Are you constantly worried about creosote buildup, carbon monoxide poisoning, and house fires? Well, if you know the basics in the combustion process, you wouldn’t have to.
Basic Chimney Sweep & Repair Blog
A chimney’s job is to exhaust combustion gases from your home. However, when a chimney gets excessively dirty or clogged (by any number of things—debris and animal nests are common culprits), when your chimney damper is closed, or a part of your chimney is broken that prevents carbon monoxide and other combustion byproducts from venting, then you and your family may become at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. When carbon monoxide can’t access the outside of your home through your chimney it will “backdraft” into your home.
In high levels, carbon monoxide can become deadly within a matter of minutes, while low-level does can sicken people with flu-like symptoms. (Unlike the flu, carbon monoxide poisoning won’t cause a fever or glandular swelling.) Carbon monoxide poisoning is even sometimes mistaken as seasonal depression. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, [link to ] over 200 Americans die each year and 10,000 injuries are diagnosed—all from carbon monoxide poisoning related to venting problems with their heating systems.
The best way to prevent chimney-related carbon monoxide poisoning is to have your chimney inspected and swept annually. This is a recommendation shared by the Chimney Safety Institute of America, as well as most all other national fire safety organizations. A professional chimney cleaning can have many other benefits as well, including providing you with a safer, more efficient heating appliance that’s less likely to smoke in your home and create unpleasant odors. Beyond prevention, installing a carbon monoxide detector inside your home will be able to alert you to the presence of the deadly gas inside your home. Those of us at Basic Chimney Sweep & Repair are happy to inspect and clean your chimney so you can rest easy knowing you and your family are safe.
How Can I Tell If My Chimney Is Allowing Carbon Monoxide in My House?
Only a professional will be able to truly determine—via an inspection and/or cleaning —whether or not your chimney is allowing CO to vent into your home. Although many causes of chimney-related carbon monoxide poisoning are tucked away from view, there are sometimes visible signs that something may be amiss with your chimney, including:
- Rust or water streaks on your vent or chimney
- Loose chimney masonry
- A loose or missing furnace panel
- Loose or disconnected vent or chimney connections
- Debris or soot inside your home or falling from your chimney, fireplace, or appliance
- Moisture inside your windows
- Internal appliance damage or malfunctioning components
- Improper burner adjustment
- Hidden blockage or damage in chimney
If you’ve noticed any of these issues with your heating appliance, call us right away to schedule an inspection.
Physical Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
The trickiest part about this sometimes-deadly gas is that it can be very hard to detect, as it is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. This is why the call it “the silent killer.” Unfortunately, when our bodies are given the choice between carbon monoxide and oxygen, our blood protein hemoglobin will choose carbon monoxide over oxygen, replacing oxygen in our blood stream with carbon monoxide. Too much carbon monoxide in the blood will kill us.
Below are some of the physical symptoms that accompany low-level carbon monoxide poisoning. These are especially important to pay attention to during the colder months when you’re using your heating appliance:
- Red coloration of the skin
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dizziness, light-headedness, or loss of consciousness
- Fatigue or weakness, including muscle fatigue
- Chest pain
It is important to note that CO poisoning symptoms manifest differently for each person.
Other Causes of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Did you know that your clothes dryer can also cause carbon monoxide to leak into the home? The best way to prevent this problem is to have your dryer vent professionally inspected and cleaned. This is a service we at Basic Chimney Sweep & Repair are happy to provide to our customers. A dryer vent cleaning will also help your clothes to dry quicker, which will cost you less energy dollars and may even prevent a dryer fire, as lint tends to get clogged in dryer ducts, especially when your dryer is located in the center of your home and the duct has to travel a long distance to vent outdoors.
Contact us today to schedule an inspection of your chimney and/or your dryer duct. Keep your family safe and put your mind at ease, all while helping your appliances run more efficiently.
When Basic Chimney Sweep & Repair technicians come to your home for a chimney sweeping appointment, you’ll probably hear us talk a lot about byproducts, and creosote, and the combustion process. Those topics are kind of the basic building blocks of why chimney sweeping is so important — combustion in your fireplace creates byproducts, including creosote, which build up on the flue walls, affecting draft, potentially damaging your flue liner and, if left unswept, leading toward a fire hazard.
If you’ve ever wondered how the combustion process works inside your fireplace or flue, you’re not alone — we give a fireplace and chimney combustion rundown to a lot of clients, because it helps to have a sense of how things work when you’re trying to make informed decisions about the care of your chimney system.
