One of life’s greatest simple pleasures is curling up in front of a blazing fireplace with a hot beverage and a good book or enjoying the company of family and friends. As the temperature in the Washington DC Metropolitan area falls, there will be many opportunities to enjoy your fireplace. However, having a safe and aesthetically pleasing experience requires some chimney and fireplace maintenance before the season begins. Whether your fireplace is a burns wood or gas, there are some things that you should do to prepare your fireplace for the winter. Some of these things do not require a chimney service company like ours to do the work.
Clean your fireplace and surrounding area
Your fireplace is the centerpiece of your home, so you want it to look good, especially during the winter when it’s in use. Use a broom, not a vacuum cleaner, to sweep up and remove any leftover ashes in the hearth. Clean the surrounding masonry with soap and water or a commercial cleaner. If you have a glass spark guard, a good cleaning with water and vinegar will give you a clear view of your fire. You can also use ash to clean the glass. Here is a video that you may find helpful.
Have your fireplace and chimney inspected
According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, every fireplace and chimney should be inspected by a professional chimney sweep at least once a year. A chimney professional will do a complete examination of both the exterior and interior of your chimney as well as the fireplace. They will ensure that everything is functioning properly, that there are no obstructions of flammable deposits in your chimney, and that the masonry or stonework doesn’t have damage that could possibly cause a fire. Never attempt to inspect your chimney yourself. Always hire a professional.
Have your chimney cleaned
During your annual inspection the technician will determine if your chimney needs to be cleaned. If they recommend it, make sure that you follow their advice. Never delay getting your chimney cleaned. Burning wood smoke contains chemicals that can build up on the inside of your chimney in the form of creosote, which is highly combustible. A chimney sweep service will remove these dangerous deposits so that you can fully enjoy your fireplace.
Install a cap on your chimney
A chimney cap outfitted with a wire mesh cover that fits over the top of the chimney will keep snow, rain, animals, leaves and other items out of the chimney and fireplace. If you already have a cap, check it to make sure it hasn’t been damaged. Replace it if necessary.
Use a spark barrier
If you don’t already have one, it’s a good idea to invest in a metal or glass spark guard. Stray sparks and embers can ruin your carpet or rugs. They can also catch fire. A spark barrier also keeps the kids and pets from accidentally falling into the fire or throwing things into it. Spark barriers come in a wide variety of styles and can add beauty to your fireplace.
Choose the right firewood
Wherever you get your wood, make sure it’s a hardwood like oak or maple to ensure maximum heat and the least amount of smoke. Soft resinous woods like pine will build up more creosote and lead to more cleaning and chimney maintenance.
Here is a great video about picking the right firewood.
If you’re ready to have your fireplace and chimney prepared for the winter, All Pro Chimney is ready to serve. Contact us today for a free estimate.
If you have a fireplace and traditional wood or stone mantel in your home, you’ve got a lot of options for decorating it for Christmas. With the fireplace taking center stage in stories about Santa coming down the chimney to deliver presents, the mantel has naturally played a role in holiday celebrations for decades. As a chimney services company, we see a lot of mantle decorations. Homeowners in Montgomery County and the Washington DC Metro Area are very creative. Whether you use your mantel just for hanging stockings or use a shelf or countertop, these DIY decoration ideas will help you create a custom display that takes your holiday celebrations to the next level.
Head Outside for Free Natural Decorations
Look outside your home or in local parks and public areas for nature’s contributions to your decorations. Even suburban yards often contain pinecones of varying sizes and styles, nicely shaped bare branches, sprigs of holly, acorns or other nuts, and twigs to turn into wreaths and ornaments. Add some color by including ribbons or bow in your mantel decoration. National parks and national forests tend to have rules prohibiting the collection of these items, but most public parks have no rules against taking a handful of pinecones or fallen tree branches. Natural elements can be arranged along the mantel for larger pieces or stacked in clear glass containers for smaller nuts, pinecones, and other items.
String Some Good Old-Fashioned Garlands
During your next routine grocery run, pick up a bag of cranberries, some popping corn, and a few oranges. You can create three different old-fashioned garlands that add a surprisingly modern look to your mantel display. Mix and match all three elements or try a solid strand of each. You can slice the oranges thinly and string them fresh, but this may cause the orange slices to curl and wrinkle as they dry. For perfectly flat slices that let firelight shine through them, use a mandoline for thin and even slices and dry them layered between parchment paper and pressed under a weight. A baking sheet with a heavy can or gallon of water set on top will distribute the weight evenly over all the slices.
