A House Chimney Roof

Will Homeowner’s Insurance Pay for Chimney Damage?

When you spend your hard-earned money to purchase homeowner’s insurance, you expect that agreement to cover any problems that may arise with your home – both inside and out – and that will include your chimney. Unfortunately, comprehensive coverage is a misnomer as there are routine exceptions, exclusions, and caveats involved with what insurance companies do and don’t cover regarding chimney damage.

If you are ready to learn more about insurance coverage for your home’s chimney, continue reading.

Read Your Homeowner’s Insurance Policy for Chimney Information

Let’s start with your homeowner’s insurance policy. When you are signing up for homeowner’s insurance with your insurer, it is your job to read the entirety of the insurance policy from the first word all the way through to the last one before signing any contracts. This doesn’t mean you are in a position to negotiate the insurance policy, it simply means that you are armed with knowledge before agreeing to the terms. This way, if you so choose, you can shop around for a better policy from another insurance company with a greater understanding of what is available.

As you are reviewing your policy, should you find any words or sections that are confusing or unclear, reach out to your insurance agent for clarification. If you are able to do so, contact your insurance agent via email so there is a record of your communications. This way, you can look back on their responses in case you need to revisit the issue or use the content for talking points with your partner later on so that every adult in your household understands the current coverage.

Even though the contract will likely not include everything in your structure, you still need to understand your rights and coverage options. This is especially true for specific parts of your home, such as a chimney. If your chimney is damaged, you should know and understand whether it will or won’t be covered by insurance.

When Will Homeowner’s Insurance Companies Pay for Chimney Damage?

If you have a chimney built into your home, you want to use it. But, when damage occurs, you obviously cannot safely use your fireplace and rely on the chimney to help expel the combustible smoke and gasses out of your home and into the environment. You need to pay a professional to make the necessary chimney repairs. The real question, though, is who pays for the repairs – you or your insurance company? Your insurer will likely pay for chimney repairs in the following scenarios that are considered to be caused by a covered peril or are considered accidental or sudden occurrences:

  • Damage resulting from a hail storm.
  • Fire damage from within the fireplace or from the home itself.
  • Destruction from a windstorm and related debris.
  • Lightning strikes and accompanying damage.
  • Chimney water leaks into the fireplace and possibly into the home structure (if not due to neglect).
  • Falling objects such as trees or power lines, and utility poles.

Under What Circumstances Will You Be Denied Insurance Payment for Chimney Damage?

There are a number of both common and uncommon circumstances that will result in the denial of any claim you make and subsequent payment from the insurance company regarding damage to your home’s chimney. This information is not intended to replace the information contained in your homeowner’s insurance policy paperwork. If you do experience any damage from the following scenarios, they may not be covered by your policy:

  • Floods and accompanying water damage.
  • War or incursions and any related damage.
  • Normal wear and tear as a result of routine usage.
  • Large-scale disasters such as tornadoes, earthquakes, or hurricanes, etc.
  • Structural defects are caused by poor construction practices or the house settling or shifting in the ground over time.
  • Lack of routine care and maintenance over time.
  • Chimney collapse due to neglect.

Contact the Professionals at Sixpenny Chimney Today.

When you have experienced damage to your home, especially to your chimney, you should contact the professionals at Sixpenny Chimney. We are conveniently located in Northern Virginia. Our experts have years of experience and stand ready to talk with you about your chimney repair needs. Don’t let chimney damage get in the way of using your home as intended and for the fullest enjoyment possible. Reach out to our helpful staff. We’ll talk you through the process of what to do next and handle your unique situation for the best outcome. We will treat you like family and work to get your necessary chimney repairs taken care of as soon as possible.

A Chimney with ciimney damage on top of a house

Homebuyer Beware: Spot These 6 Signs of Chimney Damage Before You Buy

Owning a home is a dream most people have and work towards. While shopping around for your ideal home, you must have a checklist to ensure you pick one that meets all your needs and is safe for you and your family.

Top on the house checklist you need to assess is the state of the chimney, as buying a home with a damaged chimney can lead to extra costs in terms of repair. Below are six signs of chimney damage to look out for before you buy.

Six Signs of Chimney Damage To Look Out For Before You Buy:

1. Deteriorated or Cracked Mortar Joints

Worn-out mortar joints vastly increase the level of moisture leaking into a chimney. During the cold seasons, especially winter, the water that seeps in will freeze, then expand, leading to more damage to the chimney.

Once the cracks form, they let heat and smoke escape in areas they shouldn’t. But the most significant risk is the probability of collapse when most of the bricks creating the chimney lose stability due to deep cracks.

Even when regularly maintained, mortar joints can still develop cracks from wear and tear. So patiently look at the chimney; if you observe spaces or gaps, the duct is damaged.

Sometimes, you won’t see the mortar joints from the exterior, but you can hire a professional to check the interior for you.

