Chimneys are a tempting prospect for animals: They are warm, dark, sheltered spaces that can seem ideal for nesting or for a nap. Birds, squirrels, raccoons and bats are common chimney visitors, and once inside, they can cause serious problems.
Animals in your chimney can introduce disease and pests, like fleas, into your home. Some animals — most notably squirrels — can make their way past your damper and into your home. Once inside, they can damage your home and your furniture, and cause general mayhem. Animal nests and trapped animals can cause blockages in your chimney that can pose a fire hazard or that can push carbon monoxide from your fires back into your home, putting your family at risk. And while some animals, such as birds, bats and raccoons, can enter and exit your chimney at will, many animals that enter your chimney will become trapped and die. That causes a dangerous blockage and can cause a horrible, decaying smell to fill your home.
Once an animal or nest is lodged inside your chimney, it requires professional removal. The nest or the animal also can cause costly damage. That’s why it is best to prevent animal intrusions into your chimney.
When it comes to keeping things out of your chimney — whether birds, animals, water or debris — you can rely on a sturdy, properly installed chimney cap. A good chimney cap is small, metal peak attached to the top of your chimney flue by a fine metal cage. The peak keeps out water, while the mesh keeps out animals and debris. When a chimney cap is firmly in place, it is nearly impossible for animals to enter your chimney, save some small species of bats that can make their way in through almost any tiny opening.
Another secure way to protect your chimney from animal intrusion is by installing a top-sealing damper. Like traditional throat dampers, top-sealing dampers are opened when a fire is burning to let out smoke and closed when the fireplace isn’t in use to keep out drafts. As the name suggests, top-sealing dampers are installed on top of the chimney crown and form a tight seal around the top of your chimney when closed. That tight seal keeps out animals, birds, debris, water and drafts.
While annual chimney inspections won’t keep animals from entering or nesting in your chimney, they will ensure that there are no blockages from animals or nests within your chimney. That is one more reason annual chimney inspections are crucial for keeping your home safe from fires and carbon monoxide.
If your chimney is unprotected from animal intrusions, or if noises or smells from your chimney have you suspecting that an animal or bird has found its way into your chimney, call The Chimney Sweeper to schedule an appointment today! We’ll inspect your chimney for animals and nests, and we can talk to you about installing a chimney cap or top-sealing damper to keep your chimney safe from animal intrusions.
Crumbling mortarWhen the mortar between your chimney’s bricks begins to crumble, it can look alarming. While it can expose your chimney to water damage, make your chimney structure unstable and detract from your home’s aesthetic, crumbling mortar can be removed and replaced fairly simply. Through tuckpointing, we carefully withdraw the crumbling mortar between the bricks and replace it with new mortar to keep your chimney’s structure strong.
Fragmenting bricksJust like the mortar joints between them, chimney and fireplace bricks can break down overtime. Typically referred to as “spalling,” the crumbling of bricks is caused by moisture entering the bricks porous surfaces and freezing during cold weather months. Those bricks should be removed and replaced to keep your chimney safe and looking good.
Cracked flue tilesIf your chimney liner is constructed from clay tiles, as many are, those tiles can crack and crumble over time from moisture exposure and the extreme heat of your fireplace. Cracks in your chimney liner can allow heat and smoke to escape your chimney, endangering your home’s structure. It generally isn’t cost effective to replace flue tiles, so damaged flues generally are relined with a metal chimney liner or with a poured sealant that fills in any cracks or weaknesses in your chimney to make it safe again.
Deteriorating chimney crownToo many masonry chimney crowns are built hastily using mortar rather than concrete during the chimney’s construction. That can lead to chimney crowns that crack or crumble easily, though even concrete crowns can wear down over time due to weathering. Chimney crowns play an important role in protecting your chimney from exposure to moisture and should be repaired if you notice cracks or holes.
