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.

7 Seasonal Maintenance Calls You Should Make Before the Snow Falls this Winter

Get ready for winter by ensuring your home can withstand whatever the worst of the season throws at it. Is your HVAC ready to face extended chilly weather and heavy snowfalls? Are your roof and guttering able to withstand fierce winds and heavy rain? Here are seven seasonal maintenance calls you should make before this winter to protect your home.

1 Air Duct Cleaning

First off, consider your HVAC and whether the air ducts are due for a cleaning. Generally, this should be done every two years. Cleaning the ducts improves air quality in the home. It also helps with the efficiency of the overall HVAC system, reducing energy costs. Call in qualified HVAC technicians for this task and get them to clean the dryer vent as well.

2 Chimney Sweeping — an Essential Seasonal Maintenance Call Before Winter 

Your fireplace needs to be in prime condition for the long winter ahead. Any creosote build-up should be swept away before fires are lit. Otherwise, there is a danger that the chimney will catch fire. Creosote removal is best left to professional chimney sweeps to handle. They will check the fireplace and chimney for any damage or blockages and thoroughly clean the flues.

You’ll want to tick this maintenance call off long before frosty days begin, and you want to start lighting fires. Once the winter chill sets in, the demand for chimney cleaners will increase, and you may have trouble scheduling service when you want it.

3 Furnace Inspection and Cleaning

One of your seasonal maintenance calls before winter must include a check and clean of the furnace. As the Department of Energy states — properly maintaining and upgrading heating systems will save you money and increase comfort within the home. Get a qualified HVAC technician to do this task. They will check furnace parts, including the blower, heat pump, fans, humidifier, and thermostat.

This may be a good time to consider installing a programmable thermostat if you don’t have one. You can reduce the temperature as needed and save more on energy costs.

4 Gutter Cleaning and Replacement

Walk around your home and look at the guttering. What state are they in? Do they look like they can face up to heavy rainfalls, or are they likely to come away from the house due to missing screws, rust, or damaged parts? When was the last time you had leaves and debris removed? Call in dependable technicians to inspect, clean, and repair loose guttering.  If your budget permits, consider installing gutter guards, as they will eliminate debris falling into the gutters.

5 Insulation and Weatherstripping

Check all your doors and windows for drafts. Look for any gaps that show daylight. The amount of heat escaping from small cracks is quite extraordinary. It can make a significant difference to home heating energy costs. Fix this problem with caulk or weather stripping as needed. If you’re not the handy type, well, that’s why handymen exist.

If you’re fighting a losing battle due to old degrading window frames, consider upgrading to newer energy-efficient windows with low-maintenance frames. New windows can make a dramatic improvement to room heating needs.

If you don’t have adequate insulation in the roof, now is an excellent time to upgrade, ensuring better heat retention over the winter season.

6 Roof Inspection and Repairs

Another of your necessary seasonal maintenance calls before winter is to schedule a roof inspection. Major storms and strong winds blowing away loose tiles, shingles, or other roof fixtures can create havoc. Small leaks can turn into large and cause internal damage to the home interior. Roof vents should also be looked at for deterioration, along with metal flashing.

7 Masonry Work

The last item on your scheduled maintenance call list is to have your paving, walkways, and other outdoor structures checked. Are there any loose pavers likely to become a hazard in icy and rainy conditions? Has mortar crumbled and dislodged from a retaining wall, causing you to wonder whether it will be able to withstand a major storm? Has there been damage to the chimney? Such problems should be easy to spot by a simple walk around your yard.

Need Help with Seasonal Maintenance?

If you’ve ticked off all those maintenance calls, you should be snug and comfortable this winter, no matter what the season throws at you. However, if you’re in Northern Virginia and need help with your seasonal upkeep, get in touch with us at Six Penny Chimney. Whether you need air duct cleaning, chimney sweeping, or gutter replacement, we’ll have your problems sorted in no time.

Avoid Chimney Cleaning Logs, logs burning in indoor fireplace

6 Reasons to Avoid Chimney Cleaning Logs & DIY Fireplace Care

When money’s tight, homeowners look for savings, and cooling and heating costs are generally a significant component of the household budget. At such times considering DIY fireplace care can be tempting. Homeowners often think chimney cleaning logs will help reduce maintenance costs. When the logs are set in the fireplace and burnt, they reduce creosote, a significant culprit in chimney fires. But is this a false economy? And are there hidden dangers in this fireplace cleaning method? Here are six reasons to help explain why you should avoid chimney cleaning logs.

