Category Archives: Regional – DC, MD & VA

Located in Gaithersburg, Maryland, High’s Chimney Service has been around for over 30 years and serviced over 70,000 folks in Maryland, Washington DC, and Northern Virginia. We’re kind of attached to the area. Below are a few articles that pertain to this awesome region.

Your Source for Fireplace and Chimney Information

The following library of information is broken up in a way that will educate you on your chimney so you know how your chimney should be properly cleaned, maintained, and/or repaired. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, leave us a note in the comments and we will try to find you an answer!

The Basics

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Swept with Admiration for DC Area Log Homes

We decided to finish our spree of articles admiring the various houses we encounter during our chimney service calls in the Washington DC area with some words of affection regarding log homes.

Log HomeWhen the words Washington DC are spoken; images of the White House, Capital Building, and the U.S. Supreme Court building come to mind. Yes, at the mere mention of this historic city, many envision all of the monuments and bastions of U.S. freedom. While tourists line the streets of the American capital, they hardly see any log cabins though. If the perimeter, however, is widened just a bit to encompass Maryland and Northern Virginia, you’re certain to see a log home or two on the horizon. The log homes which dot the regional landscape are the modern day descendants of cabins American pioneers dwelt in centuries ago in the colonies of Maryland and Virginia.

You may have never considered this, but log homes are not merely a thing of the past. There are modern custom built homes with floor plans, which would delight any house hunter with a sense of individuality and panache. These distinctive homes are an opportunity to let the imagination soar. Do you envision a one-room cabin with a huge stone fireplace? Well that’s great, but let your imagination climb further. Today these log homes can be as elaborate as your mind’s eye can visualize, including four or five bedrooms, several bathrooms, lofts, dens, and even family rooms. We’ve seen traditional whole-log exteriors encasing elegant master bathrooms complete with double sinks, a fully functional shower, and a Jacuzzi made for two. Amenities abound throughout these upscale descendants of the early log cabin. As long as you can conceive of it, it’s possible.

Log Home with Red RoofFireplaces highlight the backdrop of these homes, creating warmth and an elegant atmosphere. Several homes feature central chimneys that service heating and fireplaces. In the original log homes of the colonists and frontiersman, fireplaces and chimneys were essential components to survival. Today, a log home’s chimney is essential to maintaining the integrity of the log home tradition and is an integral component of the log home style and charm. A log home without a traditional fireplace is hardly a log home at all.

Essential to chimney of course, is regular maintenance. A great chimney service will clean and maintain the chimney, while enacting repairs whenever needed. Since these homes are equipped with fireplaces, good service is simply vital. Keeping the chimney and fireplaces in optimum condition is imperative, and that is why a skilled professional chimney service is a must.

We’ve found that those residing in log homes in the greater Washington DC area are as much innovators and they are traditionalists. You don’t have to think condo, townhouse, or even conventional house. There is another option, a custom-built log home. All that is needed is the land, floor plan, builder, and your imagination to create your dream log home.

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

Source: princeofpetworth.com

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.

Chimneys of Rockville MD

Architecture and Chimneys in Rockville, Maryland

Rockville, Maryland is perhaps best known for being on the interstate 270 technology corridor. This area contains many software and biotechnology companies, as well as some government buildings. Tucked behind this technological corridor, however, is a wealth of history. Rockville has grown considerably since its early days as “Owen’s Ordinary Inn”, and through the years the area has been filled with beautiful houses. When we’re out doing chimney cleaning in Rockville, we love to see the architecture the area boasts. Here are just some of our favorite house styles that can be readily seen in the area.

Cape Cod
Cape Cod cottages aren’t plentiful in Rockville, but we’re always excited to get to see one. Cape Cod cottages were first constructed in New England during the 17th century. The cottages are traditionally made low to the ground and broad, with a steep pitched roof. This design was meant to help Cap Cod houses weather the stormy northern coast. Due to the steep pitched roof, these houses are generally one and a half stories tall, and because of the weather the frame was built with little ornamentation.

