Month: February 2017

‘Animal in my fireplace’ and other critter-in-the-chimney encounters

If you have a chimney, you probably at one point or another had an instance where there was an animal stuck in there. It happens. The CSIA emphases chimney caps as a way to help prevent animals getting in your chimney.

Chimney Safety Institute of America emphasizes the need for chimney caps, where appropriate. Why? It’s all about animal intrusion. The flue is an inviting, cozy environment that may be appealing because it offers refuge, and dry lodging, to the critter. Some crawl in, and some fly in.
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Chimney Repairs

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With winter drawing to a close, and the frequency of using your fireplace goes down, it’s time to start thinking about having your chimney inspected for repairs. As with most other things, after prolonged use, there can be minor damage to your chimney. While minor damage might not seem like such a big deal, the reality is that it can lead to bigger problems if left without repairs. That’s why having your chimney inspected regularly can help keep your family safe. Especially after winter, seeing as your chimney could’ve sustained some minor damage during the cold winter months.

Are Chimney Repairs Important?

At Chimney Sweeps West, our work is to help you keep your chimney in good shape, so of course we believe that chimney maintenance is important, but it’s not just because we want you to hire chimney sweeps.

Unfortunately many homeowners might be under the impression that having their chimneys swept and repaired isn’t necessary to keep their families safe, while in reality chimney problems are one of the main causes of fires in residential areas.

A chimney that isn’t working properly can also leak carbon monoxide into your home. Because carbon monoxide is similar to carbon dioxide, you won’t notice when your chimney isn’t channeling the gas out of your home as it should. But even though there won’t be clear warning signs that carbon monoxide is being released into your home, the gas is highly poisonous. Inhaling too much can be fatal.

According to the NFPA, fires caused by heating equipment (that includes your fireplace) were second on the list of most common fire causes in 2016. But even though only 16% of home fires were caused by heating equipment, falling far behind the percentage allocated to fires caused by cooking (which was the main cause of home fires), fires caused by heating equipment were responsible for 19% of the deaths that took place a result of home fires in 2016. Fires caused by cooking were equally likely to result in death, making up for a further 19% of deaths in home fires.

What this means is that, although your chimney is less likely to be the place where a fire starts than your kitchen, chimney fires are more dangerous, leading to death in more cases.

It’s better to be safe than sorry, so make sure to have your chimney inspected before you use next winter. Also have a carbon monoxide alarm installed into your home so you’ll have an early warning if there are any toxins leaking into your home from the fireplace.

Having Your Chimney Inspected Is Cheaper Than a Fire

Homeowners who don’t have their chimneys regularly inspected by a qualified professional often end up paying the price in home repairs. Assuming you’re lucky enough that a fire that started in your chimney doesn’t result in loss of life, the effects of such a fire will still be awful.

To have your chimney swept and checked for damage will cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand if your chimney needs a lot of work (such as in cases when the chimney wasn’t built properly to begin with). Fire damage, on the other hand, will almost never cost you less than at least $5000, and that’s if the fire was small.

We’re willing to bet you have some things in your home near the fireplace – like furniture and maybe even a piano – that’s dear to you. These possessions have sentimental value that go well beyond their monetary worth, and they’re the first that you’ll lose in a fire.

Always Practice Fire Safety

So, suppose you’re a responsible homeowner and you have your chimney inspected annually. Do you get to throw out that ugly fire extinguisher? Well, we’d have to caution you against that.

Although having your chimney inspected annually before using it for the winter will certainly lower your risk of a chimney fire, there really aren’t any guarantees in life. Various things can impact the safety of your chimney, including the materials you burn, as some woods burn at a temperature that’s too hot, causing your chimney to crack more easily.

But apart from the fact that your chimney still works with fire – and is therefore a potential risk regardless of what you do – there are also other areas in your house that are high-risk zones where fires can start.

According to the NFPA’s report on home fires (titled Home Structure Fires) approximately 46% of home fires start in the kitchen. These fires often start as a result of forgetfulness, where residents might leave the home to run a quick errand only to come back to a burning house. Faced with this horrific scene, it’s often then when they realize they forgot something on the stove, or in the oven.

To practice good fire safety entails more than just having a fire extinguisher in your home (although that certainly is important). Good fire safety is about all-around mindfulness when it comes to potential fire hazards in your home. So while inspecting your chimney and having it repaired is an integral part of practicing good fire safety, we urge you to be more mindful in other areas as well. After all, there’s no use having your chimney inspected only to lose your house in a kitchen fire.

Talk to Qualified Chimney Professionals

Chimney sweeps aren’t all the same. While some Chimney sweeps undergo proper training, others don’t know much about what they’re doing at all. There’s no use in hiring someone who knows no more about your chimney than you do. In that case, you might just as well have tried to sweep your chimney yourself.

Obviously, your safety should be a deciding factor when hiring a chimney sweep company. You wouldn’t want an unqualified doctor, so why hire someone who doesn’t take your safety seriously to sweep your chimney?

Contact Chimney Sweeps West to have your chimney inspected by our team of highly qualified professionals.

Why masonry chimneys have to meet the 3-2-10 rule

While you may never need to know the 3-2-10 rule in order to build yourself a chimney, knowing why is exists is still interesting. Remember the 3-2-10 rule is the minimum height requirement.

It is widely known that masonry chimneys are required to meet the 3-2-10 rule. This rule means that they must extend 3 feet above the roof penetration on the shortest side, and the top of the chimney must be 2 feet higher than any portion of the building structure within 10 feet. This height requirement for masonry chimneys penetrating or adjacent to pitched roofs has been around for many decades. But why is this? I personally have been working on chimneys since 1997, and have been actively involved in the industry and with industry professionals for the past 10 years. I have asked this question many times, of many different folks in the industry. I have discovered that there is something of a divide in the reasoning behind the 3-2-10 rule.
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The top-down burn.

Fire can be a dangerous element if not kept in check. Epically around the nice wood frame of your home. That is why the CSIA come up with so many safety measures to make sure everyone at home burns their wood properly and in the safest manner possible.

Ready to talk about top down burns? We are at the Chimney Safety Institute of America. Even though the heat of August and September hasn’t left us, some cool mornings are signs that Fall is just around the corner. “It’s not pushed very much, but any of us that are around (expert mason/fireplace designer and CSIA instructor) Chris Prior know about this and use it. It takes a little longer to set it up but it definitely burns much better, much cleaner,” said Bob Fish, a CSIA instructor from Londonderry, Vermont.
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What the U.S. can learn as England educates homeowners about chimney fires

The US isn’t the only place with fireplace/chimney safety issues. CSIA in the United States frequently works with firefighters so they understand how to combat chimney fires. Read more to find out how.

You might think that of all places that know the value of a well-maintained chimney, the United Kingdom would top the list. After all, it was in 16th century England that the trend of fireplaces and chimneys really caught on. Yet, despite that head start, chimney fires remain as much an issue overseas as they are in the United States (which averaged an eye-popping 22,700 fires from 2010 to 2012) and first-responders are doing something about it!
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