Damaged fireboxThe area that clearly takes the most heat in your fireplace and chimney system is the firebox. The firebox deals with the extreme heat of your fires and prevents that heat from reaching your home’s structure. On top of the heat, the firebox also deals with the water vapor and corrosive byproducts your fires create. Inevitably, fireboxes develop cracks that make them dangerous and unsightly. We can seal minor cracks ore rebuild badly damaged fireboxes to keep your fireplace safe and attractive. If you notice any of these common masonry problems in your fireplace or chimney, call The Chimney Sweeper to schedule an appointment today! We can help you come up with a plan for repairing your chimney’s masonry, and our masonry experts will have your fireplace ready to use before you’re ready to light your first fire next fall. Ask about chimney waterproofing to help protect your chimney’s masonry from future water damage!
You know how important it is to have your chimney swept and inspected annually: Doing so keeps your chimney free from dangerous creosote and ensures that there aren’t any problems with your chimney’s structure. With everything you have to do in a year, it can be difficult to remember to schedule your annual chimney service. That’s why we recommend forward scheduling your annual chimney services.
What is forward scheduling?
Simply put, forward scheduling is scheduling your chimney service in advance. You know that you’ll need to have your chimney cleaned and inspected each year between the end of one fire-burning season and the beginning of the next to keep your chimney and your home safe.
When you wait until you’re ready to use your chimney in the fall, you can end up waiting weeks for an available appointment. That means missing out on the benefits of your fireplace’s or stove’s heating benefits until you can get an appointment and be sure that your chimney and fireplace are safe for the season’s fires.
How can forward scheduling work for you?
One of the simplest ways to take advantage of forward scheduling is to schedule next year’s appointment when you have this year’s appointment. That way, you will be able to select a day and time of day that is convenient for you, and you won’t have to scramble to find an appointment quickly that works within your schedule. We’ll be sure to send you a reminder in advance of the appointment so that you don’t forget your scheduled date and time. When you forward schedule your next annual appointment during your current appointment, you’ll make your annual cleaning and inspection part of your regular home-maintenance schedule.
Another way to take advantage of forward scheduling is to call now to schedule your annual cleaning and inspection for the spring or summer months. Because most people plan to have their chimneys cleaned and inspected each fall, the spring and summer months can be easier to schedule. You won’t have to wait as long for an appointment. You’ll also reap the other benefits of off-season chimney sweeping, such as removing creosote, which is acidic and damaging, from your chimney before it can do harm, and you’ll have plenty of time to schedule and carry out any needed repairs if your chimney sweep spots any damage or malfunctioning parts in your fireplace or chimney.
Don’t let your annual chimney inspection creep up on you this year! Call The Chimney Sweeper today to forward schedule this year’s chimney sweeping, and be sure to forward schedule next year’s as soon as this year’s appointment is complete. By forward scheduling with The Chimney Sweeper, you can be sure you won’t miss one day of the fire-burning season because you’re still waiting to have your chimney swept and inspected.
As the fire-burning season comes to an end, now is the perfect time to plan for any fireplace or chimney repairs. Planning fireplace or chimney repairs over the warm spring and summer months means your fireplace won’t be out of commission when you want to use it, and you’ll have it ready to go for the fall. So what are some repairs you should be thinking about this spring?
Repairing masonry cracks ranks as one of the top repairs for fireplaces and chimneys. When your fireplace and chimney are constructed entirely out of masonry materials, cracks — from the firebox to the flue to the crown and exterior bricks — are nearly inevitable. We can repair cracking, flaking or crumbling masonry in any part of your fireplace or chimney.
Perhaps nothing is more damaging to a fireplace and chimney system than water. Water can make its way into your chimney from the aforementioned masonry cracks, or from failing flashing, chimney caps or chase covers. It’s important to have water damage addressed immediately, as it can lead to masonry damage; rusted dampers, fireplace doors or metal fireboxes; or structural damage to your home.
Fireplace damper are made out of metal components. Over time, those metal components can rust or warp. When this happens, it can be impossible to open and close the damper, or the damper can fail to fully seal out air from your chimney when the fireplace isn’t in use. A faulty damper usually needs to be replaced, as it can cause drafts or heat loss in your home.
