Category Archives: Uncategorized

Reviews: the Good, the Bad, and the Grateful

This doesn’t really fit in any category but I’m in a mood to write it.  Online reviews are an important part of doing business these days. We certainly get our fair share of the good and bad, but ultimately what’s important is our customer. We recently got a terrible review online. The guy gave a long and detailed description of a job gone bad and how terribly inept, unresponsive, etc, etc. we were. You can bet that got our attention and we looked into it right away.

customer reviews speech bubbleThe thing is that we couldn’t find this fellow in the system at all.  And we couldn’t find a job that fit the description around the time he mentioned.  Not to mention, anything that went as bad as this guy’s job could not escape notice around here.  We are certain something is wrong with the review.  Do not think I am saying we never mess up- a company this size has its share of problems (usually from some kind of lack of communication- it’s our constant challenge) but we try to be right on top of every problem.  We try to get things resolved quickly for everyone’s sakes, including our own.  But this review doesn’t ring right. Continue reading

Is Chimney Repair Covered by Homeowners Insurance?

Is Chimney Repair Covered by Homeowner’s Insurance?

Short Answer: It Depends. Here are some answers to questions we regularly encounter, and hopefully, a lot of insight into the whole subject of “insurance coverage and chimney repair.” Continue reading

About Chimney Sweep Certifications – The Need To Know

Chimney Sweep Certifications to Enhance Expertise

Chimney sweeps play important roles in our lives: they keep our fireplaces and chimneys happy and healthy so we can stay warm!  Kind of like a doctor for our chimneys!  These pros have to know what they’re doing when they stick their heads inside a chimney, and to do that, chimney sweeps obtain specialized training and the highest certifications in their field possible.  So what credentials do good, qualified chimney sweeps have?  There are a few necessary certifications, and we’ll look at those as well as what it takes to earn them.  Keep reading to learn more!

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Chimney Liners: Description, Types, and Importance


At High’s Chimney we’ve found that chimney liners are perhaps the most under-appreciated part of the fireplace and flue system. That’s why we decided to write a little piece giving an overview of their function and importance.

What is a Chimney Liner

A chimney exists to carry dangerous gasses out of the home, and it needs to do so without getting over-heated. A chimney liner creates a barrier between the flue and the walls of the chimney, and its purpose is to insulate and protect the chimney. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, a chimney liner is defined as:

“A clay, ceramic, or metal conduit installed inside of a chimney, intended to contain the combustion products, direct them to the outside atmosphere, and protect the chimney walls from heat and corrosion.”

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Weirdest Things Found in Chimneys in 2013

At High’s Chimney, we’ve shared just about everything there is to know about the chimney business, including a few bizarre stories (criminals, chimney accidents, etc.).  You’d be surprised what chimney sweeps find in their line of work!  A few odd tales have come down the pipeline in 2013 alone.  So what’s made sweeps around the world stop and do a double-take lately?  Let’s see…

“A 16-year-old boy…a family friend.”

16year-old-stuck-in-chimney (1)

Credit: KCAL

It’s great to be able to say that your grandma loves your friends like family.  Unfortunately for a woman in North Hills, CA, her trust was misplaced.  Pat Hawkins always treated her grandson’s friend like one of her own, but after the 16-year old was found stuck in her chimney in August, she’ll likely be more careful.  The boy managed to make it 10 feet down into the structure, a plan LAPD claimed was executed in attempt to burglarize grandma, before becoming stuck.  The teen was only trapped for around 30 minutes, leaving him relatively unharmed, but emerged from the chimney in supposed victory, waving to cameras.  He probably wasn’t as eager when shown to his prison cell!

