4 Ways to know you need your chimney cleaned


Regular chimney cleanings are an important part of maintaining your chimney and keeping it safe for use. Unfortunately, many homeowners go too long in between chimney cleanings or make the mistake of assuming that only burning a creosote log is “good enough.” In reality, professional chimney cleaning is highly recommended to protect your home and your loved ones from smoke and fire hazards caused by dirty chimneys.   We recently encountered a that needed chimney repairs in Ellicott City, MD that would have never needed the chimney repairs if the homeowner had decided to hire a chimney sweep every year. 

Not sure if your chimney is in need of a cleaning? We have got some telltale signs to watch.  Here are 4 ways to know that you need your chimney cleaned:

  1. It has been more than a year since your last chimney sweep.
  2. There is noticeable creosote buildup
  3. There is excessive smoke in fireplace
  4. Fire takes a long time to start

It has Been More Than a Year Since Your Last Chimney Sweep
annual chimney cleaning

First of all, when was the last time you had your chimney cleaned or swept? If it’s been more than a year, then it is time for a professional cleaning. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends that chimneys be cleaned every year.  Even if you have not used the fireplace in the past year, there’s a good chance you have organic build-up in your chimney that should be cleared out before you use it again.

Noticeable Creosote Buildup


After donning a pair of protective goggles and a breathing mask, grab a flashlight and take a peek inside the chimney itself. Specifically, be on the lookout for gray or black soot built up along the sides of the chimney. This is creosote, a flammable material that can cause chimney fires. If you have more than a quarter-inch of creosote buildup, it’s time to schedule a professional chimney cleaning.

There’s Excessive Chimney Smoke
smokey chimney

When you start a fire in your fireplace, do you notice that the room or even large areas of your home suddenly become smoky? If so, this could be a sign of creosote or other flammable buildups within the chimney itself. Check to be sure that your chimney’s flue is open (having it closed while burning a fire can cause excessive smoke, too). If it is, then you should refrain from using your fireplace until you can have it professionally inspected and cleaned.

Fireplace Takes a Long Time to Start
wood for fireplace

Another red flag to be on the lookout for is noticing that it is taking longer to get a fire started in your fireplace. This could be due to a lack of oxygen reaching the wood, which could be indicative of a blockage or other problem within the chimney itself. This issue may also be accompanied by strange smells coming from the fireplace or chimney as well. Either way, it’s time to call a professional.

These are just a few of the most telltale signs that your chimney needs a cleaning or sweeping. By having your chimney professionally serviced at least once a year, you can enjoy greater peace of mind when using your fireplace. You may also be able to avoid more expensive repairs down the road!


Floating cast crown & chimney rebuild in Maryland

damaged chimney crown

The homeowners just purchased their Owings, MD home and they knew from the home inspection that the chimney needed some masonry repairs. As you can see the bricks are spalling (spalling happens when moisture gets into the bricks freezes and pops the brick faces out).  This crown was in a condition similar to a chimney project that we rebuilt in Ellicott City.

Why the home needed a chimney rebuild?

cracked concrete chimney crown

This happens because of the design flaws in the construction of the chimney. Below is I will list some of the flaws based on the arrows.

Green arrow– They did not install an expansion joint around the flue liners. When the flue is in use and heat is going through it, it will expand. Without an expansion joint the flue liners will eventually crack the crown as they expand during the heating process. You can see that has happened here with the large cracks running from the chimney liners to the edge of the crown.

Yellow arrow– The crown is pitched to the edge of the bricks leaving it fragile. The crown itself isn’t thick enough, to begin with, but when they pitched it off to the edges it leaves a very thin surface where water will collect, freeze and crack the edges.

Red arrow– The bricks at the top of the chimney are corbelled inwards (stepped in). This leaves a place for water to sit and soak into the chimney. This is also a place where you can have vegetation growing on the chimney like the one above. The vegetation can and will have the roots destroy the chimney if left unattended.

All this damage to the to the top of the stack will also cause leaking into the fireplace.  You can find out more about common causes of chimney leaks in our previous article.

