Posts made in November 2011

Fireplace and Chimney Parts: Diagram and Anatomy

Anatomy of a Chimney

There’s far more to chimneys than meets the eye. While the average home owner is only vaguely familiar with the contents that extend beyond the hearth and the chimney, your fireplace and chimney could consist of up to 22 parts. Knowing about these parts and their functions can be useful in general maintenance, troubleshooting, or even talking with a fireplace and chimney expert about your service. Use the following guide to understand the various parts of your chimney, and be prepared for your annual chimney inspection!

chimney flue liner chimney crown/wash definition chimney flue definition chimney smoke chamber definition chimney mantle definition chimney throat damper definition chimney throat definition chimney lintel definition chimney hearth definition chimney smoke shelf definition chimney hearth extension definition chimney firebox definition chimney ash dump definition chimney ash pit definition chimney foundation definition chimney cleanout door definition chimney footing definition Image Map

1. Chimney Crown – Your chimney crown protects your chimney from water damage entering through small cracks. Without a proper chimney crown- or if you have a cracked one, rain water seeps into the bricks and mortar of your chimney structure. Even minute amounts of water can result in brick flaking, mortar deterioration, and unsightly salt deposits on your chimney. Without a good crown that has been sealed your chimney does not have any protection. Eventually, the bricks and mortar break up enough that the chimney is no longer structurally sound. You can read more about chimney crowns here.

2. Flue – A flue is simply a passage for conveying exhaust gases from an appliance to the outdoors. A flue may be a duct, pipe, vent, or chimney. An unlined chimney is technically a flue, even though an unlined chimney is a fire hazard.

3. Flue Lining – For a safe flue, a lining must be used to ensure minimal accumulation of flammable debris. This lining should be stainless steel or specially formulated lining tile. In our all about chimneys article we talk further about the importance of the flue lining and problems you may be facing with your flue lining.

4. Smoke Chamber – The purpose of the smoke chamber is to gently compress the byproducts of combustion into a smaller space (the chimney) without causing back draft. The use of sloping walls, in conjunction with good fireplace design and maintenance, helps facilitate this.

5. Chimney Damper – Chimney Dampers are lever or pulley activated doors within your chimney. They can be closed to prevent energy loss when your fireplace isn’t being used. They also help prevent rain water or animals from entering your home if your chimney cap doesn’t restrict this. Wondering how this relates to a chimney cap? This article explains.

6. Smoke Shelf – This shelf is just behind the chimney damper. Flat, it catches falling debris and rain water, and helps with the transition of large volumes of smoke into the small chimney.

Chimney Chase – This generally refers to a factory made case used around factory made chimneys. This function is taken by masonry chimneys in homes that have them.

Anatomy of a Fireplace

7. Mantle – Also known as mantel piece or mantel shelf, this piece of hardware is more than a surface to display family photos and hang stockings. It’s primary use was to help catch smoke and prevent it from entering the home, but as fireplaces have evolved its use isn’t as important as it once was.

8. Lintel – This piece is place just above the fireplace opening. Lintels are used in archway, door and window openings to help bear the load created by opening such spaces.

9. Throat – This is the space just below the damper and just above the firebox, where the fire first passes through.

10. Firebox – The firebox is the section of the chimney system in which a person builds a fire. A proper firebox is lined with firebrick, a substance of refractory ceramic, which can become cracked or weakened after years of use. This area of the chimney is often in need of repair. It is recommended to have a thorough inspection of the firebox every five years or so depending on fireplace usage.

11. Hearth Extension – This is the space that occupies the floor just outside of the firebox. It’s made of heat resistant material such as tile or brick to reduce the chance of fires.

12. Hearth – This is the space on which the fire actually burns. As with the firebrick, it must be able to handle both the potential corrosiveness of the burned material and the high heats it can be subjected to.

13. Ash Dump – Lies directly below the ash door dump, this is the space ash falls through once the ash dump door is opened.

14. Ash Pit – Below the ash dump, this serves as a collection space for dumped ash. It should be emptied frequently to prevent excess accumulation of flammable byproducts.