“Ma’am, you have a duck in your chimney.”

img via Bruce Cowan

Image via Bruce Cowan

Back in June, Rhode Island woman Susie Cabassas scheduled a routine chimney cleaning.  The technicians who came out to do the job found the usual suspects—soot, ash, etc.  What Ms. Cabassas didn’t expect, however, was for her sweep to tell her, “Ma’am, you have a duck in your chimney.”  With some help from the homeowner, the chimney sweep on the job managed to get the duck out safe and sound, allowing it to tumble from the damper to a pile of ash at the base of the fireplace.  As Ms. Cabassas said herself, the animal became “one lucky duck,” having been swaddled in a towel and released outside by the chimney sweep after a quick photo op.  Lucky duck, indeed, as it was pure coincidence that the chimney cleaning was scheduled for that day!

“A Mysteriously Naked Man in Central Berlin.”

homless-man-stuck-in-chimney (1)

Homeless Man Stuck in Chimney

There have been plenty of stories of burglars attempting to sneak into homes the Santa Claus way (like the one above).  A 39-year-old man in Berlin, Germany, however, doesn’t quite fit the bill.  In fact, no one really knew what to make of him when he was found nude, 30 feet down a chimney in January.  Some claimed that the unidentified victim was homeless or that he’d run away from a hospital, but no clear answers were found.  Police had a tough time rescuing him, and grasping onto a rope had failed.  Finally, fire rescue personnel succeeded in freeing who Reuter’s called a “mysteriously naked man” by drilling a hole in the structure to reach him.  Luckily the man was OK, however he’d lost consciousness prior to his rescue and had to be resuscitated and was described as having become very cold.

Truth be told, just about anything you can think of could get stuck inside of a chimney.  People, pests, objects…anything!  As chimney pros, we’ll never stop running into strange things, and it’s tough to surprise us. But once in a while a story is just too weird not to share!  Ever have your own unique encounter?  Share it with us in the comments below!

 

 

 

How to Buy Firewood

It’s that time of year again: the wind is blowing and cold nights are becoming more common. There’s only one thing to do—start a roaring fire! Before you kick off your fire season, however, you must be prepared. This means purchasing the right firewood! Knowing how to buy firewood isn’t complicated, but there are a few rules to live by to get the best results, so let’s talk not only about getting your hands on firewood, but about how to buy good firewood.

1. Choose Seasoned Wood
firewood-cord-largeNo, the firewood you buy doesn’t have to be sprinkled with salt and pepper. By “seasoned” we mean dried. Seasoned wood may have some “checks” or cracks in the logs, indicating a lack of moisture, and if the bark has not been shaved off by the dealer, it will begin to flake off of dried wood (and in fact should be removed prior to burning!). Firewood burns best when it has been properly dried outside, generally for about a year.

2. Get Efficient Wood
Wet logs, or “green” wood, on the other hand, attract mold and mildew, are home to insects and dirt, produce excess smoke when burned and cannot reach maximum heating potential due to using energy to burn off water. Whatever dealer you seek, be sure that the wood is in prime burning condition. If not, you could be looking at pests invading your home (wood roaches, beetles, spiders, rodents) and the unwanted habit of constantly replenishing your fuel source during each burn.

Some species of seasoned wood make for better fires. Knowing how to buy firewood means avoiding inferior “soft” woods, such as the likes of firs, spruces, pines and poplars. These may be easy to handle, but they’ll leave your home cold—with a maximum of 13,000 – 15,000 BTUs per cord, stinky, smoke-ridden and throw sparks all over (both unpleasant and a safety hazard!).

The better bet is to go with one of several “hard” woods. Some of these include ash, beech, red and white oaks, hickories, maple, locust and birch and they ignite easily and burn hotter and longer. Hard woods are manageable because they’re easy to split for use in your stove. Additionally, they give off copious amounts of heat while minimizing smoke output—giving off 19,000 – 26,000 BTUs of heat per cord! Think about it; would you rather be warm and toasty or cold and shivering?

3. Buy Firewood by the Cord
Firewood is typically sold by cords—stacks of logs equal to 4 feet wide by 8 feet long by 4 feet high—it’s the universal measure! Reputable dealers will sell by multiples of this and fractions of cords—i.e. half a cord. In fact, according to the State of Maryland, such a practice is required by law, so a dealer you found on Craigslist who shows up with a truckload of loose timber might not be treating you fairly in price or volume.

