Category: Chimney Care

Is Your Chimney Safe to Use?

Is Your Chimney Safe to Use?

Things are getting chilly fast! By now, it won’t be long before you’ll use your fireplace almost every day to warm your home. Few things are as pleasant as spending cold winter nights cozily close to a fireplace while sipping hot chocolate. But without proper care and maintenance, your fireplace can become a dangerous place to be. As you’re getting ready to use your fireplace on a regular basis, you should take a moment to consider its safety. For a fireplace to be safe, smoke and harmful gases should be effectively channeled out through your chimney.

Chimney Problems

If there’s any smoke entering your house from your fireplace, that’s an obvious red flag that something is terribly wrong with your chimney. In such cases, you should put out the fire immediately. Under no circumstances should you light a fire a fireplace that leaks smoke into your home. Your fireplace will only be safe to use after your chimney has been inspected and repaired. Ideally, your chimney should never leak smoke into your home. Chimney problems should be spotted and repaired earlier than that. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to spot chimney problems. Chimney problems can be much less obvious. The problem is that even less obvious chimney problems can be fatal. Common chimney problems include:
  • Dirt buildup: Soot and debris will build up in your chimney when you use it. It’s unavoidable – plates get dirty when you eat from them and floors get dirty when you walk on them. In the same way your chimney will get dirty when you use it regularly.
  • Blockages: Even worse than having a dirty chimney, is having a blocked chimney. Bird nests, debris and soot buildup can eventually build up and block your chimney entirely.
  • Damage: Cracks, missing bricks or any other damage to your chimney should be fixed before you use it.
  • Length: Your chimney should pass safety regulations regarding length. Typically, it should be at least 2 feet long from where it exits the roof. A qualified chimney sweep will be able to tell you if your chimney should be longer in order to comply with safety regulations in your area.
There are, however, many other things that need to be inspected before you use your chimney. A reliable, qualified chimney sweep service will be able to do a thorough inspection of anything that needs to be fixed. It’s recommended that you have your chimney inspected either annually or once every other year. It’s best to have your chimney inspected and fixed before winter so you’ll know it’s safe once you use it.

Using Your Fireplace: Safety Precautions

While you probably shouldn’t try to inspect, clean and fix your own chimney, you will be the one using your fireplace. There are a few things you should do that will make your fireplace safer to use.

Use Woods That Burn Well

When it comes to your fireplace, not all woods are equally suitable for burning. One of the first things you should check for is that the wood you burn is completely dry. Never burn fresh wood in your fireplace as they cause more smoke while burning and leave more ashes than seasoned, dry woods. It’s also good to use woods from certain trees for burning in your fireplace. Stick to oak, maple, birch, beech, hickory and ash to keep your fire burning at a consistent pace. The hardness of these woods allow them to burn slowly at an optimal temperature. This prevents flames from flaring up and causing your chimney to overheat. When your fires are too hot, the excessive heat can lead to cracks and other chimney damage. By choosing a good firewood, you’ll also have less ashes and soot buildup in your fireplace and chimney.

Lighting A Fire

Avoid using flammable liquids, like gas to start fires. Rather make use of crumpled newspapers and softer woods like pine to start your fires. However, some people recommend avoiding newspapers with colored ink. Instead, you could use natural things like tree bark, twigs, brown bags, dry corn cobs and pine cones. Once your tinder is caught fire, you can add one or two pieces of a softer wood. The softness helps it catch fire more easily than harder woods, like birch. When your fire is burning properly, you can stack hard firewoods that burn more slowly on top.

Your Fireplace

You should preferably clean your fireplace about once or twice a week. When you clean out ashes from your fireplace, use a shovel to place them in a metal container. Remember that these ashes will remain hot long after the fire has died, so be careful. Once all the ashes have been cleared you should store the container in a place away from flammable things, like wooden floors, carpets and curtains. If it’s practical for you to do so, you could even leave to container with ashes outside. The tools you use at your fireplace should be of a high quality. Before buying fireplace tools like brushes, shovels and pokers, always check the handles. Handles have to be sturdy and durable. You A tool that breaks while you’re using it could be very dangerous. Hopefully you’ll spend lots of time snuggling up at your fireplace to stay warm and cozy this winter. But don’t forget to be safe. Have your chimney inspected regularly and always be cautious when you make a fire. Never forget that, even though fire can be relaxing and comfortable, it can also be deadly.