2. Smokey or Foul Smell

Creosote is the primary byproduct of burning wood, so if the previous homeowners used the fireplace frequently, chances are there is a lot of creosote clinging to the flue liner. You will realize such if you notice a smokey or foul smell indoors.

Unfortunately, creosote doesn’t only cause bad smells. Toxic gasses from burning wood require a clear pathway to clear safely. However, excess creosote will block these gases from clearing out, which affects your home’s air quality.

Plus, using a chimney with creosote buildup increases the chances of accidentally starting a house fire.

3. Spalling Bricks

Bricks are absorbent. So moisture will enter the brick masonry and slowly break it apart after a while. Similar to deteriorated mortar joints, this will be exasperated during the cold season, when water freezes inside these bricks.

Common causes of spalling include;

  • Use of low-quality components, particularly in prefabricated houses
  • Extreme weather
  • Old bricks
  • Using high-powered washers while cleaning the masonry

If considering an old home, thoroughly check for spalling bricks in the chimney. Such places have been exposed to the elements for an extended period; hence the bricks may be worn out

4. Worn-out Flashing

Chimney flashing refers to a metal sheet that acts as a watertight seal between the roof and the chimney. Flashing doesn’t easily get damaged, but after a long period of use, it will also get worn out.

If you notice rust in spots between the flashing and the roof, it indicates water damage. Water dripping into your home’s roof can lead to mold, wood rot, and other issues.

Corners are especially vulnerable to such rust, so check them thoroughly. You can repair slightly worn-out flashing. However, experts recommend getting a new one.

5. Paint and Wallpaper Damage Near the Chimney

When you notice paint or wallpaper peeling close to the chimney, it’s a sure sign that it is damaged. The mortar or brick in the interior may have cracked or chipped, or the flue liner could be faulty. 

In some instances, the problem could arise if the previous homeowners installed a gas fireplace and failed to buy the recommended flue liners.

6. Shaking Flue Tiles 

Inside a chimney, you will find a flue liner that directs air flow up and outside the house and protects the bricks from heat.

A faulty flue liner can cause a lot of harm, including poor air circulation inside the house, and the heat will damage the bricks.

If you see tiny slices of the flue liner in the firebox, it’s an indication of shaling complications.

Unfortunately, most liner problems aren’t easy to detect for an average homebuyer, as the ladder runs through the chimney. Hence, once you pick a house, you must inspect it using a certified and professional chimney sweep.

Professional Chimney Cleaning, Repair, and More in Northern Virginia

Chimney problems worsen over time and may cause severe damage to your home or life-threatening issues for you and your family. That’s why you must buy a home with a perfectly working chimney.

We at Sixpenny Chimney can do chimney inspections for you and carry out regular cleaning and maintenance to ensure it always works optimally. Call us for a quote today.

A smoking chimney on top of a residential house in northern virginia that would need chimney cleaning in different seasons.

Chimney Cleaning for Different Seasons: What You Need to Know & Do

gdurinAccording to NFPA, the National Fire Protection Association, you must clean your chimney at least once a year for it to function efficiently and safely.

That’s because even though we have four seasons a year, most people only use chimneys during winter when temperatures are at all-time lows and it’s cold. In the summer and spring, many chimneys lie dormant.

Let’s look at all you need to know about chimney cleaning for different seasons, why it’s important and more. But first, we’ll explore why you need to clean your chimney in the first place.

Why Clean Your Chimney?

Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

When debris, twigs, dirt, and creosote accumulate inside a chimney, they prevent it from adequately releasing smoke and toxins from fires. As a result, the fire will produce carbon monoxide, which is severely toxic.

Since carbon monoxide is odorless and invisible, it can be challenging to assess if its level has exceeded normal standards.

Avoid Chimney Fires

The more you use your chimney, the more creosote accumulates inside it, and since it’s flammable, you should clean it regularly.

If you don’t do so, the build-up could damage the chimney lining and could lead to a fire breakout.

Enhance Heating Efficiency

When your chimney is clean, it facilitates an efficient and thorough burn. Therefore, your house will have improved warmth and a comfortable atmosphere for you and your family.

What’s the Best Time to Clean Chimneys?

Experts recommend cleaning your chimney during the warmer months, especially in early spring and late summer. As you rarely use the chimney at such times, and doing so ensures that it will operate optimally once the cold season sets in, thereby lowering the amount of money spent on heating.

What to Know About Cleaning Your Chimney

If you decide to handle the chimney cleaning personally, you must know your flue height before beginning, and you’ll need a safe way to reach the roof, like a sturdy ladder.

Additional cleaning tools you will require include a power drill or screwdriver to remove the animal guard or rain cap — personal protective equipment (PPE) for your face and eyes to protect against soot and ash. Plus, a wire brush with extensions.

