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.
Flower season is finally here. Everyone is getting started on their spring cleaning. It is essential to include your chimney in your spring cleaning routine. With winter dying down now is a great time to get a professional chimney sweep to look at your fireplace and make sure it’s in good shape after the harsh winter months. In addition to chimney cleaning, many homeowners decorate their mantle and hearth for the spring. We recently encountered a homeowner in Howard County that took great pride in her spring hearth decorations. Below are a few things that you can do to prepare your fireplace and chimney for the spring.
Clean & Paint Your Fireplace
Over the course of time, ash and debris can collect on your fireplace. Cleaning and repainting your fireplace can give a fresh look to an old fireplace. You have to start with cleaning the firebox and glass. Watch this video for an easy way to clean your fireplace glass.
If you have a wood-burning fireplace, you also want to sweep out your firebox before you paint. Sweep the old ash and wood remnants. You can use a vacuum to clean up the remaining debris. After the debris is gone, give the firebox a good scrubbing and paint with high-temperature paint. Watch the video below for instructions on how to clean and repaint your firebox.
Decorate your mantle & hearth
Fireplaces tend to be the focal point of any room. Your fireplace and mantle provide an excellent opportunity to enhance the beauty of any place. Decorating your fireplace mantle and hearth is a fun way to add charm and flair to a room. You can find some great spring decorating ideas here.
Here is an exciting video with ideas for decorating your mantle with items from Dollar Tree and Walmart.
Schedule your annual chimney inspection and cleaning
Chimneys take a beating throughout the winter. It is crucial to have your chimney inspected by a professional chimney sweep company like ours. A professional chimney sweep technician will inspect your chimney, determine if it needs to be cleaned and identify any areas in need of repair. Catching problems early is the best way to prevent costly chimney repairs in the future. The chimney sweep will also make sure that your chimney cap is in good condition. Want to learn more? Read our previous article about why chimneys should be cleaned every year.
Important note: Some make the mistake of thinking only wood-burning fireplaces need annual inspections and cleaning. All chimneys should be inspected a minimum of every year. Even gas fireplaces require yearly inspections. Be safe. Get your chimney inspected.
Installing an outdoor fireplace can make quite a difference in the look and feel of your home. From providing a spot to hang out with guests to keeping everybody warm outside, there are many reasons to install a fireplace outdoors. We find that outdoor fireplaces are particularly popular in Howard County. Here are five benefits of installing an outdoor fireplace that you’ll experience right away.
Outdoor fireplaces help you entertain guests
Whenever you add something to your home that’s both stylish and comfortable, it makes for a great spot for guests. As far as entertaining goes, it doesn’t get much better than an outdoor fireplace. You and your guests can sit around the fireplace or custom firepit enjoying drinks and conversation without worrying about getting cold. You can also add extra seating and table space to accommodate more guests. Here are a few quick entertainment ideas:
- Fireside dinner
- Drinks and conversation
- Music by the fire
Outdoor fireplaces keep you warm on chilly evenings
Spending time outside gets considerably harder during the colder season. It’s a lot easier when you have installed an outdoor fireplace to keep you warm. If you love the winter weather but hate being out in the cold, you’ll enjoy relaxing next to your outdoor fireplace and reading a book or having a morning cup of coffee. And when summer rolls around, it’s a great way to keep everybody warm at night.
Outdoor fireplaces add resale value to your home
One of the most useful benefits of installing an outdoor fireplace to your home is the increase in resale value. Many homes are amazing on the inside but lack appeal on the exterior of the house. Installing an outdoor fireplace is among the best ways to increase resale value. Installing outdoor fireplaces is recommended in an article in US News & World Reports.
Smoke from outdoor fireplaces repel bugs
Acting as a bug repellant is a lesser-known benefit of installing an outdoor fireplace. You don’t have to worry about a bunch of bugs flying in your face so much with an outdoor fireplace. The smoke from your outdoor fireplace works as a natural insect repellant. Burning fire while you’re outside can help cut down on the number of bugs bothering you.
You can cook on your outdoor fireplace
Outdoor fireplaces are a great tool when it comes to outdoor cooking. A fireplace isn’t quite as easy to use or accurate as a gas grill, but they still provide an excellent heat source if you’re looking to do some outdoor cooking. You can cook simple things like marshmallows or hot dogs on sticks, or you can have a fire grate installed so you can do full-scale cooking in your fireplace.
No matter what you’re looking for out of your home, chances are you’ll find many benefits to installing an outdoor fireplace. Not only are outdoor fireplaces a great way to entertain guests and stay warm, but they are also an investment that adds a lot of resale value to your home.
Want an estimate for installing an outdoor fireplace?