Why You Need A Chimney Care Pro

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Your chimney performs a few very important tasks to help keep your fireplace safe. Apart from channeling smoke so that it leaves your house, it also prevents carbon monoxide from accumulating in your home when you make a fire and prevents fires from spreading.

Your chimney isn’t just a hole in the roof above your fireplace that allows smoke to escape, it’s a necessary safety measurement. There’s much more to a chimney than meets the eye. More specifically, the inside of a chimney is what helps it to function properly.

Have you ever seen the inside your chimney? Do you what a safe chimney should look like inside? Would you be able to see if something wasn’t right?

Maybe you do know what the inside of your chimney looks like, and maybe you’re confident in your ability to identify and fix any problems you could potentially come across. But it would be wise to reconsider that confidence, because chimney care involves more than simply sweeping out some blackish, dirty-looking stuff and then calling it a day.

Why You Shouldn’t Inspect Your Own Chimney

Sweeping a chimney seems easy enough. Technically it should be as easy as cleaning anything else in life. If you’ve ever washed your own driveway pavement or the walls of your house, cleaning out a chimney shouldn’t be much more difficult that they, should it?

Well actually, sweeping a chimney is a rather tricky thing to do. It’s definitely more complicated than cleaning your driveway.

For starters, you’re actually going to have to get on the roof of your house. Without implementing the necessary safety precautions, that in itself could lead to absolute disaster. You might think that getting on your roof without a harness to prevent death or serious injury in case of a fall isn’t very important. Like many people, you probably think it’s okay as long as you don’t do it too often.

Truth is, the risk you’re taking is still pretty big. Once you’re on the roof, you’ll also have to be performing tasks you don’t do regularly. Especially if you’ve never cleaned your own chimney, you’re running a high risk of either falling, or not doing a proper job of cleaning out all the debris. In both cases, your negligence could prove to be fatal. And even if you are planning to use a safety harness, improper use could lead you to end up gaining almost no safety benefit from it.

But when it comes to the actual chimney inspection, things get even trickier. Small cracks on the inside of your chimney could lead to big problems. The same applies for loose bricks or damaged mortar.

A qualified chimney sweep will know exactly what to look for during a chimney inspection. Among obvious issues, such as checking for bird nests or animals like snakes or squirrels that could be taking shelter in your chimney, a professional chimney sweep will also be able to tell whether or not your chimney complies with safety requirements regarding size and structure.

Why Not Just Get A Handyman?

Like many other people, you might realize the risks involved in cleaning out your own chimney, so instead of hiring a chimney sweep, you decided to get a handyman.

Clearly, you respect the fact that you aren’t able to perform dangerous tasks and that you need to hire a professional, which is already a step in the right direction. By hiring a handyman, you’re reducing the risk of injury from a serious fall. But you aren’t paying someone not to get hurt, are you? You want your chimney to be properly inspected and cleaned.

And while the average handyman will be able to do a much better job of sweeping your chimney than you can do yourself, it’s still not as good as getting a real chimney sweep to do the job. It’s a bit like getting a dental assistant to do the work of a dentist. Yes, you’re working with a qualified professional, but that doesn’t mean the professional you’re working with is right for the job.

Chimney sweeps usually complete courses by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) or other organizations that help them to specialize in their field. A good chimney sweep isn’t just a handyman who decided he likes sweeping chimneys, but a professional who knows that doing a proper job can be a matter of life or death.

That said, you should always ask before hiring a company or individual to inspect your chimney, because not all chimney sweeps have any special training for the job. The chimney sweep industry is largely unregulated, with only a few recognized associations providing qualifications for companies and individuals. Fact is, many chimney sweeps really are only handymen who decided to sweep chimneys, and while they might be just fine at doing their job and what they’re doing is in no way illegal (although it could be, in some cases), it’s always better to get someone who knows their stuff when it comes to chimneys.