How we rebuilt the chimney

chimney repair scaffolding

When we build or rebuild chimneys, we will corbel the bricks out, and from there we will build a new floating cast concrete crown that sits on a stainless steel sheet, re-enforced with mesh and has the expansion joints around the flue liners.  You can learn more about floating cast concrete crown here.

chimney repair technician

Once the chimney was rebuilt, we applied Chimney Saver waterproofing to prevent the same moisture issues from occurring.

Job Complete – Rebuilt Chimney

finished chimney crown repair

We also installed new counter flashing which in tucked into the mortar bed joints of the chimney.

final crown repair and chimney rebuild

Rebuild completed! We were able to get a pretty good match on the brick and mortar. Another satisfied customer from All Pro Chimney Service.

5 Ways to prevent costly chimney repairs

chimney repair maintenance 

When you own a home with a chimney, it’s important that you practice maintenance throughout the year. This will make it easier to prevent costly chimney repairs. Otherwise, you could end up spending a significant amount of money to repair your chimney.A recent job that we did in Ellicott City, MD is an excellent example of how acting quickly can reduce chimney repair costs.  Many of the most common repairs can be avoided when you know what needs to be done.

1. Use the Right Fire Wood

There are many types of wood that you can burn in a chimney. Any seasoned hardwood can be used. If it hasn’t been properly dried, the moisture can lead to problems, including creating more soot and ash that will lead to a clogged chimney. It will also increase the risk of fire inside the chimney, which is a danger.  Here is a good article on how to tell if your firewood is seasoned. 

“Green” wood should be avoided. If you buy firewood, look to see that it is seasoned so you can avoid issues.

2. Clean Out Ash from your Fireplace

Ash should be removed on a regular basis. Every time ash reaches the bottom of the grate in your fireplace is an indication that you need to clean it all out. It will make it easier for you to keep the air flow moving correctly. It only takes a few minutes after the fireplace has cooled, and can make a big difference in the long run. Cleaning supplies are sold everywhere, too, making it a simple task.

3.Get an Annual Chimney Sweep

Hire a professional chimney sweep once a year. They will be able to come in, provide a thorough cleaning of the chimney, as well as look for any potential issues. The sweep will know what to look for and can catch issues before they become problematic. This will also keep you “in the know” regarding the health of your fireplace.  We recommend considering our services

4.  Call for Chimney Repair When You See a Problem

The moment you see a problem, call for a repair. Some of the most costly repairs are because homeowners ignore the problem. Further, don’t focus on cost alone when choosing a chimney repair service. The “cheapest” repairs are often cheap for a reason – and you don’t want to pay twice to get the job done right.  Be sure to ask the chimney sweep company these questions

5.  Don’t Try To Fix Your Chimney Yourself

A DIY approach can be dangerous, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s best to hire a chimney sweep contractor who has a good reputation in your area. Also, one who uses floating cast chimney crowns is desirable because of having quality techniques to get the job done right.

In the end, you’re in control of the maintenance performed on your home. Having a fireplace and chimney can be a great feature in the colder weather, however, you need to know what can be done so you can avoid costly repairs throughout the life of your chimney and your home.

5 Favorite Roofers in Ellicott City, MD

roofing in Ellicott City, MD

Our team at All Pro Chimney Service believes in supporting local businesses.  Looking for a roofer in Ellicott City? If so, we’ve got some great recommendations for local, reputable companies that can serve your residential roofing needs. Here are our 5 favorite roofers in Ellicott City, MD.

Dominion Roofing Co.

Dominion Roofing Co. is based in Kensington, but serves Ellicott City and the surrounding areas; with more than 25 years of roofing experience, this Better Business Bureau accredited company has won a number of awards for their service, including the Angie’s List Super Service Award. They can provide a number of common residential roofing services, such as:

  • roofing inspection
  • roofing repair
  • full roof replacement

They also install gutters and siding, making them a great one-stop shop for many of your home’s exterior needs.

DWM Roofing, Inc.

