Month: March 2017

Spring Clean Your Chimney

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Now that things are warming up a little, it’s time to take a look around your house. There are probably quite a few maintenance chores you put off during the winter. One area that you should pay special attention to is your chimney and fireplace. Your chimney probably worked hard throughout the winter, so you should check that it didn’t sustain any damage.

Why Have Your Chimney Inspected?

The good news is that your chimney is probably in an okay condition. If you were still using your fireplace all throughout the cold months without any problems, chances are your chimney isn’t badly damaged.

So why have your chimney inspected if it’s still okay?

For starters, a chimney inspection includes a chimney cleaning. If you’ve been regularly using your fireplace, there’s a good chance that your chimney is full of soot and other buildup. Apart from that, having your chimney cleaned will help the professional chimney sweep to clearly see what’s going on. If there are any cracks that formed in your chimney due to overheating, for instance, you can have them fixed before they have any time to spread further.

Even if your chimney is still in tiptop shape, it needs to be cleaned regularly to keep your fireplace safe. A dirty chimney will leak more smoke and harmful gases into your home than one that’s been properly cleaned. So if you found that you had a problem with smoke leaking into your house this winter, it’s definitely time to have your chimney swept.

When to Clean Your Chimney?

You can call a professional to sweep your chimney any time of year. There isn’t a specific time of year when you can’t have your chimney swept.

That said, when exactly you have your chimney inspected might depend on a couple of things. If you have your chimney inspected once a year, then obviously you’ll always have it inspected more or less at the same time each year. If you don’t regularly clean your chimney, the best time to call a professional is any time before using it again.

If you normally clean your chimney yourself, you should still have it inspected from time to time just to make sure it’s in good shape. Don’t assume your chimney is safe to use just because you cleaned it. Unless you aren’t a professional chimney sweep, there’s a good chance you might have left some dirt. And even if you got all the dirt, you might not know how to spot and fix cracks.

Who Can Inspect Your Chimney?

As mentioned before, it’s always best to have your chimney inspected and cleaned by a qualified chimney professional. But how will you know who to trust?

Your safety depends on finding a chimney sweep that knows what they’re doing. In the same way you wouldn’t have your car services by just any mechanic, or you wouldn’t have anyone tamper with your home’s electric connections, you shouldn’t trust anyone with your chimney.

Before allowing someone to work on your chimney, ask about what certifications they have when it comes to the work they do. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) offers a certification program for chimney sweeps. Ideally your chimney sweep should be certified with the CSIA, or a similar organization.

While the work chimney sweeps do is vitally important to your health and safety, there’s no standard requirement someone must fulfill to work as a chimney sweep. This means that anyone could sell themselves as a chimney sweep, even if they know nothing more about chimneys than you do!

That’s why the CSIA and similar organizations have set out to standardize the industry. These organizations recognize the importance of having a well-maintained chimney when it comes to fire safety.

Keep in mind that the best chimney sweeps won’t necessarily be cheap. But don’t be fooled into hiring someone who isn’t a professional just because they’re cheaper. Often times, the cheapest sweeps won’t even clean your chimney. Unfortunately there are many chimney sweep scams out there, where a sweep will require you to pay for an inspection upfront only to disappear without a trace.

So when choosing a chimney sweep, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure that the professional you’re hiring has a real business. A business address, professional work uniforms and an online presence all indicate that you’re working with a real company.
  • As mentioned, ask about any special qualifications or experience in the field before hiring someone.
  • If you’re new in an area and you have any friends with chimneys, ask them who they use for chimney sweeps. It could save you a lot of headache.
  • Be careful about anyone who requires you to pay a large amount of money upfront, even if they haven’t so much as looked at your chimney.
  • Don’t hire someone if you feel uneasy about them. If everything looks right and your gut says no, trust your instincts. Your safety isn’t something you should risk for anyone.
  • If you’ve been using the same professional for many years and you’re satisfied, avoid using someone else in the future only to chase a bargain.

What should be clear, is that taking good care of your chimney is as important for practicing good fire safety as being safe while using your fireplace is.

Are you located in Knoxville? If so, feel free to call us! Here at Chimney Sweeps West are ready to help. With multiple standard levels of inspection, our professional team will help ensure your chimney is ready to go through another winter safely.

