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How to Get Your Chimney Ready for Santa Claus

Chimney Sweep in Fulton, MDIt’s that time of year again – the time good old Santa Claus hitches up his sleigh to the reindeer and heads to the homes of every good boy and girl and shimmies down chimneys to leave brightly wrapped presents for the kids. Okay, none of this may be true, but it’s not a bad idea to think it is when it comes to taking care of your chimney.

Let’s look at four ways you can prepare your chimney for Santa and in the process keep it running at max safety and efficiency.




First, Santa needs to be able to get into the chimney

If your chimney is full of accumulated leaves and twigs and dust and bird nests and possibly the bodies of small animals who have died in the chimney, Santa might not even fit into the flue. So, step one in getting your chimney ready for a visit from the Old Man is to have all the obstructions cleaned out.

Doing this will also allow your fires to burn more efficiently and keep smoke drafting up the flue rather than backing up into your home.

Next, Santa can’t afford to get too dirty

Creosote and soot inside a chimney can seriously mar Santa’s pristine red-and-white appearance. If Santa went down a chimney packed with these smoke byproducts, he would emerge looking like he’d been dragged through the mud.

Removing creosote and soot from your chimney also brings the benefit of significantly reducing the chance of a chimney fire – most of which in the U.S. each year start with ignited creosote.

Masonry repair in Poolesville, MDChimney repairs 

Santa isn’t getting any smaller as the years pass, so your chimney might be a tight fit for him. The last thing you need is for his sizeable girth to push against already compromised bricks and mortar joints and cause the whole chimney to come tumbling down.

Damage from water infiltration, house-settling, seismic events and plain old age can cause chimney masonry to degrade. Once the structure is sufficiently compromised, it can begin to fall apart and create a danger for everyone near it. It would be a good idea to repair damaged masonry before Santa arrives.

Finally, don’t smoke out Santa

You’ve decided to leave a low fire burning in the fireplace during the night. Hopefully you’re burning dry (seasoned) logs that produce minimal smoke. Sure, Santa can come down chimneys when the fireplace is in use, but he’s only human, and if you’re burning wet, unseasoned wood, he’s going to get smoked out before he can drop off the presents and eat whatever snack you left for him.

By burning dry wood only, you create much less smoke, which means less creosote and soot buildup as well as less smoke emissions going out into the atmosphere. Plus, your fires will start easier and burn better.

Of course, it’s unlikely that Santa will be dropping down your chimney this holiday season. But if you go about chimney maintenance as if he really was going to pay you a visit, you’ll have a much cleaner, safer and efficient chimney to enjoy all winter long.

High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, is standing by this winter to help with the very best in certified chimney sweep services, chimney repair and chimney inspection. We’ll get your chimney in great shape for the long winter season – and maybe for a special visit from you-know-who. Call us at (301) 519-3500.


Maximum Efficiency from Your Fireplace This Winter

Fireplace Cleaning in Fulton MDThe only thing better than a fireplace in the winter is an efficient fireplace in the winter. By following these six tips for max fireplace efficiency and safety, you’ll make a big difference in how much you enjoy your fireplace during the cold months.

Tip 1: chimney health 

This tip means to schedule chimney sweep service and fireplace/chimney inspection before the season kicks in. Chimney sweeps will remove flammable creosote and draft-hampering obstructions from your flue, while an inspection will uncover any part of your fireplace system that needs service.

Tip 2: Use dry firewood

Logs that haven’t had time to fully dry out (usually takes six months to a year after chopping) burn inefficiently and produce a lot more smoke than dry logs. Logs that are dry make hotter fires that burn longer and look spectacular.

2a: When storing your firewood outside, set the stack on a rack or pallet to keep it off the damp ground. Store wood in an area that is shielded from rain. If you prefer to use a tarp covering, make sure the ends are open so air can circulate.

2b: Remember that different types of wood have different burn qualities. For hotter, longer-lasting fires, go with hardwoods like maple, elm, oak and beech. When you want a shorter burn time, use softwoods like cedar, fir and red pine.

Wood Burning Fireplace in Poolesville, MDTip 3: maximum performance

When stacking logs, make sure to leave some breathing room in between them. Some people say to start your fire from the top down; other say burn from the bottom up. Whichever way you go, a trick to getting really blazing fires is to start with a relatively small log stack and get it blazing well before adding more wood. Try this and see – and feel – the difference.

