Why you should get a chimney sweep every year

chimney sweep in washington dc

A chimney sweep is a common task that involves cleaning the inside of your chimney. Each time you light a fire in your fireplace, soot and creosote build up. Even when you’re not using your fireplace, it’s possible for debris to accumulate or an animal to build a nest. A professional chimney sweep will be able to take care of the problems for you.  Some homeowners in the Washington DC Area make the mistake of not hiring a chimney sweep every year.  Failure to hire a chimney sweep can have dire consequences.  In some cases, not getting your chimney cleaned can lead to chimney repairs that cost more than they would have if the problems were discovered sooner.  In other cases, it can lead to chimney fires.  Every home with a chimney should have their chimney cleaned every year.  

There are plenty of reasons to get your sweep scheduled. When you experience all of the benefits firsthand, it will be well worth the nominal expense of having it done.

Learn About Chimney Problems Early On

No matter how involved you are in the care of your home, problems eventually occur. It’s up to you to catch them early before they become more problematic. When chimney and fireplace problems continue over an extended period, the cost of chimney repairs can increase exponentially.  

There are all sorts of problems that a professional chimney sweep can catch during their cleaning:

  • Improper air flow
  • Obstruction
  • Cracks in the chimney
  • Excessive soot build-up
  • Creosote build-up
  • Cracks in the flue

Whatever problem you have, you want to learn about it quickly. It will allow you to take action, so you don’t encounter major problems within your home. For example, if there is an obstruction in the chimney, it could send toxic fumes directly into your home. This could lead to respiratory problems for you and your family as well as the potential for a fire.

Another problem is in the brickwork. If you neglect your chimney, it could slowly lean, crumble, and even collapse. You want to make sure that water isn’t penetrating the chimney system at all. IT is essential to repair damaged mortar and replace bricks as soon as they start showing signs of deterioration. 

Soot from last year’s fires could also break down the mesh that you have on your chimney. If this happens, you run the risk of animals getting inside. Plus, the mesh will slowly start to corrode. If you need replacement mesh – or other replacement parts, you need to know about these things right away. You don’t want to end up calling for chimney repairs when you want to be using your fireplace the most.

You can avoid having to replace your entire chimney simply by making sure a professional takes a look at it from time to time. Their insight could be just what you need to enjoy peace of mind throughout the entire winter season.

Are animals living in your chimney?

Your chimney is an entrance into your home. Throughout the warmer months, all sorts of critters might choose to enter your stack and stay there. These could be anything from spiders to squirrels to birds. If you don’t know they’re up there, you could quickly start a fire in the fireplace and suddenly find that they are scurrying out – and right into your home. This could be disastrous, and near impossible to get under control. You certainly don’t want this happening when you have a house filled with company.

You don’t want to set animals on fire, for obvious reasons. If you have a chimney sweep come out, they can clear out any pests the proper way. They can also show you about some of the different ways to prevent the pests from entering in the future.

Prevent Creosote Buildup

Creosote is the byproduct that comes from burning wood and other fuel in your chimney – and it can be dangerous.  Your goal is for wood to burn as completely as possible. If there isn’t sufficient airflow, there is incomplete combustion. Volatiles form that rise with the smoke. Once the smoke cools, the residue left behind is known as creosote.  Creosote is highly flammable.  Over the course of time, creosote can obstruct the airflow and ultimately cause chimney fires.  Preventing creosote buildup is a significant reason to have an annual chimney sweep performed.  

There are three stages of creosote: flaky deposit, tar-like deposits, and hardened creosote.

In the first stage, it’s easy to brush away the creosote.  Things become more problematic when it creosote reaches stage two and three.  A  chimney sweep will take care of all of the buildups.

If you let the creosote buildup past the first stage, it becomes tar-like and eventually hardens causing significant problems.  Below are some of the issues that can be caused by creosote:

  • Toxicity in the air (causing irritated eyes and skin)
  • Reduces air flow
  • Can cause cancer
  • Creates a fire hazard

All of these should be enough to justify calling a professional chimney sweep to clean your chimney once a year. You may be getting some of the creosote yourself, but there may be deposits sitting higher in the chimney that you cannot reach.  A professional will have the tools to get the job done right.  Some people consider the issues caused by creosote and choose to install a gas fireplace instead of wood-burning. 

