Posts made in January 2012

Chimneys and Colonial Revival

Colonial RevivalIf you’re a homeowner in the Washington D.C. area, there is a good chance you’re already steeped in Colonial Revival sensibilities. After all, the original proponents of this style scoured Virginia and Maryland for colonial prototypes. Your home, whether in Bethesda, McClean, Potomac, or anywhere, is your ultimate stylistic expression of personal values. The well-proportioned, stately, and classically-inspired colonial revival homes speak to the self-reliance and dignity of their occupants.

Revival Style and the Chimney

As the name implies, popularity of Colonial Revival style homes was the result of a great deal of reflection on the part of American architects and homeowners. This look into the past yielded a wealth of construction and decorative elements upon which new technologies add to forge an updated stylistic approach. You’ll find dentil moulding on the narrow eaves as well as non-functional shutters by the windows, but most of the exterior ornamentation typically draws focus to the entrance. Appropriately, then, you will find the same Georgian, Federal and Classical accents on the fireplace mantle of your new Colonial Revival house.

Tending the Hearth

Few things symbolize self-reliance better than the hearth. The chimney atop your Colonial Revival home in Rockville means you have a created a warm, safe place for your family. Traditionally, family life revolved around the hearth and chimney. When not laundering the family’s garments, the fireplace also cooked their soups, puddings and sustenance as the children played and parents gazed into the embers. Their clothes, food, body – life itself – depended on a properly functioning chimney. To this timeless scene, the whole way of life, proper maintenance of the chimney was as essential then as it is today.

The early colonists’ lives depended on their chimneys and fireplaces. Revivalists take great care in making the fireplace the focal point of the room, with a decorative motif that echoes the entrance. Classical proportions and mouldings favored by the original American patriots pay a stately respect to this vital organ of family life.

Between annual visits by an accredited chimney sweep, homeowners can take a number of measures to ensure the safety of their families. Capping your chimney, for example, will prevent water damage, reduce down-drafts and ward off nesting animals.

Ranch-Style Houses

We see a lot of different types of homes as we perform chimney service through the DC metro area. One of the home styles we see the most often is the Ranch home. We see this home style so often, and have become so fond of it, that we’ve decided to write a little ode to the Ranch Home…

Home on the Ranch

A cowboy’s work is never done. Like a good chimney that sticks it out for us no matter what, they’ll stick it out until you pay them to leave. They have no time to climb stairs, especially they’re in love with the moonshine (wink, wink) and it’s time to rustle up some grub. A cowboy could give a rusty horseshoe about setting the dining room table, if he had a dining room. He and the other hands take their meals in the seating area attached to the kitchen, though sitting around the fireplace is mighty nice. Guests are more than welcome to eat in the patio, but, for the most part, the ranch style home, is a paragon of American efficiency.

A cowboy shuns ostentatious displays. Appropriately, a ranch house dispenses with the exterior frills of say a Victorian home, one of the styles of residential architecture that waned as the American ranch house rose in popularity. The inside, as well, offered little in the way of finery. This was no home for the swells, partner. Low roofs and wide eaves helped abate the scorching heat in the Southwest’s ranches where it was a common sight.

Its simple, single-story floor plan made it spread like wild-fire in the housing tracts in the post-war baby boom. An L or U shape to the plan allowed ample space for a courtyard where middle-class families could entertain each other. Yep, on sunny afternoon in Washington D.C., it was tough to imagine anything better than spending a summer day in your ranch style home.

Ranch style home in Washington DC


An Old Horse Changes Its Spots

By the end of the Second World War, enterprising architects had learned how to assimilate a wide variety of building materials and architectural influences into the basic concept of the ranch home. This may have contributed, in part, to the reaction against the ranch style home, but it also added to its overall durability. A ranch house is like a day on the range: it’s what you make of it.

Your ranch style house in the Washington D.C. area can easily absorb the various stylistic elements seen in the American Foursquare such as exposed rafter tails on its wide eaves, gabled dormers or entryways, tapered posts and, of course, a range of window treatments. Rustle up some native stones for a little exposed detail work around your centrally-located chimney, then see who calls you a lily-livered prairie dog. Yet the Colonial and Craftsman influences are only two style pallets available for you to outfit your new home. A few trips around the world have lent the ranch style home enough Mediterranean, Asian and Pacific flavor to last about as long as the human imagination can endure.

