Chimney Blog Chimney Safety First

Keep Your Fireplace Ready for Use

Posted On: October 15, 2015

As you may have noticed, we are rapidly approaching the time when all good parties with a fireplace start to consider its use. Yes, it’s getting cold out and not much gives your home that warm and snug quality like a beautifully burning fire in your fireplace. Having a lovely fire to brighten up your home does take a little maintenance to ensure that the fire urns bright, lively and where it belongs – in the fireplace.

This year, before you stoke up that first fore, we recommend that you take a few steps to be sure it burns safely and brings your family the beauty and benefits of this lovely part of your home.

Many people forget that the ashes have to be cleaned out of the fireplace itself and the clean-out door at the base of the flue where the excess ashes go. Your clean-out door is usually in the basement or outside the house. Always use a shovel to do this. Many fireplace accessories come with a shovel that will do the job well.

Once you’ve cleaned it out, take a hand mirror and examine the inside of the flue to see if there are any cracks, holes or a build-up of soot. Yes, if you see any of this you should call a professional. Do not try to fix it yourself.

Check around your fireplace for any damp spots or stains. These can indicate a damaged chimney near the roof line or a liner that is damaged. Again, call a chimney professional if you see evidence of a problem. No Dick van Dyke will not clean it out, you’ll have to get someone else. Since we want to make sure you use a qualified and reputable service we would be remiss if we didn't recommend oursevelves.  

Go outside and check to make sure that no birds have made a nest in your chimney. If you don’t have a chimney cap, and you see a nest, this might be the time to get one installed. While you’re out there, check the chimney to be sure no bricks are missing or loose and that it is standing straight and tall.

As for your fireplace, before you light a fire, make sure your damper opens and closes easily and doesn’t have a heavy soot buildup. If it does, call the chimney sweep. The damper is important. If it isn’t in proper working order smoke and/or carbon monoxide can enter your home. Nothing can ruin a fine family dinner like smoke billowing out of your fireplace.

Enjoy The Holiday Season Safely,

Always Affordable Chimney, Inc.

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Chimney Preperation for Fall/Winter

Posted On: August 18, 2016

Preparing Your Fireplace and Chimney For Fall and Winter Use

Your fireplace is a crucial part of your home in the fall and winter. It creates a comfortably warm and inviting area of your home and can help you save money on your home heating bill. Even though the cold months are still a bit away, they will be here before you know it. Taking a few measures now will have your fireplace and chimney ready to use when that first cold snap arrives.

Clean Your Chimney

Having your chimney cleaned before the fall ensures that you will beat the rush. You can get an appointment to have the process completed around your busy schedule, rather than having to take one of the limited time-frames that are left once fall does arrive. This cleaning removes the debris and buildup that could otherwise cause a dangerous chimney fire or carbon monoxide poisoning that could quietly fill your home.

Have Your Chimney Inspected

Your chimney is constantly exposed to the elements. Over time, it can incur damages, such as cracks or a broken damper. Having the chimney inspected and any damages repaired helps to keep water (from rain or melting snow), cold and uninvited guests out.

Invest in a Chimney Cap

A chimney cap is a cover for your chimney. It has a solid top and mesh sides. It helps to keep out rain, debris, and small animals that might otherwise make your chimney their new home.

Prepare The Area Around Your Fireplace

Your fireplace needs some special attention as well. Make sure old ash is removed. Then make sure the area around your fireplace is safe. Make sure anything that could potentially catch fire - furniture or your curtains - are a safe distance, about eighteen inches, away. Another way to prevent fires inside your home is to use a metal mesh screen in front of the fireplace to prevent sparks from jumping out. There's something cozy about a fire burning in a fireplace. Preparing it now for when the cold months finally do arrive will ensure that you have a safe space to create an inviting atmosphere and allow you to enjoy your fireplace all winter long.

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Enjoy your Fireplace Safely

Posted On: February 15, 2017

Whether you’re going over the river and through the woods or just staying at home this holiday season, you want that fireplace stoked up and ready for use. Nothing warms the bones better after a night of sledding or ice skating than a glass of hot chocolate and a cozy fire. We’d like to pass along some tips that will help you enjoy that fire.

First off, don’t use your fireplace for longer than about five hours. It gets hot and it really isn’t designed to heat your home. If you have a glass front, keep it open while the fire is going, but always keep the spark screen in front of it. When you keep the glass doors open it allows the air to be drawn up into the chimney and helps to cool it.

Before you make a fire, always light a match and put it over the log holder. Blow out the flame. It should start to grow up in the direction of the chimney, and out. If it doesn’t, you have a blockage or the damper is closed. Either way, making a fire will cause you a problem. Check the damper and if it was closed, open it and try again. If it still doesn’t work – no fire for you until you get a professional in.