1.  Loose Creosote Goes Undetected

Chimney cleaning logs work by releasing chemicals into the fireplace and up through the flue as they burn. The cleaning compounds interact with creosote, helping loosen this flammable tarry substance from the walls of the chimney and fireplace. After a week or so, the creosote flakes off the chimney lining, falling into the fireplace where you can sweep it up.

The problem with this method is two-fold. First, many chimneys are not wholly vertical open stacks. Instead, chimneys may be constructed with elbows or bends and have other nooks and crannies within their structure. These areas within the chimney can allow ash, soot, and creosote to fall from the sides into small heaps that go undetected by the homeowner. These heaps then actually raise the risk of a creosote fire.

Secondly, chimney sweeping logs only work on relatively new creosote deposits. Called Stage I, this thin, flaky layer of creosote can be brushed or cleaned away without too much effort. Chimney cleaning logs cannot remove hardened creosote that has gone beyond Stage 1.

2. Why You Should Avoid Chimney Cleaning Logs for Built-up Creosote

Aged, hardened creosote is probably the number one reason to avoid using chimney cleaning logs. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security that cleaning logs reduce Stage 2 and 3 creosote. In Stage 2, the creosote is becoming a solid tar, requiring hard scrubbing and possibly rotary tools to remove it.

In Stage 3, the creosote is so hard and thick that it is extremely difficult to remove and is a serious fire hazard. Professional chimney cleaners may have to use heavy-duty tools with chains or highly specialized chemical treatments to attempt the removal of the hardened tar-like substance. At worst, they may have to replace the chimney liner.

3. Are Chimney Cleaning Logs Dangerous?

Cleaning logs contain toxic chemicals. Therefore, they should be handled carefully, used strictly according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and kept a careful eye on while actually burning.

You should also exercise caution when removing the fallen ashes. These may still contain full-strength creosote, which is harmful to breathe in. In addition, the creosote is still highly flammable, so it must be carefully handled.

4. Fireplace Cleaning Requires Specialized Tools

Professional chimney sweeps use specialized fit-for-purpose tools, including wire chimney brushes and connectable long flexible cleaning rods. They also use cameras or inspection mirrors to identify where creosote has been collected. If you have to buy this equipment, up go your maintenance costs.

5. Obstructions and Damage

Unlike chimney sweeps, cleaning logs can’t check for obstructions such as bird and rodent nests within the chimney structure. Unfortunately, neither will inspection of the chimney’s physical structure occur so that you will be unaware of any damage and necessary repairs.

6. Experts Advise Chimneys Should be Professionally Cleaned Every Year

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) clearly states that professional chimney sweeps should be engaged every year to inspect solid fuel venting systems. Experts also caution that chimneys should be swept and repaired whenever needed.

National Fire Protection Association Standard 211 reiterates the requirement for yearly inspections for chimneys, fireplaces, and vents.

So are Chimney Cleaning Logs Worth Using?

Let’s look at where you could end up if you’ve opted for the DIY fireplace care option. Well;

  • You may have missed finding some of the creosote deposits.
  • You have to clean the filthy and toxic creosote out yourself.
  • You’re unlikely to have the right tools to clean the chimney thoroughly.
  • The cleaning chemicals from the log are toxic.
  • You can’t confirm the physical state of your fireplace and chimney, and
  • You’re going against the advice of experts in the fire prevention field.

Given these circumstances, perhaps you should avoid chimney cleaning logs and leave this dirty chore to the professionals.

Northern Virginia Chimney Sweeping and Fireplace Cleaning Services

The professional chimney cleaning services of Six Penny Chimney will leave you with peace of mind, knowing that your fireplace has been cleaned to exacting standards. We make life much easier for you than the DIY experience.

We’ve been providing Northern Virginia homeowners with chimney cleaning and repair services since 1980.

