During a recent chimney inspection at a home in Rockville, MD, we discovered that chimney liner needed to be replaced. The homeowner quickly asked, “So, what’s a flue?” We were glad that the homeowner asked that question. It shows that the homeowner cared enough to want to know everything that is happening with their chimney. Most people don’t give much thought to their chimneys, thinking of them as simply a low-tech invention which funnels smoke out of their homes. But in reality, a chimney is an evolved structure with several essential components that work together to move smoke and heat safely and efficiently out of your house, and one of the most important of these parts is the flue, or liner. Your chimney integrity and maintenance is critical to fire safety, that is why you should always have your chimney professionally inspected and clean by your local fireplace services company.
What Is A Chimney Flue, And What Does It Do?
At one time, most chimneys were constructed without a flue liner, but because of safety concerns, most local building codes now require one to be installed. Various tests conducted in the mid-20th century showed that unlined chimneys did a poor job of protecting a structure from fires and damage. Without a flue, the heat was transferred rapidly to the surrounding wooden structure, setting them aflame in as little as a few hours. The chemicals released by combustion can act directly on the brick, stone, and mortar, causing rapid deterioration and failure of the chimney, and possibly releasing deadly carbon monoxide into the home. A flue liner also allows for the correct sizing of the chimney configuration and a proper draft, which is necessary for efficient combustion and prevention of the buildup of creosote in the chimney, which can lead to fires.
Types Of Chimney Flue Liners
There are three basic types of flue liners used today:
- Clay Tile Liners – This is the most common type because it’s inexpensive and easily available and works well in a properly maintained chimney and open fireplace. Most older homes with liners will have this type. With regular cleaning and maintenance, they can last for decades. They aren’t as effective at containing chimney fires or the chemical by-products of gas fireplaces, and they are susceptible to cracks. When significant cracking has been detected by a professional Chimney inspection, it is usually recommended that a new liner be installed rather than attempting repairs.
- Metal Liners – Usually made of either aluminum or, more commonly, stainless steel. They are very safe and durable and do a good job of protecting a chimney and lessening the need for expensive repairs. Metal liners can be constructed for almost any type of chimney, and can be flexible or rigid, making for easier and less costly installation. They sometimes need to be used with an insulating material for higher temperatures.
- Cast Liners – Commonly made out of cement or a like material, these work well for their intended function and also contribute greatly to the structural integrity of the chimney, and are especially recommended for older chimneys that need support. They can be poured directly into the chimney creating a seamless and leak-proof lining. These can also handle higher temperatures than other liner types, something around to 2,100 degrees. That makes them a better protection against chimney fires and creosote buildup. The drawback is that if they are somehow damaged, which is unlikely, it requires a complete removal and replacement.
Your chimney flue is very important to the safety of your home and family, and to the useful life of your chimney. It’s a good idea to have your chimney inspected and cleaned at least once per year, especially before cold weather arrives. That way if any damage is found, you can get it repaired in order to start using your fireplace or woodstove immediately. If you are concerned if your fireplace needs to be repaired or not, here are 6 Signs that you need chimney repair.
All Pro Chimney Services operates in Washington D.C., Virginia, and Maryland. Contact us today for consultation and an estimate.
A chimney mantel is a shelf-like structure above a fireplace. Its main function is to catch the smoke of your fireplace in order to keep it out of the room. Homeowners hire companies like ours to make keep their fireplaces working properly. However, homeowners take it upon themselves to decorate their mantels. Decorating your mantel is a good way to set the look and feel of your living room. The structure of the mantel may not change much but the way you decorate it can reflect the seasons, an event, or even one of your passions. The change of seasons is a great motivation to change the decoration on your mantel but it does not have to be an expensive activity. We have seen many homes in Montgomery County, MD add a touch of autumn to their home by decorating their mantel. This is also an opportunity to express your personality through your fireplace. There are many DIY ways to add a touch of autumn to your fireplace decor.
Make Sure Your Fireplace Is Ready To Go
There is no point in decorating a mantel that is dirty or will need work before winter. Do this prep work first:
- Get in touch with your local fireplace service company and have your chimney inspected.
- Clean and declutter the mantel and hearth so you can start the season fresh.
Plan The Feeling You Want Your Room To Have
Planning for the feeling you want your room to have, that gives you a guideline for selecting the things that will express your goal. For example, do you want a serene feeling in your room or do you like to be in energetic spaces?