Normally, it’s recommended that you have your chimney inspected once a year. If you just moved into a new house, having the chimney inspected before using it also is advised. Other than that, you should have your chimney inspected if too much smoke is entering your house from the fireplace, if you notice any strange smells, or if you notice anything else that could potentially be a problem.

If you’re in search of a professional company to help you with chimney inspections, then feel free to contact Chimney Sweeps West. We’re a BBB accredited business and we specialize in performing thorough chimney inspections.

NFPA Chimney Inspection Guidelines

View of red tiled rooftops and a variety of different chimney pots in a typical English village

Chimney Inspections

Professional chimney inspections give you a look into the health and total situation of your home’s chimney system that might be in any many cases unattainable. Snaking closed-circuit cameras alongside the sides of the chimney flue allows us to supply a sincere and detailed analysis, along with visuals. Regardless of whether you have used your chimney currently, or even for those who plan to make use of it sooner or later, annual chimney inspections are an absolute must. In January 2000, the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) outlined three totally different levels of chimney inspections and adopted these ranges into its code NFPA 211, the Standard for Chimneys, Fireplaces, Vents, and Solid Fuel-Burning Appliances. When you are shopping for a brand new house, the NFPA requires a Level 2 inspection of the fireplace and chimney. A Level 2 inspection contains the simple Level 1 inspection, which is a visual test of your chimney to look for blockages, creosote and soot buildup, and any other harm. What makes a Level 2 inspection extra detailed than a Level 1 is the usage of particular instruments, together with a video scanner, and an examination of your roof, attic, and crawl space.

Level 2 & 3 Chimney Inspections

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Professional Chimney Cleaners

NFPA 211 is the usual code upon which certified chimney sweeps base their services and CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps are examined to those three ranges of inspection. Always ask for the extent of inspection that you believe can be most applicable in your chimney and venting system. Each degree of inspection covers particular items dependent on the person, equipment, and venting system. Level three – A Level 3 inspection is carried out when a hidden hazard is suspected that can not be uncovered without accessing concealed areas of the chimney assembly and flue. This inspection will include all the pieces from the Level 1 and a couple of inspections, plus an analysis of the chimney building and the concealed portions of the chimney and flue. Level 3 inspections are usually mandatory when assessing damage that has occurred to the chimney or to the constructing structure. Level 2 – If you’ve bought a new home heating appliance, made a change to any existing equipment that’s vented by way of your chimney, or for those who suspect that there’s injury to your chimney, a Level 2 inspection must be carried out. A Level 2 inspection consists of all the things in a Level 1 inspection plus an evaluation of any accessible parts of attics, crawl areas and basements. Your technician will even do an inside chimney video inspection of your chimney during a Level 2 inspection.

What Costs Less – A Chimney Inspection Or A House Fire?

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It’s easy for a home owner to feel tempted into using a chimney winter after winter without ever having it inspected. Home owners might argue that the idea of getting a chimney inspected is hype that’s been created for the sake of making an extra buck, but that really isn’t true.

Chimney sweeps have been working to clean out chimneys since the Industrial Revolution. Back then they often worked in poor conditions and tended to fall ill as a result of the work they performed. Nowadays chimney sweeps have to necessary equipment to avoid the potential health risks associated with their profession, but it should be noted that the same health risks chimney sweeps faced long ago are among the problems you can face if your chimney is poorly maintained.

Why Inspect My Chimney?

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As mentioned before, soot buildup in your chimney can cause illness, but perhaps more seriously, a chimney that isn’t functioning properly can release more carbon monoxide into your home than is safe. Carbon monoxide is a odorless gas which is a silent killer that has literally caused people to die in their sleep.

But there’s another reason you should have your chimney inspected on a regular basis. A chimney left without maintenance for too long greatly increases the risk of a chimney related fire in your home. Bird nests and other rubble can catch fire in your chimney, resulting in a fire that can cause a great amount of damage to your house. In the worst cases, chimney fires can burn down an entire house, even claiming lives. While many people might feel that a chimney inspection is too expensive, the cost of a chimney inspection is little compared to the safety of you and your family.

But what if a fire doesn’t claim any lives? How does the cost of having your chimney cleaned compare to house fire?