Here are some of the basics:
Combustion In Your Chimney System
Combustion, at its most basic, is burning — or, if we’re talking the dictionary definition, a speedy chemical process that results in heat and light. When we’re focused on your chimney system, by referencing combustion, we’re talking about the process of burning fuel inside your firebox — be it wood, wood pellets or gas. You start your fire or hit your gas ignition switch, the fuel burns, heat and light result, and you get what you’re looking for out of your fireplace or stove.
Heat and light aren’t all that follows, though, and as chimney technicians, our job has a lot to do with keeping up with the other stuff — namely, byproducts and draft.
Draft And How It Occurs In Your Chimney
Draft is the force that pulls heat and byproducts up your flue, and out of your home, so proper draft is key to your chimney’s function. It occurs in your flue because of a principle we all know well: hotter air rises, and cooler air sinks. Air always moves from an area with higher pressure to lower pressure, and aressure difference occurs while combustion is happening in your fireplace or stove — hot air rising in your flue creates a lower-pressure area below, and that pulls in cooler air near your firebox opening, and draft moves along as it should.
What Can Impede Draft?
Issues with smoke, stains, odors and improper burning in your combustion appliance often have something to do with impeded draft. The specific culprits behind that impeded draft, though, can vary.
It could be something simple, like a failure to open your chimney damper all the way, or a lack of sufficient combustion air (that lower-temperature air getting pulled into your firebox). The latter happens a lot in homes with well-sealed energy-efficient windows and doors, and if cracking a window when you have a fire clears up the issue, you’ve found your culprit.
Draft problems could also be due to a size issue. A chimney that isn’t the correct height won’t achieve the right level of draft, and a flue that’s too big or too small in diameter will lead to draft issues, greater byproduct production and less efficient burning, among other issues,
Often enough, Basic Chimney techs find that draft issues are the result of flue liner damage. If your flue liner is cracked, or spotted with voids or gaps, it limits the force of your draft. Think of it kind of like a straw: Apply some force to an intact straw, and your drink comes right up; try with a straw that has a hole in it, and you’ll struggle and struggle with little success. That’s why it’s key to have your chimney inspected annually, and to have flue liner damage taken care of as soon as possible.
If you have any questions about combustion or draft in your chimney, Basic Chimney Sweeps is always here to help – just give us a call!
In an always on-the-go type of world people often overload their list and overlook some of the most important tasks. It’s even more important that you don’t let your fireplace and chimney be two places in your home that you do not neglect. Even though they are only used a portion of the year, they must have a annual inspection and chimney sweep to make sure that they are in safe and working order to make sure you and your family have a warm winter all year long. If you need to schedule your chimney sweep and inspection, call Basic Chimney Sweep and Repair.
Where to find CSIA Certified Sweeps?
When looking to hire chimney technicians, you need someone that is not only professional but CSIA certified. This means that they meet the standards set by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. These businesses can be found through a variety of ways, such as asking community members or online. For the safety of your home, you always want your chimney care to be the best.
Why Get a CSIA Certified Sweep?
There’s a lot of importance in having a chimney sweep. To start, they remove the built up creosotes that could potentially start a chimney fire. Creosotes can also cause a blockage where smoke will remain inside of your home. If you continue to breathe enough of this smoke in, you could develop Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Animals also cause blockages in your chimney, and a sweep will remove those as well. When doing the sweep a technician will be able to see if there are any parts the may not be in working order. What may seem as a small issue to you could potentially put you and your home in danger, even if it only a broken brick or tile. If there is a crack it will continue to grow until it is fixed. Water can then get in and form mold, and spread to the rest of your home when not taken care of. If the unit is broken it could not be only unsafe, but cost more to operate. These sweeps should be done annually at the beginning of the season by a CSIA professional.
Feel like you haven’t been getting the most out of your fireplace lately? Is your fire not quite warming you up? Are you hassled with smoke? Going through firewood a little too fast? An energy efficient fireplace is one that is performing its best. Don’t settle for less! At Basic Chimney, we’re huge supporters of efficiency. Below are some diagnostic tools to help you get maximum performance from your fireplace. And remember, one of the best things you can do for your fireplace is to maintain the chimney’s annual cleaning.
Can’t quite get warm?
