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Basic Chimney Sweep & Repair Blog

What is Chimney Relining?

Whether you are moving into a new home with a fireplace or you have lived in your home for years, your chimney should be inspected before winter arrives in all its glory. In addition to needing a good cleaning, your chimney liner may be compromised. After years of use, it is a good idea to have it checked by professional to ensure it is still in workable condition.

Chimney Relining Will Extend the Life of Your Chimney

Every chimney has a lining. This lining can be made from clay tiles, metal, or it can be cast-in-place. Clay is rather inexpensive and has a lifespan of about 50 years, but extreme weather conditions can sometimes cause structural problems, such as cracking. One sign of a compromised clay liner will be fallout in the fireplace.

A cast-in-place liner is usually used as an alternative to clay. The cement is poured into the flue, creating a cast mold. Some prefer this to clay as fireplaces with this type of liner tend to burn cleaner and create less of creosote buildup inside, which as you know, is very dangerous and can cause a house fire to occur.

The last type of chimney liner is a metal liner. This tends to get the best feedback from professionals, as they believe it lasts longer and is much easier to install. The cost can be a bit more than the other alternatives, but the lifespan is also longer. In other words, a single installation should last throughout your ownership of the home with little danger of needed repair. Relining with this method can be done with either rigid or flexible stainless steel.

If your chimney needs relining, you will have to decide which type of liner you prefer. It is a good idea to go over all three types of liners with your technician to see what they are more experienced installing and which type will be safer for your particular fireplace.

By Ronald Caillais on October 16th, 2012 | Tagged with: Tags: , | Leave a Comment

The Dangers of Creosote in Your Chimney

Creosote buildup occurs in the chimneys of wood burning fireplaces. It is actually a tar-like buildup that accumulates within the chimney structure. Not only is this a fire hazard, but it can cause numerous other health problems. With as little as 1/8″ being enough to cause a house fire, homeowners are advised to have their chimneys inspected and cleaned at least once a year by an expert.

Common Dangers of Creosote Buildup

  1. Fire – as mentioned above, it takes very little buildup to cause a fire. This is actually one of the top causes of home fires, and it is preventable with regular maintenance. This is something the homeowner should consult a professional in order to ensure it is done properly.
  2. Cancer – creosote is a possible cause of skin cancer. In fact, the professionals that clean chimneys for a living are at a higher risk of developing skin cancer if they do not wear the proper protective clothing while performing their duties.
  3. Skin Irritation – in addition to the risk of cancer, creosote can also cause a variety of other skin irritations. Typically, these are described as excessive redness, burning sensations, and swelling. If the exposure continues, the skin can become extremely sensitive to natural light and may develop sores. If you notice these symptoms, you should consult with your family physician immediately.
  4. Eye Irritation – exposure can cause your eyes to become extremely sensitive to light. You may also notice excessive tearing. In addition, creosote can actually damage your vision.
  5. Other Internal Medical Issues – breathing in creosote fumes can begin to cause irritation throughout your respiratory system. Your mouth, nose, and throat can all become inflamed. There is also the danger of severe respiratory issues as well as digestive problems. At its worst, creosote ingestion will induce a coma and possibly death. Just a small amount of inhaled creosote over prolonged periods of time can cause internal organ damage.
By Ronald Caillais on October 9th, 2012 | Tagged with: Tags: , | Leave a Comment

How Do I Know If I Should Hire a Chimney Sweep?

Chimneys typically look lovely and appealing, and that’s to be expected, so how do we know if we really need to hire a chimney sweep. A chimney sweep needs to be hired before your chimney actually begins deteriorating and incurring structural damage. This will save you money in the long run. It is important to keep your chimney clean and up to date. Just like any mold, dust, and mildew can be harmful to you and your family, chimneys can hold many dangers that can be hazardous to your health.

Attempting to clean your own chimney is not an easy task to try to tackle yourself, and could even cause the problems to worsen. Fires are unpredictable, and just the slightest wrong move can put your fireplace and chimney in danger of being more susceptible to a future fire.

Wood burning stoves will most likely need a professional chimney sweep to remove natural build up, especially from woods such as pine, that contain higher amounts of moisture. Most soot from wood-burning stoves will need to be removed with a wire brush and possibly even chemicals. If this is not taken care of professionally, it can cause much build-up and can be a major cause of chimney fires.