Cord Wood Measurements Maryland State

In addition to knowing that you’ve bought from an ethical business(more on that in our Washington DC Firewood Guide) , buying firewood by the cord also ensures that you can keep track of how much you need and use during the burn season. We usually recommend investing in 3 – 4 cords of wood each year, though this may vary. Knowing these details as well as your own fireplace habits will give you an idea of how many cords you will actually need for a single burn season.

Let’s recap. To enjoy your fireplace all winter, you’ll need 1.) seasoned wood to produce the best possible fire and make good use of fuel, 2.) efficient hard wood to promote warmth and avoid problems like smoke, and 3.) selling firewood by the cord required by law in Maryland. Find a reputable dealer to buy from, it will guarantee you quality and adequate fuel supply. And remember: store your firewood supply in a cool, dry place away from pests or flammable materials to keep it in prime condition for fireplace use! Questions or comments? Sound off below! Happy burning!

Types of Gas Fireplaces

custom fitted fireplace insertThere are a good many fireplace options for homeowners nowadays, and gas fireplaces are quite popular.  The big reasons gas fireplaces are attractive are that they are clean, convenient, and cheap to operate.

Depending on your needs or home’s capabilities, different types of gas fireplaces are available. Gas inserts, log sets, built-ins and free-standing units are all among the major types of gas fireplaces, so let’s learn more about them.

Gas Fireplace Inserts

Fireplace inserts in general are intended to be installed into a preexisting firebox, meaning that one sits directly inside a regular fireplace.  Gas inserts are often appealing alternatives when the home’s fireplace no longer works properly or isn’t safe to operate due to damage.  Many inserts are connected to and operate off of your home’s gas lines and are ignited via push button.  Other inserts may be fueled by a propane tank outside of the home.  Fireplace inserts often use ceramic logs to provide the benefits of the appearance of a real wood-burning fire, but without the smell or the smoke.

Gas Log Sets

electric fireplace

Photo by Jeffrey Beall

With gas log set units, you transform a run-down fireplace and get the standard ceramic logs and a grate to sit them in for an authentic look.  Gas log set units are noted as mostly decorative and are best for light use. Gas log sets may be vented or unvented.

Vented gas log sets are typically ventilated through the home’s chimney, but require little maintenance.  Unfortunately, that the burner doesn’t run very hot, and most of the heat will escape up the flue, so this unit isn’t a significant heat source.  Please note that, for log sets venting through the chimney, the flue must remain sized for normal fireplace operation.

Unvented gas log sets are generally more efficient. However, they should not be run continuously due to inevitable leftovers from combustion that will remain in the house such as water vapor, particulates, and even carbon monoxide.

Because log sets are mostly decorative, they are good choices for those who want to add a bit of ambience to a room and work well for those residing in warmer climates.

Built-In Gas Fireplaces

built in fireplaceIf you’re building a home and know that you want a fireplace but don’t want to maintain a wood-burning stove and chimney, you might go for a “built-in”.  A built-in gas fireplace is installed as the primary fire source in a wall of your home and has the inherent benefits of less heat waste compared to wood units.  When the fire is burning, less heat gets cycled out, allowing you to benefit from its warmth.

Vent-less built-in units do not require a chimney for ventilation.  They instead rely on oxygen sensors built into the logs to monitor your home’s oxygen levels. Many vent-less units are UL listed (certified by Underwriters Laboratory as suitable for home-use), but we again note that they may not eliminate all combustion byproduct from the interior of the home.