Tip 4: Keep the firebox clean

The more clutter of ashes and charred wood in your firebox, the less air that can get in to intensify your fires.

Shovel out debris regularly – and wash/scrape off any soot or creosote on the firebox walls to reduce the chance of fire.

Tip 5: Remember to close the damper after a fire

After your logs are finished burning, preserve the heat that’s in your home by shutting the fireplace damper. A house will retain a certain amount of fireplace-produced heat after the fire is over, but all that heat will go right up the chimney if the damper is left open.

Tip 6: Safety precautions

  • Burn only wood in your fireplace – no household trash, plastics, cardboard, furnishings or any other material.
  • Never use gasoline, lighter fluid or other accelerants to start a fire.
  • Know the signs of a chimney fire: large amounts of dark smoke from either end of the chimney; a clicking/tapping noise; a rumbling sound like a distant train. Call 911 if you notice any of these signs, and put out the fire in the firebox, if safe to do so.
  • Keep young children and pets away from the fireplace while it’s in use; purchase a fireplace screen, if necessary.
  • Make sure you have working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide monitors properly installed inside your home.

High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, is here to help with CSIA-certified chimney sweep, chimney inspection and chimney and fireplace repairs. We’ll do the job right the first time to ensure safety for you and your family. Call us today at (301) 519-3500.


Warning Signs Your Wood Stove Needs Replacing

Damaged Wood Burning Stove in Fulton, MDMany homeowners depend on wood-burning stoves for heat. And if your heating stove is more than 15 years old, you are probably wondering when it will need to be replaced. Keep an eye out for one or more of the following warn signs that indicate it’s time to replace your wood stove.

It was manufactured before 1995

If you have a wood stove that was manufactured before 1995, its time to consider a replacement, older wood stoves are not as efficient and produce a lot more pollution than newer models.

In 2015, the EPA made the most significant changes since 1988 with the introduction of Step 1 of the revised performance standards. The new rule requires manufacturers of wood-burning stoves and heaters to emit no more than 4.5g of smoke per hour.

It was a significant reduction in pollution compared to old stoves that release up to 30 grams of smoke per hour.

And to meet these strict new government standards, wood stove manufacturers made significant changes to its internal design. As a result, more modern EPA-certified wood stoves are more efficient, burn cleaner, and are easier and safer to use.

Signs of warping or cracking

Many wood stoves are built to perform for decades. But the lifespan of your wood stove will largely depend on the quality of materials. While most woods stoves are made from steel or iron, the grade of these materials and quality of workmanship will largely determine the life expectancy of your model. In the last 20 years, imports have flooded the market. Many of these imports use lower grade materials. Although wood stoves that are made from iron or steel are designed to withstand a regular wood-burning operation, the repeated heating and cooling can eventually cause warping. Also, excessive creosote inside the stove can cause a fire. The extremely high temperatures can also cause the stove to warp, and you may notice some cracks near the bolts or welding.

If your wood stove is showing signs of warping or cracking, it is no longer safe to use and should be replaced.

Wood Stove Installation in Poolesville, MDIt produces a lot of smoke

A small amount of smoke is reasonable, especially when starting a fire. But if your wood stove is producing more smoke than normal, your stove may have problems that need a total replacement. The baffle plate or catalytic combustion may be damaged, and there could be water leaks or other damages. A smoky stove is also very inefficient to operate and produces much less heat. Since smoke also causes excessive pollution, including creosote, it’s a sign that it’s time to replace your heating appliance.

 excessive creosote

Older wood stoves are not clean burning devices and require frequent cleaning to prevent the accumulation of creosote and other residues. And if it’s been quite some time since your last stove cleaning, there may be an excessive accumulation of creosote, soot, and other debris in the stove, stovepipe, and vent. Creosote is the primary cause of residential fires. A fire that starts in your stove can quickly spread to your stove pipe and other combustibles throughout your home. So, if you have a lot of creosote in your stove, it’s time to switch to a cleaner-burning EPA-certified wood stove.

You need to use more wood fuel than in the past to get the same level of heat

If your stove is consuming more wood fuel than before to maintain the desired heat, then there may be issues with its heating efficiency. The performance of your wood stove can degrade over time due to warping, air and water leaks, and other problems. Replacing an inefficient wood stove with a newer model will reduce your energy costs. Newer EPA-certified models produce up to 50 percent more heat while consuming 1/3 less fuel.