A professional can also make recommendations on how to get a complete burn that will minimize the formation of creosote in the future.

Chimney Sweeps Prevent Chimney Fires

The reality is that a chimney fire can happen. Often, it is because of a dirty chimney, which means that this is something that is completely preventable. If you have ever seen the damage that can be caused by a chimney fire, you will want to stay clear of having such a thing happen in your own home.

There are several signs of a chimney fire:

  • Hot, intense smell
  • Lots of dense smoke
  • Popping and cracking noises

A chimney fire has the potential to be highly explosive. In some instances, flames or dense smoke could even billow from the top of the chimney, being noticed by neighbors. In some cases, you might not even know that a fire is occurring in your chimney. It won’t be until after an inspection that you are told that there was a fire. Meanwhile, you could be causing significant damage to your chimney as well as other combustible parts of your home.

Increase the Life of Your Chimney

Your goal is for your chimney to last a significant amount of time. You want to be able to light a fire in your fireplace with the knowledge that it’s safe for you to do so. Cleaning is a way to keep everything working properly throughout the entire year. If you don’t focus on the maintenance, you could end up shaving years off of your chimney with each use. Before you know it, you will have no choice but to replace your chimney.

The good news is that there’s a better option available to you. You can extend the life of your chimney by making sure that a professional is cleaning it and examining it for problems on an annual basis. Why annual? It will allow even the smallest of issues to be caught early on. Every winter, you are using your fireplace regularly. As such, it only makes sense to have a chimney sweep come out on an annual basis.

The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) also has recommendations on how to hire a chimney sweep to ensure you have a professional working in your home.

When you’re ready to schedule this preventative maintenance, contact All Pro Chimney today.

What you need to know about gas fireplaces

 gas fireplace

There is a growing trend of gas fireplaces installations like ours in Washington DC.  There are many reasons for this pattern.  Some homeowners love not having to clean up ash.  For many other homeowners, it comes down to how easy they are to use.  Gas fireplaces also require less chimney repairs.  There are many aspects to gas fireplaces.   Below is essential information that you will need to know about gas fireplaces. 

Advantages of Gas Fireplaces

Easy to Use

Gas fireplaces are incredibly straightforward and easy to use. The temperature can be set quickly, and they typically can be turned on or off at the push of a button.  Just press a button and enjoy the warm, toasty feeling that you always want in the winter.

No Carrying or Chopping Wood

There is nothing fun about carrying stacks of wood in the bitter cold of winters in Washington DC.  Chopping wood in the inclement weather is even worse.  Even if you pick up wood from a local store, you still have to carry it.  Many people choose gas to eliminate these inconvenience of carrying, chopping and handling the wood. 

Easy Clean-Up

Wood leaves ashes when it burns.  Gas does not. You don’t have to scoop out ashes when you’re done or clean soot off the grids of your fireplace. 

Read this article to learn additional benefits of gas fireplaces.

Disadvantages of Gas Fireplaces

Higher Purchase Price

Perhaps the most significant obstacle of a gas fireplace, on the other hand, can be summed up in a single word: cost. According to the experts at HouseLogic, gas fireplaces have purchase prices that range 20%-30% higher than other options. 

Higher Fuel Cost Compared to Wood

Gas fireplaces, as their name suggests, burn natural gas instead of wood or other fuel sources during operation. Depending on how much you’re paying for natural gas in your area of the country, along with how often you have the gas fireplace on in the first place, you could easily be looking at an operational cost of several thousand dollars per season. 

With wood, on the other hand, all you have to concern yourself with is the cost of wood. Buying bundles of wood from a store is usually cheaper than natural gas.  If you have a tree in your backyard that you’ve been thinking about chopping down all summer long, you’ve got enough wood to last you quite awhile to be sure.  However, you may need to ask yourself what you are going to do the next season?