Chimney cleaning

5 Signs Your Chimney Is Due for a Cleaning

As fall colors deepen in Northern Virginia, fireplaces roar back into life with the end of warm days and the beginning of chilly evenings. At this time, homeowners may find problems getting their fires to burn cleanly or notice that smoke and odors are not drawn effectively out of the room through the chimney. As the Chimney Safety Institute of America says, maintenance of your chimney should be done every year. Here are five signs that your home is overdue for an inspection by professional chimney sweepers.

1. Difficulty Starting or Keeping a Fire Burning

For a fire to light and burn properly, heat, fuel, and oxygen in the right proportions are essential. Your chimney stack works by creating a draft, drawing combustion air into the firebox, and exhausting combustion gases to the outside. Blockages within the chimney affect the draft and the burning process, as less oxygen gets through to the fire.

If your kindling is dry and wood seasoned, but you’re still having trouble lighting and keeping the fire burning, that’s a strong indicator of blockage in the stack or at the cap. The cause could be debris such as fallen leaves, small animals getting in, or a severe buildup of grime.

2. Smoke in the Room

Smoky rooms can happen for several reasons. High winds may enter the chimney cavity, causing backdrafts. Damp wood in the firebox can cause excessive smoke. Exhaust fans in use throughout the home can cause downdrafts through the chimney. However, if none of these factors apply, and smoke is a recurring problem, chimney blockage is a likely cause. This situation is one you can’t tolerate for long.

Calling in a Northern Virginia chimney cleaning service will soon identify and remedy the problem. Firstly, any birds or rodents found will be removed. Then rods and brushes used by the chimney sweepers will clear remaining obstructions and grime buildup. Finally, a chimney-vac gets rid of the dislodged soot and other debris from the sweeping.

3. Strong Burning Odors

Every time you light a fire, by-products occur. Noxious gases are released and vented to the outside, and creosote and soot form. Soot is a black powdery substance that coats the chimney’s inner sides. At the same time, creosote, an oily tar, similarly adheres to fireplace and chimney walls. Both these substances contain toxins harmful to humans.

As soot and creosote build over time, you may notice a strong acrid smell as your fire burns. The stronger the odor, the higher the concentration of toxins in the air. A strong odor can also indicate that the highly flammable creosote may be building to a level where a chimney fire can occur. It’s time to call in the chimney sweepers!

4. Signs of Small Animals and Birds

If you hear cheeps, squeaking, or rustling noises through the fireplace, you may have uninvited guests. Birds and rodents often find chimneys irresistible nesting spots as they provide a sturdy buffer from wind and rain. So, keep an eye out for the comings and goings of birds on your roof and signs of nests in chimney tops. You might hope to discourage the pests from staying by smoking them out, but this could be dangerous. Restricted airflow from blocking nests could cause smoke to flood your house, or worse, a buildup of fatal carbon monoxide could occur.

5. Debris and Grime are Dropping into the Fireplace

Another clear indicator that you’re overdue for a chimney sweeper’s visit is when you’re able to see debris and grime have dropped down through the chimney to the fireplace. Debris such as crumbling masonry, leaves, twigs, or feathers means you could have animals nesting, blown-in vegetation, or damage to the chimney’s structure. Any of these could cause an obstruction affecting your air quality.

Worse, if you see soot flakes and creosote tar-like drips down the walls and around the fireplace, you may not be far from a potential chimney fire. At this level of visible grime, the concentration of noxious gases breathed in is a genuine concern.

Northern Virginia Chimney Cleaning Service

Chimney obstructions and the buildup of soot and creosote are the key causes of most fireplace-related problems. Regular chimney cleaning will prevent serious air quality issues and reduce the risk of chimney-related fires.

At Sixpenny Chimney Services, we’ve seen and dealt with every issue you’re ever likely to encounter with your fireplace and chimneys. Based in North Virginia, we provide affordable, friendly, and reliable chimney cleaning services and repairs. We’re always happy to discuss our services and offer free quotes to you. And if you have an emergency, we’re available for after-hours services.

A House Chimney Roof

Why You Need to Have a Yearly Chimney Inspection

We get it. As a homeowner, you have a lot of maintenance to do.

It makes you wonder, “Are all these tasks essential?” Perhaps there are some that you can skip without suffering any dire consequences.

A yearly chimney inspection, however, is not optional. There are some huge dangers caused by not getting your chimney inspected often enough. Most of these dangers involve your house burning to the ground.