Clean-Burning & Long-Lasting Fires

Chopped Seasoned FirewoodA lot of times when fires in a fireplace are less than spectacular – when they’re too smoky, don’t last very long, produce excess soot and creosote – it’s not the fault of the fireplace. Often, the only problem is the wood that’s being used.

Not all firewood logs are the same. They look pretty similar, but it’s what’s underneath the patterned bark that makes all the difference. Here are a few things to know when choosing firewood for clean-burning, long-lasting fires.

  1. Select dry wood

Seasoned, or dry, wood logs burn hotter and more efficiently while creating less smoke than wet, unseasoned wood. Plus, they ignite easier and hold their flames longer.

Fires that produce tons of smoke also produce quite a bit of flammable creosote, which sticks to the walls of the flue and can lead to a chimney fire. In fact, most chimney fires happen because homeowners neglect to have their chimneys properly cleaned and inspected on an annual basis.

Dry wood logs have certain characteristics:

  • Grayish or dark color
  • A hollow sound when you bang two logs together
  • Lightweight, not too heavy
  • Cracks/splits at the ends of the logs
  • Bark that easily flakes away .

Store your logs the right way

    Beautiful Wood Burning Fireplace In Fulton, MDLogs stored outside should be set on some kind of small riser/pallet to keep them off the damp ground. Cover the stack with a waterproof tarp, but leave the ends open so air can circulate within the logs and aid in the drying process.

    1. Give your fire what it needs: air

    Air (oxygen) is a key component in creating fire. For a fire to build to roaring proportions, a sufficient amount of air is required. Accomplish this by not stacking logs too tightly together in the firebox.


    Additionally, make sure the house has some circulation (crack a window, if necessary), and keep your chimney free of obstructions and built-up creosote to ensure plenty of draft.

    Important note: Chimney cleaning is not a job for the average homeowner. The best choice for this work is a professional chimney sweep who is licensed, insured and certified through the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). This ensures that the job will be done right and safely.

    1. Choose the right logs for the desired burn time

    Logs from hardwood trees will burn longer and hotter than logs from softwood trees.

    Hardwoods include:

    • Maple
    • Oak
    • Beech
    • Hickory
    • Alder
    • Walnut

    Softwoods include:

    • Douglas fir
    • Cedar
    • Redwood
    • Juniper
    • Pine
    • Spruce

    If you chop your own firewood . . .

    After chopping your own wood, exercise patience in the drying process. Depending on the density and moisture, freshly chopped wood can take between six months and a year to fully dry out. Plan accordingly as you build up your supply from season to season.

    High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, believes every home should have a stunning fireplace to enjoy during the cold weather and at other times. Part of that enjoyment comes from a fireplace and chimney that are clean and in tip-top shape. Let us help you keep your fireplace or stove working right. We offer certified chimney sweep, chimney inspection, fireplace, stove and chimney repair and all related services. Give us a call today at (301) 519-3500.




    Chimney Sweeps vs. DIY for Chimney Cleaning & Service

    Chimney Inspection in Fulton, MDWithin the fireplace and chimney services industry, the 2016 scuffle between the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and Angie’s List is fairly well-known. For those of you not familiar with the issue, here’s the thumbnail version.

    Angie’s List, a popular article mill, posted a piece that implied that homeowners could properly clean their own chimneys. Knowing this was false, misleading and dangerous information, the CSIA got to work and forced Angie’s List to remove the article titled “How to Clean Your Chimney.”


    In a letter to the president of Angie’s List, shown here on the CSIA blog, CSIA President Mark A. Stoner wrote:

    “Encouraging the average homeowner, who does not meet the (National Fire Protection Association’s) definition of a ‘qualified agency’, to perform his or her own chimney service [. . .] is not only irresponsible and negligent but could lead directly to the loss of life or property due to a chimney fire or carbon monoxide intrusion into the residence.”

    Stoner continued: “By posting this article to its website and promoting it via social media, Angie’s List has effectively endorsed this content and it should be held liable for any and all damages ensuing from a homeowner’s adherence to instructions therein.”