Direct-vented built-in units, on the other hand, enable pollutants—smoke, exhaust, etc…— to exit your home through the chimney, through a pipe scaling the wall, or up through your home’s roof.  A great benefit of direct venting is that without needing to be in proximity to a chimney, a built-in gas fireplace can be installed virtually any room in the home. Please note that for direct-vent units (or for any vented units other than gas sets) that vent through the chimney, the flue must be lined with a liner that is properly sized according to the units’ manufacturers’ specifications — note that this may sometimes require the additional cost of relining the chimney with a smaller liner. Additionally, the flame of direct-vented units is a traditional yellow, like the flame of wood, as opposed to the blue flame of ventless units.

Free-Standing Gas Stoves

Photo by Edvvc

Photo by Edvvc

Free-standing gas fireplace units combine all of the features and benefits of the other 3 choices.  But can you guess the biggest difference?  That’s right, these fireplaces are stoves that sit on your floor—in the corner, near a wall, or wherever you like.  They are operated by running a gas pipe to them for power, and they sport the same ceramic logs as other units to create a rustic feel.

As an added benefit, free-standing gas fireplaces are not only exposed in the front (like built-in units that only show the face), but also have all sides fully exposed in the room — This allows more heat (from the front, right and left side of the warm stove) to radiate into your room.

Fireplace Extras

No matter which type of gas unit you choose, there are many styles and add-ons available.  For instance, gas fireplaces come with the ability to add extras like fans to better circulate heat through your room.  Additionally, you may opt for one of many ignition systems—using automatic ignition that creates a spark to light the burners or various pilot lights (standing pilot, which is always ignited, in-demand pilot which can be manually turned off, etc.) to start your stove. A remote control is also a very popular option.

Gas fireplaces are sought-after because of the convenience as well as strong efficiency (averaging 70% and up).  There are types of gas fireplaces for anyone—log sets, built-ins, inserts and free-standing stoves each serve various needs.

So which will it be?

  • The insert, which resurrects your old fireplace to bring it back to working order?
  • A log set, which doesn’t provide substantial heat but makes for a lovely home accent
  • The built-in, which bypasses the need to deal with an old wood unit and perhaps even the need for a chimney?
  • Or a free-standing stove, which allows you to place it anywhere in the room to best enjoy it’s warmth?

The sky’s the limit and you can customize anything to your liking!

Chimney Sweep Trivia: The Light Side

The following post is brought to you by Nayaug Chimney Services, chimney sweeps from Glastonbury, CT.

What do a pig and a whale bone have to do with chimney sweeping? Why did chimney sweeps of long ago wear top hats? Is it true that many people consider chimney sweeps to be as lucky as a rabbit’s foot? What the heck is a spazzacamini? These are just a few of the questions that can be answered when you take a look at the light side of chimney sweep trivia.

Whale Bones Brushes

whale

Photo by Whit Welles

After the use of climbing boys was outlawed in England in 1864, inventor Joseph Glass came up with the original chimney cleaning equipment that was so effective, the cane and brush design is still in use today. One major difference is that early canes were imported from the East Indies and made of Malacca. Chimney cleaning brushes were originally made with whale bone, not nylon or polypropylene, as they are today.

 

Top Hats and Tails

chimney sweep

Photo by Pilekjaer

There are a couple of different stories which provide an explanation for why early chimney sweeps wore top hats and tails.

A common tale is that chimney sweeps got their top hats and tails as cast-offs thrown out by funeral directors. Being black in color, the garments were practical; and they gave a distinctive air to chimney sweeps in their filthy but necessary professions.

One legend is that in about 1066 King William of Britain was pushed to safety by a chimney sweep as a runaway horse and carriage barreled toward him. The king rewarded the chimney sweep by declaring sweeps lucky and allowing chimney sweeps to wear top hats, which had previously been a custom reserved for the gentry and royalty.

 

Chimney Sweeps and Pigs

pigletOne of the bizarre stories involving chimney sweeps as good luck symbols also involved pigs. It was for a period of time a custom on New Year’s Day for a town chimney sweep to carry a pig through the streets. People would pay the sweep a small sum and then, while pulling a hair from the pig, make a wish.