Types of Gas Fireplaces

Note that there are also a few different types of gas fireplaces that you can choose from depending on your needs. These include ones like:

Gas Logs

These are the cheapest option concerning gas fireplace installation, as they’re mainly just a stack of ceramic logs with a built-in gas burner that sits inside your existing fireplace.

Fireplace Inserts

Gas fireplace inserts are installed within an existing fireplace opening.  In doing so, they convert inefficient wood fireplaces into energy efficient, easy to use gas fireplaces.  

Free Standing Fireplaces

 As the name suggests, these are free standing gas fireplaces that do NOT require your home have an existing fireplace or a chimney installed. Free standing fireplaces vent through a metal pipe that extends from the unit out the roof.  Installation requirements result in this being the most expensive gas fireplace option. 

Ventless Fireplaces

Gas fireplaces are also available in “ventless” and “vented” varieties. Vented options discharge all heat and exhaust up a chimney, while ventless units discharge into your house.  Manufacturer of ventless fireplaces claims that the discharge does not present a health risk.  However, many chimney professionals do not offer ventless out of safety concerns created by gases being released in the home.  We recommend against going with ventless units.  

Properly Maintaining Gas Fireplaces: Things to Consider

Once you’ve actually installed a gas fireplace in your home, the final thing you have to concern yourself with is maintenance. Gas fireplaces are far easier to maintain in the long run than their wood-burning cousins, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few things to keep in mind.

  • Remember that dust, dirt and other elements can build upon the ports of your gas fireplace – eventually leading to clogging and inefficient burning. Always make sure to safely clean this build up at least once every few weeks for the best results.
  • You should always have an annual inspection, cleaning, and adjustment of your gas fireplace performed to help address small problems before they have a chance to become much bigger and more expensive ones down the road.
  • Clean the glass on both sides of your gas fireplace with glass cleaner at least once per month to prevent buildup.
  • If you have a vented gas fireplace, always pay careful attention to the unit’s outside vent to make sure that dirt or debris are not blocking it.
  • Inspect the gas fireplace gasket at least once a month to make sure that it isn’t cracked or missing any pieces. If it is, get this issue taken care of immediately.
Want to know more about gas fireplace maintenance?  Read this article
 

Gas Fireplace Installation: Breaking It Down

The gas fireplace installation process itself isn’t necessarily the most complicated task in the world, but it should not be seen as a DIY project.  We strongly suggest hiring a licensed chimney company to install your gas fireplace.  Here are some of the steps involved with installing a gas fireplace.

  • Review the manufacturer’s directions before choosing a location for your fireplace so that you are aware of all required clearances. Clearances from the fireplace box to the surrounding walls (along with the wood framing) will be specified in these directions.

Note that the vent will also need to be kept a certain distance away from insulation, wood and any other type of material that might combust.

Start by building a fireplace platform, which acts as a foundation to keep the base of your fireplace up and off the ground so that heat has a way to dissipate during use. You’ll typically build the frame (again – follow the specific manufacturer’s directions), cover it with drywall or another recommended material and secure it in place.

Unless you’re using a ventless gas fireplace (which we do not recommend), you’ll need to punch a hole in the wall of your home to install the vent that will eventually attach to the fireplace itself.

Once the actual fireplace unit is in place on top of the frame, you’ll need to build the wall surrounds that both help to keep it in place and help it achieve the desired look and feel.  After this, you’ll likely want to add a mantel to the top of the structure for the sake of functionality.

At this point, you’ll also need to run a gas line directly to the gas fireplace unit itself. You may even need to run an electrical line if you’re installing a fan, a remote control or another type of optional item.

Now, you’re ready to finish everything off. Once the gas fireplace unit is secure and in place (and you don’t need immediate access to the rear to install gas or electrical lines), you can cover the area in wood and drywall and paint to give it the proper finishing touches.

As you can see, there are many steps involved in installing a gas fireplace.  It is important to remember that you are installing something that generates heat.  When done correctly, installing a gas fireplace is lovely.  When done incorrectly, it can threaten the safety of your home.  Improperly installing a gas unit can lead to house fires.  It is always best to hire a professional repair technician.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a straightforward and efficient way to heat your home during those cold winter months of the year, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better option than gas fireplaces.  Pick the right type to fit your needs.  Perform the recommended maintenance and your investment in a gas fireplace will serve you and your loved ones well for years to come.