    Why DIY chimney cleaning is not recommended

    Mark Stoner of the CSIA was right in pulling out all the stops to get Angie’s List to remove that article. While there are some fireplace and chimney maintenance tasks the average homeowner can perform safely and effectively (cleaning the firebox; doing a general inspection of chimney masonry or some of the chimney’s components), cleaning creosote out of a chimney is not one of them.

    Professional chimney sweeps go through a rigorous process to obtain valued certifications from the CSIA and other hearth-industry agencies. These include:

    • Certified Chimney Professional
    • Certified Master Chimney Technician
    • Certified Chimney Sweep
    • Certified Chimney Reliner

    Chimney Sweep in Poolesville, MDIndividuals who hold these and other high-level certifications have demonstrated that they understand the multiple elements of a chimney’s operation and structure and have shown specific expertise in using the tools and equipment that are industry-standard in cleaning chimneys.

    Don’t let a “handyman” work on your chimney

    When you allow an untrained individual to clean or do other work on your chimney, you’re setting yourself up for some potentially serious problems.

    Creosote, which forms in a chimney every time wood burns, is highly flammable and is the cause of most chimney fires in the U.S. each year. Cleaning creosote out of a chimney often is a challenging job – even for a professional. Creosote can present as a flakey, sticky or solid substance. Each form requires specific actions for effective removal.

    Certified chimney sweeps make use of electric and hand brushes, specialized solvents, scrapers, vacuums and other equipment to safely remove creosote without damaging the chimney’s interior masonry or liner.

    Just as you would only go to a qualified physician to perform an important medical procedure, you should only hire a qualified, certified chimney sweep to clean your chimney. This professional will know a lot more about the cleaning process and chimneys in general than any “average” person.

    High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, is staffed with trained, experienced, certified chimney professionals. When we clean your chimney, you’ll have the peace of mind that comes from knowing it was done correctly and in accord with all safety precautions. Give us a call at (301) 519-3500 for your next professional chimney service.


    5 Safety Tips for Wood Stove Owners

    Wood Stove Installation in Fulton, MDGetting a long and efficient life out of your wood stove and keeping your home and family safe when using it are important to every wood stove owner. Here are five operational and safety tips to follow for the best experience with your wood stove.

    1. The wood your burn in your stove

    Modern heating stoves are high heat producers and are designed to burn more efficiently than wood stoves of the past. You can contribute to your stove’s efficiency and heat generation by burning the right wood in the right way.


    First, use only seasoned (dry) wood for your fire. Damp wood is harder to get started and keep burning, and it produces far more smoke than dry wood.

    Hardwoods such as elm, maple, beech, oak and ash will produce longer, hotter fires than fir, red pine, cedar and other softwoods. Choose your firewood based on the length and intensity of the fire you want. Remember that because of their density, hardwoods take longer to dry, so keep that in mind when purchasing or chopping your wood.

    1. Wood stove maintenance

    For safety reasons, it’s important to clean out your wood stove’s firebox periodically. You’ll want to remove ashes and wood chips, then use a wire brush or similar apparatus to scrape soot and creosote from the stove’s inner surfaces. Excess creosote inside your stove can become a fire hazard, so keep it clean.

    1. Cleaning the vent pipe

    Wood Stove for sale in Poolesville, MDMore of a concern than built-up creosote inside your stove is the creosote that builds up inside the vent pipe, which you can’t see. Creosote forms when smoke is burned and can be flakey, sticky or hard within your flue pipe.WFD

    The best way to deal with cleaning your stove’s vent system is to let a professional do it. Certified chimney sweeps have the tools and expertise to safely remove creosote, soot and other debris from stove pipes. They also can perform system-wide inspections to check for structural damage, venting/drafting issues and worn components. Chimney sweeps are best known for cleaning fireplace chimneys, but they also service vent systems for all supplemental heating appliances.

    1. How not to start a fire

    Using non-approved items to get your fire started can result in dangerous stove operation and also can void certain free-standing heating stove warranties. Never use these items to start a fire:

    • Accelerants such as gasoline, charcoal starter or lighter fluid
    • Charcoal
    • Painted or treated wood
    • Clothing or any kind of fabric
    • Magazines
    • Christmas trees
    • Road flares
    • Household trash
    1. Smoke and CO monitors

    Whenever you have a stove or fireplace in your home, you also should have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide (CO) monitors. You already know the reason for smoke detectors. CO monitors check the air for carbon monoxide, which is critically important because this gas is invisible, odorless and potentially fatal to humans and pets. Set up your smoke and CO detectors according to manufacturer’s instructions or the advice of your chimney sweep.