15. Clean Out Door – This door is used to clean out the ash dump. It frequently is located outside or in the basement to make ash removal easy.

16. Footing – This is the horizontal surface under the ash pit. Generally made of concrete, the chimney should be securely placed in relationship to the footing to prevent problems later on.

17. Foundation – The lowest part of the chimney walls, this is made of heavy duty brick or cinder block. It’s used as structural support for the rest of the chimney, and is exposed to potentially hot ash. As such, it should be sturdy.

Fireplace Face – This is the area between the mantel and the fireplace itself. Traditionally brick, it must be sturdy enough to handle the heat of the fireplace below it.

Ash Dump Door – This door allows you to easily remove ash from your firebox. Placed in the middle of your firebox, it can opened to dump the ash into the ash dump.

Types of Chimneys, Vents and Connectors

Chimneys, Vents and Connectors: a Guide

On part two of our guide to chimneys, vents and connectors, we will be covering the specific types of chimneys, vents and connectors. Refer to our initial chimney terminology guide for more general information on chimneys, vents, connectors and flues.

Types of Chimneys

There are two major types of chimneys: masonry and factory made. Masonry chimneys are made of brick or block and require lining for proper safety. Stainless steel liners are preferred.

Factory-built chimneys are often referred to as “class A chimneys”. This terminology is not official, but chimney professionals use it and understand its meaning. Class A Chimneys always have a stainless steel interior and a galvanized or stainless steel exterior. If the class A chimney runs outside without a chase, stainless steel is always used.

Class A Chimney System PartsClass A chimneys are insulated to prevent the outside of the chimney from becoming excessively hot. There are two types of insulation used: packed pipes and air insulated pipes. Packed pipes have a double wall with insulation between the layers to help absorb the heat. Air insulated chimneys can have up to three or four walls without insulation between them. In these chimneys the air space is used to help absorb the heat. These may also be called “Air Insulated” chimneys.

It’s worth noting that Class A Chimneys must always be used as a whole unit. Mixing parts from different brands/makes is extremely dangerous and strictly prohibited.

Types of Vents

Vents are used for the venting of gas, oil and bio-mass appliances. They are never used as a chimney for a solid fuel such as wood. While using multiple brands isn’t optimal, adapters are sold to allow the use of pipes from multiple vent brands.

Type "B" Gas Vents/ConnectorsType B Vents are factory built double wall vent pipes that are only used to for venting gas. They are always made with a galvanized exterior and an aluminum interior. The air space between walls is fairly small. This vent can be used as a vent or connector, and is quite inexpensive.

Type L vents can be either a vent or a connector, and is made to vent oil. Class A chimneys are still preferred in the market over L vents, and as such L vents availability is limited. Sometimes it is listed for “bio-mass venting”, or venting the products of combusting Pellet Ventpellets, corn, cherry pits, etc.

Pellet vents are technically L vents as well. These vents must be installed through a house or be in a chase. While they have stainless steel interiors, their exterior may be black or galvanized steel.

Types of Connectors

Type C vents are used only as connectors. They are single walled galvanized pipes, and as such often called “galvanized pipes”. They are used only for venting gas or oil. Using a C vent with solid fuel appliances can cause extremely toxic fumes. This is the least expensive of the pipes. Inspectors mandate that when used, C-vent crimps must go away from the appliance towards the chimney or vent. This isn’t an official rule and there’s no specific reason for this to be necessary, but is simply a standard on installation. Inspectors will make you reinstall the vent with the crimps pointing the ‘correct’ way, so it’s best to just install them appropriately from the beginning.

Black Single Wall Stove PipeBlack single walled pipes are also only used as connectors. Sometimes they are referred to as “black galvanized pipe” even though it is not galvanized. While black single wall pipes can be used for solid, gas, or oil venting, it’s expensive and overkill for gas and oil. To prevent condensing creosote from leaking out of the pipes, crimps must point to the stove. This isn’t an official rule, but it is a best practice is you don’t appreciate the smell of creosote.

