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Summer Is the Perfect Time for A Fireplace Makeover

There’s no reason you should live with a fireplace that’s boring and does little or nothing to accent the décor of your home. A fireplace makeover – large-scale or small-scale – can make a stunning difference in the aesthetics of your room and give you yet another reason to enjoy your fireplace.

What is a fireplace makeover?

Fireplace makeover in Gaithersburg MD

We’re not talking here about making any changes to the actual fireplace but rather to everything around it. A fireplace makeover or redesign can include adding a new fireplace surround, mantel, glass doors, decorative safety screen, tool set and more. Let’s look at some ideas that might be perfect for your summer makeover project.

Fireplace surrounds

A fireplace surround is a custom-built or pre-made wall treatment that borders your fireplace. Surrounds can be fashioned of real or faux stone, brick, wood, tile and many other attractive materials. Simple surrounds extend just a foot or two from the outside edges of the fireplace. More elaborate surrounds can take up the entire wall and include recessed shelving areas to add your own tasteful touches. Fireplace surrounds can be built or installed around masonry fireplaces or factory-built zero clearance fireplaces.

Mantels

If your fireplace doesn’t have a mantel above it, this one makeover project alone can add significant elegance and beauty to your hearth area. Mantels serve not only as aesthetic pieces but also as shelving for books, portraits, antiques, flowers, kids’ artwork and anything else that enhances your hearth area.

Glass fireplace doors

fireplace service in Gaithersburg MDSophisticated glass fireplace doors are a perfect finishing touch to any fireplace makeover or refacing project. Along with looking gorgeous, they provide solid protection against drafts and fireplace debris as well as a barrier for young children and pets. Glass doors are available in many shapes, sizes, finishes and design styles, making it easy to find a set that delights you.

Fireplace screens

Another way to raise the aesthetic quality of your fireplace area is with a protective fireplace screen.

While a screen won’t control air drafts, it is an excellent way to keep popping embers from getting on carpet, flooring or nearby furniture. Fireplace screens also serve as protection for kids and pets when the fireplace is in use. Lots of styles and colors are available.

Tool sets

What fireplace could be complete without a handsome tool set at the side of the firebox? Tool sets typically include a broom, tongs, a poker and a shovel that add beauty and help you tend your fire.

More fireplace-area remodel/makeover ideas

Add even more luster and charm to your hearth area with:

  • A lovely hearth rug
  • A sturdy log storage rack
  • Stylish matches and a match decanter
  • Logbarrow for great looks and convenience in hauling logs
  • A designer hearth pad

Summer is the perfect time to plan and execute the fireplace makeover you’ve been dreaming about. High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, can help you find all the items you need and perform all necessary installation or customization work to totally renovate your hearth area. Find out more about a summer fireplace makeover by calling (301) 519-3500.

 

What it Means When Your Chimney Leans

Chimneys should stand straight up and tall, never pitching to one side. If you’re noticing that your chimney is leaning, it may mean that there’s damage to the chimney itself or the footing beneath it. Because it’s not always easy to tell just by looking that a chimney is leaning slightly, here are some signs to look for.

Tilting

Leaky chimney: A chimney that leans could also be leaking through cracks in the bricks or mortar. Often a leak is the first clue.

Loose bricks: Bricks that are loose or decaying along with deteriorated mortar joints and crumbling around the base of the chimney are all signs that your chimney may have started to lean or soon will.

Tilting Chimney Repair in Poolesville, MDCaulking in the gaps: If there is caulking filling spaces between the exterior walls of the home and the chimney, the previous owner may have been trying to address the gaps caused by a leaning chimney. (You may also notice unfilled, open gaps.)

Flashing issues: If the flashing strips that seal the gap between the roof and the chimney are dislodged, it may mean that the chimney has moved. These and any other signs of a leaning chimney should be evaluated by an experienced chimney sweep/chimney inspector.

Why chimneys lean

The key to solving any chimney problem is discovering what’s causing it. Chimney inspectors can determine the cause of a leaning chimney and recommend the best solution. Here are five

House-settling

Depending on the severity, normal house-settling and foundation-settling can cause a chimney to lean.

Lack of proper footing

Chimneys at older homes sometimes were built without a solid concrete footing, which can lead to a leaning chimney.