Missing or misplaced chimney caps
Your chimney cap is your fireplace’s main defense against the elements. It sits above your chimney’s opening, usually surrounded by metal wiring, and it keeps out water, animals and debris. Some chimneys are missing their caps, and chimney caps can loosen or become dislodged, allowing water and animals to access your chimney. Making sure your chimney cap is in good repair is crucial to protecting your fireplace and chimney.
Faulty or worn parts
If you have a gas fireplace, a woodstove or a pellet stove, there are a lot of working components that can fail over time. In all types of heating stoves and gas fireplaces, vents, ignition switches, door gaskets and fans can fail. In a pellet stove, the automatic parts that feed pellets from the hopper to the fire can wear down and fail. It’s important to check your fireplace or stove regularly to make sure all components are in good working order.
As you can see, fireplaces and chimneys can fall victim to a wide array of repair problems. Fortunately, most of these problems can be fixed easily and for a low cost if they are caught and addressed early. This is why your annual chimney and fireplace inspection is so important; it allows us to pinpoint any minor problems and fix them before they become major problems. If you’ve noticed that your fireplace requires any of these common repairs, or to schedule your annual inspection to locate any problems, call The Chimney Sweeper to schedule an appointment today!
Generally, you don’t worry too much about the inner workings of your fireplace. You have it cleaned and inspected annually and understand the basic maintenance that comes with having a fireplace or fireplace insert. Understanding more about the anatomy of your fireplace and chimney can help you be aware of how your fireplace should function, so you’re more aware of any changes or problems. It also will help you talk to your chimney sweep about problems and understand any concerns he raises with you.
Understand your chimney type
There are two types of fireplaces and chimneys: masonry and prefabricated. Masonry fireboxes and chimneys are constructed of bricks or stones. Prefabricated fireboxes and chimneys usually are made from stainless steel. Some fireplaces do feature a hybrid design, most often combining a prefabricated fireplace with a masonry chimney. Some masonry chimneys have been relined with stainless steel. If you don’t already know what type of fireplace and chimney system you have, it may require that you take a peek up your flue to determine your chimney type.
Understand your chimney’s anatomy
The exact components of chimneys can vary. Prefabricated chimneys are built to optimize the burning and drafting of your exact model of fireplace. Masonry chimneys are more standard and more complicated. Masonry chimneys can contain up to 22 different components. Some basic chimney components include:
- The chimney throat. The chimney throat is the bottom most portion of the chimney, where smoke is first directed upward.
- The smoke shelf. The smoke shelf is a horizontal surface at the bottom of the chimney throat meant to keep debris from falling down the chimney and into your firebox.
- The damper. The damper is a metal piece that closes off your flue when you’re not using your fireplace to keep drafts from entering your home and warm air from exiting it. It also can keep animals or debris from finding their way into your home. Before lighting a fire, you know to open your damper to allow smoke to exit your home.
- The smoke chamber. From the chimney throat, smoke travels upward to the smoke chamber. The smoke chamber is shaped like an upside down funnel to direct the smoke upwards through the chimney.
- The chimney flue. The chimney flue is the long, hollow tube that comprises the majority of your chimney.
- The chimney crown or chase cover. The top of your chimney, it is surrounded on the outside by a chimney crown or chase cover. The crown or chase cover slopes downward and helps to direct water away from the inside of your chimney. Which you have depends on your chimney type: Masonry chimneys terminate in a masonry crown, while prefabricated chimneys are topped with metal chase covers.
- The chimney cap. Your chimney cap is a small, metal roof-line structure that covers the opening of your chimney to prevent water from running down your flue. It usually is attached to the chimney by wire mesh that prevents debris and animals from entering the chimney and embers from exiting it.
If you have questions about the anatomy of your fireplace or chimney, don’t be afraid to ask the experts at The Chimney Sweeper! We believe it’s an important part of our job to educate our customers about their fireplaces, stoves and chimneys.