    These are five important tips for running your wood-burning heating stove safely and efficiently. When you schedule regular cleaning and inspections from a CSIA-certified chimney sweep, you’ll learn a lot more about getting the most out of your wood stove and keeping your home and family safe.

    If it’s time for a good cleaning and stove inspection, High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, is ready to get to work. We offer the very best in chimney sweep services, stove/fireplace maintenance and all levels of stove and fireplace repair. Call us today at (301) 519-3500.


    Warm Up with Your Fireplace Safely This Fall

    Chimney Inspection in Fulton, MDThe warm days and cool nights that fall brings to southwestern Maryland, and the Capitol Corridor is a welcome respite after a warm summer. But with lows already dipping into the ’40s in some areas, many homeowners are already lighting their fireplaces and wood stoves in the evenings. Our weather is going to get even colder with the possibility of freezing temperatures arriving as early as Thanksgiving, according to the monthly weather forecast.

    Chimney Inspection and Cleaning

    When was the last time you had a professional chimney inspection and cleaning? If it has been more than 12 months, scheduling a qualified chimney sweep should be a top priority. A professional chimney inspection assesses its condition and recommends necessary repairs to ensure that it is safe to use your fireplace or heating stove. The technician will also advise the homeowner if there are excessive amounts of creosote deposits and recommend if cleaning is necessary before use. An inspection will also uncover any damages or obstructions that may expose your home and occupants to a higher risk of fire or carbon monoxide.

    Repair or Replace Chimney Cap

    Chimney Repair in Poolesville, MDThe chimney cap plays a vital role in protecting your chimney.  First, it covers the exposed flue to allow the venting of smoke and fumes while preventing pests, leaves, twigs, and other debris from obstructing the vent. Second, it helps prevent water from intruding into the flue during periods of rain and snow. Third, it prevents hot embers and sparks from flying out of the flue and onto the roof, where it can be a fire hazard. And finally, the chimney cap minimizes downdrafts, which can force smoke, soot, and carbon monoxide into your living space. A broken or missing chimney cap increases the risk of water leaks and fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. It should be replaced with a cap that contains a wire mesh screen and spark arrestor. For even greater protection, ask your chimney professional about a chase cover.

    Install a Glass Fireplace Door

    A glass fireplace door contains sparks and embers inside the fireplace, so they don’t fly out and stain or ignite nearby flooring and furniture. They are not only attractive, but they also help radiate the heat in your living space. You will have a beautiful view of the flames without the safety risk. It’s a must for any home with small children or pets.

    Only Burn Seasoned Firewood

    Don’t be tempted to burn fresh or “green” wood in your fireplace. The problem with green wood is that the moisture produces lots of smoke. It also creates more creosote, which is a fire hazard in excessive amounts. Only burn wood that has been seasoned (dried) for at least six months. And, of course, never burn Christmas trees or any hazardous materials in your fireplace or heating stove.

    Install a Carbon Monoxide Detector

    Carbon monoxide (CO2) is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas that is also known as the “silent killer.” National fire and health safety experts strongly encourage all homeowners using solid or liquid fuel heating appliances to install a carbon monoxide detector. The CO2 detector is the only way you may be able to tell if deadly CO2 gas is leaking inside your home. If the CO2 detector sounds an alert, immediately open windows and doors to bring fresh air into your home. Turn off all heating appliances and contact your chimney professional. If anyone in your home is complaining of nausea, headaches, or dizziness, immediately dial 9-1-1.

    Don’t Leave a Fire Unattended

    It may be tempting to leave your fireplace warming your home when you go out for a quick bite or go to bed. But a sudden downdraft, excessive creosote, hot embers, and other problems can occur at any time that increases the risk of fire. Always extinguish the fire before leaving your home or retiring to bed.



    9 Things You Should Know When Burning Wood

    Beautiful Wood Burning Fireplace In Fulton, MDNothing beats a wood fire in the fireplace on a cold winter’s night. Or a cool autumn day. Or anytime, really. There’s something special and nostalgic about burning, crackling logs that you just can’t get any other way. If you love your wood fires, here are nine things to know when burning wood.