Footing not reinforced

If your chimney’s footing wasn’t properly reinforced, it may start to crack and cause the chimney to lean.

Footing too small

The footing should extend at least six inches beyond every side of the chimney structure. Additionally, a footing that was built too shallow is prone to cracking and shifting under the chimney. (Note that any footing built of inferior concrete is much more likely to crack over time.)

Chimney inspection in Poolesville, MDSoil problems

When the soil beneath the footing is too loose to bear the weight, shifting can result in a tilting chimney. Aside from the issues mentioned above, earthquakes, major damage from a chimney fire and an improperly built chimney can lead to a leaning chimney.

Certified chimney inspections

If you know or believe that your chimney is damaged, your first action should be to call out a CSIA-certified chimney inspector. Only through a proper inspection will you be able to spot early signs of damage and address the issue before a costly and dangerous problem arises. Inspectors who carry certifications through the Chimney Safety Institute of America will examine the entire chimney structure and its components. If damage within the flue is suspected, they will use video imaging technology to allow them to see exactly what’s going on and suggest the best chimney repair work to fix it as quickly as possible. Are you living with a leaning chimney or other forms of chimney damage? High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, provides expert chimney inspection, chimney repair and full-service chimney sweeping. We’ll help you keep your chimney safe and efficient all year long.

Call (301) 519-3500 to get problems solved fast.

 

Brush Up on Your Fireplace & Chimney Terminology

How much do you know about your fireplace and chimney? Here are some common words and terms you may have heard but weren’t sure of their meaning.

Professional Chimney inspection in Poolesville MDASH DUMP: A space beneath the fireplace where ash can be collected and then removed.

BAFFLE: A device that manages the direction of flue gases and can cause fires to burn more efficiently.

BLOWER: A fan inside a fireplace/stove that blows heat into the room.

CARBON MONOXIDE: A toxic gas produced by wood or gas fires, particularly when combustion is incomplete. Carbon monoxide can cause sickness and death.

 

 

CHIMNEY CAP: A full-width component that covers and protects the entire top of the chimney. Both chimney caps and smaller flue covers keep rain, snow, animals and debris out of the flue.

CHIMNEY SWEEP: The name given to the process of cleaning creosote and obstructions out of a chimney flue. It’s also the name for individuals who do this work.

CHIMNEY LINER: Typically made of clay tile, metal or a poured-in-place compound, chimney liners run the length of the flue to protect masonry and provide a smooth, properly sized channel for smoke to move up and away from the home.

CREOSOTE: The byproduct of smoke combustion that can form as a sticky, flakey or solid substance inside the flue. Creosote is highly flammable and should be removed by a trained chimney sweep once a year.

Chimney Crown Repair in Glenwood MDCHIMNEY CROWN: The sloped concrete covering at the top of the chimney designed to protect the flue and masonry from water damage.

DAMPER: Dampers open and close to control the flow of air between the home and the outside environment. Most are installed just above the firebox. Others are placed at the top of the chimney.

DRYER VENT CLEANING: An important service offered by some chimney companies to prevent fires by removing blockages from the vent systems connected with clothes dryers.

FIREBOX: The open compartment in a fireplace or stove where wood and gas fires are created.

FIREPLACE INSERT: A factory-made appliance that goes in the firebox of a masonry fireplace. Inserts can run on gas or wood and are significantly safer and more efficient than standard fireplaces.

FLASHING: The material that seals the gap between the exterior roof and chimney to prevent water from running down into the home. Flashing also is found on roof valleys to channel water.

Chimney Liner Repair & installation in Travilah MDFLUE: The inner passage inside a chimney used to draft smoke and gasses. Technically not a “chimney” but rather part of it.

MASONRY CHIMNEY: The most common chimney style, built of bricks and mortar. Masonry chimneys are constructed by hand, differentiating them from other types of chimneys that are made in a factory.

MASONRY FIREPLACE: Refers to the “standard” fireplace built into a wall using bricks, stone or other materials.

PELLETS: Small nuggets made of sawdust or other wood refuse that are used by some fireplaces, inserts and stoves.

SMOKE CHAMBER: The area just above the fireplace and smoke shelf and below the bottom of the flue.

SMOKE CHAMBER PARGING: The process of adding a layer of mortar to the chamber to allow smoke to draft more smoothly. Most smoke chambers need this service periodically.