If your fires aren’t heating your space as well as you’d like, you should consider changing the type of wood you’re using. If your wood isn’t seasoned or is damp, it takes a lot more energy from the fire just to stay burning, because it has to work so hard just to warm that water up in order to burn the wood. We always recommend burning seasoned, dry hardwoods. Hardwoods don’t necessarily burn at higher temperatures, but they do burn more slowly, which will help you get a nice, hot fire that burns for longer. Another trick to heating up that fire is to have tempered glass doors installed. This minimizes the fire’s consumption of warm air from your home.
Smoke gets in your eyes.
Yeah, it’s a beautiful song, but it’s not a beautiful thing. Not only is smoke a pest to the eyes and throat—it’s also dangerous for your health. If your fires are smoky, you might have a little work cut out for you. Sometimes it’s a quick and simple fix, and sometimes it takes a little trial and error. Follow these steps to determine what’s causing the problem:
- Check your firewood. As I said above, be sure your wood is dry and seasoned. Damp or green wood takes a lot longer to heat up, which prevents complete combustion (when the fire heats up enough to burn clean and combust its fuels) and doesn’t do much except produce smoke.
- Open your damper. It’s easy to forget things, so check to be sure that your damper is all the way open when you’re ready to light a fire.
- Open a window or door. It might seem counterintuitive to let the cold air in, but that might be exactly what your fire needs to get going and heat up your home. Fires consume a lot—and I mean a lot—of air. It’ll use up all the air in your about three times during 24 hours of operation. If it runs out of air supply, it’ll start pulling it down through the chimney, which forces the smoke back down and into the home.
My firewood is disappearing before my eyes!
It isn’t magic, either. Just like I mentioned above, hardwoods will burn at a high and consistent temperature if they are dry and seasoned. They also burn longer, which will get you more for your money. Remember, though—you’ll still want to keep a little soft wood on hand for kindling, since you want something that will burn a little faster to get the fire going.
Tried it all and still no luck? Give us a call and we’ll help you get well on your way to a healthy, clean fireplace that will keep you warm for years to come.
Keep It Covered
There are many homeowners who believe that they do not need a chimney cap. Although it may seem like an unnecessary addition or an accessory, there are many reasons that it is beneficial to use a chimney cap. Although the chimney can function without one, having one installed is the only way to prevent a number of common chimney problems.
The most common reason that people decide to get a chimney cap is because they have had an animal infestation in their chimney. If the chimney opening is left exposed, different types of rodents, birds, and small animals may build nests inside of the chimney. This is not only annoying, but it can be dangerous. The animals may clog the chimney and, in some cases, could carry diseases that spread into the home.
Another reason to have a chimney cap is to keep natural debris, such as leaves and twigs, from getting into the chimney. Like animal debris, these things can clog the chimney, which is far more dangerous than it may sound. If the chimney is clogged, it will keep smoke and combustible gasses in the home rather than letting them out. This can lead to any number of health risks as well as an increased risk of fire.
In addition to animals and leaves, it is important to keep excess moisture out of the chimney. This may come in the form of water or snow that gets in when there is not a chimney cap in place. Water in the chimney can cause many problems, ranging from mold to the deterioration of the structure itself. These issues can be quite serious but a chimney cap is a simple way to avoid them.
The chimney cap also helps to keep sparks inside of the chimney rather than letting them out. If sparks get out of the chimney, a breeze can quickly cause them to ignite. This will not only start a fire on the roof of the home in question but the fire could actually spread to other rooftops. This means that not only the home without the chimney cap but the entire neighborhood is put in harm’s way.
One of the most practical reasons for getting a chimney cap is that it prevents a draft. Without a chimney cap, cold air can come in from outside, especially when the fireplace is not in use. This forces the home’s heating system to work harder. As a result, the homeowners spend more money than necessary on energy each year, which is bad for both the budget and the environment.
A chimney cap may seem like an accessory but it actually serves many important functions for the home. It can help prevent any number of situations that can result in health and safety hazards as well as increased risk of fire. It is a small and simple piece that can make it easier for everyone to enjoy a fireplace safely.
Choosing Between a Factory Built Fireplace and a Masonry Fireplace for Your New Home
Building a new home can be a very exciting endeavor but it comes along with many important decisions. In addition to choosing siding and paint colors, new homeowners must decide whether they want a factory built fireplace or a masonry fireplace in their new homes. There are pros and cons to each but, in the end, the decision must be made based on personal preference and a few practicalities.