Depending on the climate you live in and the amount your stove is used, your cleaning schedule will vary. If you are using your stove often, it may need up to four cleanings throughout the winter months. But some may be fine to clean once a year, commonly in the late spring or summer. Schedule as early as possible, as a booking can take several weeks to a month.

Many problems can occur that a chimney sweep will have solutions for. Any obvious damage to the structure can be dangerous, including cracked or missing tiles or bricks, and even deteriorating mortar. The smallest crack can be dangerous, allowing water or even flames to escape. Flames or chunks escaping out of your chimney can set your house on fire. Animals, including birds and their nests, squirrels, and snakes can take shelter in your chimney during the off season. There are chimney caps available if this is a problem in your area. The cap can keep out animals and even moisture from the wet and rainy seasons.

Unfortunately even prior installations may have not been done correctly, and can continue damaging your chimney if not checked regularly.

Beyond regularly cleaning out your common ashes and soot in your fireplace, there really isn’t much you can do, without professional tools and equipment. Don’t ever put yourself in harms way just to save a penny.

Fireplaces and chimneys are not to be messed with. Your family is worth the price. A chimney sweep should be scheduled yearly, at least. Feel free to ask about your options. You do not always need a repair, many times only a cleaning is needed, and can keep you from so many troubles in the future. A clean and safe chimney will always lead to happiness!

By Ronald Caillais on September 23rd, 2012 | Tagged with: Tags: , | Leave a Comment

How Do I Know if My Chimney has Structural Damage?

There are definitely warning signs when it comes to chimney damage. There are some that are not visible and need professional investigation, but there are definitely some signs that you can look for to know if you are in need of further inspection. Chimney damage is definitely not something to be casual about. If you see signs of a damaged chimney, the safety of your home and even your family may be in danger.

Is Water a Problem? Any type of water or moisture in the chimney is an immediate concern. Water in your chimney can come from many sources. If there has been heavy rain, chimneys retain much water. Chimneys are commonly built from brick and mortar, which like a sponge, can hold a lot of water, but will eventually reach its maximum and begin to leak into your firebox and even into your home. Some of the damage may not even be visible or apparent without further structural investigation. Rust is caused by water, therefore any type of rust is a definite warning sign, whether it be in the chimney itself or maybe even in the damper or firebox. Clay Tile Chimney Liners are also in danger of cracking due to water leaking into the tiles, which can be caused by even a very small crack.

Water damage in any part of your chimney is a major warning sign. No matter where the moisture is located, it is important to search it out and find the source.

Mortar Schmortar. Who needs it? Your chimney does. Deterioration in the mortar between the bricks is commonly caused by water and regular wear and tear. It can also be caused by weather changes and even just the natural settling of the houuse. Mortar deteriation can be a serious problem. When the mortar is damaged or breaking off, it allows water to get behind the bricks and cause structural damage, allowing pieces of the chimney to fall away from the brick structure. This is often caused by the freezing and thawing weather, which causes the bricks to contract and expand.

Fire, The greater danger. Continued use of a chimney after a fire can put you and your home in great danger. There is usually damage beyond the obvious fire damage that you see. Fires effect the creosote deposits, causing cracking to the tiles and the liner. It will continue to build up, making normal use very unsafe. You must have a thorough inspection after a fire, even if it seems that there was no permanent damage incurred.

By Ronald Caillais on September 8th, 2012 | Tagged with: Tags: , | Leave a Comment

Critters and Such in the Chimney

Humans are not the only species that need a warm, dry place to live. Without proper prevention, your chimney can become a haven to many a fine feathered or four legged friend. Birds are always on the lookout for somewhere to nest. In the spring and summer time, raccoons will often seek a place to have their young. Scampering squirrels may fall prey to an accidental entrapment. If you hear a scratching and clawing sound in your chimney, it probably isn’t Santa.

Not only is a scared animal in your chimney irritating, it can also be dangerous. Nests and clogs can cause chimney fires. While they look cute and cuddly in National Geographic or the zoo, these creatures can introduce fun things like parasites and fleas into your home.

The best way to prevent critters is a durable chimney cap. Ask Basic Chimney Sweep to make a recommendation. There are lots to choose from! If you are already experiencing a chimney invasion, there are a few things you can do while waiting on us to give you support. Raccoons especially do not like loud noise, so try a radio blasting. Bright lights and strong odors are also effective. Perhaps try that three month old cheese casserole you forgot about in the fridge. Overall, don’t take it on alone! Call in Basic Chimney Sweep. We are trained not only in how to remove squirrely squirrels, but also how to do so safely.