SMOKE SHELF: The area between the smoke chamber and firebox.

SOOT: Powdery carbon particles created during combustion, particularly when the fuel burns only partially.

THROAT: The area just above the firebox into which smoke and gasses enter. Dampers located here are called “throat dampers.”

VIDEO SCAN: Technology used to inspect the inside of the chimney flue and other hard-to-access areas. Chimney sweeps use video scans to detect otherwise unseen flue or liner damage.

High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, presents this concise glossary of chimney and fireplace terms to help you know more about the parts and structures that make up your system. When that system needs cleaning, inspections or repairs, count on the certified chimney sweeps at High’s to get the job done right the first time. Reach us at (301) 519-3500.

 

3 Ways to Keep Your Chimney Clean & Safe Between Chimney Sweep Visits

If you use your wood-burning fireplace, the chimney is going to collect its fair share of creosote and soot. There’s nothing you can do about that. But there is something you can do about how much buildup is added to the chimney each burning season.

The reason this is important is because creosote is highly flammable and is the cause of most chimney fires each year in the United States. You should schedule annual service from a certified professional to do the bulk of the cleaning, but you also can do your part to help keep your chimney clean between chimney sweep visits.

Creosote in Chimney, Fulton MDFirst thing to know: smoke = creosote

Creosote is formed when wood smoke condenses in a chimney flue. Although the process can be a little scientific, the simple way to see it is: the more smoke, the more creosote.

If you’ve run a fireplace for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed that sometimes wood can burn and produce minimal smoke, while other times a huge amount of smoke comes off the fire. Your goal is to burn fires that produce as little smoke as possible. Here are three ways to do it.

Burn only dry (seasoned) wood

Recently harvested logs still contain considerable moisture, which makes considerable smoke when burned. Logs that have been allowed to dry for six months or more will not produce huge amounts of smoke.

Additionally, hardwoods like walnut, oak, sycamore and ash burn hotter and usually aren’t as smoky as softwoods like pine, redwood, juniper and fir.

Ensure a proper draft (air flow)

For wood to burn efficiently, it needs the right amount of oxygen. Air flow is what allows for intense burns with minimal amounts of the wood left unburned and less smoke created in the process.

Elements that will affect how much air gets to your fireplace fires include:

Air-tight house: If little or no air can flow into your home, little or no air flow is going to be available for your fire. If you suspect this is the case, crack a window or two when using the fireplace.

Faulty damper: The damper that sits above the firebox is there to regulate air flow. If it’s rusted or damaged and can’t fully open, you may not be bringing enough air into your firebox. Have the damper inspected and either repaired or replaced.

Obstructed flue: Leaves, twigs and other tree debris along with the nests of squirrels, birds and other small animals can create a major air-flow obstruction inside a chimney. A proper chimney cap will block these obstructions, so if you have no cap, get one installed. To have obstructions cleaned out, make an appointment with a professional chimney sweep.

Chopped Seasoned FirewoodNever burn anything except actual firewood in your fireplace

While firewood does produce some smoke that leads to the formation of creosote, it doesn’t produce nearly as much as items such as painted wood, pressed board, cardboard, clothing, plastics and paper products.

It is never advisable to use anything other than tree logs as fuel in a wood fireplace, stove or insert. Aside from excess smoke, these materials can produce fumes that are full of dangerous (and possibly deadly) toxins that should not be inhaled by people or pets.

By following these guidelines, you’ll be helping to keep your chimney clean and efficient between visits from your chimney sweep.

Need help with chimney issues? High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, provides certified chimney sweep, chimney inspection and chimney repair services to ensure the safety and integrity of your chimney/fireplace system. Get your questions answered or schedule an appointment by calling (301) 519-3500.

How Chimney’s Become Damaged and Dirty Over the Winter

Long Maryland winters mean a lot of fireplace use for many people. After months of running your fireplace, it’s not uncommon for minor damage to have occurred as well as the accumulation of excess creosote and soot. Let’s look at some of the reasons that chimneys become damaged and dirty over the winter.