Washington D.C., Chimneys and the American Foursquare

American foursqareCompared to the severe and austere architecture of Washington D.C.’s famous Greco-Roman Capitol buildings, the American Foursquare is a warm smile in fuzzy pajamas. Two evenly spaced one-over-one windows over a brick knee-capped porch echoes the tranquil face of its middle-class occupants. The chimney on its low-pitched hipped roof, the humble feather in its cap. This aesthetic, along with its efficiency and affordability, make the American Foursquare the template of an American classic.

As the crowning achievement of middle-class stability, one must take the necessary precautions to ensure the longevity of the family home, from top to bottom. This, of course, includes the chimney, the feather in the cap. If your chimney resembles most on American Foursquares in the Washington D.C. area, it’s made of brick. Find a quality masonry sealant that is colorless. Anything less than the bare brick detracts from the original character of the American Foursquare homes typical of early 20th century Maryland and Virginia.

Even new and newly repaired masonry chimneys will suffer weather damage if left unprotected. Fortunately, options abound the homeowner hoping to protect their home’s chimney. To prevent water damage to your roof around the base of your chimney, consider flashing it with stainless sheet metal. Never fear, this worry-saving precaution is easily concealed.

A chimney (or flue cap), on the other hand, is a weatherproofing precaution that allows for a bit more self-expression from the homeowner. A variety of circular, pyramidal, hipped, multi-flue and decorative solutions are available to protect your family as well as troubleshoot pesky down-drafts. The shape of the flue cap itself can echo the pyramidal or hipped roof of your American Foursquare, or add a bit of whimsical flare. This, in addition to an adequate chimney crown will also deter nesting animals, who enjoy the warmth and comfort of your home as much as you do.

The crowning feature on one of your most treasured possessions should fill you with a sense of pride and security, not worry. So consider the credentials of the contractor flashing and crowning your chimney, not just the price. After all, a cheap job is worth less than nothing if it isn’t done right the first time. The wise homeowner will choose comprehensive chimney service that shall ensure many warm evenings of happiness around the family hearth.

Do you need masonry chimney service in the Washington D.C. area? If so, go with the chimney experts – High’s Chimney Service.

Washington DC Firewood Guide

Keep your Fireplace Roaring: A Washington D.C. Firewood Guide

If you have a fireplace in the Washington D.C. area, then you know that the time of year to use it is upon us. A well-stocked fireplace that is kept roaring consistently provides a warmth to the heart and to the wallet. Wouldn’t it be great to know everything about firewood in and around Washington D.C. so you know how to get the best for your wood-burning fireplace?

white oak tree

white oak tree in Fall

White Oak is the state tree of Maryland. It is found in every county in the state and surrounding states. This means that the majority of wood you buy is going to be of this species. When they’re not bundled into cords of wood for you to take a match to, White Oak sport acorns and many-fingered green leaves that it sheds when fall comes calling. Since these trees grow to monstrous heights, many often need to be trimmed if they grow to houses or other structures that they could potentially fall on. That’s where your firewood comes in: tree removal services all over the greater Washington D.C. area use the limbs, branches and trees they cut down to make firewood.

Other native trees include the Adler, the Ash and the American Beech Tree. Many specimens of maples and other oaks are prevalent in our area, too. All of these trees make for great burning, but you must make sure it is seasoned wood in order for it to burn well. Seasoned wood means that it has to be completely dried out; any wet spots in the wood will translate to your fireplace. If stored in a proper location, most wet wood can dry out within a week. The drier the wood, the better and hotter it will burn in your fireplace.

maryland logoAlways be aware of Washington D.C. rules for wood burning fireplaces. If you want to gather firewood yourself, you must have a permit. If buying firewood from a dealer, make sure they have a license to do so. Firewood sellers must sell at a standard rate, so if you think you are paying too much for a cord, contact the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to address the issue.

Well, we hope you’ve learned a little more about what to put in your fireplace. And of course, if you need expert chimney service in the Northwest Washington DC area, we hope you know who to call.