 

All You Need To Know About Pellet Stove Fireplaces

pellet stove fireplace

Many homeowners in Washington DC are considering fireplace installation.  Pellet stove fireplaces offer a home heating option that provides not only heat but also another place to cook. Knowing more about what they are, how they are installed, and the pros and cons will make it easier to decide if installing a pellet stove is an investment you want to make in your home.

What is a pellet stove fireplace?

A pellet stove fireplace is both a stove and a fireplace. It can burn a variety of materials, including biomass pellets and compressed wood. A source of heat is then created for your residential space. The fire is fed fuel from a hopper that goes into a burn pot area. By doing so, a constant flame is produced, reducing the physical adjustments that have to be made.

A variety of makes and models are available on the market. This ensures that homeowners can find a design that works with their overall décor.

A pellet stove fireplace is considered a renewable energy source. Depending on how it is operated, it can reach an efficiency factor of 90 percent or above.

The earliest concept of the pellet stove fireplace as in 1930, which included the Presto-Log made from scrap sawdust. In the 1980s, a miniaturized pellet stove emerged. Over the past 30 years, it has gone from being a box-shaped workhouse design to a modern appliance. They are often made from cast-iron or steel and then encased in stainless steel for exhaust and circuitry purposes.

How do pellet stoves operate?

There are various models of the wood pellet fireplace. Some will only burn pellets that are made from wood, bark, sawdust, and wood byproducts. Other models will allow you to use an array of biofuels, ranging from nutshells and barley to beet pulp and sunflowers.

Many of the units are electric. This means that you will be able to find some sophisticated units, many with control panels and thermostats that are wall-mounted. It will allow you to control the temperature more efficiently.

The pellet stove operates with the use of pellets. The pellets are compressed and may only measure about half an inch in length and diameter. They’re commonly available in bags that weigh 40 pounds. They could be made of any number of materials. The higher the quality pellet, the better the stove burns clean and hot. On average, a home will go through two tons of pellets in a heating season, which comes out to be approximately 50 bags at 40 pounds each.

The pellets are poured into a storage hopper located at the top of the stove. There is then an auger that sends the fuel from the hopper into a burn chamber. A sensor in the unit will monitor the fuel supply. If the amount is low, a signal will be sent to the auger to send more pellets down. The system is smart enough only to drop enough pellets to keep the fire hot, while still relatively small.

The stove contains a combustion blower that pulls air from the outside and through the stove. The smoke and fumes are then blown out through an exhaust vent. A convection blower also takes air from the room into the stove and blows out the heated air into the room. This is done through several heat-exchange tubes. The heat is delivered automatically based on the setting of the thermostat.

The only thing that you need to do is keep the hopper loaded with pellets.

A pellet stove has the potential to produce around 40,000 to 50,000 BTUs per hour, which can heat a living space of roughly 2,000 square feet.

Your maintenance on the pellet stove fireplace will depend on the model as well as the quality of pellets. Often, it will involve light daily maintenance and cleaning out the ash pan on a weekly basis.  Be sure to read this article with maintenance tips for pellet stoves.

How are pellet stoves installed?

There are many options for pellet stoves.  It is best to consult with a professional installer to review options and select what works best for your home and budget.  

One popular option is a free-standing unit. The unit will be brought into the area where it is to be installed. Freestanding units can even be installed in homes that currently do not have a fireplace.  It should have the necessary clearance from all combustible surfaces. The vent pipe is then attached to the stove. Ventilation pipes will need to go from the inside to the outside, which involves cutting and caulking. The power cord is then plugged in, and the hopper is filled.