Try to get a non-flammable rug to place in front of the fireplace so if sparks to get out they will land somewhere safe. Whatever you do, always use the fireplace tools to move your burning logs around. The tools are there for more than decoration. When you decide to remove the ashes, remember that coals can remain hot for several days. When you decide to clean the ashes, don’t use a vacuum cleaner and scoop the ash into a metal container in case there are still some hot embers. Clean that firebox once a week during the season, but leave a thin layer of ash, about an inch, for insulation and to help the fire heat faster. To keep your fireplace looking grand, if you have glass doors that have soot buildup, mix a cup of vinegar with a gallon of water, spray it on and wipe it with newspaper.

To keep your brass fireplace utensils shiny and looking their best, spruce them up with a toothbrush and some Worcestershire sauce. Finally, we get to the hearth. If you have a slate hearth, wash it, dry it and coat it with lemon oil for a lovely shine. If it’s brick, your local fireplace shop should have a brick cleaner that will work just fine.

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Chimney Safety and Carbon Monoxide

Posted On: June 17, 2015

Heating systems in the process of producing heat also create carbon monoxide. This dangerous gas is expelled from your home via your chimney flue. In most homes, especially in the Long Island and New York area, there is a chimney that is functioning properly and this carbon monoxide is removed safely and efficiently. However, there are situations that arise over time that can lead to some level of carbon monoxide escaping the flue and entering your home. This is obviously a major problem and can lead to health issues and possibly even death. It doesn't happen often but every once in a while we hear the tragic story on the local news about a family that has suffered a loss due to carbon monoxide poisening.

As a chimney inspection and repair company we know that a yearly inspection is the best way to avoid this problem. We also understand that many homeowners will go years or even decades without having their chimney inspected. It is not uncommon for a chimney lining to deteriorate over time. We also see situations where a new boiler is installed but the retrofit to the existing chimney liner is not proper. Solving a problem before it happens is always the best course of action and we offer a free chimney inspection service for this very reason.  However, we also highly recommend that all of our customers, friends and neighbors have a carbon monoxide detectors installed in their home. This inexpensive device could be the difference in preventing carbon monoxide poisening to you and your loved ones.

Make sure you have your detector installed and working and remember to have your chimney inspected annually.

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Wood Fireplaces... What Can Happen Without Regular Flue Cleanings

Posted On: September 16, 2015

We all remember the colorful chimney sweep in Mary Poppins, and though in the movie he was simply a swell guy, in real life he performed an important function.  Many people think that their chimney is a simple invention that funnels the smoke out of their home.

It does funnel the smoke out and it is a relatively simple process, but as with all processes, it must be properly maintained or it will fail. Failure of a chimney to operate properly can have dire results.

When you burn firewood, as the smoke rises through the chimney, it leaves a tarry residue called creosote on the chimney walls. These are actually unburned gases, and over time, they build up. Though it can be minimized by burning small fires and using well-seasoned wood, creosote buildup cannot be avoided entirely.

When creosote deposits are heated up by the extreme heat of the fireplace, it can ignite and cause a chimney fire. It is actually the number one cause of chimney fires. The fact is, at some point, everyone’s chimney needs a good cleaning and it should be performed only by a professional. Here’s why.

When a professional cleans your chimney, he uses specially designed brushes to remove the creosote from the chimney walls. But he doesn’t simply remove the creosote. He also inspects your chimney stack for cracks or missing mortar joints.

Small cracks or holes in the flue can serve as an entry point for sparks generated by a fire. These sparks can get through the openings and cause a fire in your attic or the wood framework that surrounds your chimney. This type of fire can quickly spread throughout your house, and is another reason why should be sure that your fires are always put out before you retire for the night.

Another reason to clean your chimney is to ensure that your friendly, neighborhood family of birds has not decided to make their nest inside the metal chimney case. You’ve probably seen them make nests in air conditioners. Well your chimney is no less vulnerable to our flying friends. A professional chimney sweep will ensure that you don’t have a second family blocking the chimney pipe in your roof, yet another recipe for a disaster.

Fireplaces are a charming and functional addition to any home, but as with anything else you own, without proper maintenance, your favorite feature could become your worst nightmare.

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Holiday Safety Tips for Fireplace Owners

Posted On: October 26, 2015

It’s that time of year again, when we start to plan our holiday gatherings. We always look forward to sharing the holidays with family and friends. They are festive times and it gives us a chance to showcase our homes and our creative decorating skills. But holidays are also the time when we have to be especially cognizant of safety, especially if there is a fireplace in the home.  