Professional Chimney Sweep Poolesville, MDCreosote and Soot

Wood-burning fireplaces create a creosote every time a fire burns. A byproduct of the combustion process, creosote can be flakey, puffy or solid, but in all forms it’s highly flammable. Both creosote and soot in sufficient amounts can ignite and start a chimney fire. Each substance needs to be cleaned out of your chimney once a year by a certified, professional chimney sweep.

Chimney cleaning not only addresses the creosote issue, it addresses any obstructive debris (leaves, twigs, nests of small animals, etc.) that may be hindering efficient smoke-drafting.

Masonry Issues

A thorough chimney inspection at the end of each burning season is a smart move, because severe winter weather and the intense heat from fires can cause various levels of masonry damage. Cracks in mortar joints often lead to serious structural compromise when water moves into the cracks, freezes and expands.

Masonry also can be affected by a cracked or broken chimney liner, which allows corrosive gases to regularly contact internal bricks and mortar. A damaged chimney cap and warped or missing flashing can put chimney masonry at risk for decay. By having your chimney inspected once a year, you can spot early signs of masonry problems and get them fixed before more serious damage occurs.

Chimney Crown Repair, Poolesville, MDChimney Crown Damage

The cement crown at the top of your chimney is prone to cracking, which will lead to the same kind of problems as when bricks and mortar crack. Infiltrating water can cause chimney crowns to deteriorate, especially when the temperatures outside cause the water to freeze and expand, breaking apart the cement. When caught in time, minor chimney crown damage often can be resolved by waterproofing. When severe damage is present, the crown may have to be rebuilt.

Leaky Chimney

After a hard winter, homeowners sometimes notice signs of a leaky chimney. If your chimney is leaking but you don’t know exactly why, schedule an inspection from a CSIA-certified technician. Fixing a leaky chimney isn’t always a complicated job, but the first step must be determining what’s causing the leak and how extensive it is.

Signs of a chimney leak include:

  • Water on surfaces inside the firebox
  • Unpleasant odors coming from the fireplace
  • Efflorescence (white stains) on exterior chimney masonry
  • Damp patches and/or discoloration on walls or the ceiling near the chimney
  • A fireplace damper that squeaks and won’t open and close properly

Start with a Chimney Inspection

After a busy burning season, your chimney and fireplace may have sustained damage that you aren’t able to see and evaluate. It’s always best to let chimney service experts take a look at your chimney system once a year and then give you recommendations on what kind of chimney repair work is needed to restore safe and efficient operation.

High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, offers basic and comprehensive chimney inspections, chimney repair, chimney sweeping and other key services to keep your chimney running at its best all year long. Get your questions answered or schedule an appointment by calling (301) 519-3500.

Surprising Things That Happen To Chimneys In The Spring

Chimney swifts & chimney repair in Mclean VAAnother brutal winter is over, and it’s time to forget all about your chimney and start getting ready for better weather with so much to do. Well, not exactly. Just because you aren’t regularly using your fireplace doesn’t mean that your chimney doesn’t need some attention. Here are some things that can happen to your chimney in the spring and how to address them.

Animals and their nests

Operating a chimney without a full-width chimney cap or at least a basic flue top cap is asking for trouble.

In the spring, small animals such as squirrels, birds, bats, raccoons and others love to set up home and build nests in chimneys. The nests, and the animals themselves when they die in the chimney unable to get out, create drafting obstructions. The result? Sluggish fires, lots of smoke and a backup of deadly carbon monoxide.

Leaky chimney

Chimney leaks often get noticed in the spring when rains are the heaviest in many regions of the country. Over the winter, water may have gotten into the mortar joints or cracks in the chimney crown where it froze, expanded and caused significant damage. With heavy rains, large amounts of water can move into the chimney and start a cycle of decay and deterioration.

Chimney component damage

As noted, water can cause damage to various parts of the chimney. But so can springtime events such as gale-force winds and pounding hail. Components of a chimney that can take a beating by the elements include chimney caps, chimney chase covers, chimney crowns, roof flashing and top-sealing dampers. The problem with chimney damage is it doesn’t reverse itself. Once it starts, it keeps going until very serious problems have to be dealt with.