Best Way to Waterproof a Chimney

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Asking what’s the most ideal approach to waterproof a chimney or what are the best waterproofing items are both sufficiently justifiable inquiries, but on the other hand they’re excessively wide for a basic answer. The most ideal approach to waterproof what sort of chimney? Is it accurate to say that we are waterproofing a vertical wall or the breast of the brickwork? There are brick, concrete block, stucco and stone chimneys and there are diverse contemplations for every one of them – meaning you may utilize distinctive items on various sorts of fireplaces. We should peel this back like an onion.

Picking the Right Waterproofing Product

Before getting started, please understand that the less a waterproofing product costs, the less likely it is to do you any good. One noteworthy brand costs close to nothing yet endures a fairly short measure of time since it separates in with UV exposure (daylight.)

You need an item that utilizes poly siloxanes or silanes. Fundamentally, that implies that it doesn’t utilize solids to obstruct pores of the stone work, rather it sets up an electrostatic charge that outside water can’t overcome. In the meantime, if the brick work has caught dampness in it the day you choose to waterproof (and it might) the head weight of the water inside will have the capacity to defeat the electrostatic charge and escape. At the end of the day, water can’t get in, yet it could get out if need be. The good stuff costs more – not restrictively more – but rather it is gracious along these lines, so justified, despite all the trouble.

Sealing Brick Chimney

Since around 99% of the general population perusing this have brick chimneys, we should begin there (I will address non-brick fireplaces later). One of the focal issues concerning waterproofing is the porosity of the material being waterproofed. This bodes well: you don’t need to waterproof steel or vinyl since water doesn’t infiltrate them in any case. While bricks are by and large less permeable than numerous different materials (like an cinder block) unique sorts of bricks fluctuate in porosity themselves.

This clarification is to set the phase for understanding that occasionally you need to waterproof a fireplace more than once. This makes sense: however we don’t prefer to let it be known, the truth of the matter is that occasionally experts misconstrue how much waterproofing a fireplace needs and end up returning when they get a complaint. We beyond any doubt don’t like that way, nor do we like individuals being disappointed with our work, however where waterproofing is concerned, it is by all accounts an unavoidable truth. Lesson of that story is 1) request that your waterproofer go over it twice only for good measure (regardless of the possibility that it costs more) and 2) don’t be too tough on your person in the event that you need to get back to him. I thank you on behalf of all the guys who ever get caught in that squeeze! And please look below for special information concerning re-applications.

A last thing before moving onto more specific data: If you have spalling brick, i.e. the faces of the brick are flying off, don’t try to waterproof the chimney; it’s past the point of no return. Rather kick yourself for not having done it ten years back and have the brick structure reconstructed. At that point waterproof it so it doesn’t occur once more.

How is chimney waterproofing applied?

Waterproofing is applied with a sprayer. On the vertical walls, i.e. the greater part of the chimney, waterproofing ought to be applied from base to the top in light of the fact that as the waterproofing material leaves the sprayer it keeps running down the fireplace and gets assimilated into the stack underneath the region being taking a shot at. It kind of sums to doing it twice. Clearly, the top needs additional consideration or it’d just get one pass. After you complete around 10 minutes’ worth, do it again just to ensure the entire structure gets a decent dousing.

Extraordinary contemplations ought to be given to breast walls, re-application, the crown, the flashing region and the mortar joints. The breast wall is the place a chimney doesn’t go straight down to the ground, rather circumvents something (quite often a fireplace.) They aren’t typically by and large flat zones, a 30°-60° edge is really normal. These zones ought to get diverse treatment.

Sealing the Chimney Breast

Since the chimney breast has a more extreme introduction to rain and especially snow, it needs more layers of waterproofing. Most waterproofing utilized nowadays is water-based material. This is for two or three reasons: one is that water-based materials cost less than dissolvable based materials. They are more secure to ship, store and utilize and they are splendidly sufficient to the errand. The exception to the advantages is on non-vertical surfaces.

One way to deal with a non-vertical surface is to waterproof it over and over and over. Another is to use a solvent-based material, still with polysiloxanes, because it soaks deeper into the substrate. For a chimney with a breast below, opt for the more expensive solvent-based waterproofing.

An extraordinary note about re-applications. On the off chance that one needs to re-apply waterproofing after the water-based material has officially dried, dissolvable based waterproofing ought to be utilized. This is not regular learning, even among the exchange. Regardless of whether re-applying the following day or after ten years, utilize dissolvable based waterproofing. Try not to be frightened that if in the wake of perusing this article you know more than the general population you contract to carry out the occupation; the vast majority don’t have the foggiest idea about this. Just persistently demand getting what you request.