By Ronald Caillais on August 25th, 2012 | Tagged with: Tags: , | Leave a Comment

Don’t Forget To Have Your Dryer Vents Cleaned

One household task that gets routinely forgotten is dryer vent cleaning. This can be a very dangerous situation, because the lint that collects in the dryer vent is extremely flammable. All it would take is a single spark for disaster to strike. It is important to remember, though, that this is not a job that can easily be done without the proper tools. Keep in mind, you’ll need to clean more than the ends of the vent. There will be plenty of lint in the middle portion of the vent pipe.

Besides the obvious fire hazard, a clogged dryer vent will run less efficiently. This causes your clothes to dry more slowly, and your utility bill to go up more rapidly. Also, the dryer itself is likely to have a shorter life because it has to work so much harder. You will find that your overall costs to clean your clothes goes up exponentially by failing to properly maintain your dryer vent system. Of course, money savings aren’t the only consideration regarding dryer duct cleaning.

Statistically, there are around 15,000 dryer vent fires every year. Besides a professional cleaning, be sure to clean out the lint trap after each use. Also, never leave the dryer running when you leave your home. You never know when you might have a problem. The worst part is this is a preventable disaster. With some simple maintenance, you can avoid dryer vent hazards. There aren’t many disasters that are this simple to prevent.

Be aware of the potential dangers you face with your dryer, furnace, chimney, and other home appliances that involve fire. Proper care and awareness will keep you and your family safe from completely preventable disasters. That makes the cost of a cleaning well worth the cost, because your family and your home are priceless.

By Ronald Caillais on August 7th, 2012 | Tagged with: Tags: , | Leave a Comment

Why is Chimney Cleaning Important?

Your chimney is something that is going to need attention and effort to keep it clean. If you just bought the home, you may not be used to having one. Regardless, it is an important part of chimney ownership. Also, regular maintenance is going to prolong the usage of the appliance. No one wants to have to spend large amounts of money on chimney repairs, so when you think about the cost of a chimney inspection, remember that it is much more expensive to have to repair it down the road.

Besides the need to keep the chimney functioning properly, you also want to keep it working safely. Excessive buildup of creosote, as well as debris, can create a dangerous situation that just might result in a chimney fire. Since creosote is so flammable, you have to remember that any kind of buildup is dangerous. Also, leaves, branches, and animal nests are also likely to cause a fire. All it will take is one burning ember to climb up the chimney, and ignite whatever the obstruction is.

Another reason for regular chimney cleaning is the potential for odor problems. Chimneys that are not maintained become chimney that stink. All of that buildup, whatever the buildup might be, will inevitably cause the appliance to send foul odors down into your home. Honestly, who wants to deal with that? Just give us a call, and we will perform a chimney inspection and cleaning that will make your chimney start working the way it is supposed to.

It is important to remember that it is not a good idea to try an inspection yourself. Unless you have a trained eye, and the right equipment, you may not correctly spot the trouble areas that could be lurking. Give us a call, and we will thoroughly inspect your chimney. You will then be able to rest safely, knowing that your chimney appliance is working safely and efficiently.

By Ronald Caillais on July 27th, 2012 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Your Home

Did you know that hundreds of Americans are killed each year by carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning? This colorless and odorless gas can cause you to get sick at lower levels, and can lead to death at higher levels. It can potentially come from many places: your gas powered furnace, exhaust from your car, kerosene heaters, and wood and gas burning fireplaces. The key for people when dealing with this potentially fatal problem is finding out where the problem is coming from to begin with. The only tried and true way to avoid a dangerous situation is to have your appliances that emit CO regularly inspected. CO monitors are also recommended, as they can alert you to the presence of carbon monoxide.

In a nutshell, carbon monoxide is produced anytime a fuel, such as wood, gas, oil, or charcoal, is burned. If the appliance burns at an efficient temperature, the heat will destroy most of the gas. This is why, in the case of wood-burning appliances, you will want to avoid wet or “green” woods that still contain much of their moisture. That moisture keeps the flame from getting hot enough to burn through the CO gas. Consistent chimney inspections can alert you to potential problems in your chimney that could be bringing about a dangerous scenario. There are many potential structural problems that the untrained eye simply cannot see.