Chimney Sweep In Gaithersburg, MDCreosote and Soot

Without a thorough chimney cleaning each spring, when warmer weather arrives your flue may begin to send off some pretty powerful odors caused by a buildup of creosote and soot. This problem is worsened if there is a chimney leak that allows water to get into the mix. Creosote should be removed once a year, not only to keep odors at a minimum but, more importantly, to reduce the chance of a chimney fire when you start running the fireplace again in the fall.

 inspections & chimney sweep

Fire-safety and hearth-industry agencies throughout the United States recommend annual chimney inspections and chimney sweeping by trained, certified technicians. Inspections are ideally scheduled during the spring months so any damage that may have occurred during the burning season can be spotted and fixed. Leaks can be repaired to prevent widespread damage during the rainy months.

Chimney cleaning, which includes removing creosote, soot and obstructions like those mentioned above, is the best way to prevent destructive chimney fires when you start using your fireplace again. Most chimney companies are less busy during the spring, so that’s another good reason to arrange for service at this time of year. High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg MD is ready to help with chimney cleaning, chimney inspection and all types of chimney repair. All our work is performed or overseen by a CSIA-certified professional. Get your chimney into top shape and ready for next winter by calling (301) 519-3500.

 

3 Pro Tips for a Stunning Fireplace Upgrade

Is your fireplace starting to get boring? Could it do with an upgrade to bring the excitement back and add some elegance in the process? Is the big problem simply that it’s not producing enough heat? If you answered yes to any of these questions, read on for some good news.

Upgrade the look of your hearth area

fireplace upgrade in Washington d.cThere are many ways to beautify a hearth area.

Fireplace mantel installation: For many people, a fireplace just isn’t complete without a stately mantel on top of it. Use your new mantel for displaying photographs, vases, antiques, kids’ artwork, mirrors, clocks – you name it.

Add a fireplace surround: The entire wall area around your fireplace can be transformed with a custom-built or factory-made fireplace surround. Choose from many beautiful materials including stone, brick, granite, wood and more.

Install glass fireplace doors: A new set of lovely glass fireplace doors will add eye-appeal to your hearth area all year long. Plus they provide a layer of protection for kids and pets after the fire dies down.

Add a set of fireplace tools: Tool sets can include a shovel, poker, brush, log-lifter and more, all displayed in a handsome stand. A decorative log holder is another idea to upgrade the look of your fireplace area.

 Upgrade your level of heat

If your fireplace upgrade plans center more around getting extra heat out of your fireplace than enhancing its appearance, consider the advantages of a fireplace insert.

With an insert, you don’t have to construct anything, because the unit fits right into your existing masonry fireplace’s firebox. Inserts are made for both wood and gas fuel, and they deliver high levels of safe, useable heat.

Heat-efficiency ratings for fireplace inserts typically range from 70% up to 85% and even higher. This rating tells you how much of the total heat the appliance produces will be available as heat within your home.

By comparison, your current masonry fireplace may not be rated any higher than 20%, and even that may be a stretch. Masonry fireplaces, while they look awesome, aren’t known as high heat producers. A gas or wood insert will not only give you the heat you want but will add significant beauty to your hearth area as you choose among the many finishes, colors, design styles and options available.

Upgrade your masonry fireplace’s performance

Masonry Fireplace inspection & CleaningIf you love your masonry fireplace, then give it the TLC it needs to operate safely and at peak performance. Start by scheduling an annual visit from a certified chimney sweep to remove flammable creosote and drafting obstructions from your flue. Then bring in a professional chimney inspector to evaluate the condition of your chimney and fireplace and recommend (and perform) any needed repairs. A chimney in good shape will allow the fireplace to work so much more efficiently and safely. As you can see, there’s no reason you have to keep living with a dull hearth area or an underperforming, unsafe fireplace.

High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, is ready to help with all your desired fireplace upgrades from appliance and mantel installation to complete inspection and chimney cleaning work. Call the trusted experts in the DC area today at (301) 519-3500.

 

The Different Types of Chimney Caps

A great way to protect your chimney flue is by having a chimney cap installed. Yet many “standard” generic chimney caps cover only the opening of the flue pipe at the top of the chimney. That leaves the entire crown open to the environment. Let’s look at the differences between generic chimney caps and outside mount chimney caps.

Reasons your chimney should have a cap

chimney cover to prevent water in chimneyA properly fitted chimney cap serves several purposes, all of which allow your fireplace and chimney to run safer and more efficiently. There are three primary reasons you should have a cap on your chimney:

Keep rain out of the flue: Chimneys and water don’t mix, and water getting down into the flue can cause all kinds of problems. Water damage is one of the main causes of a leaky chimney.