     Dry vs. wet wood

    Seasoned (dry) wood burns better and produces less smoke than wood that hasn’t had time to dry out. Excess smoke means excess creosote in your chimney, and sluggish burns mean an inefficient fire.

    Fires need air

    For a fire to burn at max capacity, air is needed. Reasons for not enough air getting to your log stack include:
    • house is air-tight – crack a window
    • damper is not fully open to generate a draft – open the damper
    • logs are stacked too close together – remove a few logs so the pile can breathe
    • flue has obstructions – have them removed

     Keep the flue clean

    Regular chimney sweep services by a CSIA-certified technician are important to keep excess flammable creosote from building up in the flue. Chimney cleaning also removes debris, animal nests and other unwanted items, which allows for more efficient drafting.

     Hardwoods vs. softwoods

    Wood Burning Fireplace in Poolesville, MDHardwoods such as alder, beech, hickory and maple are denser and burn longer and hotter than softwoods like cedar, juniper, pine and redwood. If you want a shorter, less-intense fire, go with softwoods. For longer-lasting, heat-heavy fires, hardwoods are ideal.

    Light from the top

    The best way to build a fire in a fireplace or stove is to start the burn with tinder and kindling on top of the log stack. The wood will burn better this way and reach its optimal temperature faster.

    The best tinder and kindling for wood fires

    Crumpled-up newspaper (not colored print), small twigs and pine needles make excellent tinder. For kindling, you want to use heavier material like larger twigs, branch pieces and wood slivers up to about an inch thick.

    What not to use when starting a wood fire

    Aside from newspaper tinder, never use non-wood-based items to start a fire. This includes any type of accelerant (lighter fluid, charcoal starter, gasoline) as well as household trash, lacquered/painted wood, magazines, cardboard boxes and clothing.

    Don’t overload the firebox

    If you pack too many logs in the firebox, the fire will burn too intensely and may cause a chimney fire. Follow the recommendations of your fireplace manufacturer or the advice of a chimney services professional in determining how many logs to use for your fire.

    Keep the hearth area clear

    Don’t set furnishings or rugs too close to the firebox, and use a fire screen or glass doors to keep popping embers from jumping out of the fireplace. Small children should never be left unattended in a room where a fire is burning.
    High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, wants everyone to enjoy their fireplaces in safety. We hope these wood-burning tips have helped. When it’s time for a thorough chimney cleaning to make your fireplace experience even safer, count on our CSIA-certified chimney sweeps to do the job right. Schedule an appointment or get your questions answered by an expert at (301) 519-3500.

    4 Interior and Exterior Chimney Problems & How to Solve Them

    deteriorating chimney bricksA chimney that’s in good repair is a chimney that does its job safely and efficiently. When damage or other problems develop within the chimney system, the best move is to arrange for a professional inspection and then chimney repair or chimney sweep services to restore soundness to the structure.

    Here are four fairly common issues that chimney service techs see on a regular basis.

    1. Leaky chimney

    When addressing leaks in a chimney, the first step is to determine exactly where the leak is coming from. We know that water is getting into the system somewhere, and we need to know where. Many things can be responsible for a chimney leak including:

    • A damaged or missing chimney cap
    • Cracking in the chimney crown
    • Warped flashing
    • Spalling bricks
    • Internal masonry damage due to a faulty chimney liner

    If left unattended, a chimney leak can lead to widespread rot and decay within the chimney structure and the house itself.

    1. Damaged chimney masonry

    white stains on my chimneyExternal damage to the bricks and mortar of a chimney is fairly easy to spot: cracks are obvious, bricks are loose, often there are patches of crumbling scattered around on the roof. Various approaches can be used to repair damaged masonry such as:

    Tuckpointing: A strong, new compound is added to areas where bricks are missing.

    Partial chimney rebuilding: Depending on where the masonry damage is and the extent of it, it may be necessary to rebuild sections of the chimney.

    Complete chimney rebuilding: For chimneys with extensive damage that makes them unsafe to use or live around, a total chimney rebuild can restore safety to the home and your family.

    Chimney waterproofing: In cases of minor cracking in the mortar, a waterproof sealant can be applied to the chimney to prevent damage caused by incoming water.

    1. Efflorescence on exterior chimney bricks

    Efflorescence is the white staining sometimes seen on the outside of chimneys. When this is present, it means that moisture is getting into the bricks and pushing out the naturally occurring salt within the bricks, leading to the unsightly stain.