The Average Cost For Chimney Sweeping

Depending on the company you’ve asked and the kind of chimney inspection you’re getting, the cost of having your chimney inspected could vary. Prices for a basic chimney inspection start at anywhere from $100 to $250.

If there’s additional work that needs to be done, this price could go up quite a bit, even to as much as $500 for everything. While that might sound like a lot to pay for having your chimney inspected, the additional costs are usually for other things such as repairs. If you’ve been quoted a for a larger amount than you would’ve expected, you don’t have to just accept it without asking questions. If the company you’re working with deal professionally, your chimney sweep will be able to tell you exactly what the additional costs are for.

How Much Do House Fires Cost?

It’s much harder to know what a house fire would cost, but the average cost of a house fire tends to be about $4000. Which means that even if the average cost of a chimney inspection was $400, you’d be able to get your chimney inspected ten times before it would cost you the same amount as a house fire, but because the cost of an average chimney inspection will probably be closer to $200 rather than $400, you’ll be able to have your chimney inspected twenty times before it adds up to the cost of a house fire.

These numbers are only estimates, and the truth is that a more severe house fire can cost much more than even fifty chimney inspections. In cases where a house is burnt to the ground and nothing but rubble remains, you can expect to pay much more than $4000. In such cases you’d have to pay for the site to be cleaned after which you’d have to have a new house built and replace all your possessions. There’s no way of knowing what that would cost for certain, as it will vary from one individual to another, but there’s no doubt that it would be very expensive.

Even in a small house fire, you’ll have a lot of cleaning up to do. Furniture will need to be deodorized to remove the smell of smoke. If damaged to any plumbing lines occurred, you’ll also have to have wet areas dried. On top of all those things, you’ll need a proper cleanup to be done to remove any soot the fire left behind. Only once you those tasks have been performed will you be able to turn your attention to repairing the area damaged in a fire.

Repairing fire damage doesn’t only hurt your wallet, it’s also time consuming and in many cases there’s stress and some trauma related ti this. When comparing the effort associated with fire damage repair to the ease of maintaining your chimney properly, the cost of an annual chimney inspection is definitely a worthwhile investment.

On top of all those things, one of the best benefits of having your chimney inspected is that it will give you peace of mind to know that your chimney is safe for use when winter arrives.

Don’t Get Burned!

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Don’t Get Burned!

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Sooner or later, winter is going to be here again. Once the cold is back, you’re sure to want to use your fireplace to heat your house and make it a more snug, comfy environment for you and your family.

But unfortunately, your chimney can be a health hazard if it isn’t properly maintained. Poorly maintained chimneys can be the cause of many health related problems, including a higher susceptibility to bronchitis, and even carbon monoxide poisoning in some cases.

But one of the other major problems associated with the use of a fireplace, is that it dramatically increases the risk of a major fire that could burn down your house. In order to avoid this from happening, you should be taking care of your chimney properly. Even if your chimney looks good from the outside, it really doesn’t mean that using it isn’t dangerous. Of course, the fact that fire is involved in using a chimney automatically predisposes you to a certain amount of risk, but it can be significantly reduced by having your chimney inspected by a professional chimney sweep.

Although getting your chimney cleaned could even be life saving, there’s been an unfortunate amount of chimney sweep scammers. In order to protect yourself from being taken advantage of, you should only work with professional chimney sweeps who have training and experience in keeping your chimney safer.

What Do Chimney Sweeps Do?

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A professional chimney sweep is trained to inspect your chimney for any problems like soot and ash buildup as well as being able to find and fix other issues that might be present. After an inspection, your chimney sweep should be able to tell you whether or not your chimney could be allowing too much smoke to enter your house through your fireplace and if your chimney fulfills all the necessary safety requirements. Other potential problems could be bird’s nests or other obstructions in your chimney as well as loose bricks or cracks.

Why Are Chimney Inspections Important?

It comes as no surprise that according to the US Fire Administration, 31% of fires start in residential areas, and 7% of residential fires are caused by heating. While that might not seem like much, this statistic represents so much more than just a number for families who have been the victims of chimney fires. It’s sad to know that much of the loss caused by chimney fires could’ve been prevented if home owners exercised the necessary caution when using their chimneys.

