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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.

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.

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.

     

     

     

    What is Glazed Creosote?

    glazed creosoteSoot isn’t all that builds up in the chimney from your woodburning fireplace. Creosote is a chemical compound that’s created when condensation interacts with smoke. It also builds up in the chimney. It can become a major hazard if it hardens into glazed creosote.

    What is Glazed Creosote?

    When wood burns, the smoke produced contains many different gases and particles like carbon monoxide and ash. As they move up through the chimney, condensation interacts with these byproducts producing creosote which builds up along the chimney walls. In the early stage of creosote build-up, it is flaky and easy to remove like soot. If it isn’t removed, it can progress to the second stage when it becomes sticky and tar-like. The third and final stage of creosote buildup is glazed creosote. It reaches this stage when there is enough creosote built up in the chimney to reduce airflow through the flue.

    Creosote is flammable during all three stages, but glazed creosote is the most dangerous. If a stray spark ignites glazed creosote deposits, the fire can burn at high temperatures for a long time. This can cause serious structural damage to your chimney or spread to your home.

    How to Remove Glazed Creosote

    Glazed creosote is tough to remove. We have seen amateurs try to get rid of it with chains, chisels, and other heavy-duty tools that damage the chimney liner in the process. Using a fireplace with a damaged chimney liner can be as dangerous as a chimney lined with glazed creosote. Professionals get rid of glazed creosote by using industrial-grade creosote remover that will not damage the chimney liner. They spray or brush the remover onto the glazed creosote. Once it is absorbed, the creosote will begin to soften and flake until all of it can be brushed off and vacuumed out.

    How to Prevent Glazed Creosote

    Even though glazed creosote can be removed by a professional, stopping creosote from getting to that stage is the best way to prevent a chimney fire. There are two steps you can take to avoid third stage creosote:

    Step 1: Only burn seasoned firewood.Chimney sweep in Middletown MD

    Burning paper, cardboard, trash, or other flammable materials besides wood will accelerate creosote buildup because they produce more chemical byproducts as they burn. Green or unseasoned firewood also produces more chemical byproducts when burned. If you only burn seasoned firewood, less creosote will build up in the chimney during burning season.

    Step 2: Schedule annual chimney cleanings.

    Scheduling a chimney cleaning every spring, after using the fireplace in the winter, will prevent creosote from building up year after year. If you schedule a cleaning once a year, it is unlikely the creosote in your chimney will reach the third stage. It will also open up the airway in your chimney so that your fireplace functions properly next winter.

     

    Need to schedule a chimney cleaning this year? Give High’s Chimney Service a call! Our team of CSIA- and CCP-certified chimney technicians serve residents throughout Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC. Call 703-550-5115 or 301-519-3500

     

    Chimney Anatomy: What You Need to Know

    To look at a chimney, it doesn’t appear that very much is going on. It’s just a vent system that allows smoke to leave the firebox and be sent into the outside air. This is a good description of how chimneys work. But for them to work efficiently and safely, many components must conspire and work together correctly. Here is an overview of basic chimney anatomy.

    Chimney damper

    Chimney dampers are located just above the firebox and have an open and closed function to regulate air flow. There are also top-sealing dampers that go on the top of the chimney. Dampers must be fully open during a fire to produce the correct amount of air flow and drafting. When the fireplace is not in use, chimney dampers should be sealed tightly shut to prevent the transfer between interior and exterior air as well as to keep possible debris and small animals from entering the home.

    Smoke shelf

    Located between the firebox and smoke chamber (see below), the smoke shelf’s job is to collect any rainwater or debris that may have entered the chimney. The smoke shelf also helps to prevent downdrafts from sending smoke and toxins into your home.

    Smoke chamber

    The smoke chamber is found just above the damper and smoke shelf and acts as a conduit for taking smoke from the firebox up into the chimney. The surfaces of the smoke chamber should be smooth to allow efficient drafting. If surfaces become rough with age, drafting can be impaired and excess flammable creosote can begin to build up, further hampering drafting. It is estimated that about 60% of chimney fires start in the smoke chamber.