- A serene feeling is usually expressed with some empty spaces, repetitive objects, and few focus points.
- An energetic feeling is usually expressed with filled spaces, a variety of different objects, and many focus points on your mantle decor.
- The same items can express different feelings depending on how they are arranged, so experiment and have fun.
Shop Your Home First
You have many potential decorations in your home already. Adding a fall touch is a matter of adding fall colors with a few details like purchased autumn leaves, branches, and things found on nature walks. Gourds, fruit, and nuts are popular autumn decorations but if you use the real ones, check them regularly to make sure they remain intact. Here are some ideas:
- Canning jars with tealights are safe ways to enjoy the flame of a candle. Group various sizes or make a row in front of a favorite picture.
- The same idea with wine glasses or fancy crystal turns a rustic look into an elegant statement.
- Do you collect anything? Curate your collection and display the best items that have autumn colors for a unique decoration.
- Are you fond of family photos? Create a family “tree” with branches, names on cut-out leaves, and faces you love grouped across the mantel.
- The same idea with wine glasses or fancy crystal turns a rustic look into an elegant statement.
- Use a florist frog to secure some pretty branches inside a pumpkin, teapot or favorite coffee mug.
- Fabric or scarves artfully rumpled across the mantle will make colorful backdrops for treasured items. Try propping a book open to a pretty picture so all can enjoy a favorite illustration.
- Buy leaves from a dollar store and string them together to create fall garland. You can then drape it above or on your mantle. Drape it high so there is no danger of combustion.
- If you have some hurricane vases, use them to make vertical piles of leaves. This same idea can be done with inexpensive fall leaves from a dollar store.
Need more ideas for taking your mantel decor to the next level? Read this previous article.
Enjoy Your Masterpiece
Decorating your mantel is a never-ending process. As you enjoy your fireplace, you may decide you want to change something. Your home is your place to express your passion and your hearth is the perfect place to create many looks. A mantel that shows what you love will be a mantel you enjoy. If you wish to know more about how to get your fireplace fully ready for the fall season, here is an article that will help you.
Not so long ago we received a call from a new customer who lives in Howard County. She was asking what is creosote and how to deal with it. We will tell you the same as we told her. Creosote is a highly flammable residue that can build up in chimneys and cause serious problems. These problems can especially serious if they go unnoticed for years. This article has been written to educate homeowners about how creosote is created and why it is dangerous.
What is creosote?
Creosote is a sticky, highly flammable substance that is a natural byproduct of chimney smoke. Creosote builds up inside of chimneys over time.
How Does Creosote Form?
You now know what creosote, but before starting on how to deal with it we first need to understand how it forms. Smoke from burning wood cools as it exits the chimney. In some cases, the smoke cools to the point that it does not exit the chimney. The cooled down smoke sticks to the internal parts of the chimney forming into creosote. Creosote is sticky and highly flammable. Creosote can form from burning any kind of fossil fuels, but it tends to form most quickly in wood-burning fireplaces. Here’s what happens, phase by phase.
Phase 1: Wood or similar materials burn, and the smoke is carried away via the flue outdoors – everything is working as it should. However, that smoke is both very hot, and filled with a lot of particles, including particles of carbon and oils that were vaporized by the fire. As the smoke travels, these particles combine and hit the sides of the flue, getting attached. At first, this forms only a light layer of slightly sticky, burnt materials that can be scrubbed away with little difficulty.
Phase 2: Over time, creosote builds up to a thicker layer. If you’ve ever seen fresh asphalt on a road, you have some idea of what this substance looks like. The combination of heat and resin from wood creates a tarry substance that’s thick, sticky and quite difficult to remove. At this point, it takes a lot of scraping to get rid of the creosote, and the job is best left to professionals.
Phase 3: In time, the creosote layer becomes literally baked onto the inside of the chimney, a thick, hardened substance that may ooze or drip when exposed to high temperatures. Because this version of creosote is so thick and durable, it can be extremely difficult to remove. At this stage, it may also be causing problems with your chimney airflow.
You can probably see that creosote can become pretty annoying. But what makes it dangerous? Well, that baked and blackened substance can burn and exude fumes over time. Particularly in fireplaces used for heating, those fumes can enter your house and circulate around, where they cause all kinds of health problems. Notable issues include:
There is a second set of dangers associated with creosote pertain to situations that could result in chimney fires.
