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Basic Chimney Sweep & Repair Blog

WHAT is that Smell Coming From the Chimney?

It could be a number of things, and it is good that you are not taking it lightly because it signals an unsafe fireplace system. A chimney should remove smells from the home, not introduce them, so something is interfering with proper draft. Whatever it is needs to be corrected and the chimney needs to be inspected before you can safely build a fire.

Smells Bad - Baton Rouge LA - Basic Chimney Sweep

Damp and Musty

If it is a stale, damp smell, check around the fireplace carefully for other signs of water entry. Look for stains on the ceiling and walls around it, and feel the walls of the fireplace, to check for obvious dampness. Make sure your chimney cap is still up there and if you are up to it, inspect the mortar and flashing for cracks or gaps.

Smoky and Acrid

This could be either creosote deposits heating up or a nest obstructing the chimney and sending smoke back into the house. Either one of these really needs to be checked by a certified chimney sweep to ensure it is done properly and safely. Some nests are protected by law and can only be removed with a permit, and the dangers of creosote are well known.

Rotting and Foul

A critter probably got stuck in the chimney. Even if it is within reach, you probably do not want to deal with this yourself either. Since its being there indicates a real problem with the chimney, you can let the professional that checks it do the dirty work. A different kind of “rotting and foul” might be the smell of mold, and you are back to water damage.

Whatever It Is, It’s Bad

Regardless of what accounts for the smell, the chimney is not drafting properly and the fireplace cannot be used. Furthermore, whatever its cause, more serious ramifications have to be prevented by a professional inspection of the chimney. As a result, that smell coming from your chimney is an announcement that you need a CSIA certified sweep.

By Ronald Caillais on April 19th, 2013 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

Keeping Your Chimney Operating Year Round

Whether or not the fireplace is in use, the chimney needs to be maintained in good working order year round. There are a number of reasons for this, but they all come down to safety in good air quality. The chimney can provide a continuous air-replacement system or a trap for air that is downright dangerous.

Chimney Maintenance - Baton Rouge LA - Basic Chimney Sweep

Clear the Air

If all is well with a chimney, it draws air from the fireplace up and out, continually pulling ‘new’ air through the system. That helps to remove toxic gases from the home even when generated elsewhere, emitted by a leaky furnace perhaps. It also helps to clear the air of dust particles that otherwise settle back down and aggravate allergies.

In addition, the sooner problems with a chimney are caught, the less expensive they are to correct. Some do not even need to be problems, such as creosote accumulation, which can be completely avoided with regular professional inspections and cleanings. Other relatively inexpensive improvements, like caps and waterproofing for chimneys in good condition, may eliminate costly damage to the flue by rain or birds.

Protect Family and Investment

Neither inadequate drafting nor creosote buildup stops when the last fire is out beneath the chimney. If either exists, it persists, and it either presents the same stale air or it actually gets worse, true for both creosote- and water-caused damage. The importance of well-maintained fireplace systems cannot be stressed enough, since they are essential to home safety whether used or not.

Just as smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should not be taken down because the fireplace is not in use, the home’s chimney should not be neglected either. Organizations, like the CSIA, are responsible for the certification of professional sweeps make sure they are qualified to keep every chimney operating safely. All homeowners really need to do is remember to call them and schedule twice-yearly inspections.

By Ronald Caillais on April 4th, 2013 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , , | Leave a Comment

Safely Using Heaters in Your Home

“Heaters” can be all kinds of things but, from fireplace inserts to electric space heaters, they present a fire hazard and need to be safely used. If they can warm you up quickly, they do the same for other things, so space heaters need to be carefully positioned. If cozy fires can heat the room, even a little, imagine what they can do to the chimney above them, so fireplaces need clean chimneys.

Heater Safety - Baton Rouge LA - Basic Chimney Sweep

Otherwise, it does not take long for the space heater to catch the drapes on fire and the fireplace to ignite the creosote. There are safety concerns with the use of every type of heater, whether inside or outside the home. Portable fire pits carry their own dangers and outdoor ovens get just as dirty as the ones inside.

Heating Up More than the Den

Obviously, heat from fireplaces raises enormous risks, hopefully up the chimney and out of the house. When chimneys are not kept clean and in good working condition by CSIA certified sweeps, those risks remain in both your chimney and your home. If obstructions block updrafts or creosote accumulates unnoticed, the “family room heater” can become a deadly weapon.

In addition to risks of fire with improper use, even space heaters can stir things to life in air you do not want to breathe. This gets compounded when apparent vents in bathrooms and kitchens actually go nowhere except the crawl space above them. Those need to be checked by venting professionals when they clean your other air ducts and vents.

Remember All Your Heaters

From mere conveniences to basic, built-in parts of your house, “heaters” pose many of the risks of fire whether or not they involve it. Their portability increases the likelihood that small heaters will end up too close to the wrong thing and bring on real heat. The big guys, from gas furnaces to wood fireplaces, are especially dangerous “heaters” – because too often we forget the danger they can bring.

By Ronald Caillais on March 27th, 2013 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment

Chimney Sweeping: It’s Not Just for Cold Weather

Your chimney is an important and beautiful feature of your home. Even if you don’t light a fire in it very often, most of us still think of our fireplace hearth as the “heart” of our homes. Certainly, most people don’t even think about cleaning their chimney unless the weather is really cold and you’re using the chimney often. But, what many people don’t realize is that even in climate zones (like the Southeast) that experience mild winters, it’s still important to clean the chimney—even if you don’t fire it up very often.

Basic Chimney Sweep - Even during mild winters, your chimney needs to be regularly swept

The National Fire Protection Association recommends that you have your chimney cleaned at least once a year. The reason for this is the simple science of how soot and dirt collects in your chimney. When the weather is warm, the air flowing through your chimney slows down. When the airflow is stifled, it means that the dirt, dust and creosote stay in your chimney longer. So, even if you aren’t using your chimney the way you do when the weather is really cold, the chimney is still getting dirty. Any time you have a build up of creosote in your chimney, you are at risk for a chimney fire. This build up can also cause a terrible odor in your home. If you have a leak in your chimney, the odor will worsen and the damp mix can cause mold, causing upper respiratory issues. A dirty chimney will also give off an unpleasant odor.

So, even though you live in a warmer climate and you don’t really think chimney cleaning and maintenance should be high on your priority list, you should remember that reduced airflow in warmer weather means even more buildup of creosote. It’s a good idea think about chimney maintenance all year long—for your health and safety.

By Ronald Caillais on November 13th, 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
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