DWM Roofing  ellicott city, Md

DMW Roofing, Inc. sets it’s sites on being Maryland’s premier roofing company, and they pride themselves in being locally owned and operated. They provide a 10-year labor warranty, as well as a 10-year maintenance-free guarantee on new roofing. Homeowners appreciate their honest free estimates.  From roof installation to roofing repair, they do it all. They also offer gutter and skylight services to suit your home’s needs. DMW Roofing is also known for giving back to the community, being proud contributors and participants in such charities and organizations such as:

  • St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital
  • The Special Olympics
  • community 4-H programs
  • local food drives

Horizons Unlimited

ellicott city roofing by horizons unlimited home improvements

Horizons Unlimited is a family-owned and operated roofing business that’s been serving the community since 1993. Over the years, they have served more than 7,000 customers and have built quite a strong reputation for themselves. This company really does it all, ranging from custom kitchens and bathrooms to roofing, siding, and more. However, their specific roofing services include:

  • Inspections
  • installation
  • repairs
  • gutter care

They also offer a wide variety of roofing types, such as metal and even rubber roofing. For residential customers with flat roofs, this is another area of expertise for Horizons Unlimited.


Roofpro Ellicott City

Located in Severn and proudly serving Ellicott City and the surrounding areas, RoofPro‘s motto is “Roofing it right the first time.” This licensed and CertainTeed-certified roofing company specializes in full roofing replacement, roof repair, and skylights—though they also provide deck and patio services. Whether you’re in need of a second opinion on a roofing inspection or have a roofing emergency, you can reach their team and request an appointment for a free consultation or estimate. They’ve been proudly serving Ellicott City area residents since the company was first founded in 2003, and have built a strong reputation for quality work.

Shanco Roofing

shanko roofing Ellicott city, MD

For more than 20 years, the experts at Shanco Roofing have been serving the community with their roof installation, repair, and replacement needs. They have been recognized by several top roofing manufacturers, including CertainTeed, EcoStar, GAF, and others for their expertise and quality labor. Shanco Roofing also prides themselves in being able to service any number of roofing types, including:


cedar shake

standing seam




Whether you’re in need of repair, installation, waterproofing, or even storm damage repair, their experienced team has you covered. Plus, all their roofing work comes with a labor warranty, so you can enjoy additional peace of mind and confidence with your purchase.


Fireplace relining & chimney repair in College Park, MD

Maryland fireplace reline and chimney repair

The project required repairs to the wood fireplace and the chimney.  The fireplace repairs were minor compared to the chimney.  However, there was a significant difference between the appearance of the fireplace before and after repairs.  The chimney work included installing a new crown and new flue liners. 

Part 1 – Installing custom steel arch plate fireplace door

before fireplace door repairBefore replacing screen and andirons

after fireplace door repairAfter installing arch plate fireplace door. 

 We removed the old fireplace screens and andirons and installed a custom steel arch plate fireplace door. The new hardware gave the fireplace a more modern look. 

 Part 2 – Floating cast concrete crown installation 

before floating cast crown installation

Before floating cast crown installation

floating cast crown installation

After floating cast crown installation

 The old crown was deteriorating and falling apart. We knew this job required a crown similar to what we installed in a previous repair project in Ellicott City, MD.  We rebuilt it with a new floating cast concrete crown. Which is 5″-6″ thick, sits on a stainless steel sheet, reinforced with mesh, has PWR waterproofing powder added to the concrete mix to waterproof it and has an expansion joint around the flue liners. You can learn more about float cast concrete crowns here. 

Part 3 Install Chimney Flue Liner

cracked chimney flue liner
cracked chimney flue liner

Before chimney liner repair


chamber tech 2000 chimney liner repairAfter chimney liner repair

The flue liners for the fireplaces were cracked and shifted and needed to be relined.  The new stainless steel lining systems were installed and we sealed the bottom of the liners with Chamber Tech 2000. The smoke chamber for both fireplaces we built properly and had a smooth transition leading up to the flue liner so all we had to do was seal the bottoms of the liners. We also installed 2 Lock Top II dampers for the fireplaces.

The Finished Chimney and Fireplace Project

completed floating cast chimney installation

after chimney flue liner repair

This is the completed before and after pictures. The most noticeable difference is the new floating cast concrete crown. This chimney will outlast any other chimney in this neighborhood simply because of how the crown was rebuilt. It will protect the masonry below it for years to come.