 Keep obstructions out of the flue: Leaves, twigs, air dust, nests of small animals like birds and squirrels, and the animals themselves when they die inside the flue unable to escape – all of this debris creates a drafting obstruction. Smoke that can’t draft properly often backs up into the house and carries with it deadly carbon monoxide.

 Prevent live sparks and embers from escaping the top of the chimney: A good chimney cap serves as a blocker for fiery embers that could pop out of the chimney and land on your roof. Any kind of chimney cap will serve these three purposes. But only one kind of cap will offer you all the protection you need.

Benefits of outside mount chimney caps

Outside mount caps are custom-built to exact sizes to fully cover the top of the chimney. These caps completely shield the chimney crown as well as the flue pipe opening. Some people might say, “But chimney crowns are made of cement. Why do they need protecting?”

Chimney Cap Repair & Install in Poolesville, MDThey need protecting because many events can cause them to crack and become vulnerable to extensive water damage. A cracked chimney crown will bring in water, which will expand in freezing temperatures and further break apart. Crowns with significant damage allow water to get down to the bricks below them and begin new levels of decay to the chimney structure. An outside mount chimney cap shields any cracks that might exist in the crown from the damaging effects of rain and snow. If cracks in the crown are discovered during a chimney inspection, your chimney repair tech can easily remove the full-size cap to repair the crown. A less-critical benefit but one that’s important to a lot of homeowners is the stylish design of an outside mount cap. These custom components can be made to look like classy little rooftops above your chimney and add a little ambience to your home’s exterior.

Partial or complete protection: the choice is yours

In comparing the different types of chimney caps, what you’re really comparing is the difference between partial and complete protection. When it’s time to install a chimney cap or replace one that’s damaged, you’ll be best served by going with a strong new outside mount chimney cap for total protection. High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, installs custom full-cover chimney caps throughout the DC area and communities within Maryland and Virginia.

Call us first for all chimney component installation, chimney cleaning, chimney repair and chimney inspection services. Talk with an expert at (301) 519-3500.

 

What to Yaba-Daba-DO to Light a Fire in a Fireplace

Welcome to the end of your frustration over not being able to light good fires in your fireplace! We have the answers–and you are certainly not alone if this situation applies to you. Here we are in a high-tech, instant-everything society and yet lighting a fire is quite literally a prehistoric activity. The actual same three principles cavemen had to use are still in effect today. In caveman terms, “Fire good! All fire need: Air, fuel, heat!” Well, there’s a bit more to it than that. Let’s get started. As caveman Fred Flintstone might say, the following is all you need to yaba-daba-DO to start a fire in your fireplace.

chimney liner installation prince george's county, mdAIR / OXYGEN

Air is needed in the firebox. If there is a stingy supply of air, it is usually caused by negative air pressure. One of the most common causes of negative air pressure is that a home is tightly sealed and may also have an exhaust fan running in the house. Opening a window nearby can solve the problem of lack of oxygen.

The draft is another factor. The flow of warm air coming from a fire needs to go up the chimney, not into your home. If your attempts at fires have failed because the fire wouldn’t catch on or the combustion fumes went into your home, the following steps can help to ensure a draft:

  • Open the damper.
  • Light a match, blow it out, and hold it up to the damper. If the curl of smoke doesn’t go up the chimney, a good draft needs to be established. 
  • If you open the glass doors to your modern fireplace as well as the damper at least 30 minutes before you light a fire, it will help to change the temperature inside the appliance. The draft has to do with temperature differentials. 
  • Warm air will rise but if there is too much cold air in the firebox and/or chimney, the smoke from the beginnings of a fire can’t go up the chimney. What people usually do about this is create a newspaper torch and carefully light it and hold it up toward the damper. The fire from the torch will displace the cold air after one or more attempts.
  • If there still isn’t a draft, after you’ve tried these things, there may be an obstruction in your chimney. It is likely necessary to stop using your fireplace until a chimney professional can come out and conduct a chimney inspection. Any blockage will be identified and can be removed. Once it’s fixed, you should be set for building fires. However, it’s not always that simple. A wide range of issues could be preventing a fireplace from having a good draft, all of which chimney experts are familiar with and can help with.