 

Chimney Sweeps and Weddings

chimney sweepOne legend that is still recognized today is that it is good luck to see a chimney sweep on your wedding day, and it’s even luckier if you shake a chimney sweep’s hand or if he gives the bride a kiss. There are a couple of stories behind this tradition. One is that a chimney sweep once fell from a roof; but because his foot was caught on a gutter, he hung upside down from the roof. A young woman who was engaged to another reached out and pulled him inside through her window, saving his life. The two fell in love and eventually got married to one another.

Another legend which suggests that chimney sweeps are symbols of good luck at a wedding involves King William of Britain and the above-mentioned story about top hats. Part of the king’s reward for saving his life was to invite the chimney sweep to his daughter’s wedding. Ever since that time, it has been considered good luck to have a chimney sweep at your wedding, at another special event, or even as a visitor to your home.

 

Gathering of Spazzacamini

climbing boys“Spazzacamani” is the Italian word for “chimney sweeps,” and it’s also the term used in reference to the annual international gathering of chimney sweeps in Santa Maria Maggiore, Italy. European sweeps have gathered there annually for decades as a way of honoring the climbing boys – referred to as the cradle of the chimney sweep profession – and to celebrate the great progress made in the industry since that cruel, centuries-long practice of sending small boys to climb up the chimneys with cleaning brushes.

 

Largest Chimney Sweep on Earth

chimney sweep statue

Photo by Sam Leung

In McPherson, Kansas, the largest chimney sweep in the world stands on the side of the road. The huge chimney sweep was formerly a baker holding a wooden spoon, but the owner of a chimney sweep company, Vaughn Juhnke, bought and renovated it.

As professional chimney sweeps, we take great pride in our profession and how far we have come since the days of such things as toting pigs down city streets on New Year’s Day. Give us a call if you need a chimney cleaning or inspection or if you need any repairs, including masonry repairs; our technicians are all licensed professionals who have the skills to help keep your fireplace and chimney safe.

High’s Chimney Service named a 2012 Best Pick by EBSCO Research

Recently, High’s Chimney Service has been named a 2012 Best Pick by EBSCO Research, an independent consumer research firm that produces the publication Best Pick Reports. Currently, High’s Chimney Service is a 2012 best pick for Chimney & Fireplace work in the Montgomery County region, as seen here. As of right now, we’re the only chimney company in the area to earn that distinction.

We’re pretty proud of that.

A little while ago, Best Pick Reports shared with us 15 pages worth of reviews from customers of High’s Chimney that it had independently compiled. We’re happy to say that most are grade A reviews, and we received an A average, although we’ll admit there are some reviews that indicate room for improvement. But we take feedback seriously. Making the perfect chimney company is a never-ending process. By the way, if you’d like to share your experiences on High’s Chimney Service, please visit www.highschimney.com/testimonials.php.

And, if you’d like to see the full list of reviews compiled by Best Pick Reports, read on, because we’ve included each and every one of them below, unedited.

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6 Weird Things You Would Never Expect to Find in Chimneys

Chimney

What do dead bodies, burglars, nearly $1.5 million dollars and poison have to do with each other? You might think this is the latest Guy Ritchie screenplay, but you’d be wrong. The truth is that all of these things have been found inside chimneys. It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, really, since people don’t usually spend too much time looking up their flue (though they really should). Think about it; when’s the last time you inspected your own chimney?

#6 Proof that DDT Kills Birds

Poison-Bottle

Researchers at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario made a strange discovery in a decommissioned Chimney in a campus building – over fifty years’ worth of bird droppings. Researchers dug in (literally) and found that the bird droppings showed sharp decreases in beetles in the diet of insect-eating birds that frequented the chimney. The dramatic decline of the beetle population was due to the use of the infamous chemical DDT, which the beetles were especially susceptible to.  This, in turn, lead to a decrease of the population of the swifts that used the chimney, further damaging the already notorious reputation of the DDT compound.