If the fireplace is large enough and you can fit inside, clean the chimney from the bottom up if you don’t want to climb on the roof. However, it will be extremely messy. It would help if you bought tarps to keep the soot from your furniture and floors. A medium-sized dustpan to collect the debris and soot at the bottom is preferable.

Pro tip: Instead of going through all the cleaning hassle, you can hire a professional and let them do it for you. Doing so early in the summer is better, resulting in a quicker turnaround time, as most cleaners will only have a few bookings.

Tips for Keeping Your Chimney Clean Throughout the Seasons

Use Real Logs if Possible

Studies show artificial wood produces more gases, resulting in faster creosote build-up. So it’s better to use real logs when you can.

Ensure Your Fire “Breathes”

Oxygen fuels fires, and sufficient oxygen facilitates proper gas combustion and less creosote production (plus the fire will be hotter).

Keep the flue open to enable excess debris and chemicals to leave the chimney; if your fireplace has doors like glass panels, open them to facilitate healthy air flow for the fire.

Warm Your Flue

When cold air from the outside meets warm air from your fireplace, it creates an imbalance and increases creosote build-up.

You can combat this by rolling a paper torch (old newspapers also work well), lighting it up, and holding it under the chimney flue until the air daft feels warm. After which, you can start a log fire.

Mitigate Cleanup Using Chemicals

Creosote removal powder, when used properly, can prevent its build-up after one or two fires.

Burn Only Seasoned Dry Firewood

Logs with moisture produce less heat and more smoke. Ensure you only use wood ideal for burning by letting it dry 6 to 12 months in advance. Additionally, you can buy a moisture meter to check a log’s moisture level before placing it in the fire.

Install a Chimney Cap

Every chimney should have a cap; the appliance with a mesh keeps birds, animals, and moisture out. It also functions like a spark guard preventing hot embers from catching the roof.

Let the Professionals at Sixpenny in Northern Virginia Help

Even though you might not use your chimney every season, it must have a proper cleaning and be taken care of during the different seasons for it to be functional when you need it most during the winter.

We at Sixpenny Chimney, located in Northern Virginia, can professionally clean your chimney and carry out regular maintenance. Feel free to call us at 703-491-8697 and request service with us or contact us online.

A properly maintained chimney working well done by a regular chimney cleaning professional.

Why Every Homeowner Should Have a Regular Chimney Professional on Hand

Fireplaces add beauty, ambiance, and value to your house; however, they require regular upkeep and maintenance by a chimney professional to operate efficiently and safely. Moreso, if you’re using the chimney after a long time or use it frequently.

In addition, if you want to upgrade your chimney, it is better to avoid DIY methods and get a professional to do it. Doing so will ensure quality work and prevent accidents.

Let’s look at some reasons why you should have a regular chimney professional on hand to help you understand their true significance.

Extracting Hazardous Pests and Obstructions

Often, your chimney may get clogged with debris, or pests such as raccoons, squirrels, or bats can make it their home. Obstructed chimneys are a severe hazard; if you lack proper knowledge and try to clear them, you will damage your house.

For instance, many homeowners use large fires to eliminate pests or obstructions in their chimneys. Though creative, this method can expose you and your family to toxic carbon monoxide or start a large house fire.

However, if you have a regular chimney professional on hand, you can call them, and they will clear all the creosote buildup, animal invasion, and debris accumulation for you.

Lengthen the Lifespan of Your Flue Liner

Chimneys have a critical part called a flue liner. Flue liners protect your house against carbon monoxide and fires. They do so by insulating the chimney from the hot temperatures released by fires and corrosive materials from the smoke.

Additionally, flue liners act as barriers preventing carbon monoxide from seeping into your house through tiny cracks in the bricks. Getting a professional to clean your chimney at least twice a year will help eradicate the buildup, ensuring your flue liner functions optimally.

When soot and creosote accumulate, they damage the chimney, for they let moisture get trapped inside it. The steam will eventually wear out the lining, and you must replace it; they aren’t cheap.

Since you will have a regular chimney cleanup, your liner will serve you for an extended period. Also, a chimney professional will tell you in advance if your lining is faulty and offer advice on when to get a new one.

Professional Tools

Though DIY activities may seem exciting and fulfilling, sometimes they aren’t effective because you won’t have all the required tools.

Whereas professional chimney cleaners have all the tools for the tasks, plus they understand how to utilize them. In addition, professionals have high-tech cameras that identify blockages in places that are difficult to see in the chimney.

Although you can certainly buy all these tools, the cost will be too high, and if you don’t know how they work, it will be a waste. Chimney professionals relieve you of all that hassle.

Insurance Coverage

When house or chimney fires occur, most insurance companies will require you to submit evidence of maintenance to get compensated.

You could get little or no compensation if you can’t provide proof. No homeowner would ever wish to be in this position, but you can avoid it by having a chimney professional regularly maintain the fireplace.

They will significantly lower the chances of chimney fires, and if one occurs, they will back you up with proof you tried your best to prevent such.