FUEL

Use only seasoned wood for your fires. Seasoned wood is low in moisture. After logs are cut, they need to dry out for 6 to 12 months or longer before they’re dried out enough for a good fire. Logs filled with moisture create excessive smoke as the fire’s heat first goes to burn out moisture. Inexpensive moisture meters for firewood are widely available. If you are unsure about your firewood, test it and make sure there is less than 20% moisture before using it in your fireplace. 

Getting a fire started usually requires tinder and kindling. Tinder is something like dried moss or wadded-up newspaper that will quickly burn to get things going. Kindling is basically small sticks of dry wood.

There are different approaches to building fires. Some people build a loose stack of medium logs over kindling and slowly add larger logs. Others put the kindling on top of the logs to get them started burning. 

Make sure air can get between the logs, especially when you’re trying to get the fire going. 

fireplace experts in Mclean VAHEAT

Ignition is all that’s needed once you have air and fuel. You can use a match or long lighter. The cavemen no doubt rubbed wood together, as Tom Hanks did in Cast Away. Please note: Never use flammable liquids in your fireplace. Doing so is highly dangerous.

When you’re ready for chimney sweep professionals to provide chimney services, contact the great team of chimney specialists at High’s Chimney Service. We’re based out of Gaithersburg, MD, and customer service is our chief priority. Call us today at (301) 519-3500, whether you need help getting a fire started in your fireplace like an experienced caveman or for any of our comprehensive chimney services.

Why Is Cold Air Coming from My Fireplace?

The question about cold air coming from the fireplace is a question many homeowners have. Fortunately, there are only a few possible causes and several very effective remedies.

chimney cap installFireplace and chimney basics

The basic structure and operation of a fireplace and chimney is something most homeowners readily understand. There’s a firebox, where fires burn, and a chimney, up which go smoke and combustion gasses. The path for smoke also is a path for air. When a fireplace isn’t in use, cold air from outside can come down the chimney into the home, and warm interior air can escape up through the flue.

Ways to prevent cold air entering your home through your fireplace

Keeping your home warmer in the winter can involve a couple steps. Step one is stopping the cold-air draft.

Fireplace damper:

The damper that sits above the firebox should be able to close fully and make a tight seal. Remembering to keep the damper closed when the fireplace isn’t being used will block the cold air that wants to enter your home.

Over years of use, dampers can become rusted or warped. If you suspect this may be a problem, have your damper inspected by a certified fireplace/chimney inspector.

Chimney plug:

Also known as a chimney balloon, this product fits up in the chimney and is inflated, creating a solid barrier against incoming air. Chimney plugs can be used any time you’re not burning a fire as an extra layer of protection. If you forget about the plug and light a fire, it will deflate on its own to allow smoke to exit up the chimney.

Fireplace doors:

Another way to keep cold air out of your room is to install a set of fireplace doors. Quality fireplace doors will create a strong seal at the mouth of the firebox and prevent air circulation when you’re not using your fireplace. Not only will doors keep your home warmer, they look fantastic, too.

gas chimney

Consider an upgrade with a fireplace insert or ZC fireplace

If you’re using a traditional open masonry fireplace, drafts of cold air are something you’re going to have to deal with, like it or not. However, you can completely eliminate these drafts by adding a powerful new fireplace insert to your existing firebox.

Inserts are built in a factory and run on wood, gas or pellets. They work on a closed-combustion system that produces and retains much larger amounts of heat than a masonry fireplace. They have their own vent pipe, which goes right up the chimney.

Zero-clearance, or ZC fireplaces, also are factory built, but unlike inserts, they’re installed into a new area in a wall within your home. These appliances are powerful heat producers and never allow the cold-air drafts that keep your home chilly.

Wood, gas and pellet ZC fireplaces, like inserts, have heat-efficiency ratings of 80% and higher. Compare that to ratings of 10% or 20% common with traditional masonry fireplaces. This means the majority of the heat the unit produces will be available as heat for the home.

As you can see, cold air entering your home through your fireplace is a problem that can be addressed. High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, can help with inspections, repair and the installation of components, fireplace inserts and ZC fireplaces. Get on the road to more warmth by calling us today at (301) 519-3500.