As a general rule, it’s best to have a level one chimney inspection performed on an annual basis before you start using your chimney again. Not only will ash, soot and other debris have accumulated in your chimney from the previous year, as has been mentioned before, birds like to make nests in chimneys and this could result in a big fire.

If you recently moved to your home, a level two chimney inspection would be a better choice. If you’ve never used your fireplace in your new home, there isn’t really a way for you to know how safe it is. You can’t simply assume that the previous residents knew the chimney was safe, even if they did use the fireplace.

Other Safety Precautions

Besides having your chimney cleaned out every year before winter, there are other measures you should take to make your chimney safer. For instance, you should always keep any flammable objects away from your fireplace; this includes your pile of wood, books, furniture, curtains and even carpets. If you have small children or dogs, always check for any toys or other objects placed too close to the fireplace before lighting it.

To reduce the risk of a fire starting close to an open fireplace (one that doesn’t have a glass door), you could place mesh screen in front of it.

Apart from keeping the area surrounding your fireplace clean, you should also be on the lookout for branches that are too close to your chimney, especially if you have trees that are very close to your house.

Another good safety measure, is to have a fire extinguisher placed close to your fireplace so that you can easily put out any flames that could result in a dangerous fire. While fire extinguishers aren’t the most pleasing objects to look at, and probably won’t fit your décor, this safety measure could prove to be life saving.

Lastly, if you have a fireplace in your house, you should also have both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, especially in your bedrooms. Carbon monoxide is a completely odorless gas that can be deadly to inhale. Because you can’t smell it, many cases of people dying from carbon monoxide poisoning happen while the victims are asleep.

Hopefully you’ll have realized practicing proper safety measures regarding the use of your chimney is essential for the health and safety of your family. Nothing should discourage you from having your chimney inspected, as this is a very good measure to take for preventing a chimney fire and other hazards.

However, you should only allow a professional chimney sweep to perform an inspection and clean your chimney, as this isn’t a matter to be taken lightly. Although the best chimney sweep services aren’t necessarily cheap, it’s better to pay for a job well done than to be lured into a scam by promises of unrealistically low prices and end up getting nothing at all.

At Chimney Sweeps West, we are dedicated to help you care for the health of your family. Our chimney sweeps are trained professionals who will deliver only the best service. We understand the risks involved when it comes to chimney fires and we have the necessary skills and equipment to perform thorough inspections so that you know your chimney is safe before you start using it this winter.

Which is better wood or gas fireplaces?

Woman warming hands up at fireplace. Young girl relaxing resting. Winter at home.

Gas vs Wood

Fireplace pros and cons

The weather is getting cold across the country. And as the temperatures keep dropping, more and more people are turning to their fireplace to be a source of warmth and comfort after being out in the frigid air. But, if you start to ask people which type of fire place they like more and which type is worth getting, you will find a wide array of people on both sides of the gas versus wood argument. And locally, here in Knoxville, you will find that people are just as split about which is better for warming a home.

We will take a quick look at the pros and cons of both and provide you with a good source to turn to if you’re looking to buy a house with a fireplace or add one to your current home to enjoy the cost savings and relaxing therapy it can bring to your life.

Fireplace Basics

The most widely used type of fireplace in Knoxville is a single-piece brick hearth with an attached brick chimney. The fireplace consists of a small trap door that opens onto an ash pan, a wrought-iron grate to hold kindling and logs. Mortared into the chimney is a steel damper, which can be adjusted by opening or closing it to control the amount of air drawn into the fire and exhausted through the chimney.

Wood stoves or zero-clearance fireplaces have been around for a very long time and have experienced lots of improvements and modifications over the years. If you are looking to heat your house with the fireplace, these types of fireplaces will transfer heat much faster than the standard brick fireplace will. Brick fireplaces don’t heat very well because most of the heat will go up and out. The upside of the brick fireplace is that the bricks around the fireplace work as a heat sink that will absorb much of the heat as it is traveling up and then slowly release the heat back out into the air over time. So they will not heat up fast, but they will retain the heat longer.

The type of Fireplace you choose to install depends on how you plan to use your fireplace. Are you looking to use it as a heat source, or for its relaxing ambiance?

While these two types of fireplaces can burn either gas or wood, each fuel source has its own pros and cons.

