

4. Water stains on the ceiling:

If stains are developing above your fireplace on the ceiling then the most common place for water to be leaking is the flashing between the roof and your chimney. In most cases the problem can be solved by applying a chimney flashing sealant. A high quality flashing sealant is excellent for use in stopping problem leaks around the base of chimneys, stacks and vents. However, sometimes the issue is too difficult to be properly sealed, and you may have to repair your chimney leak or crack.

A professional chimney sweep is usually your best choice for repairing common chimney issues.

The Most Common Chimney Cleaning Mistakes

Ever wonder what the more common chimney cleaning mistakes are? Here is a comprehensive list of the top mistakes:

1) I use chimney sweeping logs, salt or other chemical means to keep soot from building up in my chimney, so it doesn’t need sweeping.

These products can reduce the buildup of creosote but do not remove everything, and can actually cause massive “sheets” of creosote to loosen and fall onto your smoke shelf, piling up and causing a chimney fire. If you look at the directions for any creosote destroying log or chemical it clearly states that this does not replace professional chimney cleaning. And never ever use a chimney sweeping log in wood burning stove; you may cause irreversible damage to your stove.

2) A good chimney fire once or twice a year is all the chimney cleaning you need.

Yes, a chimney fire does burn up the creosote in the chimney, because that is its fuel. It can also crack the flue and allow the fire to spread through the walls of your home, and/or sparks from the fire can catch your roof on fire. You cannot control fires of this nature.

3) I burn hardwood only, or seasoned wood, so it burns clean.

Nothing burns clean. Some things burn cleaner than others, and may reduce the need for frequent sweepings, but if it burns it is carbon based and if it is carbon based it does not ever burn completely and perfectly. Also most firewood vendors that advertise “seasoned wood” aren’t actually delivering it. To properly season (dry) wood it must be cut, split and stacked for 1-2 years. It cannot start drying until it is split (the bark prevents that from happening). The optimum firewood moisture content is 20%. We use a very easy to use moisture meter that can give you a reading on the moisture content of any log. The best way to purchase firewood is to buy next year’s supply this year, stack it, cover it and leave it alone.

4) I clean my own chimney.

We believe that chimneys should be cleaned by professionals with experience and the proper tools. We have removed sticks, rods and brushes from chimneys that homeowners have used to clear blockages.

5) The best time to clean my chimney is in the fall.

Actually the best time is in the spring, when you are done using it. Soot has corrosive properties. Any corrosive properties are going to eat away at your chimney, in the summer when it gets humid it will have a nasty smell, and then when you need your heating system you may have to wait to get a proper chimney cleaning. It is less busy in the spring so you don’t have to wait as long for an appointment, and if the inspection does uncover a problem you have plenty of time to fix it. It is especially important to clean pellet systems annually and preferably in the spring, leftover pellets can swell and burst from summer humidity and actually shorten the life of your appliance. All pellet manufacturers require a professional service and repair at least once a year.

6) It’s too late to get my chimney cleaned once it is winter/snowing.

Chimneys can be cleaned at any time of the year; excess snow is no excuse. If your chimney needs cleaned, get it cleaned.

When And How To Service Your Gas Heating Appliances

Late Fall: time to cover the outdoor grill, in most of the country. It’s also a great time to have the barbeque serviced, so it will be ready to go next Spring.
gas heating appliances

It’s also time to think about your fireplace insert or gas stove. If you’re planning to be indoors for the next few months, you’ll want to make sure that your indoor hearth is as safe and clean as possible.

Gas fires burn cleaner than wood, which emits polluting smoke and lots of greenhouse gases. One sign of the difference is that gas stove chimneys typically do not require cleaning as long as the burner is correctly adjusted, while wood fire chimneys should be checked annually for soot and creosote buildup that can cause chimney fires. So your chimney should be fine – as long as your gas fire is operating properly.

A gas fire or other hearth appliance can provide a beautiful and warming focal point to a living room or bedroom. But as the price of fuel continues to increase, you’ll want to be sure that your gas fire is delivering all the heat you paid for. This is not a DIY project. Whether your fireplace or stove burns natural gas or propane, it’s a precision instrument that requires special tools and factory training from the manufacturer to make sure that it is burning fuel cleanly and efficiently.