Knowing a few things about a free-standing pellet fireplace will guide you:

  • You will likely need a hearth pad
  • The fire can be adjusted to burn hotter
  • You can place a fireplace in virtually any room of the house
  • You will save energy in comparison to running central heat

The other option is to install a pellet stove inside of a pre-existing fireplace. This is known as an insert. It might be more decorative and include a metal chimney liner so that all of the gases and smoke go up through the chimney. If you have an existing fireplace, this is likely to be the best option.  Fireplace inserts have a reasonably simple installation process because the ventilation aspects are already done for you.

There are a few things you need to know about an insert:

  • Uses existing ventilation system
  • You must have an existing fireplace. 
  • Tends to have more style options

Regardless of whether it’s free-standing or going inside of a fireplace, it’s important to note that the average unit is around 400 pounds. This means that it’s best to get professional assistance with the installation. The stove also needs to go on a fire-resistant surface, such as stone or tile. If the room has hardwood or carpeting, a hearth pad will need to be installed first

The venting required will also vary based on where it’s being placed in conjunction with windows and doors. If the stove isn’t given the proper ventilation, it can lead to a lot of smoke and fumes lingering inside the home.

By working with an experienced fireplace installer, you can rely on them to design a system that is designed to work within your specific home.

Additionally, some thermostats will need to be installed. Many are hard-wired, but it’s also possible to invest a little bit more to get a wireless remote thermostat, which provides a lot of conveniences.

Advantages & Disadvantages of pellet stoves

It’s important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of pellet stove fireplaces. It will make it easier to decide if it’s going to save money and provide the desired benefits inside the home.

There are quite a few advantages to installing such a fireplace:

  • It is an eco-friendly option
  • Lower heating costs in comparison to central heat
  • It uses a renewable source of energy
  • You reduce carbon emissions

You might not realize some of the advantages until after the fireplace is installed. For example, when you buy pellets from a local fireplace installer, you’re probably supporting a local business by purchasing their materials. This means you’re also giving your local economy a boost.

The cost of pellets has also been relatively low and has been stable over the past ten years. If you install the fireplace in a room where you spend a lot of time, you can lower your thermostat and watch the cost savings on your thermostat.

You will also want to explore tax credits that are available. You may qualify for credit up to 10 percent of the cost of the fireplace.

Just as there are advantages, there are also disadvantages:

  • The feeder needs to be kept full, which means loading daily
  • The fireplace needs frequent cleaning
  • Lower quality pellets will produce a higher amount of ash
  • The cost of the unit is relatively high
  • If your power goes out, you lose your heat as well

Most units recommend that the fireplace is cleaned lightly on a daily basis and more thoroughly at least once a month. This is done for safety as well as efficiency. You will have to decide if you want to do the cleaning on your own or hire a professional company to come in and do it for you.

Overall, it’s important to look at the various makes and models available to see what would work for within your home. If you use the heat a lot within your home, you can save a lot of money over time by installing a pellet stove fireplace. It’s a chance to be energy-efficient at the same time, thus allowing you to reduce carbon emissions and help the environment.

Tips to get your fireplace & chimney ready for the cold

fireplace and chimney maintenance

Many people use the changing seasons as an opportunity to create new decoration ideas for their fireplace hearths.  It is also important to make sure that any Washington DC chimney repairs are completed before the cold weather arrives. Chimneys, along with fireplaces and wood stoves are involved in close to half (42%) of fires related to home-heating systems. Before you begin to use your fireplace.  You can follow some basic safety steps to get your chimney and fireplace ready for the cold weather in Washington DC.  

Here are some key steps to take to prepare your chimney and fireplace for the cold weather:

Chimneys Maintenance Tips

Hire a Professional Chimney Sweep: As emphasized in the beginning, proper maintenance prevents chimney fires.  Hiring a professional chimney sweep it the first and most important step.  The National Fire Protection Association advises that you have your chimney swept once per year by a professional chimney repair company.  Not only will a professional chimney sweep get rid of soot and debris, which could potentially catch fire, they will also check for damage to your chimney.  The chimney liners and other structures will be checked for cracks, leaks, missing mortar, loose bricks and other hazards.  