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You may have heard that a woodburning fireplace needs to be cleaned every year. A homeowner in Howard County recently asked us if they need to have their gas burning fireplace cleaned. Gas fireplaces are considered much cleaner and safer than their woodburning ancestors, but they can develop issues over time. Many people don’t realize that gas fireplaces also experience buildup and need regular maintenance to work at their best. There are many reasons why gas chimneys must be cleaned every year. Read on to find out more:
Why a Gas Chimney Needs Yearly Cleaning
There are a wide variety of reasons why you should have your gas fireplace cleaned and maintained. Poorly maintained gas fireplaces can be dangerous. In some cases it may be legally required. Depending on where you live, your insurance, city, or county may require regular chimney inspections and cleaning. Skipping this can get you hit with fees or even affect your insurance status.
Ease of cleaning is one of the many reasons to choose gas fireplaces. However, over time some buildup will occur. It’s important that this buildup is safely cleared away on a regular schedule. This typically means once a year, depending on use. A good time to schedule a cleaning is at the end of summer or in the fall before the cold temperatures hit.
Why Chimney Sweeping Matters
What could happen if you don’t get regular cleaning and servicing? Here are three common scenarios:
- Scenario 1: A residue has built up in the chimney, often paired with a cloudy film inside the glass viewing doors.
- What’s the problem? The residue could ignite, starting a chimney fire. This is a potentially extremely dangerous situation that could cause permanent damage to your chimney or home.
- Scenario 2: You see damage to the doors, mortar, or crowns.
- What’s the problem? Chips, cracks, and poor seals could let moisture leak into the system, causing other problems.
- The problems continue: This might also allow toxic fumes to leak out of your gas fireplace and into the air you’re breathing. Carbon monoxide is the big concern here. It’s odorless and can sicken or even kill people.
- Scenario 3: Over the summer, a blockage developed in the chimney. This is often caused by birds building nests.
- What’s the problem? This scenario could trigger a cascade of problems including chimney fires and, through poor air flow, carbon monoxide could infiltrate your home.
When a technician performs a fireplace inspection and cleaning, he or she will start by looking at the exterior and interior of the unit. A major part of the inspection is checking that your chimney is operating correctly. This means looking for signs of both exterior and interior damage as well as making sure that the flue is clear.
If you haven’t used your fireplace in a while, some debris may be blocking the flue. This could include birds making nests, which often happens in the spring and isn’t noticed until temperatures drop in the fall. Another culprit is bad weather that blows debris and leaves inside.
The technician may also talk with you about any concerns or issues you’ve had. Next, he will check to make sure everything is operating correctly. If there’s a problem, it’s addressed. The next step will be a cleaning that removes residue from chimney, vents, and the glass panels.
Some inspections will include other, related services. For example, the technician may check that your carbon monoxide detectors are working correctly. If you want to replace your ceramic fireplace logs or have something else installed there, this is a good time.
A gas fireplace is a great appliance to have in your home, but it’s important to exercise caution when using gas appliances. As important as staying warm is, the last thing you want is to cause damage to your home by starting a fire improperly. To prevent this, keep reading to learn how to safely light a gas fireplace.
The first step to safely light a gas fireplace is removing the decorative cover on the front for easy access. After you’ve done this, you can turn the gas on using the shut-off valve. Once your gas is on, you’ll want to remove the fixed glass assembly as this can cause gas to build up in your fireplace and create a safety hazard. This is primarily a problem when you’re having a hard time lighting your pilot light.
The ignition process depends on what type of gas fireplace you have in your home. Most homeowners will have a red or black push button which simply allows them to ignite the pilot light once the gas is turned on. This is called a piezoelectric spark mechanism. If you don’t have one of these buttons on your gas fireplace, you’ll have to light the pilot light manually.
If you’re going to light your pilot light manually, you’ll want to consult the instructions included on the label on your furnace. These instructions will explain how to safely light your pilot light if you don’t have the means to automatically light it. In any case, you’ll want to turn the “Pilot,” “On” and “Off” switch to off and let your fireplace sit for a few minutes so the gas can dissipate into the air. You can then safely light your pilot light using a lighter designed for this purpose.
Here are some things to note when lighting a gas fireplace:
- If you can’t get it to light manually after multiple tries, chances are there’s a problem that requires some furniture services from a technician.
- Don’t manually light your furnace until you’ve turned the gas off
- Make sure you use a long lighter to keep your hands away from the pilot light
Cleaning and inspection
t’s common knowledge to homeowners that wood-burning fireplaces require regular cleaning and inspections. After all, leftover residue dramatically increases the potential for fire hazards. Many think that having a gas fireplace installed eliminates the need for having their chimneys cleaned every year. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends that chimneys of all kinds should be cleaned every year. The truth is that getting your chimney sweep is every bit as important for gas fireplaces. Here you can learn why you should always keep your gas fireplace clean.
Areas like Vienna tends to get really cold during this time of the year, that is why it’s so important to understand how to safely light a gas fireplace. As long as you follow these tips and double check everything before you take any major steps, you’ll have no problem keeping your family safe and cozy all winter long.
if you are thinking about getting a gas fireplace for your home, click here to learn everything you need to know about gas fireplaces.