Similarly, professional chimney sweeps always have insurance covering them at work. Meaning if they get injured, their insurance will handle it. If you try to clean the chimney yourself and suffer an accident, you’ll face medical bills and additional repair costs.

Saving Money

Most homeowners primarily undertake DIY (do it yourself) tasks to cut costs. Even so, if you lack the skills and tools, you may make a tiny issue into a larger, costlier one. Plus, you put yourself at risk.

For example, when you try to clean the chimney, you can damage pipes leading to a leak that may go undetected for some time. Such a mistake can cost you thousands of dollars in water pipe repairs. The water leak may even cause structural damage.

As a result, a minor cleaning task will have you spend lots of money on other repairs. Having a regular chimney professional on hand ensures minor issues get fixed and will save you money in the long run.

Professional Chimney Cleaning and More in Northern Virginia

We at Six Penny Chimney, are ready to clean your chimney and eliminate all blockages effectively. Besides cleaning, we can clear out any pests in other parts of your home and provide other essential services.

Contact us today for more information, and we will quickly get back to you.

A bird sitting where critters can get into your chimney, on top of the roof.

5 Signs a Critter Has Taken Up Residence in Your Chimney

While wildlife may be entertaining in our backyards, they cause nothing but problems if they decide to become house lodgers. Animal noises, strong odors, and debris becoming noticeable in and around the fireplace and chimney areas are dead giveaways that an intruder has moved in. See these five signs a critter is living in your chimney and has taken up residence and learn what to do about this problem.

1. What’s that Noise?

Northern Virginia’s cold winters make chimneys an attractive place for wildlife to shelter from the elements. Sturdy rooftop structures are particularly attractive to birds for building nests on and around, as chimneys help lessen the impact of strong winds and rain.

The first clue you may have that an unwelcome guest has arrived and is making themselves at home in your home is unusual noises. You may hear squeaks, rustling, scraping, or flapping sounds from the fireplace. When you listen closely, the sound will likely be coming from higher up in the chimney structure.

Pop outside and give the rooftop a good look over. A sign of wildlife in your chimney is roof disturbances such as nests atop the chimney. Does there appear to be debris where the chimney emerges at the roofline? Has the chimney cap been dislodged? If you can see any of this damage, then your worst suspicions are probably confirmed.

2. Is that Nasty Odor Coming from Around the Fireplace Area?

On top of wildlife noises, or in the absence of them, you may suddenly find a strong odor when you are near the fireplace. Critters can emit some incredibly pungent smells, particularly if they’re mating, fighting, or manage to get soaking wet. On top of that, if they’re living in the chimney most of the time, there will be smells associated with their toileting and the build-up of fur, feathers, and excrement. Ew!

Even worse, you may be able to detect the smell of a corpse. Best to get onto this one quickly before decomposition begins in earnest and the odor becomes unbearable. This may be a perfect time to get in touch with your chimney cleaners in North Virginia. The chimney is going to need thorough cleansing, and if they provide animal removal as part of the service, all the better.

3. Are those Droppings? Another Sign of Wildlife in Your Chimney

When inspecting the fireplace, you may notice clear signs of animal droppings. They can be a good indicator of precisely which wildlife species you’re dealing with. Common intruders via chimneys are birds, bats, squirrels, mice and rats, and raccoons.

4. Where did that Debris Come From?

A key sign of wildlife in your chimney is the sudden appearance of fragments in the fireplace. Mortar, crumbling brick, soot, and ash are to be expected if maintenance hasn’t been done for a while. A strong storm can also result in winds blowing down the chimney, creating debris. In addition, damage to the roof and chimney top can fall through the open cap. However, if your chimney is regularly swept and there hasn’t been recent extreme weather, then critters may be responsible.

5. Why isn’t the Fire Drawing?

It’s a chilly day, and you’ve decided to start the fire, but the fire won’t draw properly for some unfathomable reason. Also, smoke isn’t getting out through the chimney and is coming back into the room. Your first thought is no doubt that something is blocking the chimney. The obstruction could be on top of the cap or anywhere along the flue. While there could be structural damage of some sort causing the problem, it could also be a sign of wildlife in your chimney.

Put out the fire at once, as continuing may actually lead to toxic chemicals being released into the air or a dangerous chimney fire starting.

How to Get Rid of Pesky Critters in the Chimney and Fireplace

You’ve really only got two choices if you’re quite sure that you have unwanted animal guests in the chimney. One is to call out a pest control company to examine the situation and extract the animals. And the other option is to contact a company that does chimney cleaning, repairs, and removal of animals. And since you’ll probably need all three tasks done, the last option is an excellent way to go.

At Six Penny Chimney in Northern Virginia, we’ll look after all aspects of chimney sweeping and repair for you. We’ll also remove any nuisance critters that have taken up residence in your chimney. So get in touch for a free, no-obligation quote today.