    Chimney flue

    The flue is the inside of the chimney, the narrow vent path running from the smoke chamber to the outside of the home. For safety, many flues contain chimney liners, or flue liners, to channel smoke out of the home and protect the masonry of the chimney from dampness, acids and intense heat.

    Chimney liner

    The majority of chimney liners are made from aluminum, stainless steel, clay tiles or poured-in-place masonry. A clean liner that’s in good repair will efficiently vent smoke and toxins out of your firebox and into the outside air. Damaged liners can lead to a chimney fire and the decomposition of the bricks and mortar that make up the chimney. Damaged liners also are more likely to hold buildups of creosote, which can ignite and start a fire.

    Chimney chase top

    Chase tops serve as a protection against rain and moisture. These components usually are standard equipment for factory-built chimneys and are rarely seen on masonry chimneys.

    Chimney Repair in Germantown MDChimney crown

    Chimney crowns are cement structures that serve as a top covering for masonry chimneys, sealing off the entire area except for the flue pipes. Chimney crowns protect the chimney’s bricks and mortar from rain damage.

    Chimney cap

    The chimney cap sits atop the chimney and acts as a guard against rainwater as well as infiltration by various debris including twigs and leaves from nearby trees as well as small animals like squirrels and rodents, who like to build nests inside chimneys. Chimney caps have mesh sides, which allow smoke to draft while keeping outside elements outside where they belong.

    As you can see, chimneys and their components all work together to allow you to operate your fireplace safely and confidently year after year. The only way to ensure that your chimney is in tip-top shape is to schedule yearly inspections and cleaning from a CSIA-certified chimney sweep.

    If it’s time for a thorough inspection or cleaning for your chimney, contact Highs Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, at (301) 519-3500. Our only goal is your complete satisfaction and safety.

     

    Common Issues When Connecting New Gas Appliances to Older Chimneys

    gas applianceCommon Issues When Connecting New Gas Appliances to Older Chimneys
    Home-heating appliances like means a chimney or vent pipe.
    For drafting to work right, the problems are bound to occur. This is all very relevant when connecting gas heating appliances such as stoves and fireplaces to older, existing chimneys. Just because a chimney is a “vent system” doesn’t mean it’s ideal for the new appliance.Incompatibility in this hookup sluggishly. Let’s look at both problems.

    Dangerous chemicals within the flue

    When the connector pipe on the new gas appliance is too small for the chimney flue, every time combustion happens, overproduction of acids and other chemicals will occur. Once example is the creation of hydrochloric acid that happens when chlorides in the air come into contact with condensation inside the flue. The result – either sooner or later – will be erosion of the chimney liner and areas of the masonry.

    It’s bad enough to have this environment inside the flue. Worse is when hampered air flow causes combustion chemicals including deadly carbon monoxide (CO) to backdraft down into the home. CO is invisible and odorless, which means people can be poisoned by it before they realize they’re breathing it in.

    Problems with air flowgas stove

    A proper draft system will pull smoke and toxins up away from the firebox and channel them to the outside. When a gas appliance and existing chimney are improperly sized for one another, as noted, toxins produced through fuel combustion can flow backwards into the home.

    The reason this happens, ironically, is because of the high efficiency of modern gas appliances. For example, gas fireplaces and stoves send the majority of their heat into the home, rather than up the chimney. If the flue is too large for the gas appliance, not enough heat will move up it to warm (lighten) the denser cold air high in the chimney. This makes it difficult for the lower volume of lighter combustion air to move up and out of the flue.

    For these reasons, it’s very important to have your new gas appliance installed only by a certified chimney professional. This individual will thoroughly inspect the existing chimney and make any necessary modifications to ensure that proper drafting is achieved. Connecting a new gas-fueled appliance to a chimney designed to draft wood smoke is never a job for a novice.

