As the weather gets colder, people start thinking about getting cozy in front of a beautiful fire. Even if you had your chimney cleaned at the end of last winter, it is a good idea to ask a certified chimney sweep to inspect before you start using your fireplace. No one wants to experience the cold season in Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia without being able to use their fireplace safely. Their many reasons why waiting until the winter for a chimney sweep is not the best idea.
Things Can Change In Your Chimney Over The Summer?
An unused chimney is not a vacuum-sealed space that stays in perfect condition until you open it up for the winter heating season. Things happen both inside and outside that can change your chimney or fireplace needs.
- Animals like squirrels love places like chimneys. If your chimney cap was damaged or missing, you made an open-door invitation to nest builders and nut storage. Animals in your chimney threaten the safety of your home.
- If a chimney swift has built a nest in your chimney, it issues by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and will usually be gone when cold weather arrives. If it is still there, your Chimney Sweep can answer your questions about your options.
- The storms that your chimney encountered during the spring and summer can cause damage to masonry and flashing. Heavy rainfall and wind drive water into those damaged areas. Your chimney could already be damaged.
Why Not Wait Until Winter?
While winter is the time that we use our fireplace and chimney, it’s not a good time to do inspections and repairs. Chimney service companies are busiest just before the winter holidays because people start a fire on the hearth then realize that the chimney isn’t clear and call in a panic.
- Your chimney could have small cracks in the mortar and flashing. These cracks turn into leaks once the freeze-thaw cycle of winter starts. It is always best to catch problems early. Small cracks quickly turn into major problems. Repairs now save you money.
- Many chimney repairs need good weather and a specific temperature window to be done correctly. Fall weather is warm enough for repairs to be completed quickly.
- If you wait until winter to call, you might have to wait longer for the sweep to come and risk waiting for needed repairs past the time you wanted to enjoy your fireplace.
- If you use your chimney without inspection, you risk the health and safety of your home. You don’t know for sure if your chimney is safe.
Why Not DIY?
Cleaning your chimney yourself is a bad idea. Certified sweeps are the best choice to do an inspection. The reasons are simple.
- Certified sweeps know what to look for and what to do about it.
- Certified sweeps have the equipment to see deep into your chimney and vents.
- Professional chimney sweep technicians have the experience and training to see current problems in addition to identifying potential problems. Early detection saves you money.
- If repairs are needed, they often can do those repairs in the same visit or schedule a time before the winter hits.
If you have a chimney, you need a sweep every year. Make sure your home is protected by selecting a chimney service professional who is fully certified and call for an appointment before the busy season starts. Waiting until the winter could be too late.
Pumpkins and decorative gourds. Golden and crimson leaves. Warm days and nippy nights. It’s promising to be a beautiful fall, full of decorating inspiration. Your fireplace is the warm heart of your home, and that bare mantel is just begging to be spruced up with seasonal displays. We always notice the beautiful mantel decorations while we are sweeping chimneys. There are many options for decorating a fireplace mantel for the fall. Stuck for ideas? Here are a few fireplace mantel projects for people of every skill level:
Play With Colored Lights
Transparent vessels of colored glass beads are a classic for a reason. When they catch the light, they cast gorgeous colors throughout the space. Best of all, this fast and easy project makes a big impact.
Pumpkins are best known for Jack-o’-lanterns, but they also come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. You can buy an assortment of pumpkins, winter squashes, and decorative gourds and create an overflowing cornucopia on your mantel. Alternate light and dark colors for festive cheer, or organize them by shade for a more structured look.
You can also hollow out and carve the biggest one into Jack-o’-lanterns. Not interested in grinning faces? Many stencils on the market will let you create nighttime or autumnal scene lit up by votive candles.
Highlight Fall Foliage
There are two different routes you can go here. First, take advantage of the cooler temperatures to go for a walk, gathering autumn’s most stunning colors along the way. Once you get home, you can place these in a vase or float them in a bowl of water to highlight their natural beauty.
Secondly, if you aren’t a fan of how natural leaves fade quickly, you may want to use artificial leaves. You can get these from most craft stores.
You’re probably very familiar with Christmas Tree lights, but Halloween lights are a hot new trend. Look for ones in glowing fall colors such as orange, crimson, and yellow. If you aren’t using the fireplace yet, you can cascade these off of the chimney. Otherwise, drape these near your mantel and, in the evenings, bask in their warm, gentle light.
Flowers in the Fall
Here’s a great one for families with small children: make this Fall bloom by creating your own flowers. You can help the kids use construction or tissue paper, paint, glitter, glue, and markers to create the blossoms of their dreams.
Older children may be interested in trying out origami flowers. Origami has a reputation for being difficult to learn. However, many flower forms can be made with a few quick folds. Also, origami paper comes in a rainbow of lovely shades and patterns, perfect for this project.
Candles, whether pillars, tapers, or autumn-themed shapes like apples with wicks for stems, add instant comfort and sophistication to any space. They’re also one of the most versatile ways to decorate your mantel and surrounding area. Use the warm, flickering light of the candles to draw attention to architectural features like your chimney or highlight other items displayed on the mantel.