Chimney flues are designed to encourage airflow as much as possible. After a lot of creosote build-up, airflow decreases. This means that more heat stays in the chimney, exposing both chimney materials and the creosote to more heat than they would otherwise endure. This also occurs with clogged or mismanaged chimneys!
Creosote itself is flammable. Due to its composition, it can be very hot and can be very difficult to put out. Unfortunately, the chimney is one of the worst places in a house for this kind of fire to start: Chimney fires can quickly spread to the roof and throughout a house, and many devastating house fires start in the chimney, often caused by unknown creosote deposits.
Tips on Preventing Creosote from Building Up
Since creosote can be difficult and expensive to remove, the best solution is to prevent it from building up at all. But what can the average homeowner with a fossil fuel fireplace do about this? Here are several chimney maintenance tips to keep in mind:
Choose the Best Fireplace & Stove Fuels
You can reduce the amount of creosote buildup by burning fuels that will have the least impact on your chimney. For wood-burning fireplaces, that means only using fully dried, “seasoned” wood with no moisture, which will create very little residue when it burns.
Stay Away from Chemical Cleaners
Chemical cleaners are special logs or sticks you can buy and burn in your fireplace to help reduce the amount of creosote that forms. You have to burn chemical cleaners every time you use the fireplace for them to be effective, but if all you have is green wood, then chemical cleaners can help decrease creosote buildup in your chimney.
Schedule a Professional Chimney Inspection Every Year
Without a doubt, regularly chimney inspections and sweeps are the best way to prevent creosote buildup. It is also very important for the health of your fireplace! And family. If you don’t know the history of your fireplace or how well it was maintained in the past, then you don’t know how much creosote was built up before you started using the fireplace. On the other hand, if you’ve been using the fireplace for years without an inspection, even more creosote could have built up during this time. Either way, a professional inspection is a good idea: Fireplace and chimney experts can take a look at the health of your chimney, see what the creosote levels are, and recommend the best cleaning options.
You can find out more by contacting us at All Pro Chimney to arrange an inspection or ask more specific questions about your fireplace and chimney!
Every town has myths of their own. In many cases, those myths are born as a way to explain a particular situation. When it comes to fireplaces, people tend to have some interesting but wrong ideas about them. Maybe they’ve been told a myth by a trusted relative or well-meaning friend. Maybe they’ve heard these myths and believed them because it’s “common knowledge.” Let’s look at some of the most common myths about fireplaces and separate the fact from fiction.
You Don’t Need to Have Your Chimney Cleaned or Inspected if You Don’t Use it a Lot
Many people believe that just because you only have a fire in your fireplace a few times a year, you can skip having your chimney cleaned and inspected. That is a dangerous assumption to make. A lot happens over the course of the year. Just because you’ve only burned wood once or twice during the winter doesn’t mean you can skip cleaning and inspection. This also applies to situations where you never use your fireplace at all. The weather can take its toll on your chimney and fireplace, animals may build nests in your chimney, and your chimney may have cracks in the masonry or stovepipe due to overheating and extreme temperature changes over time. This is why chimney inspections are not only necessary but also mandatory in Howard County, MD and surrounding areas.
You Can Clean Your Chimney Easily and Do Just as Good of a Job as a Professional
If you’re a do-it-yourself (DIY) type of person, you may have read on the Internet that you can clean your chimney easily and skip the yearly chimney sweep cost. The reality is that unless you have the proper tools and experience to clean chimneys, you could still be leaving dangerous creosote in your chimney which requires a fair amount of scrubbing to get rid of and without the right equipment, you won’t get your chimney clean. You also may miss some problems with your chimney that a trained sweep will recognize. A trained professional will see small problems that need to be fixed before they become big problems by performing a chimney inspection. Finding problems early saves homeowners the headache of costly repairs. Trying to inspect and clean your own chimney is generally a bad idea.
Home Remedies Work Well to Clean Chimneys
This one is a particularly popula myth in Howard County. Some homeowners will search the internet a read about a “cool home remedy” for keeping your chimney clean. Maybe it’s burning a particular substance along with your logs to clean your chimney, or maybe it’s a new way to clean your chimney like tossing a burlap bag filled with rocks down your chimney instead of using the proper tools. These home remedies may sound attractive, but they don’t get your chimney clean and put you in danger. They also do nothing towards ensuring your fireplace and chimney are safe to operate.