Repurpose Existing Decorations
Are there a few home decorations you already have but rarely display? If you love them but have trouble finding places where they fit, consider turning them into Christmas decorations. Many mirrors, frames, wreaths, and vases are easy to match to a Christmas theme with no alterations, but some paint and a little glitter or artificial snow can make any decoration into a Christmas mantel centerpiece.
Grab Some Clear Glass Vases
A set of tall and clear glass vases allows you to display practically any festive colored material or collection you find. Pour in wrapped candies, colored sand, acorns and other natural items, sprinkles, colored balls, marbles, or even live plants like small poinsettias to create instant displays with little effort. Keep durable materials stored in gallon-sized bags along with the vases to repeat the display next year, or switch out the fillings each year for sweet mantel displays that are always a surprise.
Mantel decorating should be fun and reflect the entire family. Get everyone involved to create a mantel display you’ll want to gather around year after year each Christmas.
Need more idea? Check out our previous article about fall mantel decorations.
The chimney crown is an important part of your chimney. Its primary function is protecting your chimney from water. The techniques used to repair chimneys vary between different chimney repair company’s. Some chimney repair companies like ours use waterproofing agents that extend the life of the crown. Some less than honorable chimney service companies cut corners by using lower-quality materials. It is important to know about chimney crowns to make the right decision about your chimney crown repairs.
What is a chimney crown?
A chimney crown is a large slab of concrete that covers the top opening of the chimney, protecting the brick and mortar chimney structure from water. Chimney crowns are sometimes called chimney washes. The crown is commonly made of concrete, but it can also be metal or stone. Crowns should not be mistaken for the chimney cap, which is made of metal and primarily covers the flue. You’ll find the chimney crown above the last layer of brick at the top of your chimney. It is typically about three to four inches thick and slopes down at the edge.
There are a few types of crowns:
- Cast-in-place: Suitable for large chimneys and made of concrete,
- Precast: Ideal for smaller chimneys and made of concrete
- Floating crown: Built with an overhang that is approximately two inches above the chimney. This type of crown takes longer to install but usually lasts longer than other crowns.
The Role of the Chimney Crown
The primary role of the chimney crown is to keep water from entering the chimney. It is considered the first line of defense for the overall masonry. If the crown should fail, it can cause your chimney to leak. If you allow the crown to stay damaged, it can result in the rest of the masonry to crumble. In fact, faulty crowns are a common cause of chimney leaks. By keeping the chimney crown in good condition, you can keep your chimney and the rest of your fireplace in good repair, too.
Common Chimney Crown Problems
Be aware of such issues as:
- Sealant problems
- Cracked crown
- Masonry degradation
- Chimney leaks
The frequency and type of issues are primarily determined by the age of your chimney, how well it was constructed, to begin with, and how well you take care of your property. Do not ignore your chimney crown. Bigger problems arise when you put off issues year after year.
Chimney crown problems can lead to the deterioration of your chimney. Deterioration continues to worsen over time. It is always best to address crown issues early. You don’t want to get into a situation where the entire chimney has to be rebuilt.
How to Keep Your Crown in Good Condition
Schedule an annual chimney inspection every year. Be sure to use a qualified, professional chimney service company with a good reputation. Some companies are better than others. Pay close attention to their google reviews.
When the crown is in reasonably good shape but still cracked, crown sealant can be used. However, if the crown is already severely damaged, just applying sealant isn’t going to happen. You will need to have the crown rebuilt.
Having a professional inspect the chimney will make it easier to identify what the best fix is. In some instances, it’s best to remove the existing crown and have the surface cleaned. From there, concrete and wire mesh can be added in order to recreate the crown and reinforce it.
A good chimney service technician will identify chimney crown problems and make the right recommendation. Make a wise decision and get the repairs as soon as you are made aware. Crown damage worsens over time. More damage costs more to repair.
Read our previous article to learn more about chimney crowns.
When you have a chimney, it’s important to make sure its inspected regularly. Regular inspections help find chimney problems before those problems result in damage to your home or more serious situations. Homeowners in Montgomery County, MD and other areas around Washington DC need to have their chimneys inspected every year. Here is more information about chimney inspections and their importance.
How Often Should Chimneys Be Inspected?
The length of time your chimney can go without inspection depends on a few factors. Typically, chimneys and fireplaces are inspected annually. If there have been earthquakes or storms that could have damaged your chimney, then it’s important to consider an inspection regardless of how much time has passed since the last inspection. You should also consider how often you use your fireplace.