Double walled stovepipes are used for reduced clearance solid fuel, and used only as a connector. They’re more expensive than single walled stovepipes as they are made of double walled pipe with an air space insulator.

When making decisions about vents, connectors or chimneys, it’s always wise to work with an experienced chimney and vent specialist. They can help you navigate installation to ensure your work passes inspection, looks great, and works well for years to come.

Chimney Terminology: Chimney or Flue or Vent?

Chimneys, Vents, Connectors & Flues: a terminology guide

Chimney terminology can be confusing. Whether you’re doing online research or talking to a chimney and vent professional, a sound understanding of associated terminology can help you ensure your chimneys and vents provide optimal protection for your home. This guide will help you understand chimneys, vents, connectors and flues.

A chimney is a passage to carry the products of combustion outdoors. Chimneys are made to be able to vent all types of fuel: gas, oil, and solid. Chimneys may pass through the house (including the living space), be outside of the house in a chase (a surrounding to protect the chimney against weather), or be outdoors. Chimneys may be masonry or factory built. Factory built chimneys are generally stainless steel, and may be covered by a chase (for protection or decoration), or left as is.

While chimneys vent fuel, they are not considered “vents”.

Understanding Vents

Vents are used to carry the product of combustion for lower temperature appliances (those using gas or oil) outdoors. Vents may pass through the house, or run outside of the house, so long as they are protected from the elements. Vents need a degree of temperature protection, otherwise their low temperature combustion products may be too cool to properly vent. This could cause a dangerous amount of flammable byproducts to collect in your vent.

The top of a vent must be exposed to the outside to allow the byproducts to be released, but such exposure will not cause problems given the rest of the vent is properly set up and protected. Sometimes a vent fan is installed to help push (or pull) low temperature byproducts from the vent.

Vents are always factory built. They are not chimneys, as they cannot handle the high temperature of wood combustion. Some vents, however, may run through a chimney, given that anything else venting through the chimney is contained in a separate flue.

Understanding Connectors

Connectors are also known as “stovepipes” or “smokepipes”. They pass from an appliance to a vent or chimney. There are a variety of connectors available, and the type of connector needed depends on the type of fuel that needs to be vented.

Understanding Flues

A flue is simply a passage for conveying exhaust gases from an appliance to the outdoors. A flue may be a duct, pipe, vent, or chimney. An unlined chimney is technically a flue, even though an unlined chimney is a fire hazard. This can cause confusion, as many view flues not just as a passage for venting, but as a safe passage for venting.

Understanding Chimney Liners

There’s a misconception that masonry chimneys are simply made of brick. This isn’t true. The uneven and porous surface of brick provides a space for combustion byproducts to accumulate. This is a major fire hazard. Rather, chimneys are lined, so the smoke passes over a smooth surface that helps prevent excessive accumulation of combustion byproducts and minimizes the chance of fire. Chimney liners are also called “chimney flue liners”. The terms are largely used interchangeably.

Traditionally, chimneys were lined by fireclay flue tile. This special tile is carefully laid inside chimneys to provide no ridges or spots for accumulation; the tile is finished to a smooth, nonporous surface. This classic chimney liner can be difficult to fix should tiles become damaged deep inside the chimney.

The most popular modern liner is stainless steel. These liners can be inserted in unlined or tile lined chimneys. They are inexpensive compared to tile liner, easy to install, and easy to replace should any damage occur.

With a proper understanding of the differences between chimneys, vents, connectors, flue and chimney liners, you can have a better understanding of your chimneys and vents, and can more easily discuss any problems that arise and how to fix them.

This guide is only the beginning, as there are many other aspects of chimneys and vents to consider. Next week we will discuss in detail different types of connectors, vents and chimneys to give a more in depth knowledge of what the difference between various types are.

Air Duct Cleaning Washington D.C.| Air Duct Cleaning

Air Duct Cleaning: Worth it?