A stack of wood in front of a proper fireplace and chimney serviced by a chimney professional

What to Ask a Chimney Professional Before Hiring Them

Poorly maintained chimneys and fireplaces can cause all sorts of problems. Seemingly minor ash and debris in the fireplace can indicate the start of serious problems building up on chimney walls, such as toxic creosote and soot. Creosote is highly combustible and causes chimney fires. To stop this, specialist cleaning of chimneys and fireplaces is essential. So, here is a little advice on what to ask a chimney professional before hiring.

How Often Do Chimneys and Fireplaces Need Cleaning?

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) urges homeowners to get their chimneys cleaned at least once a year. Heavily used wood-burning fireplaces may need chimney sweeping done more often. A hint that you may be overdue for chimney sweeping is strong fireplace smells, debris falling into the fireplace, or smoke blowing back into the room.

Assess Your Needs Before Calling Chimney Professionals

So that you know what to ask before hiring a chimney sweep, you should do a basic visual check first. Check outside to see whether there appears to be any damage around the chimney cap and the immediate roofing surround. Also, see if there are any signs of animals appearing to live within the chimney or on the cap. Bird’s nests are a prime example.

Then check inside around the fireplace. Debris and heavy soot deposits falling from the chimney walls can be signs of animal life or structural damage. The tell-tale black tar signs of creosote are another sign that cleaning is due. You should discuss these issues with chimney cleaning companies when you seek quotes from them.

What to Look for When Hiring Chimney Cleaners

Two of the most important things to look for are good customer reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations. If the organization fails in this area, it can indicate poor service. Asking friends and family about local chimney professionals is a good start. Online review sites may also prove helpful.

Once you’ve lined up two or three potential cleaners, you can compare their experience, rates, and availability. A checklist can be a useful tool to assess their services.

Your Checklist of Questions on What to Ask Before Hiring a Chimney Sweep

1.  Do you have experience with the type of fireplace and chimney I have?

Chimneys come in various shapes and sizes, so you’ll want to ensure the cleaner you hire has experience with your type of chimney.

2. How much will it cost to have my chimney and fireplace cleaned?

This is an essential what to ask before hiring a chimney sweep. You don’t want a nasty surprise when the bill is handed over. A good local company won’t hesitate to come to your property for a free quote.

3. My chimney is way overdue for a cleaning. Will it cost more to sweep?

Again, you don’t want any surprises here. If you’re upfront with them on how long it has been between sweeping and how heavily the fireplace is used, they may need to quote a little more. When they do their inspection, unanticipated problems may come to light. Ask them how they will deal with this type of scenario as well.

4. Do you have any discounts or promotions for first-time customers?

This is worth asking for. After all, they want your repeat business.

5. What if something goes wrong during the chimney cleaning process?

Check whether they are fully insured for any likely mishaps. Don’t just take their word for it—ask who their insurer is and get details of the process if any structural damage occurs.

6. Is your work guaranteed?

Check what their service guarantees cover, including how long they last.

7. Can you provide references from past clients?

If you’re the cautious type, it’s worth looking at a couple of their previous clients.

8. I work away from home. Can you provide a definite day and start time to do the work?

Is there anything more irritating than waiting around all day for tradespeople that don’t turn up? You will want to know that they are guaranteed to turn up when they say they will. And in case they do have to reschedule at short notice that they will let you know at least 24 hours beforehand.

Your Local Chimney Cleaning Professionals in Northern Virginia

Six Penny Chimney provides high-quality fireplace and chimney inspection and cleaning services. We also repair damage to concrete and brickwork and remove animal and insect pests. If you’re a local Northern Virginian, we will readily visit your property and give a free estimate.

We will happily guide you around what to look for when hiring chimney cleaners.

Firewood stacked against a wall in a home that is properly preserving the life of their fireplace that is also burning well

5 Tips for Preserving the Life of Your Fireplace & Chimney

A classic wood-burning fireside adds character and coziness to your home and is an irresistible family gathering point in frosty weather. Keeping your fireplace and chimney in tip-top condition increases heating efficiency, minimizes wear and tear, and saves you money in the long run. See these 5 tips for preserving the life of your fireplace and chimney.

1. Regularly Remove Ash from Your Fireplace

Regular grate and combustion firebox maintenance does more than keep your fireplace tidy. It helps produce a clean-burning fire, which reduces the build-up of creosote and other damaging substances in the fire chamber.

As you burn wood, a layer of ash will continually form in the grate and around it. If the residue gets too high, it will hinder the flow of air needed around the firewood to burn cleanly and efficiently. But, at the same time, a small layer of ash helps start and keep fires burning, as ash has excellent heat-keeping properties. So, a balancing act is required to get the right amount of ash in the fire chamber.