Some of the visible signs that you may have a potentially dangerous carbon monoxide situation include:

  • Sooting
  • Loose or missing furnace pane
  • Rusting or water streaking on vent/chimney
  • Loose or disconnected vent/chimney connections
  • Moisture inside of windows
  • Loose masonry on the chimney itself

Here are symptoms of potential CO poisoning:

  • headache
  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • vomiting
  • disorientation
  • loss of consciousness

If you feel you or someone in your home is experiencing these symptoms, call emergency services immediately. This is not something to be cavalier with. Your fireplace and chimney are wonderful appliances that bring years of enjoyment and warmth. However, you must be aware of the potential problems that they can bring about. This will help you make wiser choices.

By Ronald Caillais on July 17th, 2012 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

Choosing Firewood

Stacked Firewood

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When going to choose firewood for your fireplace, make sure you know exactly what you are looking for. For instance, did you know that some wood is not good for your fireplace and chimney? Also, were you aware that some firewood needs to be seasoned for up to 2 years. Once you understand all of the facts about wood for burning, you are much more likely to make a wise choice that helps keep your home and family safe.

When choosing firewood, be sure to pick sufficiently dried hardwoods like oak, maple, or birch. Softwoods, like pine, burn more less efficiently. They emit much more creosote than hardwoods as well. Since creosote is so flammable, any amount of buildup could potentially lead to a chimney fire. Hardwoods, on the other hand burn hotter, and leave much less creosote on the lining of your chimney. Also, avoid using any treated wood or wood scraps from construction sites. You can’t be sure about what chemicals might be in the wood, and once it starts burning, it could emit dangerous chemicals and fumes into your living space.

Know who it is you are buying your wood from. Buying from a reputable dealer will give you greater assurance that the wood is sufficiently seasoned. Of course, it’s always a good idea to get wood from a kiln dried wood dealer. This wood has significantly less moisture left in the wood. Conventional seasoning takes longer, and can leave as much as 10% more moisture in the wood. When observing the wood you are looking to buy, look for signs that has dried out. Is the bark easy to pull off? Does the wood have a grayish color? Are the ends starting to split? These are all signs of well-seasoned wood.

Owning a fireplace and chimney is a responsibility that cannot be ignored. Apart from needing to properly maintain and clean the appliance itself, you also need to use best practices while you operate the chimney. This will ensure years of enjoyment and safety for you and your family.

 

By Ronald Caillais on July 11th, 2012 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment

What Causes Chimney Fires?

Fireplaces and chimneys play a very important role in our homes. This has been true for as long as fires have been around. Their efficiency in providing heat is undeniable. Also, people enjoy them because they give off natural heat and can be beautiful to look at and enjoy as well. Some homes use their wood burning fireplaces often, despite the fact that electric and gas units tend to be more convenient. With any fireplace, you and your family and friends are able to sit in front of a fire, and enjoy each others company in a warm, comfortable place. You just can’t do that with a HVAC unit. In fact, when there is central heating only, the family tends to go off to their own private spaces instead of coming together. In essence, fires not only bring warmth to the family, but also brings the family closer together.

Despite these wonderful aspects to having a fireplace, there are some important things to keep in mind. Chimney fires are a real danger. One of the main reasons a chimney can catch on fire is the lack of proper maintenance. If each and every homeowner with a chimney would observe the proper ways to maintain a chimney, then this becomes a much smaller risk. To do this, all you need to do is call a certified professional sweep so the recommended yearly maintenance is performed correctly. If you wait, the situation can be worse than you ever expected.

Other causes of chimney fire are the presence of foreign objects inside the chimney. This is not a rare situation considering that even squirrels can sometimes get trapped in the chimney. A chimney technician or sweep should check the inside of the chimney appliance, and remove any obstructions from it.

Keeping obstructions out of the appliance can be prevented by using bird screens, which is a very simple and inexpensive procedure. Also preventable is increasing build up of creosote and soot that can form over a season of burning. Using improperly seasoned firewood is one of the quickest ways to add to your chances of having a chimney fire. So use properly seasoned wood and cut down on the risk of fire. It will also save you money because the wood will burn slower and more efficiently.

By Ronald Caillais on June 26th, 2012 | Tagged with: Tags: , | Leave a Comment
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