Posts made in August 2011

Gas Fireplace Installation | Enjoying No Fuss Fire

Many people enjoy relaxing in front of a fire, but are unwilling to put in the time and energy necessary to properly and safely maintain a traditional fireplace. Luckily for the casual fireplace enthusiast, gas fireplace installation is a relatively easy process, allowing you to enjoy some quality time in front of the fire without the hassle.

Gas fireplaces come in an assortment of styles, finishes and styles, allowing you to pick the perfect fireplace to complement your home. For those who embrace the aesthetic of the plain gas fireplace, options exist that forgo gas fireplace logs and just show the gas fire.

Gas Fireplace Logs

Gas Log fireplace in Chevy Chase MD

Other varieties exist that are meant to replicate traditional fireplaces. If you’re flashing back to your great aunt’s wholly unrealistic gas fireplace, there’s no need to panic. Criticism of old gas fireplaces with plastic looking gas fireplace logs and bright blue flames have driven the industry to create incredibly realistic gas fireplaces.

From flickering orange flames, to glowing coals and embers, it’s hard for the casual observer to tell the difference between gas and traditional fireplaces. Gas fireplace logs have especially evolved, perfectly split and dark around the edges, effectively replicating their natural counterparts without the mess.

If you already have a fireplace that isn’t in use, gas fireplace inserts exist that can be easily installed into the preexisting space. With a chimney inspection to clean out any previous residue and ensure a properly functioning chimney, your gas fireplace installation can be finished quickly, allowing you to bask in the warmth. If your home doesn’t have a pre-existing chimney, don’t worry. Modern gas fireplaces often just need a vent to the outside. This short vent doesn’t involve major remodeling or invasive construction; most companies can install in within a day.

For the busy modern family, gas fireplaces are a perfect choice. There’s no need to collect wood, clean ashes, or monitor the flue for flammable deposits of creosote and soot. If you decide to leave the home or go to bed, a flip of a switch will kill the flames immediately, allowing you to enjoy a fire when you want without extended commitment to watching it. Many modern gas fireplaces even come equipped with a remote control, allowing easy use at a distance. There’s a reason gas fireplaces have been gaining popularity over the years. If you’re interested in a gas fireplace installation, contact us for an in-home consultation.

Types of Chimney Liners

About Chimney relining: Types of Chimney Liners

No matter what sort of chimney lining you have, in time it will need to be maintained or relined. Understanding the three major types of chimney liners will help you discuss with a trusted professional the best way to line your chimney and keep your home safe and sound.

Chimney flue liner repair in Potomac MDClay Tile Chimney Liner

Clay Tiles have been a historical favorite for lining chimneys. As such, most older homes have clay tile liner. These were popular for a variety of reasons, the most important being that clay tile insulation with properly finished mortar joints can withstand most types of smoke and can last up to 50 years.

In today’s world, however, these tiles are not the perennial favorite. Studies show that during a chimney fire, even the most well finished mortar joints are likely to crack, and usually break apart. Any crack in your chimney lining makes it more likely that the fire could spread to the rest of the building.

Additionally, repairing or relining a chimney with clay tile is a very difficult task. Punching holes in the chimney to ensure the tiles are aligned and joined correctly is often necessary, and such effort is costly. For this reason, when most home owners notice cracks or problems with their clay tile chimney liner, they transition to a different liner entirely.

Cast in Place Chimney Liner

Cast in place liners were created around 60 years ago. While initially they were highly-regarded, over time their popularity has decreased due to a high likelihood of cracks.

One benefit of the cast-in-place chimney liner is the insulative properties of the material. The insulation helps keep heat from leaking from the chimney, and higher temperatures in the chimney helps ensure creosote, soot and combustive gases are more fully consumed, which means less accumulation inside your chimney, and fewer emissions from your chimney.