Wood Burning Fireplace

A wood burning fireplace is the one you most commonly see. It sets the mood for a room: the dancing flames, the crackle and pops of the wood and the smell of wood burning. There are very few things that can set the mood and add ambiance to a room like a wood burning fireplace can.

The biggest difference between a wood and a gas fireplace is the simple fact that you either need wood or gas! Now, if you live in the country, getting wood is as easy as walking out into the woods and finding a fallen tree and you have a source of fire wood, but living in a town area or even downtown Knoxville you do not get this option of having a large supply of wood right out the back door. And more than a few neighbors might get upset if you walk out your front door with an axe and just start picking out trees around you to chop down. If you live in a populated area where you can’t go out and get your own fire wood, then you need to plan where you will need to go to buy it or who to contact to have it delivered to you so you are able to use your fireplace.

Another thing to keep in mind is that a wood burning fireplace/stove will need to be cleaned more often. After a fire, there is soot and ash that needs to be cleaned and the chimney will also need to be checked more often for creosote buildup inside the chimney itself.

Natural Gas Fireplace

The first plus that many people see when they debate between gas and wood is the simple fact that once a gas fireplace is put out there isn’t any extra work needed to use it. No need to go out gathering logs, cutting logs, or having to find somewhere to buy logs. Instead of having to build a fire, you push a button, and you have a fire up and going. No hassle, no mess.

A gas fireplace can be put in much more easily than a wood burning one if you’re looking to add a fireplace to your house. Since they are built to be efficient, the vapors they let off are cool enough to run through PVC pipes, letting you easily vent them out of your house from anywhere.

Many will also have built in fans to allow you to circulate and move air around to better heat a room. The biggest selling point for gas fireplaces is the ease of us: walk in, push a button and enjoy.

The Wrap Up

For some people, the idea of convenience and the push of a button will win out over all else because sometimes you just want things to be simple. But many people can’t get past the soul-less look of a gas fire. None of the life and sound that makes a fireplace so great at setting a mood, the blue and yellow flame shooting out of a pipe to heat ceramic logs just lacks the same impact a wood burning fire will give you.

If you’re looking from a price stand point of operating wood-burning and gas fireplaces, they are both on the low side if compared to electric heat. On average a cord of wood is anywhere between $120 and $150, depending on your location and the type and condition of wood. If you’re planning to go wood you should figure you will go through on average 3 cords per burning season. Natural gas runs from 20 to 40 cents per hour for an average gas fireplace.

Also remember that if you have a chimney, the fire code lays out that it should be inspected once a year by a professional chimney sweep in order to prevent the buildup of creosote which is the main cause of chimney fires.

Whether you are leaning towards a gas or a wood fireplace, both can be a great choice and your decision will boil down to the work you want to put into it, and the type of atmosphere you want it to create for you and your family. And when it comes time for the yearly cleaning to keep your chimney in good shape, don’t forget to give us a call, as we are Knoxville’s go to for all its chimney sweeping needs!

Get Chimney Sweeping in Knoxville Before Winter

Chimney sweep standing on roof of home working

Get Chimney Sweeping in Knoxville Before Winter!

Chimney sweep standing on roof of home working

Chimney sweep standing on roof of home working

Chimney Sweeps West is encouraging homeowners and renters with chimneys to prepare themselves for winter by contacting them for an appointment as soon as possible for an annual chimney inspection.

Last winter there was an increased number of chimney fires due to the long and bitter cold temperatures across the country. Firefighters are now calling for homeowners to insure their chimneys are maintained in a safe working order to reduce the threat of fire in the coming cold months.

It is important that your chimney is swept at least once a year to prevent the development of debris, which could start a fire. In addition to this, the brickwork on the chimney needs to also be examined, particularly in the roof space, to ensure there are no cracked or broken bricks where embers might escape. This is best left to professionals who know what to look for and who have the appropriate safety equipment for getting high up on the roof.

Open fires can be cozy and a more affordable way to heat your home, however a chimney fire is dangerous and pricey. Not only can it cause substantial damages to your home, it might also put the lives of you and your family in severe danger.