Maintaining an ash layer around the one-inch mark and removing the excess as it approaches the two-inch level seems to work well. Ensure the ashes are cold before removing them, or use a metal bucket and scoop to avoid injury.

2. Use Seasoned Firewood

The type of wood you burn and it’s quality strongly impact whether your fire will be clean-burning or not. Whether you use softwood or hardwood for burning, it’s essential to ensure the wood is well-seasoned. By this, we mean that the wood is no longer green, i.e., it has been set aside and dried out enough that it will burn evenly and with little smoke.

Burning green wood works against preserving the life of your fireplace and chimney. The high moisture content in unseasoned timber causes creosote to develop at higher levels than seasoned wood. Creosote is a sticky tar-like substance that adheres to the walls and lining of the fireplace and chimney. Highly flammable, creosote causes numerous chimney fires every year.

Well-seasoned hardwood, such as oak, maple, and walnut, is the best type of wood for use in your fireplace. The dense structure of hardwood gives a longer-lasting higher volume of heat than softwoods.

3. Repair Damage Quickly

Chimneys are subject to a continual onslaught by the weather. Heavy rain, intense winds, frost, ice, and snow, can weaken and damage exposed chimney caps and tops. Over time, mortar in brick joints will deteriorate, and bricks can crack, split, and fall. Chimney caps can become damaged, allowing rain to enter the chimney flue.

It’s a good choice to make chimney repairs as quickly as possible, as left untreated, these structural faults will accelerate the deterioration process. A professional chimney cleaning and repair company can fix any damage and do a thorough inspection for any unseen problems.

4. Plan to Upgrade your Fireplace

Different types of fireplaces vary in both maintenance needs and longevity. They’re not all designed to last. For example, a modern wood-burning fireplace insert may only last ten to fifteen years before needing replacement.

Older fireplaces constructed with solid firebricks and cast-iron elements may last a lifetime, though chimney liners may need replacement. Over time individual bricks, tiles, or stone veneers in the fireplace may crack from the constant heat and need replacement as well.

Whatever type of wood-burning fireside you have, you’ll need to plan for repairs and replacement in your household maintenance budget. Damage to inserts or surrounds will do little to preserve fireplace life if not fixed rapidly.

5. Get Regular Professional Inspections

For peace of mind, homeowners should schedule a regular fireplace and chimney inspection and cleaning service. The National Fire Inspection Service recommends that services are performed annually. Qualified inspectors will examine the entire chimney structure for damage, hidden soot and creosote deposits, debris, blockages, and wildlife.

Chimney sweeping with the use of specialized tools can then be carried out to remove creosote, soot, and other toxic residues, along with any debris or animal life. This annual service is probably the most important thing you can do for preserving the life of your fireplace and chimney. It prevents severe problems and keeps everything in working order.

Local Expertise in Northern Virginia

Applying these 5 tips can help your fireplace and chimney last as long as possible. Six Penny Chimney in Northern Virginia is your go-to professional for all chimney inspections and sweeping services. Get in touch today to schedule our expert services.

4 Common Air Polutants Gathering in Your Home (And What to Do About Them)

Clean, high-quality indoor air is vital to our health. So, it may surprise you to know that the air in your home may contain pollutants at higher levels than outdoors. How does this happen? Well, there are many ways that contaminants and toxins can be brought indoors or produced inside and held in the air that you breathe. Here are four common air pollutants that may be gathering in your home and what to do about them.

1. From the Outdoors In — Radon

Uranium is present in many soils, and as it breaks down, it forms radon gas, releasing it into the atmosphere. Radon’s radioactive properties make it a contaminant to be excluded from the home as much as possible. The gas is implicated in thousands of lung cancer cases in smokers and non-smokers every year.

Radon typically enters homes through cracks and holes in the foundation and gaps in walls. Poor ventilation can then allow the gas to build up to dangerous levels. Radon exposure occurs in every US state.  

How to Remedy

While you cannot eliminate radon from your home, you can reduce it to safe levels. Inexpensive home testing kits are an easy, quick option to show the amount of radon in your home. An unsafe gas level is four picocuries per liter of air (4 pCi/L) and above. Professional technicians can seal problem areas in the house and install venting systems to bring radon to a safe level.

2. The Dangers of Particulate Matter

Eliminating and reducing common air pollutants in your home is a constant chore. This is especially so if you have an open fireplace or use unflued gas or kerosene heaters. As fuel burns, it releases what’s called particulate matter — a mix of tiny solid and liquid particles floating in the air. Smoke, soot, and ash, for example, are frequently found in particulate matter.

When these noxious chemicals are inhaled, they are detrimental to health, especially those who suffer from respiratory illnesses, such as asthmatics.

How to Remedy

You can minimize particulate matter caused by burning fuel by making sure fireplaces, chimneys, and flues are regularly inspected and cleaned. Air duct cleaning is also important in maintaining good air quality in your home.  