When choosing a fireplace for a new home, most homeowners are going to be concerned with safety above all else. The good news is that the safety factor will not play into the decision between a factory built or masonry fireplace. Both are equally safe if they are used properly and if foreign objects are not burned in them. In the case of a factory built fireplace, it is important that it is installed exactly according to the directions in order for it to function safely. And for either kind, it is essential to have the chimney swept and inspected once a year.
No matter which option a homeowner goes with, the fireplace will require the same basic maintenance in order to function safely. This means that the fireplace should be inspected and cleaned each year by a professional chimney sweep. The homeowner should also clean out the chimney after each use, leaving just a bit of ash underneath for insulation. If these simple steps are followed, there should be no major issues with either type of fireplace.
One thing to consider in terms of choosing a fireplace is that a masonry fireplace is likely to last longer than a factory built option. This is simply because the material used, brick, is more durable and longer lasting than metal, which is used in most factory built fireplaces. However, homeowners who do choose factory built fireplaces can typically go for many years without having to replace the fireplace or any of its parts.
On the other hand, a factory built fireplace is less expensive than a masonry fireplace. This is, again, because metal is a less expensive material than brick, especially in the quantity used for building a fireplace and chimney. If new homeowners are on a budget and trying to save money, a factory built fireplace is one way that they can accomplish that. They will still be able to enjoy all of the benefits of having a fireplace in their home on a cold winter night.
In many cases, the choice simply comes down to the homeowners’ sense of aesthetics. With a masonry fireplace, the area surrounding the hearth and the chimney will be made of brick. Those who go with a factory built option will have a structure that is made almost entirely out of metal. Some homeowners prefer the look of one to the other and allow that to be the final factor in making their decision.
Choosing a fireplace for a new home is a big decision because the fireplace will likely be used every day during the cold weather season. When choosing between a masonry fireplace and a factory built fireplace, keep in mind that both options are equally safe if they are properly cleaned and maintained. However, it is also important to remember that a masonry fireplace may last longer, while a factory built fireplace is more affordable. Those who have trouble making a choice can simply decide whether they prefer the look of metal or brick in their home.
Why Do I Need To Worry About Mold?
Mold has its uses — there’s penicillin, which has proved to be a positive enough thing, then there’s letting you know where north is when you’re lost in the woods, or letting you know that its time (or, well, past time) to toss that leftover lasagna. We’re all pretty aware at this point, though, that mold in your walls, ceilings or chimney can cause some serious dangers to the people in your home — particularly folks who suffer from respiratory conditions. As mold spores spread through the air, inhaling them can cause allergic reactions, sinus problems, congestion and flu-like symptoms (headaches, coughs and throat irritation), even, in rare cases, more serious problems. And unless the mold problem is taken care of, those symptoms can continue. Toxic black mold, or Stachybotrys, is particularly worrisome, and commonly occurs when water gets into building materials.
Basic Chimney techs will find any mold issues that might be hiding in your chimney masonry during your annual chimney inspection. But if mold starts to grow in between inspections, a few things will tip you to its presence.
Telltale Signs Of Mold
Mold has a musty, dusty smell that’s hard to miss. So if you’re noticing a foul odor coming from your fireplace, it’s worth giving Basic Chimney a call — your problem may not be mold, but chimney odors are a consistent indicator of some kind of problem in the system, and we can tell you what that is and recommend the best ways to solve that problem.
Leaks and stains
It’s usually easier to see mold in walls than on chimney masonry, but often enough, moisture issues that are significant enough to cause mold growth in your masonry will carry over to the surrounding drywall. If you notice the signs of a leak around your fireplace or chimney — particularly if you see dark stains — you may have a mold growth problem.
Preventing Mold Growth
The real key to preventing mold growth is the same key to taking good care of your chimney system overall: Do everything you can to keep water out. That means having your chimney inspected every year, to make sure leaks aren’t popping up in any common trouble areas (chimney crown cracks, flashing damage, degraded masonry); having a properly sized and correctly installed chimney cap protecting the flue; and keeping the chimney damper closed when the flue isn’t in use.
Waterproofing sealants can be a great preventative measure, too, helping the masonry itself stand up against rain and other kinds of precipitation.
If you think you might have a chimney mold problem, give Basic Chimney a call – our experienced technicians are here to help!
What Exactly Happens During a Chimney Inspection?
Having the chimney inspected is something that every homeowner should do, but many neglect to take care of it. Maybe the reason for this is because they do not understand exactly what happens during a chimney inspection and how it can benefit their family and home. In fact, a chimney inspection will help the chimney run more efficiently and make sure that it is not posing any serious risks to the home.