Cap Your Chimney: If your chimney does not have a chimney cap, then you need to have one installed.  Chimney caps which will protect your structure from unwanted animals, such as birds and squirrels, and will also keep out rain and debris. A cap with wire-mesh sides covering the chimney’s top will keep these things out. If your cap is missing, replace it. If your cap has suffered any damage, be sure to make all the necessary repairs. 

Tips for Wood Burning Fireplace

Cleaning: If you have a wood burning fireplace, you need to make sure that you properly clean it before the heating season. In particular, be sure to clean the firebox using a vacuum. You should also remove soot that has accumulated on the fireplace’s walls or the chimney’s opening.

Using Your Wood Burning Fireplace: There are also some basic tips to follow when it comes to choosing the right firewood, preparing the firewood, building a fire, and ensuring safety.

Choose Seasoned Hardwood: It is best to burn wood that is dense and seasoned, for example, oak. This wood should have been split and have been stored in a place that is dry and high for no less than six months. By contrast, green wood and softwoods, including pine, produce greater amounts of creosote, a byproduct of combustion that is flammable. If allowed to build-up and the internal flue temperature reaches a certain level, there is a high risk of a chimney fire, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America

Preparing the Hardwood: If you choose to cut your hardwood yourself, you want to adhere to some core principles. First, the wood needs to be split so that the pieces will fit into your fireplace. As well, keep your pieces to no larger than six inches in diameter, in turn helping them to burn correctly. Regarding stacking the wood, the split-side should be positioned downward and not directly on the ground. Also, the wood should be kept covered, so as not to suffer damage from rain or snow. It is also important that you store the softwood for a minimum duration of six months, and hardwood for at least 12 months.

Testing the Moisture: Make sure that you buy a wood moisture meter. Aim for a moisture reading no higher than 20%, which means the wood is dried enough. Too much moisture will result in the wood not burning properly.

Consider Buying Local Wood: If you decide not to cut your wood, or realize it’s not feasible for you to store it for an extended period, you may want to consider buying local wood. Be sure to find out whether your state or city has any special ordinances relating to firewood.

Avoid Overloading Your Chimney: As we mentioned before, creosote is a highly flammable byproduct of combustion. Large fires produce higher amounts of smoke, and in turn, greater amounts of creosote buildup. By comparison, smaller fires produce less smoke and less creosote. For this reason, you want to avoid overloading your chimney. The risk of cracking your chimney lining also increases with a larger fire that’s higher in heat. 

Building Your Fire: Logs should always be placed close to the rear of the fireplace and should be put on a metal grate. Additionally, make sure to use kindling to start a fire as opposed to flammable liquids. Also, make sure that the fire has air and that you keep ample space between the logs. 

Practice Safety with a Spark Guard: Another important measure is to use a spark guard, which serves as a buffer preventing embers from coming out of the firebox. Typically this is mesh metal screen or sometimes glass doors. 

Move Flammable Objects Away from the Area: It is critical that you move any flammable objects far away from either your wood stove or fireplace. 

Use a Fan to Circulate the Air in Your House: You may want to consider running your ceiling fans on low speed to circulate the warm air in your home generated by your fireplace. 

Tips for Gas Fireplaces

If you have a gas fireplace, you don’t have to worry about removing and cleaning up ash. While there is typically less maintenance involved with gas fireplaces, there are still some basic steps you should take with your gas fireplace in preparation for the colder weather and the heating season:

Clean the glass: Consult your owners manual, and make sure you are using a cloth that is soft and the right type of cleaner. You do not want to scratch the glass, which increases the risk that the high heat could result in it shattering.

Use a Vacuum to Clean the Inside of Your Fireplace

Inspect Your Fireplace Thoroughly: Any damage, including cracks or rust, should be appropriately dealt with, and the parts that are affected should be replaced.

You can find additional gas fireplace safety tips here

Tips for Pellet Stoves

Pellet stoves offer many advantages. In general, they are cleaner than wood. Also, they provide greater efficiency than electric wall heaters and gas furnaces. However, just like your other home heating solutions, they require cleaning before their use during the cooler months.