    Chimney damage signs

    If you’ve been running a gas appliance through an existing chimney not specifically built for the appliance, signs of chimney damage you may notice include:

    • Exterior chimney masonry that is discolored

    • Blistering/bubbling paint on interior walls of the home

    • Crumbling chimney bricks and mortar

    Ceiling staining

    • Interior or exterior walls that are damp or wet to the touch

    • Peeling wallpaper

    Any of these signs of chimney damage warrant immediate service from a certified chimney technician before you use your gas appliance again. High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, is ready to help with inspection and installation of your new gas appliance, no matter what type of vent system you’re connecting it to. Count on us to do the job right and ensure the safety of you and your family. Call (301) 519-3500 to arrange a service call or to get your questions answered.

     

    Preventative Maintenance Cuts Chimney Repair Costs

    fireplace draft issues in Chevy Chase MDLiving in a home with a fireplace is a big perk especially here on the east coast. On dark winter evenings, it’s a pleasure to relax next to a crackling fire in the hearth. Unfortunately, your fireplace’s chimney could become a costly expense if it isn’t maintained. Investing a little now in preventative chimney maintenance can save you thousands of dollars in future repairs.

    Your home’s chimney is battered by high winds, heavy rainfall, and driving snow. Even though it’s built to last for decades, it is still vulnerable to damage, especially from water intrusion. A leaking chimney is one of the most common problems that chimney sweeps are requested to fix. Repairing water damage to your chimney and surrounding walls, ceilings, and support beams can be extremely expensive.

    Critter problems in the chimney are almost as common as water problems. Many animals love to make their homes in them increasing the likelihood of a chimney fire. They can also attract other pests like insects to your home or bring in diseases.

    There are 4 inexpensive preventative maintenance steps that you can take to avoid costly chimney repairs.

    #1 – Waterproof the Masonry & Seal the Chimney Crown

    Water is the leading cause of chimney damage. It can lead to structural damage to the chimney and ruined drywall, ceilings, floorings or structural beams in your home. One of the ways that water gets in is by seeping into the masonry or through cracks in the chimney crown.

    Bricks, mortar, and concrete that haven’t been treated with a waterproofing sealant absorb water. When the water in the masonry freezes and thaws, during chilly months, it expands and contracts. This can cause cracks and breaks. Eventually, it can weaken the structure of the chimney. You can prevent this by treating the masonry with a waterproofing sealant and the chimney crown with a waterproofing sealant that also fills in any small cracks.

    #2 – Treat the Chimney Flashing

    Flashing is the metal seal that bridges the gap between the chimney and the roof. It prevents precipitation from slipping in between the two structures. Most chimney leaks are caused by deteriorated flashing. Treating the flashing with waterproofing sealant prevents deterioration and extends its life.

    chimney maintenance maryland

    #3 – Have a Chimney Cap Installed

    A chimney cap has two important jobs: prevent animals and precipitation from getting into the chimney. It is a metal cap that covers the opening at the top of the chimney so that rain, sleet, and snow can’t fall straight down the chimney. It typically has wire mesh around the side to prevent critters from crawling or flying into the mouth of the chimney.

    #4 – Schedule an Annual Inspection & Cleaning

    Creosote is a dangerously flammable chemical compound that builds up in chimneys. It’s the result of condensation in the chimney that mixes with soot and other combustion byproducts. It is the leading cause of chimney fires. Removing it yourself, without experience and specialized equipment, is difficult. CSIA-certified chimney sweeps have the training, experience, and equipment to clean it out and prevent the risk of a house fire.

    Fire safety and chimney experts agree that an annual chimney cleaning is the most important step you can take to prevent a house fire sparked by your fireplace. During the cleaning, a professional chimney sweep will also perform an annual inspection. Their training and experience equip them to notice potential chimney problems that you could easily overlook. Diagnosing and fixing small problems found early during an annual inspection is the best way to prevent them from becoming big, expensive issues.

    Are you ready to protect your chimney? Give us a call to learn more about the preventative maintenance services that we can provide! Our CSIA- and CCP-certified chimney technicians are experts in chimney maintenance, cleaning, and inspections.

    High’s Chimney / (301) 519-3500