Before beginning a chimney inspection, a good chimney sweep will take precautions to protect the home. Out of courtesy for the customer, they should cover all floors and furniture to make sure that they do not track any soot or dirt into the home. Some will also wear booties over their shoes for an extra precaution. Although the fireplace is dirty, there is no reason to be worried about the condition of the home afterwards.
At the start of the inspection, the inspector will look over all parts of the chimney that are easily accessible. They will check to see if there is any obvious damage before they even get into a more in-depth inspection. This includes the structure of the chimney as well as its attachment to the home. A trained professional can tell quite a lot about the chimney’s safety and function just by looking at it.
After the preliminary inspection, the inspector will take a look at the interior of the chimney. This includes getting a good look at the structure of the flue as well as the flue liner. In many cases, the inspector will have a camera that can be used to get into the little nooks and crannies that an inspector cannot reach manually. They are able to see even the smallest cracks in the structure, which could eventually lead to significant damage.
The inspector may also inquire as to whether or not any changes have been made to the chimney or fireplace since the last inspection. This could be anything from a new chimney cap to a change in the fuel used for a gas fireplace. If any changes have been made, the inspector may want to double check the impacted area to make sure that everything is functioning as it should be. Homeowners should keep careful records of all changes made to their chimney and know that no adjustment is too small to mention to their inspector.
Before leaving, a good chimney inspector will ask the homeowner if they have any questions. They should be able to explain every aspect of the inspection and all of their findings as well as any other information that the homeowner may request. Prior to the inspection, it is a good idea to make a list of questions about the chimney that the inspector can answer. If they are unwilling or unable to answer any questions, it may be time to consider a new inspector for the following season.
A chimney inspection is the only way for a homeowner to rest assured that their chimney is safe and in good working order. Look for a chimney inspector who is willing and able to answer all questions as well as one who takes proper care of the surrounding area. A thorough inspection will include a superficial look at the structure as well as an in-depth scan with a camera that can see every small corner of the chimney. Here at Basic Chimney, we are committed to making sure you feel good about your annual upkeep.
What Is That Odor Coming from My Chimney?
Anyone who uses his or her chimney on a regular basis has most likely noticed an odor coming from it at one time or another. In order to know what to do about the problem, it is necessary to know exactly what is causing the problem. There are many different factors that may lead to smells coming from the chimney. Most of them can be easily fixed with some basic chimney maintenance.
If a chimney is not properly protected, it becomes the perfect place for birds and rodents to set up their homes. Once they have set up camp, there is any number of ways that odors can find their way into the home. Animal waste will eventually accumulate in the chimney as well as their fur and debris from their nests. A simple way to fix this problem is to install a chimney cap that will block animals from entering the chimney in the first place.
Another common cause of chimney odor is the accumulation of water in the chimney. Excess water often gets into the chimney in the way of rainfall or snow. It becomes a breeding ground for mold and bacteria, which not only smell unpleasant but can also be quite dangerous. Just as animals can be kept out with a chimney cap, this simple structure is a great way to keep excess water from entering the chimney and starting trouble.
When someone burns wood or coal that has been treated in their fireplace, it leaves behind creosote, a combination of chemicals. There are many side effects to a build up of creosote. For example, anyone who is exposed to it is at risk for skin and eye irritation as well as respiratory illness. However, creosote also leaves behind an unpleasant smell, which will eventually enter the home.
Of course, it is important for homeowners to keep in mind that some odor coming out of the chimney is perfectly normal. Whenever there are treated materials burning, there is going to be some ash and soot left behind. This is not something to be concerned about unless it is causing a disturbance in the home. If the smell becomes overwhelming or is irritating family members with allergies, it should be addressed immediately.
The best way to handle chimney odor and to avoid it completely is to have the chimney professionally cleaned at least once a year. This can be done at the start of fireplace season or at the end, it doesn’t matter — as long as it gets done. A professional chimney sweep will have the tools and skills to completely clean the chimney while, at the same time, checking for evidence of any problems that may occur in the near future.
Chimney odor is a perfectly normal part of using a fireplace and chimney. However, there are some instances in which the odor becomes overwhelming and needs to be taken care of by a professional. This may be caused by the accumulation of creosote, excess water, or even by animals that have set up their homes in the chimney. Some of these situations not only cause an unpleasant smell but also put the family at other risks, such as house fire or illness. Here at Basic Chimney, we have your safety and comfort in mind with everything we do.