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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.

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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.


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.

Know the Protective Components of Your Chimney

chimney cap installation gaithersburg mdAs solidly built as chimneys are, they need a number of components to keep them working safely and efficiently. Let’s look at some of these chimney components and find out what they do and why it’s important.

Chimney flue

The flue, often just called the “chimney,” is the vertical interior passage that allows smoke to move up and away from the fireplace. A sturdy flue serves as a protector for nearby combustible materials of the home by containing intense heat and toxic gasses.

Flues are commonly constructed of brick and mortar (masonry) and hold up well for many years. Eventually, however, cracks in the masonry can begin letting water into the system, where it will start a cycle of decay until the flue is no longer safe to operate. Leaky chimneys need prompt professional attention.

Chimney liner

Chimney liners are built or installed on the inside of the flue to add even more protection to the home. Liners can be made of metal, clay tiles or a poured-in-place compound. As with the chimney’s masonry, if cracks appear in the liner, heat and gasses can escape and cause damage.

Assessing the condition of a chimney liner normally requires the services of a certified chimney inspector, who will use various tools including video technology to look at all the surfaces of the liner.

Roof flashing

Flashing is the metal strips that block the gap between the external chimney masonry and the roof. Without a layer of flashing, rainwater and water from melting snow can run down into the home and cause rotting and decay to walls, insulation and other structural components.

Incoming water also can begin to harm the exterior masonry of the chimney in areas the average person can’t see. Flashing is one of the easiest ways to prevent some very expensive damage.

Chimney crown

The chimney crown is the cement layer that seals off everything at the top of the chimney except for the flue pipes. Like the chimney cap, the crown shields the flue from water and moisture. Crowns usually are beveled to allow water to run away from the flue opening.

Cracks in chimney crowns can happen after years of use. If caught early, the cracks can be sealed to prevent further damage. In some cases, a crown will have to be rebuilt.


Located just above the firebox, the damper is open when a fire is burning to allow a smooth path for smoke and toxins to leave the home. A damper that won’t fully open can cause smoke and dangerous carbon monoxide to back up into the home.

After many years of service, dampers can become rusted and warped, making it impossible to close them completely when the fireplace isn’t in use. Damaged dampers can be repaired or replaced.

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Chimney cap

The chimney cap sits atop the chimney and provides protection against incoming rain and snow as well as debris such as leaves, twigs and small-animal nests.

A good chimney cap also acts as a barrier to keep shooting sparks and embers from flying out the top of the chimney and landing on the roof or in the yard. Damaged chimney caps can either be replaced or repaired.

High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, is here to help keep all your chimney components and your chimney itself in excellent working condition. We provide a full menu of chimney cleaning, chimney repair, component installation and chimney inspection services. Learn more or schedule an appointment by calling (301) 519-3500.

Why Is My Fireplace Cold & Drafty?

Cold And Drafty Chimney Assuming your fireplace and chimney system are in overall good working order, the answer why your fireplace is cold and drafty is fairly straightforward. Cold air from outside is getting into the chimney and flowing down to escape from the fireplace. There are several ways you can prevent this problem or lessen its impact.

If you’re using a traditional masonry fireplace, you have what’s known as an open system. That means there’s a clear path from the top of your chimney to the opening of the firebox for air to move. Keeping a masonry fireplace from being cold and drafty during the cold months requires several steps.

Make sure your throat damper is in good shape

The throat damper, located just above the firebox and operated with a handle, is a key line of defense against cold drafts. When new, dampers create a tight seal, usually metal on metal, and block out the cold air.

Over time, dampers can become rusted and warped, thereby compromising their seal. If your damper is damaged, it can be replaced. Also: it’s easy to forget to close the damper when the fireplace isn’t in use, so make a mental note to do this.

Chimney damper in Fulton MDTop-sealing damper

If your throat damper is in questionable shape, or if you simply want an added layer of protection, consider having a top-sealing damper installed. These components sit at the top of the chimney and close tightly to prevent air from entering the flue.

As long as your throat damper can still open fully (necessary for efficient fires and proper drafting) it’s often more economical to install a damper up top rather than replace a faulty throat damper.

 Fireplace doors

As you can see, our suggestions so far are targeting the problem of incoming air. Fireplace doors are another way to target this problem. A sturdy set of new fireplace doors can be kept closed when the fireplace isn’t being used and provide a strong barrier against infiltrating cold air. Not only do fireplace doors keep the cold air out, they also look fantastic and will add an immediate touch of elegance to any fireplace.

Install a fireback

Usually made of cast iron, a fireback is a large plate installed inside the fireplace to protect the firebox. It also absorbs heat from the fire and radiates it out into the room. A fireback doesn’t address air flow, but it definitely adds a significant warming effect and creates a more comfortable living environment.

Add a fireplace heater

Another way to increase the heating efficiency of a masonry fireplace is to add a fireplace heater. These devices take air inside the room, circulated it through the heat inside the fireplace, and send it back to the room. Because fireplace heaters work on a closed circuit system, they won’t send smoke into the room along with the warm air. These are some ways to deal with a cold and drafty fireplace. Along with improving heat efficiency, you also want to make sure every part of your fireplace is safe and working properly. They way to do this is with regularly scheduled chimney cleanings, chimney inspections and prompt repairs of damaged masonry or components.

High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, is standing by to help with all your fireplace cleaning, service and maintenance needs. Call us today at (301) 519-3500.


What Type of Fireplace Do You Have? Here’s how to Tell.

Although every type of fireplace burns fuel and provides a degree of warmth, not every fireplace is the same. Depending on the type you have, certain maintenance tasks will be necessary to keep it safe and operating at peak levels. Let’s look at the most popular fireplace styles.

