Gas Fireplace Safety & Maintenance: What You Must Know

 gas fireplace safety

Having a gas fireplace can be an incredible luxury for any homeowner, especially during those cooler months of the year. Furthermore, many homeowners also enjoy the fact that gas fireplaces require less care, cleaning, and maintenance than a traditional wood-burning fireplace. Ease of maintenance is one of the common reasons why homeowners install gas fireplaces.  Still, there are some important steps all owners should take to maintain proper gas fireplace safety and prevent gas fireplace repairs.

Schedule Annual Fireplace Inspections

The single most important thing you can do to prolong the safe use of your gas fireplace is to schedule an annual fireplace inspection and cleaning with a reputable professional chimney repair company.  This is a great way to have all the components of your gas fireplace checked out to ensure everything is in safe working order—and to have any necessary small repairs made before they become more expensive and problematic.

Specific aspects of your fireplace a professional should check during an inspection include:

  • smoke flumes and vents
  • gas line
  • ignition system
  • fans (where applicable)

You can also find additional info about when a chimney cleaning is needed here.  

Check the Exterior Vent Monthly

Your gas fireplace most likely has a vent somewhere on the exterior of your home; this vent has an important responsibility of carrying any smoke and carbon monoxide from a fire safely out of your home. Inspection of this vent should already be done by a professional as part of your annual inspection. 

It is never a bad idea to exercise additional precautions. Once a month, check the exterior vent for yourself and make sure it’s clear of any debris or obstructions that could otherwise pose a carbon monoxide risk to your household. And of course, always keep at least one carbon monoxide detector in your home.

Clean Out Fireplace and Glass Regularly

Proper gas fireplace safety also requires homeowners to clean out your fireplace monthly. Since it’s not wood-burning, this task shouldn’t be too time-consuming.  Still, taking the time to get rid of any cobwebs or other debris is a good idea.

You should also use a quality glass cleaner to wipe down the inside and outside of your fireplace screen, which will keep it from becoming stained or otherwise permanently discolored. This is a small part of gas fireplace safety that will allow you to continue enjoying your fireplace to the fullest extent.

Don’t Ignore Signs of Problems

Finally, should anything ever seem “off” about the operation of your gas fireplace, call a professional chimney repair company and stop using your gas fireplace right away. Always go with your gut instinct and do not ignore a potential problem. When it comes to the safety of your gas fireplace, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Some potential “red flags” to be on the lookout for include:

  • ·         odd smells coming from your fireplace
  • ·         difficulty getting pilot light to ignite
  • ·         smoke coming from your fireplace

By taking the time to maintain your gas fireplace properly, you can enjoy safe operation for many years to come!

 

 

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
chimney

 

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

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:

shingle

cedar shake

standing seam

copper

slate

flat

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.