The downside to this chimney liner is again cost. Installing the liner can be expensive, and if you have any bends in your chimney, the price is just going to go up. A professional will also need to determine if any existing chimney liners need to be removed prior to chimney relining. Also, as cracking develops, the process of relining is expensive and time consuming.

chimney liner repair in Glen Echo MDMetal Chimney Liner

Metal liners are by far the current favorite of the construction world. They come in a vast array or shapes and sizes, and can either be rigid of flexible. Installation and parts are generally inexpensive, and with proper maintenance metal liners often outlast the house. Also, as appliances within your home change and chimney liners adapt to meet these changes, replacing your chimney liner with an up to date metal liner is an easy and logical process.

Reasons for Relining
The largest reason for chimney relining is improper liner sizing. Improperly sized lining can lead to soot and creosote deposits and improper draft, both of which are safety hazards. Proper chimney lining size is a difficult variable to determine, so if you have any questions about the best size chimney lining for your home, contact a chimney professional.

The second largest cause of chimney relining is cracks and breaches in the lining itself, which is a large fire hazard. At the first sign of cracks or damage, call in a professional to ensure your home is safe. Remember, even if you stop using your fireplace, other appliances may vent into your chimney exposing you to potential danger.

Chimney Inspections | Self Inspection

An annual chimney inspection is important to ensure proper safety. While these inspections will highlight your biggest problems areas, damage and fire hazards can show up throughout the year. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on these important problem areas throughout the year. If any signs of damage appear, contact your chimney professional for a midyear inspection.

chimney inspection in Rockville MDChimney Masonry

The masonry should be free of excessive cracks and should look sturdy. Cracks and improper sealing can allow for water and ice damage, which will ruin the structural integrity of your chimney.

Flue Liner

Poured-in-place or clay tile flues should be free of cracks, chips and improper sealing. A metal liner should be free of rust spots. Even small cracks or patches of rust should be looked at by a professional. These problems can allow combustive gases and sparks into your home.

Creosote and soot deposits should be monitored, as an accumulation of these can lead to chimney fires. Additionally, if you have an old home, inspect how such things as your dryer are vented. If dryers are vented into the bottom of the flue, it is easy for the vent to be blocked by falling debris. Blocked vents are a huge fire hazard.


Missing or damaged chimney caps will need replaced or repaired by a licensed professional. Chimney caps protect your flue from water damage while preventing sparks from landing on your roof or yard. A missing chimney cap is a significant fire hazard.

Metal flashing around your chimney should not be loose or covered in excessive tar or caulking. Loose flashing allows for water damage, whereas an excessive amount of tar or caulking could be a sign of previous water damage. If you notice either of these problems midyear, but haven’t talked to your chimney inspector about it, give them a call and see if they investigated it during their annual inspection. Water damage to your chimney is costly, and can be a fire hazard.

Ensure that cleanout doors are present and working properly. They should easily open and close. Missing or malfunctioning cleanout doors need replaced. Dampers should be free of rust damage, and easily moved. Vents from previously used equipment such as woodstoves should be securely blocked off if no longer in use.

Fireplace inspection in Olney MDFireplace Draft

While looking over your chimney, there are some aspects that will be difficult for you to fully gauge. One of the most important aspects of a properly functioning chimney is the draft. With a weak draft, the combustible gases, creosote, soot and smoke do not leave the chimney easily. Sometimes, these fire byproducts are pushed back into the home. When your chimney is full of smoke and creosote, this might be unpleasant, but if you have an accumulation of carbon monoxide that leaked into your home, this problem could be very deadly.

If smoke downdrafts into your home, ensure your chimney and fireplace have no missing pieces and that the chimney is not blocked by debris or creosote. If no cause of the downdraft can be found, contact a professional to inspect your chimney’s draft. If problems are present, they will be able to suggest ways to increase the draft.

This basic overview of problem areas in your chimney is meant to help you maintain a safe fireplace and chimney in between annual inspections. It is not exhaustive enough to cover all the potential problems that could occur throughout the year. If you find any of the above problems, or come across something not mentioned here, please contact a trusted professional to ensure your home is a safe, healthy place for you and your family.