#5 More than £870,000 in cash

Cash

On the other side of the pond in the UK, police found £871,495 up the chimney stack in the Bradford home of Baber Bashir, a conman who had acquired his ill-gotten gains largely through an unspecified fraud. Found tucked in his chimney, the cash amounted to just around $1.5 million USD by today’s standards, making it easily the most valuable chimney in Bradford. That is, before all the money was confiscated by the police and Mr. Bashir and company were locked up for their crimes.

#4 Dead cats and shoes

Evanston-Chimney-Shoe-Ritual

Image Source: http://bit.ly/I5mW6y

On the other side of the world in Australia, you might not be too surprised to find a dead cat or a shoe inside your chimney. Reason being, early Australian settlers were very superstitious, and often would hide either a shoe or, in some more morbid cases, a dead cat inside their chimneys. The practice is believed to have come to Australia by way Britain from an ancient Roman practice to ward off evil spirits. Homeowners put these totems in parts of their homes where evil spirits might lurk.

#3 A Burglar

Ranaldo-Jack-Burglar-Mugshot

Image Source: http://bit.ly/Jx1cU0

Believe it or not, Santa can serve as an inspiration for more than just altruism. In Georgia, an Atlanta area teen took a page out of the red-suited man’s book when he tried to burglarize a home by slipping through the chimney. After spending ten hours overnight trapped in the flue, he finally cried for help and caught the attention of a neighbor who called the police. After getting pulled from the flue, he went from out of the fire and into the frying pan as he was immediately arrested. To add fuel to the flames, the would-be-burglar made another poor choice by providing police with a false name when they arrested him, really putting him in ‘hot water’.

#2 A Letter to Santa (from 1912)

100-Year-Old-Letter-Santa

Image Source: http://bit.ly/JlYEna

On a lighter note on the Santa side of things, a Dublin, Ireland man found a note to Santa when cleaning his fireplace; but not just any note. This note, believed to be penned by Hannah and Alfred Howard, somehow survived 100 years on a shelf on the inside of the fireplace. Despite constant use of the fireplace throughout that entire time, the letter has only a small amount of burn damage and is in remarkably good condition. Featuring a detailed, if terse, list of toys and treats the two children desired, it ends with a friendly ‘Good Luck’, and has a few illustrations to go along with it.

#1 A Dead Body (from 1984)

Skull

There’s no shortage of bodies found in chimneys, as they seem to make a good hiding place for less-savory characters, but this particular body has a pretty interesting history behind it. Joseph Schexnider, a former National Guard serviceman, was due to appear in court in 1984, an appearance that he never made. Known in his family for frequently skipping town, they thought little of it. For twenty-seven years, they presumed that he was on the lamb from charges of possession of a stolen vehicle. Then, in May of 2011, the local bank began renovating it’s second floor, previously used only as storage space. Inside the chimney they discovered Joseph’s remains. He hadn’t suffered any broken bones or apparent trauma, so investigators ruled the death accidental.

And the list goes on…

Chimneys are strange places – even though many households have and use them it’s rare that homeowners take a peek and see what might be hidden from view. Take a look, and maybe you’ll find something for us to feature in a future sequel to this post! Although you probably won’t find any treasure, you should be checking for creosote build-up, for the safety of your family. Build-up’s can be dangerous, and if they catch fire, they can burn your entire house down to the ground. Take a look up there today!

Find anything strange in your chimney? Let us know in the comments below.

Sources:
http://abcnews.go.com/US/skeleton-found-chimney-27-years-man-disappeared/story?id=14169501
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/frontpage/2011/1221/1224309341785.html
http://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/news/8304816.Man_jailed_over___870_000_cash_found_in_Heaton_house_chimney_stack/
http://www.care2.com/causes/48-year-old-dung-deposit-links-ddt-to-bird-decline.html
http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2012/04/02/3469167.htm?site=newcastle
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45323384/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/t/hes-no-santa-burglary-suspect-stuck-hours-chimney/