Tag Archive for: fireplace care

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.

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.