To help you understand this, we’ve written you this guide. In it, we explain in detail eight critical reasons you need to have your chimney inspected every year. Read on to learn more.

1. There Are Many Chimney Problems You Can’t See Without a Professional Inspection

Your chimney is a long, dark tunnel. Part of it is way up on the roof, where most homeowners can’t safely reach.

In other words, you can’t even see most areas of your chimney. So, self-inspection is not an option.

Besides, most homeowners wouldn’t know what to look for. And they don’t have the tools to do anything about chimney problems either. But a professional chimney sweep has all the necessary training and specialized tools to get the job done.

2. Creosote Buildup Can Cause a Fire

It’s a fact of using your fireplace that creosote builds up on the inner walls of your chimney. Creosote is a combination of byproducts from burning wood and other fuel. Namely, smoke, ash, oils, and unburned wood particles form an ever-thickening layer of this gunk.

Not only doesn’t this restrict the airflow of your chimney, but it can also start a fire. You see, the creosote is flammable.

So, if the creosote gets too thick and the fire gets too hot, then the whole chimney catches on fire. This will be a scorching fire that will soon spread to the rest of your house.

The ridiculous part is that, as often as this happens, it’s so easy to prevent. Simply get your chimney inspected every year to keep this from happening.

3. Animal Nests and Other Debris in Your Chimney Can Cause a Fire

Besides creosote, animals such as rats or birds can build nests in your chimney. Also, storms can blow twigs and leaves into your chimney too. This is especially true if your chimney’s crown is damaged.

This type of debris is also flammable. Thus, it can catch fire very close to your roof and get hot enough to start a house fire.

4. Chimney Obstructions Can Fill Your House With Toxic Vapors

Fires aren’t the only danger caused by an obstructed chimney. When your chimney gets blocked by debris or creosote, the smoke and other vapors from your fire can’t get through. And when we say other vapors, that includes deadly carbon monoxide.

There are, at least, some signs that can warn you that your chimney is obstructed. For instance, if you notice animal noises coming from your chimney, you should definitely have it inspected.

You can also check it with a flashlight. If you see a lot of debris and creosote buildup, call a chimney sweep right away.

5. Weather Deteriorates Your Chimney

Your chimney gets worn by the weather just like anything else does. For instance, moisture and temperature changes can cause tiny cracks in the masonry of your chimney.

Once these cracks are big enough to let moisture in, the problem quickly gets worse. The cracks will become wider, and your whole chimney can start crumbling away.

One indication of this that you may notice is that debris from your crumbling chimney or flashing can fall where you can see it. Check the inside of your fireplace and in the gutters near your chimney for traces of this debris. If you see any, get your chimney inspected right away.

Also, moisture and creosote buildup can hinder the function of your damper. If the damper is damaged or warped, it can lead to more creosote buildup and more vapors getting trapped in the house.

6. Flue Cracks Can Start a Fire

Another problem caused by excess chimney moisture (usually due to a damaged crown) is that it can deteriorate the flue. Sweltering temperatures can also cause this.

Your flue is what contains the heat and toxic fumes from your fire until they are safely transported out the top of your chimney. But when the above factors create tiny cracks in your flue, the heat escapes this containment.

This could heat the building materials surrounding your chimney to flammable temperatures. Again, this is a problem that will go unnoticed until you either get it inspected or catch your house on fire.

7. Your Insurance Policy May Require A Yearly Chimney Inspection 

Your homeowner’s insurance policy might require you to get yearly chimney inspections. If you don’t stick to the recommended chimney inspection schedule, you might void some aspects of your insurance coverage. And the only thing worse than your house burning down is not being insured when it happens.

8. You Aren’t Sure When the Chimney Was Last Inspected

Lastly, if you don’t know when the chimney was last inspected, get it inspected right now. This applies to those who’ve just purchased a home as well as those who’ve owned their home for a long time. These dangers of a poorly-maintained chimney are far too serious to ignore by assuming “it’s fine.”

Have You Been Getting Your Yearly Chimney Inspection?

If you’re late for your yearly chimney inspection, or you aren’t sure, get it done immediately. Contact Six Penny right now to request this service.