If you aren’t using your fireplace, you can also set them inside that space. Use multiple tiers at different heights to mimic leaping flames, or set a few votives down low to bring to mind glowing embers.
A gas fireplace is one of the easiest ways to add the appeal of flickering flames and warmth to your home. Gas fireplaces turn on at the touch of a switch or a preset temperature. They are clean, giving the heat benefits of a wood fire without the debris, ashes, or maintenance. In the Wasington DC Metro Area, installing a gas fireplace is a cost-effective way to keep your home comfortable whenever the weather outside is too cold for comfort. Gas fireplace are wonderful. However, they must be installed correctly or there could be serious problem. All Pro Chimney Service is committed to providing the best gas fireplace installation service in the region.
Why home owners choose All Pro Chimney Service to install their gas fireplace:
All Pro Chimney Service is a local family-owned company that knows the local codes and will comply with them.
All Pro Chimney Service is proud to be a member of the National Chimney Sweep Guild (NCSG) and the Mid-Atlantic Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) and holds to the high professional standards these groups represent.
Our service technicians complete ongoing training and recertifications to ensure they stay aware of the latest trends, techniques and technology in the chimney industry.
All Pro is not captive to a specific fireplace manufacturer. As a result, our customers have a wide variety of options. Customers can select the style, color, features and functions that are the best fit for their home.
All Pro estimators work with customers with the customers interest in mind. Conversations are focused on what is best for the customer. The estimators listen to their customers and then use vast industry knowledge to make customers fireplace dreams a reality.
We can install all brands of gas fireplaces, even those we don’t regularly carry. Do you have a fireplace that you already purchased? We can install it.
You need a service that believes you should receive personalized attention and that you should be able to be as involved with the process as you want to be; even if you want to work alongside the service team to have a hand in upgrading your home.
There are a lot of reasons to want a gas fireplace installed in your home. In order to keep enjoying that gas fireplace for years, you need a service that meets the criteria listed above. All Pro Chimney Service meets every one of those requirements and we would love to show you what we can do for you. Call us, we are always ready to serve.
Call Today 301-750-3149
There are many different ways to heat your home, whether it’s a gas furnace, wood fireplaces or pellet stoves. Wood pellet stoves like ours are a popular choice among homeowners because they put out a lot of heat and have relatively low operating costs. However, there are some disadvantages of using pellet stoves as well. We find that pellet stoves are particularly popular with our customers in Columbia, MD. Read on to learn more about pellet stoves, including how they work and the advantages and disadvantages of using them.
How Do They Work?
Every heat source uses some form of fuel to create heat. Pellet stoves use pellets made from compressed wood as their fuel source. These pellets are eco-friendly because they are made from compressed wood, plus they produce significantly less smoke and fumes than traditional firewood. Many people prefer pellet stoves over other heating options such as wood stoves, gas fireplaces or electric space heaters.
Pellet stoves work by using electricity to ignite the pellets. Fresh air is pulled into the unit from your home, stoking the fire and allowing the pellets to burn effectively and evenly. The resulting gases are vented outside through a small pipe in the back of the stove. This pipe can be vented through a hole in the wall or an existing chimney.
Types of Pellet Stoves
While all pellet stoves use the same wood pellets as fuel, there are two different types of pellet stoves: freestanding and inserts.
Freestanding Pellet Stove
Freestanding pellet stoves are stoves that are not reliant on an existing chimney or fireplace. They stand on their own. They can be placed anywhere you have room to fit them. Free-standing fireplaces are a great option for adding the beauty of a fireplace to a room that currently does not have one.
Pellet Stove Inserts
Pellet stove inserts are designed to fit inside of existing masonry opening of wood fireplaces. Inserts are flush with the wall for a sleek, space-saving look, but they have to be mounted in a spot where there is an existing fireplace.
Should you choose a freestanding fireplace or fireplace insert?
It depends on your priorities and where you want to install it. While pellet stove inserts may fit with the existing configuration of your room, they have smaller hoppers and can be more difficult to clean. A freestanding pellet stove, on the other hand, takes up a decent chunk of space which could otherwise be used for furniture. The type of pellet stove you choose ultimately depends on that benefits that you are seeking.
Advantages of Pellet Stoves
The most significant benefits of pellet stoves lie in the fuel source:
- Wood pellets are a byproduct of sawmills which makes them eco-friendly
- Wood pellets produce less smoke and ash than firewood, resulting in less pollution, less creosote, and less of odors in your home
- Pellet stoves often generate more heat than gas stoves of a similar size
- Pellet stoves cost less to operate than gas because pellets are relatively inexpensive.
- The automatic ignition makes pellet stoves easy to start and use, even for novice users
- A 20-lb bag of pellets can provide constant heat for as long as 12 hours. Most people only need to fill the hopper once every couple days.
- Pellet stoves have a simple look with neutral colors. They fit with just about any decor
- Refilling a pellet stove is easy since all you need to do is pull the hopper out and fill it with pellets.
