Posts made in November 2012

Top 3 Reasons to Sweep your Chimney

–Article contributed by Owens Chimney Systems

Many people enjoy the rustic feel and relaxing ambiance of a wood-burning fire. However, when it comes to fire in your home, Owens Chimney Systems in Charlotte, NC is there to help keep your family safe. If you need to cut corners on your home maintenance, your chimney and fireplace are definitely NOT the place to do it. Before using your fireplace, you must make sure that it is clean and safe to operate.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that you have your chimney cleaned and professionally inspected at least once a year. There are many good reasons to clean and inspect your chimney, but here are the top three:

1. To Prevent a Chimney Fire

Chimney FireTrust us—you DO NOT want a fire in your chimney. A chimney fire can be quite spectacular—with loud popping and cracking sounds, lots of dense smoke and a strong, hot odor. But chimney fires aren’t always dramatic enough to alert the neighbors. Sometimes, they burn slow and aren’t even visible, but they still reach high temperatures and can seep into the walls of your house and ignite anything flammable. Flames from a chimney fire can quickly spread into the walls or onto the roof of your home and cause massive devastation, if not the total destruction of your home. It is a nightmare scenario, but one that can most likely be avoided with proper care and maintenance of your chimney.The most common cause of chimney fire is, simply, a dirty chimney. Over time, chimneys will become clogged with creosote, a natural, tar-like substance that is a by-product of burning wood. Creosote is black or brown in appearance and, over time, it builds up and leaves a glazing inside your chimney. This glazing is highly combustible and it can take only a small amount to start a fire. Restricted air supply is one of the factors that contribute to the build up of creosote, another reason it is important to clean your chimney regularly.

2. To Protect Your Health

danger carbon monoxideMusical comedian Weird Al Yankovic is known for his humorous songs about pop culture icons, but there’s nothing funny about the way his parents died. In 2004, the Yankovics were found dead in their California home, victims of an accidental carbon monoxide poisoning from burning wood in their fireplace. Breathing the fumes from gas or solid fuel fires can be dangerous or, as was the case with the Yankovics, fatal.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced whenever fuel is burned. Even at low levels, CO can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, confusion and fainting. A blocked chimney or a chimney with an improperly functioning flue can cause a buildup of this dangerous gas. CO is responsible for thousands of deaths in America each year, and many of these poisonings are caused by blocked chimneys. This is why it is critical to have your chimney examined and swept to make sure your flue is clear before using the chimney.

3. To Avoid Smoke Damage

fireplace smoke stains

When a chimney is not regularly cleaned, soot will accumulate around the flue. This makes it difficult for the flue to draw the smoke upwards and can cause the smoke to enter your room. This soot will leave a black film around your hearth and soil any furniture, carpeting or decorations nearby. Sometimes, smoke can even cause black staining around your chimney, which can be difficult or impossible to remove.

When you cut corners with chimney and fireplace maintenance, you are literally playing with fire. The good news is that the risks described above are completely preventable. Be sure to have your chimney cleaned and inspected by a certified chimney professional at least once a year so you can enjoy safe use of your fireplace for years to come.

Animals and Birds Inside Your Chimney

racoon in chimneyA number of factors go into maintaining both the safety and overall condition of your chimney.  We know that hazards like residue buildup can cause problems, but many of us don’t remember the smaller nuisances—chimney pests.  A number of unwanted critters can find their way into your chimney, so let’s talk about what those are and how to rid yourself of them.

Birds in the Chimney

chimney swiftIf there is an opening in your chimney, birds often find it tempting to make their way inside.  One notable pest affecting residents in the Washington DC area is the chimney swift.  Chimney swifts are little brownish black birds with a penchant for building nests the chimney.  Unfortunately, once a swift makes its way into your chimney, you’ll likely be stuck with it for a few weeks, as chimney swift chicks hang about the nest for 14-18 days.  Having these birds in the chimney can be quite annoying—they’re vocal little buggers!

When you find yourself plagued by chimney swifts, which are classified as a Threatened species, there isn’t much that you may legally do about it.  The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a federal regulation, prevents removal of chimney swift eggs and chicks.  To remove the birds by means chemical or otherwise would require a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  The best you can do with swifts is to clean up after they’ve gone.  Technicians can be called in later to clean up and remove nest remnants from the chimney. Chimney swifts and most other birds are less likely to return to a nesting location if the nest has been removed.

Animals in the Chimney

Several animals can get into your chimney, including squirrels and bats.  A particularly pesky intruder in the DC area is the raccoon.  Raccoons, usually females, make their way into chimneys to birth and care for pups.  Crafty as they are, mother raccoons sometimes succeed in not only getting inside the chimney, but passing through the smoke shelf or chimney damper right above the fireplace.  If they’ve gotten this far, there’s a good chance of eventually making their way into your home.  If not, you’ll likely have to at least contend with various animal odors.

raccoons in chimneyA raccoon is an animal you never want to have hanging around, as they are notorious for carrying a variety of diseases.  Raccoons are home to bugs like fleas and ticks, which you or your pets can get, and also diseases like rabies and roundworm.

raccoon in trapLuckily, there are ways to remove mama and her babies from the chimney.  If you don’t mind the smell, items like predator urine may get rid of raccoons.  A humane method of removal is the live trap. Raccoon trapping is legal in Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia, and several services are available. You’ll likely want to trap the mother while she passes through the chimney liner or even attempt to scare her out in some manner.  The babies don’t put up much of a fight quite yet, so it’s pretty simple to reach up the fireplaces and grab them.

The Ultimate Protection

The absolute best way to protect your chimney, fireplace, and ultimately your home from pest intrusion is to make sure you have a chimney cap.  If the top of the chimney is not closed off, you’re just asking for something to get inside it.  The best bet is to install a chimney cap that has an attached wire netting that will act as an additional barrier between pests and the chimney.

Obviously several chimney animals wish to invade your home, and they can be quite a nuisance. From loud chirping to unpleasant odors, these pests can create huge problems.  Take proper measures to protect your home.  Doing this will ensure that you won’t have to deal with birds or raccoons in the first place!

Image sources: mainstreetj.com, birdspix.com, and humanesociety.org