Sealing a Chimney Crown

The chimney crown is a level surface and it’s made of cement or mortar. It shouldn’t be made of mortar, however there’s a decent shot that it is at any rate. In view of what you’ve quite recently perused about waterproofing the chimney bosom, you’d sensibly feel that you’d simply utilize a dissolvable based waterproofing material there. In any case, that is not really: a crown requires more than common waterproofing.

The crown is fairly permeable. In case you’re fortunate the crown will be made of cement and will have been worked in a way that makes the top very smooth and non-permeable. In any case, by and large, crowns are genuinely permeable and have more introduction to rain and snow than all the rest of the chimney, and accordingly more problems (e.g. leaks) that the rest of the chimney as well.

There are coatings made particularly for crowns (the two noteworthy brands are Weather Tight and Saver Systems and both are by and large accessible to the exchange just.) Regardless of the brand being utilized, crown prep is critical. All the greenery and earth must be wire-brushed away. The crown ought to be wetted down before the material is connected. Crown coatings connected to dry surfaces don’t build up the fundamental security you’re searching for. Extensive breaks ought to be caulked with high sap filler before the crown coat is connected.

A note on flat surfaces which are not chimney crowns, for example, carports and so on. Siloxanes are not the best decision here in light of the fact that garages are made of cement. A comparative material (silane) is fitting so as to get legitimate holding with the substrate. It isn’t so much that chimney waterproofing material won’t work; it’s quite recently that silanes will last longer in this case.

The flashing area needs special attention. Traditional flashing, which 99.9% of all of us have, is not actually so great. I’m sure traditional in-the-mortar-joint-flashing was a huge improvement over whatever was before it a hundred years ago, but don’t imagine it keeps water out the way you wish it did.

There are spectacular blazing items which, as I would like to think, are tragically underused. Streak Seal and Flash Tight are high-pitch coatings particularly for this reason. To waterproof the blazing truly well, request one of these items. Your breadth might possibly even hear what you’re saying, yet don’t hold that against him. For this situation you’ll be teaching him. As I stated, they are still undervalued items now.

Now the big one: the mortar. Since most spilling happens at the joints, you need to be extra certain you splash them well with the waterproofing. You ought to realize that when in doubt mortar joints are regularly not also fortified as you may think they seem to be, and there are in reality little breaks in the mortar (more often than not obvious however.) The joints themselves have distinctive properties on various chimneys relying on whether mortar concrete or Portland bond was utilized, also the molecule size of the sand utilized and the pH of the water that was blended to make the mortar.

To what extent does chimney waterproofing last?

Before moving on, let me answer another FAQ. The question is how long does chimney waterproofing last? Answer is, as a general statement, probably about 20 years for most people. If you have the wind blowing sand at your chimney a lot, perhaps in the desert or by the sea, the brick surface can wear away, but most people don’t have that. There are guarantees, generally about 10 years. When those guarantees were instituted they were basically guesses from studies done in wind tunnels and freeze-thaw cycles. After a lot of years of observation, 20 years seems to be a generally good answer. Having it redone every 10-15 years is reasonable maintenance.

What is the distinction amongst beading and repulsing water?

A related subject: there’s a contrast amongst “beading” and repulsing water. Directly in the wake of anything is waterproofed, there is an extremely fulfilling impact called beading. This is the place you see dots of water simply sitting at first glance, sort of like seeing water sitting on oil. As perfect as it is to see, at impact is transitory. I don’t know why, yet the reality remains that waterproofing stays compelling for some, numerous years past the beading impact is no more.

How to waterproof stone chimneys

Finally, there are stone chimneys. Depending upon what kind of stone, the surface may be quite dense or quite porous. Regardless, stone usually doesn’t waterproof well with chimney waterproofing materials. The reason is that siloxanes and silanes bond to silica, and stones may or may not be silica. If they are, it’ll work, and if they aren’t, it won’t. Faux stone on the other hand is made with Portland cement, and you can waterproof it.

A Final Cautionary Word

Let me finish with a fun (in retrospect) cautionary tale. Be careful where you spray your waterproofing material. We once had an employee get cute and draw a smiley face on one of our customer’s driveway. It dried right up, no problem. But, when it rained the smiley face showed up just great. We wound up waterproofing that whole driveway just to keep it from smiling in the rain. Put down cloths on the roof so you don’t get it on the shingles. Never get it on the windows (you’ll mess them up permanently.) And of course, be real careful not to get it on the driveway.