As modern construction negates the need to small, low to the ground houses to withstand inclement weather, the Cap Code cottage has evolved over the years. No longer small boxes, modern Cap Cod homes add addition wings to the traditional-sized cottage. Also, many are fully two stories tall, allowing plenty of space for the family to spread out.

Unlike most homes, Cape Cod cottages are known for having a central fireplace, with the chimney emerging from the center of the roof. This is often a masonry chimney, and extends high enough to be easily visible.

Split Level
Perhaps the only architectural style more maligned than the ranch is the split level. There’s some poetic justice in this; split-level homes evolved as a compromise between small cottage homes and “expansive” ranch homes. By offsetting three small stories, architects were able to produce plenty of living space without much of a footprint, and with greater accessibility than a traditional three story home.

Some might cast split level homes in a dim light, but we’ve had the pleasure of working on many beautiful split-levels. While endless tracts of split-levels might not be visually stimulating, it’s what the owner brings to the table that transforms a building into a home.

There are many types of split level homes. From stacked splits to raised ranches to split entries, split level houses tend to run the gamut. Many homes showcasing modern architecture are technically considered split-levels, but would look more at home in “The Jetsons” than “The Brady Bunch.”

Traditionally split-level chimneys run up an outer wall of the building, though sometimes they are central to the house. Masonry chimneys and chase covered factory chimneys are equally common among split level homes.

Cottage
While cottages were once meant to denote small, cozy dwellings in rural areas, cottages are now a common site in major cities. These homes try to carry over the cozy appeal of their rustic cousins, while allowing for the comforts people expect from a modern home. Rockville has some superb examples of modern cabins that have the charm of the old world.

Cottages are generally earthy in tone and built low to the ground. Cottages, unlike most modern house styles, have few guidelines that separate them from another type of home. For example, it would be easy to build a home that is both a ranch and a cottage.

Perhaps the most recognizable incarnation of the cottage home is a rustic looking home with one and a half to two stories and an angled roof. While traditional cottages were made using natural building materials, modern cottages may be built with a variety of man-made equipment such as vinyl siding. A proper cottage, however, strives to appear earthy. Thus, you might see wood toned vinyl siding on a cottage, but should it have bright white vinyl siding it would likely not be viewed as a cottage.

Traditional cottages tended to be small with a central fireplace, ensuring even heating throughout the house. This practical decision has turned into an aesthetic one, with most modern cottages sporting a central chimney, with a masonry chimney seen just above the roof line in the center of the roof.

Chimneys in Bethesda Maryland

Architecture and Chimneys in Bethesda, Maryland

Bethesda, Maryland is constantly gracing a top cities list. Whether it’s for education, income, or best place to live, Bethesda gets a fair share of attention for the quality of life held there. Bethesda also offers a lot of great houses to discovery. From stately colonials to charming bungalows, Bethesda has a plethora of beautiful houses.

At High’s Chimney, we’ve been happy to perform chimney service in Bethesda such as chimney cleaning, duct cleaning, and fireplace installation. Our work has allowed us to work on many beautiful and unique houses, though over the past year we got to experience two styles not often seen around Maryland: Arts and Crafts and French Countryside style homes.

Arts and Crafts
Arts and Crafts architecture was born out of the Arts and Crafts movement. While the name might sound childish, the Arts and Crafts movement was in essence a rebellion against industrialism. As the world became increasing mass marketed, the Arts and Crafts movement placed an emphasis on craftsmanship. In architecture, this lead to the creation of romantic of medieval decorative houses made by artisans.

In the United States, this tended to represent itself in decorative, distinctly European looking buildings. Defining an Arts and Crafts building is difficult as it has no predefined parameters of what makes an Arts and Crafts building. Perhaps the most telling feature of an Arts and Crafts home is in details. If you find yourself staring at a building saying “look at all the detail and decoration that went into that!”, you’re likely looking at an Arts and Crafts building.

