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Old Smokey's Fireplace & Chimney's Blog

Signs your chimney needs repairs

masonry chimney - Fort Wayne IN - Old Smokey's Fireplace and Chimney

Your chimney and fireplace have worked hard, keeping you warm all winter. Now, it’s almost that time of year to give your chimney system a break during warmer weather. However, before your chimney system is shut down for the year, it’s a good idea to determine if your chimney needs any major repairs. At Old Smokey’s we want you to know the telltale signs that your chimney needs repairs. Being able to recognize symptoms associated with a chimney issue can help our chimney technicians more easily determine what is wrong with your chimney. It should be noted that even though you might be able to correctly diagnose an issue at home, that only a trained chimney professional that has been certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) should attempt to make the final diagnoses and repair on your chimney system. A CSIA certified technician has been trained and tested on the correct chimney inspection and maintenance methods and is the only one who should be trusted to perform any actual work on your chimney. If an inexperienced person works on your chimney, there is a possibility that they can make the problem worse, which could be potentially hazardous to your home and your family.

Operational Issues

Now is a good time to think back about when you used your fireplace this past year. If you used your fireplace a lot this winter, you probably know exactly how it is supposed to operate for your home. While you were operating your fireplace, did you notice any issues, even if they were temporary? This could include anything from smoke coming into your living areas, draftiness, difficulty starting a fire, or poorly burning fires. These are all signs that there is some kind of airflow issue with your fireplace or chimney. Lots of times, these issues are related to creosote buildup, clogged chimneys, or a faulty damper. However, there are other issues that could also be a problem. Making sure that there is proper airflow to your fireplace is crucial to creating hot fires. Without proper airflow, you will not get your money’s worth from your fuel and your chimney will be more likely to accumulate large amounts of creosote.

Masonry Issues

Think back on the winter. Was there freezing weather? Was there a freeze/thaw cycle? If there was, you will want to check over your masonry. Moisture can wreak havoc on your chimney’s masonry. When it rains, moisture can enter tiny pores in your masonry’s brickwork and mortar. This water can pool inside of your masonry and erode it slowly from the inside out. However, the freeze/thaw cycle hastens masonry deterioration. When moisture inside your masonry freezes, it expands, putting pressure on your masonry. This can cause masonry to weaken by cracking, chipping, and crumbling the brickwork and mortar. You can inspect your masonry by looking closely at your brickwork or mortar. If you notice that your mortar is popping out or crumbling, it means that it needs to be replaced with a technique called repointing. Look at the grass around your chimney. If you see little flecks of brick on the grass, this is an issue caused by the freeze/thaw cycle called spalling. Finally, look at your bricks. If you see any cracking, loose, or crumbling brickwork, it needs to be addressed. At Old Smokey’s, our experienced masons can make sure that your brickwork is in great shape with our masonry repair services.

Chimney Components

Finally, look at all the other components of your chimney. Three components that are vulnerable to winter weather are your chimney cap, your chimney crown, and your chimney flashing. Unfortunately, all these things are located on the top, or near the top of your chimney. We do not recommend that you go on top of your roof, but instead inspect it from the ground. If you have a pair of binoculars, they can help you see your chimney top better. First look at the very top of your chimney. There should be a metal, mesh cap attached to the top of your chimney above the opening. If your chimney cap looks mangled, bent, or is totally missing, you’ll need to remedy this immediately. Your chimney cap is needed to make sure rain, debris, and nesting animals don’t enter into your chimney. Next, look at your chimney crown. Your chimney crown is the cement or mortar edge around the opening of your chimney. Your chimney crown is important for protecting deflecting water away from your masonry. If you see any crumbling or cracking in your chimney crown, this needs to be addressed. Finally, look to see if there is any shiny metal poking up in the area where your chimney meets your roof. If you notice this, it means that your chimney flashing is loosened. Chimney flashing is designed to bridge the gap between your roof and the point where your chimney comes through your roof. If it is loose or missing, rainwater can easily spill into a home, damaging walls, framing, and causing mold issues. If you notice that any of these components are damaged, they need to be repaired immediately to properly protect your chimney and home.