Smoking House Chimney

The Dangers Of a Dirty Chimney

According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, also known as CSIA, chimneys, and fireplaces caused over 22,000 residential structure fires in 2014. Dirty chimneys can often cause these chimney fires which can be dangerous and even fatal to residents.

If you want to prevent problems with your chimney, it is vital to regularly get a chimney cleaning service. Here are the top dangers of a dirty chimney and why taking care of your chimney with regular chimney maintenance is important.

1. Carbon Monoxide

One of the biggest dangers of having a dirty chimney is that it can expose you to carbon monoxide. This can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a gas that has no odor, color, or taste.

This means that it is nearly impossible to detect without a carbon monoxide alarm. Carbon monoxide is most commonly caused by burning material that includes carbon. These types of materials include natural gas, oil, coal, and wood.

If your chimney is dirty, this means that it will not have proper ventilation and you may be breathing in this gas.

If you don’t have a carbon monoxide detector, there are other symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning to watch out for. These include weakness, a dull headache, nausea, confusion, and more.

2. Creosote Exposure

Creosote is a byproduct of combustion in your fireplace. It is a black, tar-like substance that can cause many issues.

When this substance builds up and you are exposed to creosote, you can get many symptoms of creosote exposure. These side effects include irritation to your skin, rashes, and other topical issues. However, there are other more dangerous things that can happen when you are exposed to creosote. These include more serious side effects like vision loss, seizures, and even cancer in rare cases.

Creosote exposure can lead to many long-lasting illnesses and dangerous side effects. To prevent any of these health issues, you need to regularly clean and maintain your chimney.

When you hire a professional chimney sweep, they will check for creosote buildup and will remove any dangerous buildup in your fireplace.

3. Chimney Fire

As previously mentioned, having buildup and debris in your chimney can lead to a chimney fire in your home. This is one of the most dangerous risks of a dirty chimney.

Again, when you use your fireplace, there are byproducts of the combustion that occurs. This includes creosote. When creosote builds up and is exposed to high temperatures, it can ignite and cause a fire.

To prevent chimney fires, it is important to regularly maintain and clean your chimney to remove this buildup of creosote.

There are many signs of a chimney fire that don’t always include a huge fire and dangerous flames. For example, some of these include smoke and heat damage to your roof, warped metal, and even cracked or damaged chimney flue tiles.

If you recognize any of these signs, it is vital that you hire a professional to come and take a look at your chimney!

4. Health Risks

Another issue that arises from having a dirty chimney is health risks for the residents of your home.

As was mentioned before, using your fire creates a buildup of particles and contaminants. When you use a dirty fire, these particles are sent into the air. This means that your family members and people in your home can be breathing in harmful contaminants.

This can lead to health risks including asthma, eye irritation, carbon monoxide poisoning, and more.

Chimney Cleaning and Maintenance

When you have a fireplace in your home, you will want to clean your chimney at least once every year. You may need to clean your chimney more often depending on how much buildup your fire causes.

If you don’t have too much buildup in your chimney, you may be able to clean the soot yourself. However, creosote buildup may require a professional chimney cleaning service to help.

To clean and maintain your chimney, a chimney sweep will help break off the debris that has built up on the inside walls of your chimney.

Cleaning a chimney also comes with risks. If you are considering cleaning your chimney on your own, you should understand the dangers associated. First, you will need to climb a ladder and be on top of a steep roof. This is especially dangerous when you have a tall chimney.

You will also need to get the correct tools to properly clean your chimney. These include wire brushes, a vacuum, and other safety precautions, like a mask and safety goggles.

However, hiring a professional chimney cleaner can make this process much less stressful and difficult! A professional company will already have all the tools necessary to clean your chimney and can get it done more quickly and safely.

A professional company can also help make repairs to your chimney if it isn’t working properly, if it is too old to function, or if you are experiencing any other issues!

Get A Professional Chimney Cleaning Service to Help!

Chimney cleaning and maintenance is an easy way to prevent all of the dangers of a dirty chimney. If you want the help of a professional chimney cleaning service, Six Penny Chimney can help! We offer chimney cleaning and repair services in Woodbridge, Virginia.

If you would like the help of our team members, contact us today to learn more about our chimney services, the dangers of a dirty chimney, and to get a free quote!


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