Fireplaces are grand and add to the ambience of our gatherings. They are especially appreciated on cold nights and can add elegance to our homes. They also lend themselves to the artist in each of us when it comes to holiday decorations. It’s as if they were designed to showcase our skills. They can be a wonderful addition but they can also ruin a party if good safety practices are not adhered to.

Always ensure that your fireplace is clean, the flue is open, and the chimney is clear of debris. The chimney is there to ensure that there is adequate ventilation. A choked chimney can cause smoke to billow into your home and can release harmful toxins. No one invites carbon monoxide to their parties.

Be sure that your decorations are a fair distance from the front of your fireplace. This is particularly true of wood burning fireplaces because the embers from that crackling fire can escape and ignite the decorations. Always keep the fireplace screen in place. It will help to minimize flying embers.

Make sure that your Christmas tree is a safe distance from your fireplace as well. If you are inclined to throw the boughs that may drop from your tree, into the fireplace, don’t! Dry evergreen boughs act as tinder and can flame out of control, shooting sparks into the room or up the chimney to ignite the creosote.

When you are tending to the fire, avoid wearing loose clothes or dangling sleeves. And though “fire salts” are fun as they change the color of the flames, keep them out of the reach of children; eating them can cause gastrointestinal problems and would certainly put a damper on your holiday gathering.

Whether you have a gas fireplace or a wood fireplace, keep children a safe distance from the screen or the glass doors. They get quite hot and can easily burn a child.

Fireplaces bring warmth and charm to any home, and practicing good fireplace safety can make your event a memorable one.

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How Often Should Chimney Vents Be Checked or Inspected

Posted On: April 04, 2016

Most homeowners ignore chimney inspections because they don’t think they use their fireplace enough to warrant it or because they have a gas fireplace and don’t think it’s necessary. Until you have a problem that is a result of a deteriorating chimney, you won’t realize that the cost of inspecting your chimney is far smaller than the expense that results from ignoring your chimney. The Chimney Safety Institute of America has a standard recommendation for not only the frequency of chimney inspections, but also for the depth of the inspection that should be performed. Here are the recommendations.

A level 1 inspection should be performed annually. This is the minimum requirement for a homeowner. This inspection will examine the readily accessible areas of your chimney such as the flue, the vents, the soundness of your chimney’s structure, the basic appliance connectors (in the case of gas fireplaces), and your damper. He will also check to see that your chimney is free of obstructions and creosote deposits which are combustible. This applies to wood-burning fireplaces and yellow and blue flame gas fireplaces.

A level 2 inspection is performed when you change anything within your system; fuel type, relining, addition of an appliance of a different rating efficiency. This inspection will also be required if a level 1 inspection suggests there may be a hazard that is hidden and requires special tools to provide access. Seismic events warrant this inspection, which addresses accessible areas of the chimney as well as attics, crawl spaces and basements. It also looks at the clearance of combustible materials.

A level 3 inspection is warranted by a level 2 inspection finding or a chimney fire. Don’t wait until you need one of these.

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Your Fireplace Is Not an Incinerator

Posted On: November 21, 2015

Every year you read or hear stories about yet another fire that started in a fireplace. Sometimes the fire was in the living room, others were on the roof and still others may have actually started a tree fire.

The holidays may bring out the best in a lot of us, but sometimes in all the excitement, some people simply lose sight of safety. If you have family members who fall in this category it may be uncomfortable to tell tehm your concerns but the alternative is much worse.

This year, when you come in after your reveling or if you simply decide to gather around the fireplace for a cozy time with family, think before you act. Fireplaces are a great addition to a home, but only if you use them safely.

Using Dry Wood

Fireplace owners know that the wood used should be on the dry side, but keep in mind that wood with some moisture in it is beneficial. About 20% of dry wood still holds moisture and that moisture helps to slow down the time it takes for the wood to burn. This reduces the embers that can fly either out of your fireplace (if you don’t use the screen) or up your chimney where they belong.

Don't Burn Your Beautiful Wrapping Paper

If you are opening presents, don't be tempted to take the wrapping paper and stuff it in the fireplace with the burning logs. Sure, it burns, but it burns quickly, is quite light and the embers really fly. Some fly right up the chimney and onto your roof or your landscaping! This is dangerous and frankly, a giant Santa in flames is not a good look for a Christmas decoration. The other reason not to burn wrapping paper is because it is so pretty. The prettiest paper has finishes and ink that could very well be toxic at high temperatures. Don’t burn rolled newspapers, charcoal, garbage or plastic in your fireplace and never use an accelerant. If you have trouble starting the fire, you can use crumpled newspaper on the grate and then put the logs on top of it.

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