Consult Your Owner’s Manual: The manual provides instructions regarding how to remove the particular parts of your pellet stove. Once you have done this, you will be ready to clean and vacuum your pellet stove. Be sure to take the following steps:

Cleaning the Exhaust Piping and Venting: The vent cap should be removed to clean it. Since ash can build-up in the T pipe, it is important to open it and thoroughly vacuum it. 

Take Out the Combustion and Distribution Fans: After vacuuming out soot and ash, you should use a brush to get rid of anything that remains stuck. Before putting the fans back in, be sure to replace gasket seals that are worn and have cracks.

Clean Behind All Panels.

Carefully Check the Gasket on your Firebox Door: Issues with the gasket can result in decreased efficiency. A simple way to check your seal is to put a dollar bill on the seal, close the door, and then check if you can pull the dollar out from the door. If you can do this relatively quickly, that’s a sign that the gasket might need to be replaced. Be sure to check a few, as opposed to just one area around the door.

Finally, Clean the Firepot and the Hopper: Remove ash, any pellets in the hopper and pellet dust.

Whether you have a wood burning fireplace, gas fireplace or pellet stove, it is critical that you take the right steps to prepare your structure for the cooler months. By practicing these tips, you can help ensure that your fireplace and chimney will work toward heating your home efficiently and safely as we head into Autumn and Winter. 

Common Fireplace Terms

wood burning fireplace

Many homeowners the Washington DC Metro area want to enjoy the increased value and comfort from having a fireplace installed.  Unfortunately, the wide selection of fireplace options available today, can make this a confusing process.  One of the sources of this confusion is understanding fireplace terms.   It is hard to make the right fireplace decision if you do not know understand the terms that are being used by your fireplace supplier and installer.

Local fireplace and chimney installation companies like ours will help you select the best products for your particular installation. This guide will help you find a quick definition to many of the terms that are frequently used by installers. This guide will give you a clear understanding of common fireplace terms but will not cover chimney repair terms that were covered in our previous article concerning chimney repair terms.

Fireplace Terms from A to Z

AFUE — Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, a measurement used for rating wall heaters and furnaces as an official heat source.

Ash Pan — A metal tray designed to catch and hold ashes falling from solid fuel fires for easier cleaning of the fireplace.

Air Vent — A small vent in the wall sometimes needed for gas fireplaces.

Agean Limestone — limestone from the Agean region of the Mediterranean, highly valued for its density and often used in fireplaces and surrounds.

Andiron/Bars/Dogs/Firedogs — decorative iron bars that hold logs or coal and help air flow to the  fire.

B Vent/Natural Draft Appliance — a system without a sealed combustion chamber that uses a single wall flue to vent.

Bellows — a device for blowing a controlled blast of air to stoke a fire.

Blue Flame Rectification — safety shut-off controlling and maintaining gas flow.

BTU — British Thermal Unit, used to measure heat.

Builders Opening — the precisely measured hole in the wall or chimney breast where the fireplace will go.

Burner — device containing orifice, mixing tube, and burner head where gas and air can safely combust.

Burner Ports — holes in a gas burner where gas/air comes out.

Carbon Dioxide — gas produced by complete combustion.

Catalytic Combuster — a device used to reduce the temperature at which smoke is ignited.

Casting/Cast Iron/Brass/Steel — the process where molten iron, brass, or steel is poured into a mold to produce solid pieces.

Chenet — one-piece unit to hold logs similar to an andiron, connected by a fender across the front, commonly just inside the firebox.

Clearview — fireplace with glass doors for viewing flames.

Combination Fireplace — unit with attached shelf needing no separate surround.

Carrara Marble — popular marble prized for its natural veining.

Carbon Monoxide — the poisonous gas product of incompletely burning fuels that should be safely vented in all installations by a certified professional.

Clearance — the measured space required by law to keep combustible surfaces a safe distance from fireplaces and other heat-producing units.

Ceramic Fiber Back — lightweight fireback used in tiled gas fireplaces to reflect heat into the room.

Decorative Gas Fire — appliance with living flame used for decorative purposes rather than heating.

Electric Insert — used where there is no chimney to simulate a heat-producing fire of coal or wood.

Electronic Ignition — installed electronic device for lighting a fire.