3. Molds are Common Air Pollutants

Molds travel through indoor and outdoor air constantly, and in low concentrations, don’t usually cause health problems to people. However, if they find a damp, dark area in your home, attach themselves, and start growing, then that’s a different matter. Mold can spread rapidly, covering large surface areas and damaging the underlying material they are growing on.

From a health perspective, molds can trigger allergies and asthma attacks.

How to Remedy

Mold can be removed with water and detergent and wiped or scrubbed off the surface. Vinegar can also be used by spraying the affected area, leaving for an hour, and then scrubbing off. However, to permanently stop mold, you must find the source of the dampness and fix the cause. For example, if a leak causes the moisture, get that repaired. If the air in your house is too damp, then improve the ventilation and consider investing in a dehumidifier.

4. Inhaling Dust Mites Cause Allergic Reactions

A common cause of allergies in many people result from exposure to dust mites. These microscopic spidery bugs feed off the skin shed by people and burrow into household dust, bedding, carpets, and other fabrics. They are present in most homes, breeding quickly in warm, humid environments.

While live mites themselves aren’t usually in the air we breathe, their waste and dead body parts are. It’s these particles that are inhaled and trigger allergies and asthma.

How to Remedy

The prevalence of dust mites makes them almost impossible to eliminate. However, their numbers are reduced by keeping humidity in the home low. Cleaning sheets weekly, airing blankets and bedcovers, and reducing dust levels in the house will help significantly. Certified asthma and allergy vacuum cleaners can trap more airborne particles stopping dust mite waste from getting into the air.

Local Air Duct Cleaning in North Virginia

The duct and filter components of HVAC systems operate to trap airborne particles, remove stale air and exhaust air and moisture into the outdoors. Therefore, one of the most important ways to eliminate or reduce common air pollutants is by regular air duct cleaning.

You will receive expert peace of mind service by engaging Six Penny Chimney in North Virginia to inspect and clean your chimneys, fireplaces, and HVAC air ducts. Get in touch for a free quote and speedy service to meet all your expectations.

Why It’s Important to Keep Your Furnace Flue Clean

Every year many people are harmed from being exposed to deadly gasses and substances emitted from fireplaces and furnaces. Your home heating is essential during winter, particularly in cold zones, but if neglected can become dangerous. Properly functioning furnace flues and exhaust vents are critical in keeping your home free from toxic airborne elements. See here why it’s important to keep your furnace flue clean and when you may need to call in professional help.

What’s the Purpose of a Flue?

Boilers, fireplaces, and furnaces that burn fossil fuels or wood give off water vapor and noxious gasses. One of the most notorious by-products is carbon monoxide, a gas responsible for many deaths each year. Other noxious elements include hydrocarbons, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. The furnace flue, also known as a furnace flue pipe, directs these combustion by-products up the pipe and safely vents them out of the house.

So, what can happen if you don’t keep your furnace flue clean? If the flue is blocked, the dangerous gasses and toxins cannot escape from the vents, are backed up, and seep into indoor air. At best, this is unhealthy and, at worst, can be deadly if carbon monoxide builds up.

You can avoid this problem with regular inspection and annual maintenance.

How Do You Decide If Furnace Flue Cleaning Is Urgently Needed?

Your furnace will give a few clues that there is a problem with a build-up in the flue pipe, and maintenance is required. Common signs include:

  1.   Rooms are no longer as warm as usual when the furnace is on. This loss of heat can be a gradual or sudden process. If build-up in the flue occurs slowly, the impact on room warmth will likely be slow but sure. While if there is a sudden blockage, the loss of heat will be dramatic.
  2.   The furnace appears to work correctly for a time but will then shut itself off.
  3.   There is a distinct acrid odor when the furnace starts up and runs.

Inspect and Detect

Next, a little detective work is necessary. Look for the obvious first, like a visible blockage at the exhaust vent on the roof. Bird or rodent nests, autumn leaves, and debris from storms can all find their way to vents and easily clog them. Heavy snowfalls can also result in vent blockage.

Then inspect the actual flue duct or pipe. Look for signs of rust, soot, unknown substances, and water stains at the base or along the pipe. These are indicators of a definite problem in the flue.

How Do You Keep Your Fireplace or Furnace Flue Clean?

If the problem is simply an external blockage at a roof vent, you may be able to remove this yourself with a broom or pole. Or you may have to get up there on a ladder and gather it up yourself for disposal. Still, instead of putting yourself at risk on the roof you can get this task done by professionals when you book your annual HVAC maintenance.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends inspection and maintenance before every winter to prevent carbon monoxide leaks. CPSC also recommends that qualified tradespeople conduct the following checks:

  • Inspect chimneys, flues, and vents for leaks and blockages.
  • Inspect all vents to furnaces and other fuel-burning domestic equipment to make sure fixings are tight and properly connected.