Pine and Soft Woods Cause Creosote Buildup
You’ve probably heard the myth that creosote is caused by burning soft woods such as pine. While pine has a fair amount of resin, creosote is created regardless of what type of wood you use. There is no such thing as wood that does not cause creosote over time.
I had a Metal Liner Installed and Therefore Don’t Need Chimney Cleaning
People have metal liners installed to protect masonry chimneys and fireplaces from the heat and the weather. Although metal liners do help your chimney remain in good condition, they still need cleaning. Creosote will build up on metal liners just like it will on any other material.
Chimneys and Fireplaces Aren’t Safe
Chimneys and fireplaces are very safe as long as they are maintained and inspected annually. The danger comes when they aren’t serviced properly.
Burning Wood is Bad for Air Quality
With clean burn technology, fireplaces are cleaner than ever. The air both in the home and out the chimney is cleaner than ever due to new technology in fireplaces and woodstoves. Regardless of wether, you are using central heat or a wood fireplace, toxins are being emitted in the air. Fireplaces provide the benefit of using less energy to heat smaller spaces. Central heat uses significant amounts of fuel to heat your entire home. Fireplaces and stoves focus on heating specific rooms. They don’t waste energy heating unoccupied space. As a result, fireplaces have a much lower impact on the environment than central heating systems.
When it comes to your household safety and also if you try to keep your budget tight, trusting common myths about fireplaces can become more of a problem than a solution.
This time of year, we see signs of Spring everywhere we look. The birds are chirping, the grass is growing, and small animals can be seen running from place to place. Unfortunately, your chimney could be one of the destinations the animals seek. Animals of all kinds have been known to make their homes in chimneys. Animal nests in chimneys can lead to chimneys fires or carbon monoxide poisoning. We recently met a homeowner in Columbia, MD, who told us about a previous incident that occurred involving birds that nested in their chimney. The homeowner learned from experience that is always best to have their chimney inspected every year. Below is everything homeowners need to know about animals that nest in chimneys. We will also educate you on how to keep animals out of your chimney.
Why animals go into chimneys
Many animals look at chimneys as a place to den and make a nest. Chimney represent a warm place that is protected from rain and is safe from predators. It is that nature of all animals to provide a safe place for their offspring. Humans feel the same urge. In this case, animals have chosen a place that threatens your home.
Animals that Like living in chimneys
Different types of animals live in your chimney. These animals include:
- Birds, including chimney swifts, owls, sparrows, and starlings may build a nest in your chimney
- Rodents, such as rats and mice
Hazards created by animals nesting in chimneys
Chimney fires are an obvious danger of animal nests in chimneys. There are several other hazards that homeowners seldom consider.
- The nests can block off airflow, putting you at risk to carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Rodents, squirrels, and raccoons can carry parasites. These parasites can leave their animal hosts and feed on the humans and pets within the home.
- Squirrels, rats, and raccoons may enter the home and damage wiring, furniture, and contaminate foodstuffs.
- Bats and raccoons can be carriers of rabies. Rabies is a disease that can be fatal.
- Rodents, squirrels, and raccoons can carry other diseases such as leptospirosis, hantavirus, plague, and other nasty bacteria and viruses.
What to do if you already have animals living in your chimney
Homeowners should contact their local animal control department to report animals living in their chimney. Animal control have the training and equipment necessary to safely remove wild animals from your chimney. Animal control can also determine if the animal inside of your chimney is part of a protected breed. Removing certain breeds or birds is a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Never attempt to remove the animals yourself.
How to keep wild animals out of your chimney
A chimney cap is the best tool to keep animals out of your chimney. It is possible for homeowners to install their own chimney cap. However, it is always best to hire a professional chimney service company like ours. The best option is to have a chimney professional conduct your annual chimney inspection. Looking for signs of animal nests is a standard part of chimney inspections. The chimney sweep will also show you how to keep animals out of your chimney.
Animals are a threat to every chimney. Installing a chimney cap and hiring a licensed chimney sweep to conduct an inspection is the best defense. Call your local chimney service company and schedule your annual inspection today. One nest can ruin your chimney.