Arts and Crafts style homes have an abundance of chimney options, though many use a decorative masonry chimney on the outside of the home.

French Countryside
While “French Countryside” isn’t an architectural style in its own right, it has great popularity in the United States. French Countryside homes, as the name implies, try to bring the old world charm of the French countryside to our busy way of life.

French Countryside homes are generally sprawling buildings built low to the ground, with steep pitched roofs. They’re often made from light colored bricks. The grounds are usually meticulously landscaped, with decorative trees and shrubs giving the impression of the country no matter the location. Inside, the homes tend to be bright. White walls and cabinets give the rooms plenty of light, but well placed natural woodwork helps offset the starkness of white to give the space a natural, almost summery feel.

French countryside homes also tend to have masonry chimneys on the outside of the home. Due to the sprawling nature of these homes, many have multiple fireplaces. What’s more old world than enjoying a glass of wine in front of the fire?

Chimneys of Potomac Maryland

Architecture and Chimneys of Potomac, Maryland

Potomac, Maryland is perhaps best known for the stars that have called it home. Wolf Blitzer and Sylvester Stallone hail from this affluent town, while Arnold Schwarzenegger has a part time residence in this idyllic town. While Potomac might be best known for its star studded streets, it also has a wealth of architecture to discover. When we’re in Potomac, chimney cleaning or doing annual chimney maintenance, we can’t help but admire the homes we work on. Here are some of our favorites over the past year.

Colonial
Potomac area colonial houses are largely built in the Georgian style. Georgian colonial houses are predominantly made of brick with the use of painted white wood trim and columns. The columns, traditionally two stories tall, are the most distinctive element of the colonial house. Generally, traditional Georgian style colonial homes are thought of as mansions.

The architecture of the Georgian colonial goes deeper than outer appearances. Traditional Georgian Colonial homes have defined rooms, specifically a living room, dining room, and family room. Bedrooms are typically on the second floor. Georgian colonial houses are known to have one or two large chimneys. As colonials tend to be large houses, in historic times this meant the need for multiple fireplaces throughout the home, which led to the dominance of two chimney houses. These are traditionally masonry chimneys to match the exterior of the rest of the home.

Ranch
Ranch homes have a bad rap in modern culture, but the original ranch homes were actually high-end architecture. These were the first modern-influenced houses made easily available, and they were coveted for their non-traditional floor plans, open interiors, and modern design. As they became an element of tract housing, their popularity declined.

While tract housing may have curtailed the popularity of the ranch house, many original ranch houses are actually bursting with personality and architectural intrigue. Ranch houses are known for their close to the ground profile, minimalist decorative pieces built into the architecture, and clean lines. Ranch house chimneys tend to also be minimalist, often little more than a factory built chimney extending above the roof line with a protective chase.

Modern
Modern homes are hard to define accurately. Made popular by the wildly successful architect Frank Lloyd Wright, modern architecture plays largely on using simplified architecture to create visual interest and decoration, while keeping a minimalist feeling to the building. Modern architecture relies heavily on the use of geometric shapes in causing visual interest. When looking at a modern home, you might more easily see it as a conglomeration of shapes than as one solid unit.

As part of the appeal of modern architecture is freedom of design, modern homes can vary greatly. The use of metal and glass is one of the most recognizable aspects of modern architecture. Poured concrete is also often used, but traditional approaches using masonry and wood work are unlikely, though Frank Lloyd Wright broke this rule in his creation of the Robie House.

Chimneys in modern houses tend to be factory made chimneys, often displayed without a chase or cover, allowing the minimalist metal exterior of the chimney visible as it is similar to the modern aesthetic. As cold air can negatively affect the function of an uncovered chimney, care must be taken in installation and maintenance of uncovered chimneys.

–Do you need chimney service in Potomac MD? Call the pros – High’s Chimney Service.