Top suggestions to enjoy your fireplace safely:

  • Have the chimney swept a minimum of once per year, or more frequently if you burn wood.
  • Do not build fires too high and be sure to let them burn down prior to you going to bed.
  • Inspect the hearth, floor and home furnishings near the fire for hot sparks or embers prior to retiring for the night.
  • Use a fire guard to prevent accidental fires and make certain that it complies with local safety standards.
  • Do not put objects on or above the mantle which might cause you to stand too near the fire to reach or utilize them.
  • Avoid burning resinous woods as soot builds up quickly.
  • Buy only appropriate fuels.
  • Do not overload the grate.

Above all, make sure that you have a working smoke alarm installed on each floor of your home. This will offer you an early warning to a fire, enabling extra time for your family to escape.

Learn some tips to help your fireplace burn cleaner. Check out our Knoxville Office!

Holiday Safety Tips

A fondue dinner with friend on a beautiful place
A fondue dinner with friend on a beautiful place

Make sure your holiday dinners, are safe for your family!

The holiday season is a busy and joyous time. However, extra safety precautions need to be considered in your home to help make this holiday season safe and happy for you and your family. Chimney Sweeps West offers you the following guidelines for home holiday safety:

Choosing a Christmas tree

CONSIDER: There are beautiful flame-resistant artificial trees readily available.

If you must purchase a live tree, there are some very important fire safety points to remember.

  • Look for a trunk sticky with sap and ensure that the needles are green, bendable, and are secure to the branches.
  • Kick, tap, or thump the base of the tree and see how many needles fall off. If excessive needles fall off the branches, DON’T BUY IT! If the tree is moist, it is less likely to catch fire.
  • Cut the base of the tree at a 45-degree angle and place your tree in a container with water. Be sure that the water level is kept above the cut. Spraying the tree with a non-toxic flame retardant is excellent insurance against a tragic mishap.
  • The maximum length of time the tree should be left decorated in your home is three to four weeks. When buying decorations, be sure they are “flame retardant” or spray them with a non-toxic flame retardant.
  • Inspect the tree daily for dryness. Place the tree a safe distance away from stoves, radiators, heating vents, fireplaces, and any other heat source that might dry the tree.
Plan an Escape Route

Ask yourself: It’s 3 am… The smoke alarm sounds… Do you know what to do? Does everyone else know what to do?

Many people believe that they will smell smoke or hear a fire in time to escape. The reality is that you will not – most people are not aware that we lose our sense of smell while sleeping. Having working smoke alarms in your home will cut your chances of dying in a fire by half! It’s like having a firefighter watching over your family twenty-four hours a day.

You need to plan your family’s escape route now, before you need to get out under panicky and scary circumstances. Remember to review your fire escape plan with friends or relatives that are staying in your home.

Keep decorations away from the kitchen stove, fireplace, doorways, stairways, or other major walking paths and/or escape routes. Never attach decorations to or obstruct your fire sprinklers. In the event of a fire, activate your escape plan – get out and call for help from a neighbor’s home.

Fireplace Safety

Keep your wood stove door closed and your fireplace screened. Make sure you keep your firebox clean and have your chimney inspected annually by a qualified professional. Make sure that your Christmas stockings are not hung directly above the fire.

Check Lighting

Inspect all wiring on holiday lights and discard all defective, worn, or frayed electrical wiring. When decorating your house, trees, or yard, use fixtures specifically designed and CSA approved for outdoor use. Use no more than three sets of lights on any one extension cord and never run electrical cords under rugs. Be sure all lights are turned off before you go to bed or leave the house.

Other Holiday Tips

  • While you are buying batteries for holiday toys and gifts, pick up extras for your smoke alarms.
  • Smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, and fire escape ladders make excellent Christmas presents. Can you think of a more caring gift?
  • During parties, provide guests who smoke with large deep ashtrays and check them frequently. Empty the ashtrays into a metal container with a lid – NEVER empty them into the garbage.
  • Christmas wrapping and decorations can be highly combustible and easily ignited –DO NOT BURN THEM IN YOUR FIREPLACE.
  • Before the start of each heating season, have all home heating systems and chimneys inspected and cleaned if necessary.
  • When using portable space heaters, keep anything that can burn – including people, pets, and furniture – a safe distance away.
  • Do not overload electrical circuits or extension cords.
  • The kitchen can be a very busy area. Always remember to turn pot handles to the back of the stove to prevent accidents, roll up sleeves to avoid coming into contact with open flames or hot elements, and do not leave cooking food unattended. Make fire safety a priority in the kitchen.