Aside from preventing harmful gas leaks, there’s another reason to keep your furnace flue clean — reducing damage to it. Furnaces that run on oil and gas produce acidic by-products that corrode the flue lining, and flue and chimney caps can also be damaged. Maintenance of the flue requires using rods and brushes to sweep out any build-up of soot and creosote, and other substances.

Expert HVAC Maintenance in North Virginia

You need professionals to carry out furnace flue cleaning and HVAC upkeep.

At Six Penny Chimney, we have all the specialized equipment needed to perform thorough furnace flue cleaning and chimney sweeping. We will carefully inspect your equipment and tighten any loose fixings. Any blockages will be removed from your roof vent, and we also remove, inspect, clean, and reattach the flue caps.

Worried about us making a mess? We will keep your house spotless by using dust cloths and powerful vacuums. We know you will be as impressed with our service as are  he great majority of our customers. We look forward to your request for service.

air duct cleaning myths

7 Air Duct Cleaning Myths Debunked

Maintaining your HVAC system should be an easy decision. Regular maintenance extends the life of your system and helps identify needed repairs before they turn into more significant problems. However, misinformation abounds on the internet along with half-baked opinions, and it’s no wonder that many people develop misconceptions about HVAC servicing. Here are five air duct cleaning myths unmistakably debunked. This information will help you make a properly informed decision before deciding whether to make a booking for air duct maintenance.

1. Air Ducts Don’t Get Dirty – They Have Filters That Stop Dirt

Myth number one is that so little dirt enters air ducts that they should rarely (if ever) need cleaning. However, even the best filters can’t stop all air-borne particles from getting through to the air ducts and lodging there. In addition, incorrectly installed HVAC systems and failure to properly maintain and operate them can lead to pollutants finding their way past filters. Finally, moisture that inadvertently enters the ducts can also lead to mold growing on the surface of the vents.

And let’s not forget about uninvited guests. Creepy crawlies and vermin are in the habit of making their way not just into homes but also into HVAC systems. Their droppings and filth will lodge within the air ducts, eventually impacting your home’s air quality.

2. Air Duct Cleaning Myths — I Can Do It Myself

Some homeowners have a strong misconception that they can do all air duct cleaning by themselves, particularly if they’re into DIY. However, consider whether you have the right tools to get into every nook and cranny before jumping into this venture. All parts of duct systems aren’t usually visible, so how will you be sure that pollutants haven’t been left behind?

Professional air duct cleaners use specialized equipment to ensure the thorough removal of pollutants.  Powerful industrial vacuums, air-washing, air compressor hoses, and dirt-pigs form part of their arsenal of tools.

3. Only Qualified Technicians Should Change Air Filters

Myth number three addresses people who believe it’s all too technical and no part of HVAC systems should be touched by homeowners. However, this is not the case in regard to air filters. Regularly changing air filters by yourself will minimize the need for air duct cleaning, saving you money. In addition, using the highest-rated air filters will absolutely lessen the amount of dirt, pollen, and other contaminants getting into the air ducts.

Air filters are usually located in a slot near the furnace unit and behind return air grills or vents. Depending upon your HVAC system, there may be multiple filters. Open the filter compartment and slide out the filter. If it looks dirty and clogged, it’s time to replace it.

If you can’t find the filter, a quick online search for the manufacturer’s HVAC operating instructions should solve the problem. However, if you’re not the handy type and find this overwhelming, you can always hire a handy person to do this for you.

4. Air Duct Cleaning Myths — Dangerous Chemicals Are Used

Myth number four has instilled an unnecessary fear in homeowners around chemical cleaning agents. Many believe dangerous chemicals and potentially hazardous fumes are used in the cleaning process. So, naturally, they are reticent to book an air duct cleaning session. However, professional air duct cleaning does not require toxic chemicals to be generally used. Powerful vacuums draw out most of the particles from the ducts.

In some cases, biocides may be needed to treat bacteria, mold, or algae, as they pose health risks. Professional cleaners will ensure that the household is properly protected from any potential ill effects of the treatment. Check with the company and ask them to detail their process and what cleaning agents they use.

5.  House Plants Clean My Air – I Don’t Need to Clean the Air Ducts

Myth number five is a relatively new one, based on incomplete facts. Some laboratory studies have suggested that indoor plants can reduce dangerous gases and pollutants from the air. Unfortunately, this has led many people to exaggerate the benefits associated with houseplants. The EPA has warned that evidence is lacking in this area. Houseplants can only remove low levels of pollutants in the home. The EPA also warns that over-watering indoor plants can cause the growth of mold and mildew, contributing to poor air quality.

Find the Right Air Duct Cleaning Company

Unscrupulous air duct cleaning companies may try to persuade you that cleaning is necessary more than once a year. However, even once a year may be unnecessary if air filters are regularly changed. If you’re concerned about your indoor air quality, contact us at Six Penny Chimney. We will happily discuss every aspect of air duct cleaning with you.