Wood burning Inserts for your Fireplace

Wood Burning Inserts for your Fireplace

Wood Burning Fireplace insert in Poolesville MD

Few things are as satisfying as cozying up to a fireplace on a cold day. Unfortunately, fireplaces aren’t meant to run unsupervised, and cannot effectively heat your entire house. Luckily, there are ways to turn your fireplace into super efficient heating: wood burning fireplace inserts. These inserts are designed to fit easily into your existing fireplace, allowing you all the coziness of a fireplace with the added function of a woodstove.

Wood burning inserts are superior to fireplaces for efficiency and safety. These closed inserts maintain air flow and heat to allow steady and efficient wood combustion. This means slower burning wood that doesn’t need as frequent tending. Woodstove inserts provide superior safety by sectioning off the woodstove from the rest of the room. This means that sparks and gusts of wind are controlled, allowing your fire to burn peacefully. Due to this, properly used woodstove inserts do not require supervision, allowing you to go about your life while your woodstove keeps your home comfortable.

While it might seem that there are few differences between a fireplace and a woodstove, their efficiency differs drastically. For example, modern woodstoves use special technology to ignite fuel-rich gases before they travel out of your chimney. This increases efficiency, and minimizes emissions. Many also allow for burn adjustment for easy temperature control. They also are built with heat dispersion in mind. Most modern wood burning inserts come equipped with a blower, which helps spread heat throughout your home without the need for an external fan. Some models can even be used in a forced air system to allow heating of adjacent rooms.

Wood Stove insert in Fulton MDWoodstove Insert Design

Exceptional functionality comes with exceptional design. From large viewing windows to carefully crafted exteriors, these fireplace inserts are meant to be beautiful. Many styles, designs and finishes exist, allowing you to choose the perfect style that will beautifully heat your home.

Renovations can be expensive and tiring, but as long as you have a preexisting masonry or metal chimney, woodstove inserts require very little installation. Most installations take a day or less, meaning you can quickly and easily have your fireplace insert heating your home.

There are plenty of additional benefits to owning a wood burning fireplace insert. Depending on the make and model you choose, one insert can heat up to 2,200 square feet of space. Additionally, replacing your fireplace with a woodstove insert saves precious floor space a traditional wood stove would require. The woodstove replacing your fireplace also helps prevent children and pets from burning themselves on an exposed woodstove.

Wood burning inserts are an easy and efficient way to make your fireplace more productive and safer. If you would like to hear more about how a wood burning insert would work for you, contact our design specialists who can discuss your situation and help you decide what would work best for you.

Roof Algae Stains Removal with Roof Cleaning Chemicals

If you’ve never thought to clean the roof of your home, you’re not alone. With the endless amount of cleaning that needs tending to inside and around the home, many people never stop to think about their roof. This could be an expensive oversight. A variety of algae, known as Gloeocapsa magma, is spreading through the United States. This algae feeds on limestone and decomposing organic matter, and can dramatically age and damage shingles.

Gloeocapsa Magma Algae: How it Affects Shinglesshingle cleaning in Colesville

Asphalt shingles, the most common on the market, are made using limestone as filler. These shingles don’t shed fallen organic matter, such as decomposing leaves, particularly well. Gloeocapsa Magma, which is spreading throughout the United States due to increased humidity, uses both decaying organic matter and limestone as a food source. After a colony of algae begins to form on your shingles, the process increases exponentially as old algae dies and decomposes which provides food for new algae. It’s not uncommon for a “spot” of algae on the roof to turn into a large patch before the owner even realizes it’s a problem.

Gloeocapsa magma does more than stain roofs. It holds moisture in shingles, and exposes your roof to the plethora of problems excessive dampness can cause: premature shingle aging and rotting. Without correction, these problems can lead to mold, mildew and moss.

Traditional Roof Cleaning Chemicals

There are a variety of products on the market to help remove algae from your roof. Many of them contain harsh chemicals such as bleach or sodium hydroxide. Bleach is toxic to plant and animal material, but may not kill the underlying bacteria. Sodium hydroxide is a chemical used in paint strippers as well as oven and drain cleaners. It too is toxic, and both of these harsh chemicals erode gutters, flashings, and other hard surfaces.
Additionally, sodium hydroxide based chemicals often need pressure washed to remove the leftover residue. This pressure washing adds undue wear and tear to the shingles. Even so called “low-pressure” washes are well above the normal level that shingles should be exposed to.