Disadvantages of Pellet Stoves
While the benefits of using a wood pellet stove may seem enormous, there are some drawbacks as well. Here are some of the issues you may face if you use a wood pellet stove:
- Pellet stoves require a lot more maintenance than gas or electric furnaces, including weekly vacuuming of the burn pot and other cleaning requirements.
- Since pellet stoves have so many moving autonomous parts, they can be a bit noisy—especially when you’re just turning one on.
- While a fireplace can be used when the power is out, a pellet stove cannot since it uses electricity to ignite the pellets and vent the smoke.
- Pellet stoves produce a small flame when compared to wood stoves. Some homeowners feel that they don’t provide the same cozy fire feeling produced by woodburning fireplaces.
- Paying to have a pellet stove shipped to you can be expensive.
- Wood pellets stored and kept on hand for future use. You will need ample storage room to maintain a reasonable supply of pellets on hand.
- In some areas, local stores may not carry wood pellets. As a result, homeowners may have to pay the shipping cost to order them online.
Want to learn more about pellet stoves? You may find our previous article to be helpful.
Springtime is often not the time that homeowners are thinking about chimneys but this is a good time of year for doing many maintenance tasks. Fireplace and chimney maintenance is essential regardless of whether you have a wood burning fireplace, pellet stove or gas fireplace. In fact, a spring chimney cleaning and inspection should be scheduled early to catch problems while they are small.
Eliminate fireplace odors
The smell of a wood fire is lovely while it is burning, but the scent of an uncleaned chimney and fireplace in the humidity of summer is not wonderful at all. A foul-smell can be a sign that you need chimney repairs.
- Professional chimney sweeps have the equipment and experience to remove ash and creosote without leaving a mess.
- A clean fireplace is an excellent location for your favorite scented candles to burn safely.
- Uncapped chimneys are holes in your roof for the rain to come in and mix with an uncleaned stack to harden residue and create odors.
Repair cracks that can lead to chimney leaks
The Mid-Atlantic spring is a series of freeze/thaw cycles. Water seeps into hairline cracks in your chimney, freezes, and widens those cracks so that more water can get in and freeze again. The recurring freeze/thaw cycle can split boulders. Imagine how much damage water can do to your chimney. Repairs should be an be scheduled before the summer rains start. Failure to do so can result in costly repairs.
- The cement crown is designed to shed water away from the chimney. If it is cracked, it will start to crack and cause leaks.
- Crowns can also be rebuilt or replaced.
- Mortar between bricks can be re-pointed, and a few cracked blocks can be replaced without rebuilding.
- Further damage to masonry usually requires that the chimney must be rebuilt.
- Waterproofing your chimney keeps the freeze/thaw cycle from occurring.
- Common causes of chimney leaks can be addressed, like inadequate flashing.
Keep critters away from your chimney
Did you know that chimney swifts are a federally protected species? They start coming into the area in late March and begin nesting in May. Early spring is the best time to take steps to prevent them from moving in. If there is a chimney swift nesting in your chimney, you cannot get rid of them. You must wait until they are done raising their young before removing the highly-flammable nest. Other unwanted visitors can include:
- Rats & Mice
How do these unwelcome visitors get in? If damage has occurred in your chimney cap or screen, they consider any opening an invitation. Birds and animals in chimneys and flues cause fires and keep carbon monoxide from leaving your home so it’s not something you can ignore even if you don’t mind sharing your space with wildlife. In most cases, animal problems can be prevented by installing a chimney cap.
- Check for signs of uninvited wildlife.
- Remove the wildlife following safety precautions (most people call an animal control service) and remember that chimney swifts are a protected species.
- Keep them out by installing screens and caps to your chimneys and vents.
Close The Damper
Many times the damper is inadvertently left open after the last fire of the winter is enjoyed. This can be a problem in the spring and summer:
- Open dampers can draw your expensively cooled air out of the room and up the chimney.
- Even with a screen, some unwelcome wildlife can make an appearance. Mice can fit in a hole the diameter of a pencil.
- A violent summer storm can rain sideways resulting in leakage that bypasses your chimney cap and flows past your open damper.
Make Renovations & Remodels Easier
Springtime is a good time to renovate or remodel your fireplace and chimney. As next winter approaches, everybody else will be suddenly scheduling chimney cleanings and fireplace installations. Chimney companies will take longer to schedule service, and in many cases, the prices are higher. Now is a good time:
- Think about the past winter. What did you wish you had in the way of fireplaces? Gas instead of wood? Insert or stove? A nicer view of the flames? An easier form of indoor heating? Now is a great time to see what would be involved in making that wish come true.
- Were you happy with your previous chimney cleaning experience? Check out testimonials of potential chimney services that can offer more than a quick swipe at soot.
- Ask for a professional estimate of the options that would work in your home and get a reliable estimate of the cost.
- Schedule your upgrades soon so they can be done in good weather and when it is most convenient for your summer plans.