Basic Chimney Sweep & Repair Blog
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.
The great thing about increasing energy-efficiency in your home is that you will also save money.
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.
Chimney caps protect your chimney from animals, birds and debris. Any obstruction in your chimney compromises both safety and efficiency.
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.
Both masonry and prefabricated fireplaces are equally as safe, as long as there are annual cleaning and inspections of the chimney.
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.
Mold can cause respiratory problems and other health concerns. It also means you need to waterproof your chimney.
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.
A thorough chimney inspection requires a look at all parts of the chimney system. A certified sweep knows what to look for and what it means.
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.
A certified sweep can help you identify the cause of the odor and suggest ways to address the problem. Call Basic Chimney today to schedule an appointment.
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.
A chimney is subject to a lot of wear and tear from the weather. It sticks up above the roof of the house and takes the brunt of all the wind, rain, and snow. This will quickly take its toll on any brick or masonry structure. As time goes on the mortar will crack and break off putting the structure of the chimney in jeopardy. If the structure of the chimney fails it could topple onto your roof and possibly fall through. Then you will have new appreciation for the term “hit you like a ton of bricks”. Luckily your certified chimney sweep is more than capable of fixing this issue before it ever gets to that point.
It isn’t unusual for Mother Nature to loosen bricks and mortar over time.
If during the process of inspection your chimney sweep discovers cracked or broken mortar they will being repointing the chimney. Repointing involves removing old broken bits of mortar and replacing it with new mortar. While this sounds like a relatively straight forward process there are some intricacies that require a lot of attention to detail.
The first part of the repointing process is to determine how much of the mortar is damaged. The obvious missing pieces are easy to notice but what may be less immediately apparent is any mortar that may be cracked and/or detached from the existing mortar but still lodged between the bricks. Adhering new mortar to these pieces is essentially pointless as those pieces can just as easily fall out as the bricks expand and contract over time. Once the sweep has determined exactly which pieces are damaged they will remove them.
Once the chimney is devoid of all broken pieces of mortar your chimney sweep can begin to apply new mortar. It is very important to mix mortar that is of a similar type, consistency, and color as the existing mortar. The color is for purely aesthetic purposes but the consistency is another matter. If you try to bond 2 different types of mortar it is difficult to get them to adhere to one another permanently. Once the chimney sweep has mixed the appropriate mortar they can begin filling in the gaps left by the broken and faulty older mortar.
When filling in the gaps it takes special care to make sure that everything is done properly. Too much mortar will put uneven pressure on the bricks during the regular movement caused by weather and temperature change and can cause the bricks themselves to crack. Not enough mortar and they will not hold and the process will have to be repeated. After all this is done the chimney should be re-sealed to prevent water damage which can cause extensive damage to your chimney and if not managed the rest of your home.
It is always a good idea to check your chimney periodically for pieces of broken brick or mortar and if anything seems amiss call your local certified chimney sweep and they will come out and get to work. Of course it is important to have your chimney regularly inspected to make sure a problem like this does not get ignored and progress into an even bigger issue that can threaten the structural stability of your chimney and indeed your entire house.
The Basics of Maintaining Your Prefabricated Fireplace.
A prefabricated fireplace is a great option for someone who does not have a masonry fireplace included in the structure of their home. However, some homeowners do not realize that these structures require just as much attention and maintenance as their counterparts. In order to safely enjoy a prefabricated fireplace, it is absolutely necessary to follow a few important guidelines for maintenance.
When purchasing a prefabricated fireplace, it will be necessary to also purchase a chimney and a cap. What people must keep in mind is that the manufacturers create all three of these pieces to be used together. It is absolutely necessary to only use the chimney and cap that are intended to go with the particular fireplace. Mixing and matching will affect not only the efficiency but also the safety of the entire system and should be avoided at all times.
As with any fireplace, it is necessary to keep a prefabricated fireplace clean in order to have it function properly. Be sure to remove any excess material left in the fireplace, but you will need to leave about one eighth of an inch on the bottom for proper insulation. It is best to double-check the cleanliness of the fireplace before starting a fire and then to clean it thoroughly after putting the fire out.
A properly fitted chimney cap keeps debris, birds and animals from your chimney.
Some people think that their prefabricated fireplace is not vulnerable to the same type of problems as a masonry fireplace. However, this is not the case and it is important to provide some of the same maintenance. For example, birds are just as likely to make their nests in a prefabricated chimney as they are in a masonry one. Be on the lookout for these issues and resolve them as quickly as possible.
In general, it is necessary to monitor normal wear and tear on a prefabricated fireplace a bit more closely than a masonry option. Since they are made out of materials that are not quite as durable as, for example, brick, they will not stand up to as much stress. In order to make sure it is functioning properly at all times, inspect the fireplace regularly and call a professional immediately if there are any unexplained changes.