Roof cleaning in Potomac MDRoof Cleaning without the Chemicals

At Highs Chimney, we would never expose you or your home to unnecessary chemicals. We have found the best algae remover to be DEFY® roof cleaner. This cleaner is specially formulated to kill the algae attacking your roof without excessive damage to your home or garden. It uses a blend of detergents coupled with sodium metasilicate, which is made from sand and considered non-pollutant. This combination helps break apart the algae colonies, which allows the DEFY® rinse to remove these particles from your roof, without the need of a pressure wash.

Once the roof has been cleaned, we apply DEFY® Stain blocker, which helps prevent the return of the algae. This Stain Blocker needs to be reapplied for continued protection of your roof, but your climate and individual circumstances determine how often reapplication needs to be. Depending on the humidity, shadiness of your roof, and likelihood of decomposing organic matter, this could range from one year to five, with two to three being average.

If you’re beginning to notice spots or stains on your roof, it’s time to call in the experts. We can help determine if gloeocapsa magma is to blame, and stop its growth before it gets out of hand or damages your property, all without unnecessary chemicals.

Wood Stove Heat Shields: An Overview

stove heat shield installDo I Need A Heat Shield?

Wood stoves require heat shields both under and behind them to protect your home from heat damage. While many wood stoves include heat shields in their design, some do not. Refer to your wood stove to determine if external heat shields are necessary. Installing these heat shields as instructed is important for keeping your wood stove safe and efficient. Taking the time to understand the heat shield needs of your wood stove is important for your safety, and will give you ease of mind when you need to leave your house unattended.

Shields protect your home from heat damage and fire one of two ways. Understanding how they work is important to deciding which heat shield is right for you, and ensuring you install the shield correctly.

How Heat Shields Protect Your Home

Safety Spacing

One technique heat shields use to protect your wall is by allowing space between the shield and the wall. These shields are hung with an inch gap between the shield and the wall. This allows air circulation behind the shield, which helps relieve the heat radiating from the shield. With these types of shields, it is important that nothing blocks the air flow behind the shield, as this could be a fire hazard. This type of shield strategy is most commonly seen with metal shields, but the same method can be used with concrete sheets and other shields.


The second method heat shields use is insulation. These types of shield rest directly against the walls or floor, and have heavy insulation behind the fireproof exterior. Just placing fireproof materials, such as tile or concrete, against the wall or floor does not adequately protect your home from fire. These materials might absorb some of the heat, but much more of it will radiate into your wall. This clearly is a fire hazard. Behind the fireproof material, you may need several layers of heat shield insulation to ensure proper safety. The amount of insulation you need is highly dependant on the type of woodstove you have, how close it is set to the wall or floor, and the type of insulation purchased. Please refer to your wood stove manufacturer or wood stove specialist for more information.

wood stove installationHeat Shield Specifications & Considerations

Manufacturer Specs

Wood stoves come in a variety of styles and designs. For this reason, appropriate safety measures vary. It is important to read any literature that came with your wood stove and refer to any certification information listed on the stove. This information will cover the distance necessary between the wood stove and the wall, as well as the suggested width and height of the heat shield.

Insurance Standards

Many insurance companies have standards about how a wood stove heat shield needs to be installed. These might be beyond the standards set by the wood stove company. As such, it is important to discuss your wood stove with your insurance company before installing anything.

Interior Design

Just because the basis of these shields is boring doesn’t mean that heat shields must be an eyesore. There are many heat resistant decorations that can add life to a dull shield. Many people add decorative ceramic tiles or gathered stones to their shields to increase the beauty of the necessary piece. Just be sure that the products you use to affix the decorations are safe to use in instances of high heat.

Do you need a quality wood stove installed the Washington DC area?  High’s provides expert wood stove sales, service, and installation.