Doing an at-home inspection should never replace your annual chimney inspection. [] If you notice any of the issues with your chimney or fireplace, it is important to call a CSIA certified technician before a small issue turns into a larger one. At Old Smokey’s, our CSIA certified technicians can repair whatever issue that arises in your chimney. [] If you live in northern Indiana, northern Ohio, or mid-Michigan, call us today at 800-876-6539 or 260-587-9691, or schedule an inspection appointment online. We look forward to helping you with your spring repairs.

The Dangers of Chimney Fires

Reducing Fire Hazards This Holiday Season - Fort Wayne IN - Old Smokey's Fireplace and Chimney

Did you know that keeping your chimney well maintained and swept annually can not only keep your heating appliance operational, but it can also help keep you and your family safe? Chimney fires are dangerous and can cause a lot of damage to a home. In fact, the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) states that more than 20,000 residential house fires every year are caused by chimney fires? One of the most upsetting things about this statistic is that most of these chimney fires could have been prevented with an annual chimney inspection and cleaning. In fact, research by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) shows that a majority of chimney fires are caused when a chimney is not properly cleaned. Here at Old Smokey’s, we want to make sure that you and your home is safe from the dangers of a chimney fire. Let us show you why having a clean chimney is so important.

How Does My Chimney Get Dirty?

When you burn fuels such as wood, pellets, and coal, it naturally creates a product called creosote. Creosote is formed when the fuel that you are burning isn’t hot enough (less than 1100 degrees Fahrenheit) to completely burn off. When fuel isn’t completely burned, it is released from the fire as byproducts in the form of smoke, soot, and other gases. As these byproducts go up your chimney, they cool and start to condense. As this condensation starts to build up over time, it creates a sticky tar-like substance. This substance is creosote. Wood that is drier and properly seasoned will burn at higher temperatures than wood that is wet and not seasoned and, therefore, produce less creosote.

Another way that your chimney can get messy is if it isn’t protected from the outdoors. The inside of your chimney makes a perfect spot for many types of birds and small mammals to build nests. Furthermore, if the top of your chimney is open, leaves, branches, and other items can blow or fall into the top of your chimney and become lodged within it.

What Issues Can a Dirty Chimney Cause?

Creosote is combustible, meaning it can catch fire. Although it takes very high temperatures to cause combustion in creosote, it is possible that it can happen in your chimney. One of the most dangerous things about a creosote fire is that once it starts, it is nearly impossible to extinguish. You are at risk of a chimney fire even if there is a small amount of creosote buildup in your chimney. If fact, it can take as little as ⅛ of an inch of creosote buildup in your chimney for it to be considered a fire hazard. The likelihood that creosote in your chimney catches fire is increased if there is debris from trees, litter, or animal nests in your chimney. This type of debris lights at lower temperatures, but if it catches fire, it can easily cause a chain reaction that can lead to creosote igniting and then your home.

Another issue related to creosote and other debris is that if left to build up for a while, it can block up your chimney, which can cause all sorts of issues with your fireplace’s airflow and chimney’s exhaust. If your fire isn’t getting enough airflow, it can cause a cycle that leads to cooler fires which will create more byproduct and therefore more creosote, restricting airflow even more. Total chimney blockages can lead to smoke billowing back into your home, damaging your home’s carpet and walls.

How do I Prevent Chimney Fires?

There are a few things that can be done to prevent chimney fires from occurring. The first thing that you can do is to choose good firewood. Although you can’t totally prevent creosote from forming, if you use firewood that has been seasoned by letting it dry for at least six months after chopping, you can slow the pace of creosote buildup. Because there is less water in seasoned wood, it burns hotter and produces less smoke and, therefore, less creosote.

However, the most important thing you can do to prevent a chimney fire is to have your fireplace and chimney inspected and cleaned at least annually by a Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) certified chimney technician. At Old Smokey’s, our CSIA certified technicians can inspect your chimney, making sure it is clear of debris. If there is debris, they might suggest installing a chimney cap to prevent issues with debris from happening again. After the inspection, our technician will sweep all of the creosote out of your chimney, being careful to cover up and protect any valuables in your home. Once sweeping is done, our technician will clean up and go over the details of the inspection with you.

If you haven’t had your chimney inspected in the past year, you may be putting your home at risk! Call Old Smokey’s today to schedule your chimney inspection and chimney sweeping. You can reach Old Smokey’s at 800-876-6539 or 260-587-9691 , or you can schedule an appointment online. We look forward to serving you and keeping you and your family safe in 2020!

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