If you’re not sure whether your home needs an air ducts cleaning, there’s a simple litmus test. Get a flashlight and take a screwdriver to your nearest vent. Take a peak inside. If you like what you see, then you’re probably free to go without an air duct cleaning. If you’re like the rest of us, however, you’re likely to see an excessive amount of dust, pet and human hair, and debris. It’s presence in the vent is indicative of an abundance of it throughout your air system.

While there’s plenty of debate over the merits of air duct cleaning, both the EPA and the National Air Duct Cleaners Association recommend air duct cleaning in response to mold, pests or excessive debris in your air ducts. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association takes it a step further and recommends an air duct cleaning every three to five years.
Various factors can increase the rate at which your air ducts should be cleaned. The presence of pets in your home, indoor smoking, renovations, home cleanliness and your local weather can all affect your air ducts. People with allergies tend to get their ducts cleaned more frequently, as they report a decrease in allergies following an air duct cleaning.

Proper air duct cleaning is more than just a swipe with a duster. Professional duct cleaners clean your entire system, including coils and the central system. Studies from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers show dirty coils and blowers in commercial buildings can reduce efficiency by up to 40%.

While it may sound simple, air duct cleaning is in fact a skilled job. Coils, central systems and air ducts need to be cleaned carefully to avoid damaging motors or duct work and prevent the loosened debris from going back into your home. Air duct cleaning takes several workers, specialized equipment, and several labor intensive hours.

Beware air duct cleaners that seem implausibly inexpensive. For thorough, well cleaned air ducts, the EPA and the National Air Duct Cleaners Association estimate the minimum you’ll spend to be close to $400. While that price may seem high, it can be much more costly to do with a discount air duct cleaner. Damaged motors, bent ducts, and a home full of dust are costly and time consuming to fix.

High’s Chimney is based out of Gaithersburg, and provides services throughout Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland. Whether you’re looking for air duct cleaning in Rockville, masonry repair in Fairfax, or wood stove installation in Alexandria, our trained professionals are happy to work with you to ensure a beautiful and functional home.

Gutter Shields & Gutter Cleaning

Gutter Shields & Gutter Cleaning

Gutters do more than keep water from pouring off your roof: they protect your home from water damage. This water damage is seen in more ways than just a damp basement. Water can damage your roofing, seep into your walls and even find its way into you foundation. It can destroy your gutters and deteriorate masonry. Water is the main cause of daily wear and tear around your home. Despite this, many homeowners fail to properly maintain their gutters. To effectively divert water away from your home, gutter cleaning is a part of necessary regular maintenace unless you have a gutter shield installed.

The easiest way to keep you gutters functioning properly is to install gutter shields. Keeping your gutters clean is important all year long. After the first big winter storm and the remaining leaves have finally fallen, you won’t have to worry about braving the elements and an icy ladder to make sure your gutter can withstand the winters many freeze and thaw cycles.

We install Leafproof nailless gutter shields. These specially designed gutter shields require no nails, yet prevent leaves and even seeds from entering and clogging your gutter system. Leafproof gutter shields are made of solid aluminum. The Leafproof system installs under the first two rows of shingles to lay flush with your roof and uses waters natural surface tension to transfer water down an S bend. This slows the speed of the running water and allows water pressure to push the leaves and debris off your roof as the water drains into your gutters.

Leafproof outperforms other gutter shield systems. Mesh or screened shields tend to catch debris in the shield creating a backup of water and debris which can damage your shingles and renders your gutters useless. Heavy snow or ice tends to cause mesh shields to cave in. Vinyl shields are susceptible to warping and can be chewed through by rodents and small birds looking to build a nest in your gutters. Domed shields create an unsightly profile for your home. Domed shield also  need to be nailed or screwed in place, which increases the possibility of leaks. Combination gutter shields leave gaps where nests can be built, and often expose the edge of the roof to water.

For this reason, we at High’s Chimney provide Leafproof gutter shields for our clients in Washington DC, northern Virginia, and Maryland. Their superior performance gives you peace of mind that your gutters are protecting your home from water damage all year round. So if your gutters “leaf” much to be desired, give us a call. Our professional and knowledgeable staff would love to work with you to ensure your home is as beautiful as it is functional.