Open masonry fireplace in Fulton, MD Open masonry fireplace

These are the traditional fireplaces, built into a wall by a mason and often surrounded by brick, stone or other materials. Unless the fireplace has been retrofitted, it burns wood logs.

Masonry fireplaces look fabulous and add a rustic touch of charm to a home, but they’re not particularly good heat producers. The open design of these fireplaces allows about 80% or more of the heat they create to be lost up the chimney.

Maintaining a masonry fireplace centers around cleaning and inspection. Wood fires produce creosote, which builds up in your flue and can ignite and start a chimney fire. Certified chimney sweeps use specialized tools to remove creosote and other obstructions from your chimney to keep it safe for use.

Gas & wood Inserts

Inserts are built in factories and are sized to fit directly into the fireboxes of masonry fireplaces. Fireplace inserts are powerful heat producers and add a stunning decorative accent to your home.

Gas inserts should be inspected annually to ensure that the components and gas line connections are in good shape.

Wood inserts, like any wood-burning appliance, need yearly service from a chimney sweep to remove creosote and soot from the vent pipe. Fireplace inserts require venting, but not with the existing chimney. Custom vent pipes are included with both styles of inserts.

Zero-clearance gas and wood fireplacesWood Burning Fireplace in Poolesville, MD

These appliances get their name from their heavy-duty insulation properties that make them safe to install within virtually any wall in the home with no clearance required between the unit and adjacent wall materials and flooring. Similar in performance to fireplace inserts, ZC fireplaces are self-contained units that are installed in places other than the firebox of an existing fireplace.

Zero-clearance fireplaces retain the heat they produce – as much as 80% to 90% of it – and send the heat into the room rather than up the vent pipe. A gas model needs annual safety inspections; a wood-burning model needs inspection along with professional cleaning of the vent system that comes with the unit.

Gas log sets

Gas logs are used in an existing wood-burning fireplace. When professionally installed, these devices create safe warmth and a lot of beauty, with logs that look remarkably similar to real wood.

A gas log set gives you lovely fires but none of the mess and professional cleaning requirements of a wood fireplace.

No matter what type of fireplace you have, it can bring you many years of pleasure and enjoyment. The key to getting the most out of your fireplace is to stay on top of maintenance, which means regular inspection and necessary repairs. For wood-burning units, proper maintenance includes chimney/vent pipe cleaning once a year.

High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, is ready to help keep your fireplace safe and running at peak efficiency. We offer CSIA-certified chimney sweep services, fireplace and chimney inspection and repairs on all types of fireplaces and heating stoves. Call us today at (301) 519-3500.


Damaged Chimney Signs & Symptoms

Chimney Masonry Repair in Fulton MDA fully functional chimney is a safe chimney. A damaged chimney can be dangerous. Fortunately, you can spot many signs of chimney damage and arrange for the necessary repairs before the problem gets out of hand. Here are four areas of chimney damage/chimney issues to be on the lookout for.

Leaky chimney signs

Water in the firebox: If you see water inside your firebox, likely it means there’s a leak somewhere in the system.


White stains on masonry: White stains (efflorescence) are caused by naturally occurring salt and mean that water is getting into the masonry.

Foul smells coming from the fireplace: Excess moisture inside the flue often is caused by a leaky chimney. Moisture mixes with soot and creosote and produces strong odors.

Structural damage 

Crumbling on the roof: Masonry damage often leaves areas of crumbling on the roof near the base of the chimney.

Leaning chimney: If a chimney has begun to lean to one side, it indicates a significant level of damage that needs to be addressed before using the fireplace again.

Missing bricks: When bricks fall completely away from the chimney or parts of the bricks are missing, water damage is often the reason.

Black staining at the top of the chimney: This could be caused by the excess, thick smoke produced by a chimney fire.

Damage to chimney components

Damaged chimney cap: Any compromise to the vented areas of a chimney cap mean that unwanted obstructions could get into the flue and cause drafting issues.

Cracks in the chimney crown: Crown damage commonly begins with small cracks, which expand over time due to freeze-thaw cycles. Water inside the crown structure eventually can destroy it.

Flashing problems: The flashing that blocks the gap between the chimney and the roof should be flat and secure in order to keep water from running down into the home. Warped or deteriorated flashing needs to be replaced.

Chimney liner damage: If the chimney liner begins to break apart or degenerate, you may notice pieces of it in the firebox. You also may be able to visually see some parts of the liner to determine if damage is present.

Chimney Flue Cleaning in Glenwood, MDIssues inside the flue

Aside from what’s listed above, two serious issues can take place inside the flue.

  1. Excess creosote buildup: Creosote is formed when wood burns. The substance is flammable and responsible for most chimney fires in the U.S. each year.
  2. Outside obstructions: Things such as small-animal nests, dead small animals, leaves, twigs and other debris can narrow the smoke passage and cause smoke and carbon monoxide to back up into the house. In both these cases, professional chimney sweep services are called for.

As a homeowner, you can keep a close eye on your chimney and its components and be able to tell when something is wrong. However, your “novice” inspections are no replacement for professional chimney inspections performed by certified technicians. If you watch your chimney and schedule annual inspections by a pro, you’ll be taking a big step toward keeping your chimney safe and running optimallyHigh’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, provides everything you need for a safe chimney including certified chimney sweep, professional inspection and expert repair services. Call (301) 519-3500 with questions or to schedule an appointment.



How to Get Your Chimney Ready for Santa Claus

Chimney sweep in Potomac 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.