Chimney Inspection

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.

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.