Although a prefabricated fireplace differs structurally from a masonry fireplace, many of the same safety and maintenance rules apply. For example, it is important to only burn properly dried wood and to not put any foreign material into the fireplace. It is also important to make sure the chimney is clear of obstructions to avoid smoke in the home. Failure to follow these simple rules can cause serious safety hazards.
A prefabricated fireplace is a great option for anyone who does not have a fireplace attached to their home. In order to use it safely, it is important to remember that many of the same safety and maintenance rules apply to a masonry fireplace. In fact, they require a bit more attention because they are not built to withstand the same normal wear and tear as masonry fireplaces. Be sure to only use them with the appropriately compatible pieces, such as the chimney and cap. Keep the fireplace clean at all times and keep in mind that it can have the same issues as other fireplaces, such as dangerous obstructions in the chimney.
How Would You Know?
Having animals in your chimney is one of the most complicated and frustrating situations for a homeowner. Not only can animals cause damage to the chimney, but they can also carry diseases and pests that put the entire family at risk. If someone suspects that animals have set up a home in their chimney, they need to take immediate steps to remove them.
Squirrel Like Chimneys – Baton Rouge LA – Basic Chimney Sweep & Repair
It is possible that you could have animals in your chimney and not even realize it. One of the most common signs is an unpleasant smell coming from the chimney. This could be caused by a number of things but is most often attributed to animal nests and waste sitting in the chimney over a period of time. Another sure sign that there are animals in the chimney is an scratching or banging sound coming from the fireplace. It isn’t a ghost…it is likely a critter who has made himself comfortable in your heating system.
If someone suspects that an animal lives in their chimney, they should resist the urge to try to get it out themselves. This really isn’t a DIY job for a couple of reasons. There is a good chance that the animal is carrying a disease or pests such as ticks. If the animal has a disease such as rabies, there is a strong possibility that they will attack whoever tries to remove them. Although this job should be handled immediately, it is best to wait until a chimney sweep that is trained to deal with these issues can take care of it. The certified sweep is trained to safely remove birds and animals and to dispose of them if they have died.
Once the animals have been removed from the chimney, it is important to prevent this problem from ever occurring again. The best way to do this is by having a chimney cap installed. This is a simple device that is exactly what it sounds like and prevents any future animals from making their way into the chimney. It is an inexpensive and effective solution to a serious problem.
If there is a strange sound or smell coming from the fireplace, there is a good chance that animals are living in the chimney. If this does prove to be the case, it is important to allow a trained chimney sweep to take care of the situation. Once they have been evicted, it is important to install a chimney cap that will prevent them from returning. This is the best way to ensure safe and efficient heating from your chimney.
How to Choose a Chimney Sweep
A responsible homeowner knows that they should have their chimney inspected and cleaned by a chimney sweep at least once a year. However, the problem often comes when they need to choose a chimney sweep to get the job done. How do you know who to trust to ensure the safety and efficiency of your heating system? There are a few guidelines that anyone can follow to make sure the job is done right.
Chimney Sweep – Baton Rouge LA – Basic Chimney
The best place to start when looking for a chimney sweep is with friends and family members who also have chimneys in their homes. Ask them which company they use to maintain their chimney and how they felt about the experience. These people will not be invested in the company and will therefore have no problem giving their unbiased opinion. They will be able to speak to the chimney sweep’s ability but also to their professionalism and customer service. If no one has a good recommendation, consider contacting the Better Business Bureau for a recommendation of a reputable company.
Even after speaking with someone who can make an informed recommendation, it is important to do some independent research before making a decision. When speaking with the company for the first time, be sure to ask if they have contact information for recent customer references. It is important to make sure that references are current in order to get the most accurate information. A less recent client may have dealt with someone who is no longer with the company and is not indicative of the service they provide now.
Another thing to consider is that many chimney sweep companies get a great deal of their business through word of mouth. For this reason, it is important to ask for how long the company has been in business. If a company has been providing consistent, sub par service in a community, it is unlikely that they will stay in business for very long. This will also give an indication of how experienced the individual chimney sweeps are likely to be.
Many people do not realize that it takes a special certification to become a chimney sweep. All reputable chimney sweeps are certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. However, this does not mean that every technician working for a given company is certified. Before making an appointment, make sure the company can ensure a certified technician will actually be the one to do the job.
After doing all of this legwork, it is reasonable to expect that the chimney cleaning will go off without a hitch. However, even the most experienced and reliable chimney sweeps have been known to have accidents from time to time. It is necessary to choose a company that can provide proof of insurance for all workers. This will ensure that everyone is protected in the event of an injury or if there is any damage to the chimney and fireplace.
Finding a reliable chimney sweep is an important task because the chimney and fireplace are such vital parts of the home. After asking friends and relatives for recommendations, do not forget to ask the company themselves for recent references. Make sure that the chosen company is insured and can guarantee a chimney sweep that is certified by the CSIA. Taking all of these steps will ensure that the home has a clean and safe chimney.