Everyone loves having a fire in their fireplace, decorations around the home, wrapping paper on gifts, and bright colorful lights on their tree to help make this time of year festive and fun. If your fireplace and chimney have not been inspected yet, give Chimney Sweeps West a call and we would be happy to make sure yours is safe for use this holiday.

10 Tips for Chimney Care

How to care for your chimney

Keeping warm during the cold, harsh winter can be difficult. This is where having a fireplace can help a lot. Having a fireplace can save you money on heating bills and keep your whole house or parts of it warm. A lot of people worry that fireplace and chimney care will be an added expense, but in actuality, it’s only a fraction of what electric heat costs! While a yearly cleaning from a professional service is recommended to fully get the most out of your fire place, there are some smaller things you can do to clean and ensure your chimney is in the best shape it can be all winter along.

1. Have Your Chimney Inspected.

Have your chimney swept and inspected at least once a year or after you have used the fireplace 70 times. This makes sure the chimney is safe, secure, and ready for use and can avoid any possibilities of dangers that can occur when a fireplace is not cleaned properly.

2. Use a Chimney Cap.

Use a chimney cap to protect your chimney from water damage, animal inhabitants, and garbage collection. Chimney caps are a must for any chimney as they help with preventing blockage, that could lead to carbon monoxide flowing into your house (and that’s bad!). Also, use a spark arrester to stop any sparks from hopping out, which could lead to a fire starting on the lawn or on the roof.

3. Measure Your Chimney Duct.

Be sure to evaluate the sides of your chimney from the bottom and climb a ladder to measure it from the top. Determine the dimensions of the duct. It should be in an 8-inch circle or square. If it is not, you may want to contact a company to come look at it and make sure it will vent your fire place well enough and not cause any backdraft or clogging.

4. Use Chimney Cleaning Logs.

Chimney cleaning logs provide hassle-free cleaning by burning the soot away. The logs discharge chemicals that dissolve the creosote, allowing you to simply collect it in a dustpan. It’s a money-saving method, but cannot be substituted for extensive cleaning.

5. Wait At Least Three Days before Cleaning Up.

Wait at least 3 days before you start to clean up the ashes because the coals are hot enough to start a fire. Also, if you wait three days the air will travel up in the chimney and will not fly out in the room (which saves you having to clean a second mess). Make sure to wear a mask and open up the windows to avert negative air pressure.

6. Clean the Chimney.

To shine up the a slate hearth, rinse, dry, and rub it with lemon oil every six weeks. For external cleaning, purchase a brick cleaner from a fire shop.

7. Do Not Burn the Hearth for Long Intervals.

Just like you, we know how great it can be to relax and enjoy a cozy fire on a cold night. But one of the most common mistakes is using a fire place for too long. A fireplace is not a boiler and leaving it running for hours on end can lead to issues inside the chimney. Use your fireplace for 4 to 5 hours at a time, at most.

8. Keep the Glass Doors Open.

Keep the glass doors open so the air can cool the chimney by travelling upwards. Ensure you fasten the screen to avoid the fire sparks from hopping out onto the carpet.

9. Clean Up the Fire Container.

Area Sweep or vacuum the fire container area at least once a week, especially when the ash increases. Leave some ash because it acts as a shield, heats the coal faster, and holds the heat better.

10. Get Rid Of Tough Stains on the Glass Doors.

Glass doors may build up stains that are hard to remove. To fix the glass doors, ensure they are cool and scratch off the slime with a razor blade. Wipe the glass with dishwashing detergent or a glass cleaner and wipe it away.

Cleaning and maintaining a chimney is important because if you don’t, it could lead to a host of problems, including health issues. This is why it is important you maintain your chimney.

However, if you do not have the time to do all of this yourself, call in professional chimney cleaners at least once every 6 months. The more you use your chimney, the more frequently you need to maintain it so it serves your needs perfectly.