Emissions — by-products of combustion.

EPA Regulations — federal rules mandating emissions from wood burning appliances.

Fender — the low metal guard at the front of an open fireplace that keeps the burning logs or coal from falling into the room.

Fire Back/Fireback — the panel at the back of the fireplace designed to reflect heat into the room and protect the firebrick in the chimney.

Fireplace Insert — a unit designed to fit behind pre-built surround used with solid fuel, gas, or electric.

Fire Basket — a free standing device holding burning solid fuel.

Fire Box/Firebox — space where the fire actually burns.

Fire Stops — noncombustible devices sealing openings between floors to stop smoke & fire from spreading.

Fireguard/Firescreen — device preventing sparks from escaping fireplace and young children from reaching fire.

Fireplace Surround — decorative material (wood, brick, stone, tile, etc.) on the wall around the fireplace opening.

Free Standing Fireplace/Stove — compact appliance that sits away from the wall, normally on legs or a pedestal.  

Front-view Fireplace — traditional fireplace built into the wall.

Gas Cock Assembly/Valve Control — combination valve controlling supply of gas to the fireplace.

Gas Insert — a gas-burning unit installed into an existing fireplace. This is a popular option for gas fireplace installation

Gas Log — simulated logs and frame creating an open gas flame in a fireplace.

Glass Doors — a device used to close the opening of the hearth and keep heat from escaping through the chimney.

Grate — cast iron or steel frame holding the burning fuel.

Grate Polish/Black Lead/Zebo — traditional polish used on cast iron stoves and fireplaces.

Hearth — traditionally refers to the floor of the fireplace and non-combustible shelf in front of it but now also refers to all devices and equipment connected to the fireplace/stove industry.

Kindling — small pieces of dry wood that easily ignite to start a fire.

LP/LPG — Liquified Petroleum Gas, separated from wet natural gas, light crude oil, and oil-refinery gas into a colorless, odorless, non-toxic gas.

Manifold Pressure — amount of wc inches supported by various types of gas.

Mantel — Shelf above the fireplace or ornamental facing surrounding the opening.  Many people like to decorate their mantels

Multi-fuel — appliances designed to burn a variety of fuels.

Multi-view — fireplace offering multiple sides for viewing the fire.

NG/Natural Gas — colorless, highly flammable gas with high energy value.

Oxygen Depletion Sensors — safety devices detecting dangerous lack of oxygen, triggering shut off of appliance.

Pellets — man-made solid fuel designed for specific appliances.  Pellets are ofen used in pellet stoves.  

Piezo Starter — red button placing pressure on the crystal of a standing pilot system.

Pilot — small flame used to ignite gas at the burner.

Propane — a type of petroleum gas (LPG) in liquid form, also can be found in gas or vapor form.

PSI — pounds per square inch

Safety Pilot/Standing Pilot System — a safety device stopping the flow of gas to the appliance until needed and providing a small flame to ignite the main burner.

Seasoned Wood — fuel wood that has dried 6-12 months for optimum use.

Simulated Embers — a non-combustible decorative feature that looks like burning coals.

Solid Fuel — wood, coal, or pellet fuel that must be used in a unit designed for the particular fuel.

Spark Arrestor — a screen in front of the fireplace opening that keeps sparks inside, also the mesh placed on top of the chimney for the same purpose.

Spillage — dangerous backup of flue gasses into the building.

Spill Switch — a device used to detect spillage of flue gas.

Therm — a unit of heating value equal to 100,000 BTUs.

Thermo Sensor — automatic control of blower based on temperature.

Unvented/Vent Free — an appliance theoretically designed to burn so efficiently it needs no venting.

Wall Thermostat — electrical switch with sensors to maintain temperature by turning heat sources on or off.

WC/Water Column — unit of measurement of gas pressure: 28 wcs are in one pound of PSI..

When you are selecting a new fireplace for your home, be sure you understand what the salesman and installers are talking about. This list should help, but when in doubt, ask for an explanation of any term that is confusing. A professional in the fireplace industry should be able to answer all your questions before you decide which fireplace is best for you and your family.