    If efflorescence is the only problem you have with your chimney, you’re fortunate. By scheduling a certified chimney inspection to assess the extent of the water-infiltration and then having the reason for the problem repaired, you can save a lot of money on expensive chimney restoration projects down the line.

    1. Creosote/obstruction buildup in the flue

    Wood-burning fireplaces cause the smoke byproduct creosote to form and build up on the inside of the chimney liner. Creosote is flammable and can easily ignite and start a chimney or house fire. Professional chimney sweeps certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America have the equipment and training to safely and thoroughly remove creosote and soot from your flue. Once-a-year cleaning is recommended.

    If your chimney cap is severely damaged – or if you don’t have a cap at all – various debris can get into the flue and cause smoke-draft blockages. This debris includes leaves and twigs from nearby trees and small animals and their nests. One of a chimney sweep’s jobs is cleaning obstructions from your chimney to ensure smooth and efficient drafting of smoke and gasses.

    When your chimney needs repair or proper cleaning, High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, is standing by to exceed your expectations. Whether it’s chimney sweep, chimney inspection, chimney repair or chimney rebuilding services, we’re ready to go to work. Call us at (301) 519-3500.


    Fireplace Safety: Why Regular Chimney Cleaning Matters

    Professional Chimney SweepThe safest fireplaces and chimneys are those that receive regular cleaning, repair and maintenance by certified technicians. If this service is neglected, it won’t take long for your chimney to experience a dangerous buildup of creosote and soot. Smoke-drafting obstructions, a common problem if you use your chimney without a chimney cap, also can lead to dangerous operating conditions.

    Here are the primary reasons regular chimney sweep services are so important.

    First, can you do the job yourself?

    Some homeowners think they can clean their own chimneys, but rarely is this the case. Professional chimney sweeps have special tools like rotating brushes, hand brushes, vacuums, scrapers and powerful cleaning solvents that work together to rid your flue of flammable creosote and soot. It’s unlikely the average homeowner has this equipment or the skill and training to use it.

    Creosote removal

    Creosote is a byproduct of smoke and may appear as a flakey, sticky or solid substance. It’s the cause of the majority of chimney fires in the U.S. each year. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends annual chimney sweeping for chimneys connected to wood-burning appliances, because even less than an inch of this compound is enough to start a potentially fatal chimney fire.

    Signs of a chimney fire

    Not all chimney fires are obvious. Some are small and extinguish on their own. But even small fires can damage the chimney liner and the interior masonry, which leaves combustible materials of your home vulnerable.

    Common signs of a chimney fire include:

    • An unusually large amount of smoke pouring from the top of the chimney or flowing into the room
    • A ticking or tapping sound
    • The sound of rumbling, like a distant train

    Removal of obstructions

    Creosote in ChimneyIn addition to removing creosote, chimney sweeps also remove obstructions in the flue caused by an accumulation of leaves, twigs, small-animal nests and the like. These obstructions will make smoke draft improperly and back up into the home, carrying with it deadly carbon monoxide.

    You can keep all debris out of your flue by having a quality chimney cap installed. Chimney caps cover the flue opening to prevent water intrusion (and subsequent water damage), and the sides are made of a material that allows smoke to move through them while keeping outside junk outside where it belongs.

    What you can do to ensure the safety of your chimney

    Where creosote is concerned, the less smoke your fireplace produces, the less creosote buildup you’ll have to deal with. Here’s how to create less smoke:

    • Burn only dry (seasoned) wood
    • Don’t stack logs tightly together – they need space to gather oxygen
    • Ensure sufficient air within the home is getting to the fireplace (crack a window, if necessary)
    • Keep your flue clean so smoke can travel up it smoothly
    • Make sure your flue opening isn’t too small for the fireplace
    • Make sure your chimney is tall enough (minimum 10 feet high and extending at least two feet from the roof)

    By you doing your part and letting a certified chimney sweep do his or her part, you can rest easy, knowing your chimney is clean, safe and working at peak performance.

    High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, is ready to help with all your chimney cleaning, chimney inspection and chimney repair needs. We’re certified by the CSIA and guarantee workmanship and customer service that’s unmatched in our region. Call (301) 519-3500 today with questions or to schedule an appointment.