Why Should Chimneys Be Inspected?
Chimneys should be inspected to make sure they’re in good working condition. Beyond that, inspections are important because they can catch problems with the chimney early on. This could save you thousands of dollars, allowing for easier repairs. If there are any signs of damage to your chimney, an inspection can help identify the problem. The inspection can also determine if you need to clean your chimney. Professional chimney service companies have the expertise to make the right recommendations.
What Are the Risks of Not Getting Your Chimney Inspected?
If you decide not to get your chimney inspected, the likelihood is that it will continue to gather creosote and debris. In some cases, animals may try to move into your chimney, too. Blockages, creosote buildup and other issues can lead to problems such as smoke entering your home or chimney fires, which could put your life at risk.
What Is the Difference Between a Chimney Inspection and a Chimney Sweep?
A chimney inspection is not the same as a chimney sweep. A chimney inspection is made up of three levels and helps identify any problems with your chimney. A chimney inspection may show that you do need to have your chimney cleaned out, and that’s when you’d call a chimney sweep. A chimney sweep focuses on cleaning out the chimney and clearing it of blockages, buildup, and debris. That way, there’s a lower chance of a fire spreading to your home. Read this article to learn more about this subject.
What Are the Differences Between the 3 Levels of Chimney Inspections?
The three kinds of chimney inspections include:
- Level 1: The most common type in which a technician examines the accessible portions of the chimney inside and outside your home.
- Level 2: This is the kind of chimney inspection needed after a building fire, chimney fire or earthquake. It’s required if you plan to sell your home and is more thorough than a Level 1 inspection. Level 2 inspections include visual examinations as well as an examination of the attack, crawlspace and other accessible areas of the home. Cameras and other devices may be used to check inside the chimney at this level.
- Level 3: The most comprehensive chimney exam that examines all aspects of the chimney including concealed areas. Some parts of the chimney may be removed for this inspection. This inspection is normally performed when serious damage to the chimney could be present.
Want to learn more? Watch this video
The word “spalling” might not be familiar but the symptoms are easy to identify with a simple walk outside to look at your chimney. Chimney spalling is the deterioration of the bricks or mortar of a chimney. The spalling of chimney bricks is a common problem that can lead to significant chimney damage and extensive repairs. It is essential that homeowners understand the cause of chimney spalling and how to fix it.
What is Chimney Spalling?
When you look at your brick chimney, does it look like it used to? Spalling refers to the deterioration of the brick, mortar, or blocks making up a structure. From a distance, you may only notice that something doesn’t look right. Closer examination often reveals the symptoms of spalling.
- flaking surfaces
- cracks in the mortar, bricks, or blocks
- chunks of brick or block missing
- pieces of your chimney on the ground
What Causes Chimney Spalling?
When water freezes, it expands. The freeze-thaw cycle can split a boulder. The same cycle that splits boulders does similar damage to any bricks in your chimney. There are several ways that destructive moisture gets into chimney bricks.
- Older bricks may be softer and lack the glazing that protects the surface. The same issue can arise from newer homes that were built using salvaged bricks. The salvaged bricks may not have been designed for exterior use at all.
- Improper pressure washing can damage the surface of your bricks. The high pressure pushes water into microscopic crevices, and the next freeze expands the cracks.
- Leaks in your gutters, chimney flashing, or crown let water into the structure of your chimney, and this creates more places for spalling to occur.
- Storm damage from wind, debris, and hail can create avenues for water to enter your chimney bricks.
How Do You Fix Spalling Chimney Bricks?
During your annual chimney inspection, a professional will examine the inner and outer surfaces of the chimney along with surrounding flashing, etc. Their training and experience help identify all areas of concern. Cracks in a chimney crown, pitting in bricks, flaking surfaces, and other symptoms are looked at in context.
- Chimney flashing may need to be repaired.
- A chimney cap may need to be replaced or added to keep the rain out of the chimney.
- Mortar or crowns may need to be repaired with materials containing waterproofing sealant to prevent moisture away.
- Missing bricks or mortar may need to be replaced and sealed.
- If the damage is extensive, the chimney may need to be rebuilt.
When you see spalling chimney bricks on your property, you have evidence that damage is occurring. It is important to hire the right chimney repair company. Repairing that damage quickly will keep the damage from getting worse. Regular inspections and maintenance are the key to preventing spalling chimney bricks.
If you would like to learn more please visit our website. www.allprochimney.com