The safety of your family and home are at stake, so don’t put them at risk by playing with fire: hire a qualified service person. Hiring an NFI Certified Chimney Sweep is the best route to go to ensure effective maintenance and your own safety.

Only a select few retailers have NFI Certified Specialist on staff. The National Fireplace Institute is a non-profit agency that operates independently of manufacturers to create standards for certification of installers, designers and service technicians. NFI certification is your assurance that the person working on your gas heating appliance has passed a rigorous exam. You should also ask about factory training by the manufacturer, since every make and model of gas heater is a little different.

Dryer Vent Cleaning, Why Is It Necessary?

There are many advantages to be had simply by keeping your home’s dryer vents clean, including increased safety and money savings.
Dryer Vent cleaning
Clothes dryer fires and hazardous carbon dioxide emissions often start with problems in the dryer’s venting system or lint trap area. Why these two places? Because the lack of proper vent cleaning and the use of improper dryer venting practices. Mixing the extreme heat of the dryer necessary to efficiently dry clothes and an over-abundance of lint and debris can be dangerous, if not deadly. Clean the lint filter/screen after each dryer use. Clean the vent and exhaust duct periodically as well.

Check the outside vent while the dryer is in operation to ensure that air is escaping and not getting clogged somewhere. It may be necessary to remove the exhaust duct from the dryer to dislodge an obstruction. Also, pull the dryer out from the wall and ensure that lint and other fibers are not lingering. This lint and debris amounts to highly-flammable particles of cotton and polyester that have come off of clothes being dried. Once these fibers clog the vent, heated air cannot escape.

Although you can perform many of those tasks yourself, it is also a good idea to have a professional come in yearly and give your dryer unit a thorough clean. You can even have a professional focused on chimney sweep services clean your chimney and dryer vent all at once. Today’s newer homes often place a dryer away from an outside wall, which makes the dryer is vented for a longer distance and inspection and debris removal is complicated. Many apartment/condominium complexes and homeowner’s associations now require an annual or semi-annual cleaning to prevent accidents and fires.

Another advantage to keeping dryer vents free of lint and debris is the money savings you will see. When lint traps, vents and exhaust areas are full of debris, heat is not distributed in the drum as it should be. This makes the dryer run longer in order to fully dry clothes. It may also take more than one cycle to completely dry a full or heavy load. Also, as your vent continues to fill with debris, the life expectancy of your dryer is cut in half with each load.

Ducts? Cleaning? Why Do I Care About Duct Cleaning?

Most homes have a forced air system of central heating and cooling. The hot and cold air gets to the rooms of the home through ducts and registers. Even with the best filters in place at the blower motor, dust and other pollutants still get by and get trapped in the ducts.

duct cleaning`

The trapped particles build up over time into a thick mat of allergy causing pollutants that break free and get pushed into the home’s air. The only way to remove the pollutants is to use professional equipment that can travel through the ducts and clean them out.

Do it Yourself Duct Cleaning Doesn’t Work.

A homeowner using a vacuum cleaner can only reach a couple of feet into ducts. More often than not, the homeowner ends up just breaking off pollutant build up and forcing it farther into the ducts to be blown out the next time the heat or AC is turned on.

Why Professional Duct Cleaning is the Way to Go

The concept of using a home vacuum with a brush attachment is taken to the extreme with professional equipment. Rotobrush builds equipment that has a rotating brush reminiscent of the style used by chimney sweeps that is attached to a super heavy duty flexible hose. The hose attaches to a powerful vacuum at one end. At the business end, the brush rotates in the ducts to break up the pollutant build up while at the same time sucking all of the filth into the hose.

Pro Duct Cleaning Equipment

Meyer Machine and Equipment offers high pressure systems that drive whip assemblies that are pushed through the duct work to knock all of the debris loose. Once the debris is loose in the ducts, it is cleaned out by a vacuum hose that is guided through the ducts. There are many different whips and brush systems that are designed to be used with different styles and lengths of duct work. A good technician will have multiple tools at his disposable to get to all of the dirt in the ducts. It is a good idea to have some manual brushes on hand too.

Indoor air is known to be of dubious quality in the first place. Adding to the irritants and pollutants already in indoor air by forcing more of it out of old, never cleaned ducts is just adding insult to injury. No wonder spring and fall allergies are so bad. Not only are there new pollens and molds for allergy sufferers to deal with, now they have to contend with the assault the air conditioning, chimney or the furnace brings to their noses through duct work. Not to mention, what do you think a chimney cleaning would stir up in the air within your home?

How Gutter Guards Can Save You A Lot of Time And Headaches

Leaves are beautiful creations of nature that lend splendor and grace to any outdoor venue — that is, just as long as they stay on the trees. Sadly, when the fall season comes around, it inevitably leads to a torrent of leaves on the ground, as well as on the rooftop of your home. No sooner than this happens, a big rain is sure to come along to wash all of that shed foliage right into your gutters and roof trimming, where you don’t want it. When it does, it means at some point, you’re going to have to get up on a ladder, burn part of a perfectly good weekend clearing them out or purchase chimney sweep services.
Gutter Guards
Unless you have Gutter Guards, that is. If you’ve never heard of them, you’re probably missing out on an inexpensive opportunity to save yourself many years’ worth of wasted labor and time every Fall season. Gutter Guards can be custom fit to roof edging of any dimension and height, and can be installed relatively quickly. They attach using custom-crafted all aluminum components and will hold firmly without requiring a single gutter nail. This makes them a much less painstaking gutter to put in place than what you’re probably used to.

There are several benefits to retrofitting your home with a set of these. First of all, they make it nearly impossible for leaves and debris from strong winds and storms to end up stuck in your gutter system. The guard has a narrow opening that allows even large volumes of water to flow in easily, but solid materials are kept out. This completely stops water from pooling up, and allows it to flow away from areas of your home where it would be possible for too much water seeping in to actually cause damage to the structural integrity of the base of your home, including your foundation.

Gutter Guards are a simple solution to a big problem and are nothing short of an investment in the future value of your house. You’ve worked so hard to be able to have a place you can call your own. You owe it to yourself to be able to sit on your front porch on a cool Autumn day, watching the leaves fall in peace.

Chimney Cap vs. Top Sealing Dampers

Some folks wonder what the difference between a chimney cover (also called a chimney cap) and a top sealing damper is. First, let’s make it clear in what ways they are the same.

Diamond mesh chimney cover

Diamond Mesh Chimney Cover

Both items mount on top of the chimney, keep most of the rain out and will keep larger pests from entering the flue, such as raccoons. There are important differences however.

Allow me to also explain that a damper and a flue are not the same either. The flue is simply the open middle of the chimney that the smoke goes up. Dampers are sometimes miss-called flues or flutes, but they are something entirely different than the flue.

A damper is intended to shut off- either fully or partially- the chimney flue. The reason you’d want to do that is to keep heat ($$$) from escaping up the chimney. This also reduces drafts (usually dramatically!) in the room where the fireplace is. They’re an economical alternative to repairing or replacing leaky old metal damper plates in the fireplace. The payback period is different for different people, but top-sealing dampers pay for themselves over time. They also keep rain out pretty well, though not as well as a chimney cap (explained later) and will keep larger animals out even when open.

Energy Top Chimney Damper

Energy Top Chimney Damper

On the other hand, the sides of a chimney cap always allow air to flow. They do not save money by keeping house heat in. A cap’s functions are to keep rain, debris (twigs etc.) and “critters” out, including and especially birds. The screen also serves as a spark arrestor i.e. it will keep most “hot stuff” that comes up in the smoke from landing on the roof. They do a better job of keeping rain out as well because the lids are larger. These are important functions and no chimney should be uncovered. This option is usually the least costly, especially if installed by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep Company.

There is the option to have both the damper and cover combined. For a couple reasons, too detailed to go into here, you can’t just put a chimney cover over a top-sealing damper. The biggest reason for this is because a damper lid won’t fit inside a standard cover. With that said, some manufacturers make a combination unit which gives you both the extra animal and weather protection. This combo also allow you to benefit from the heat savings of a chimney cap and damper all in one unit. This is usually the most costly option, but certainly the nicest.

For safety sake, you need a damper. For economics sake, you should invest in a top sealing damper. For the best of both worlds, spring for the damper-cap that provides a little bit of everything and avoid chimney problems.