Total Chimney Care's Blog

What causes chimneys to leak?

Spring’s wet weather can bring some unexpected — and unpleasant — surprises: Chimney leaks. There are some things you should be looking at to determine what is causing your chimney to leak. That includes water gathering in your firebox, warped or stained walls around your chimney, or rust in your fireplace.

Missing or Damaged Chimney Cap

Often, preventing or stopping chimney leaks comes with a simple solution. Top your chimney with a sturdy chimney cap in good repair. Builder-grade chimney caps can fail within a few years, and even the sturdiest of chimney caps can get blown off course during wicked weather. If you notice water coming in through your chimney, check your chimney cap first!

Cracked Chimney Crown or Chase Cover

Chimney crowns cover the vertical layers of your masonry chimney, from the exterior edges of the chimney masonry to the inner edge of your flue. In a prefabricated chimney, this job is performed by the chase cover. Chase covers can corrode over time and let water in. Masonry chimney crowns can crack and crumble during cold winter weather. Either a failing crown or chase cover can let water into your chimney.

Falling MasonryWhat Causes Chimneys to Leak Image - Fairfield CT - Total Chimney Care

Winter moisture coupled with freezing temperatures can cause your chimney’s masonry to deteriorate. If your masonry bricks have cracked, or if mortar has crumbled away, that can allow water to seep into your chimney and cause additional water damage.

Loose Flashing

Often, when homeowners think their chimney is leaking, water is actually finding its way in through the chimney flashing. Flashing surrounds the base of your chimney where it meets the roofline so that water can leak in at the joint. If the flashing has been improperly installed, it can allow water to gain access to your chimney and your home’s structure. Even properly installed flashing can pull away from the chimney base or develop cracks or holes over time. If you’ve ruled out other chimney issues, call a professional to inspect the flashing around your chimney. They will make sure it is fitted snuggly between the roof and the chimney and that it is free from any damage.

A chimney leak should never be ignored! If left unchecked, even minor chimney leaks can cause major damage. If you see water in your fireplace, stains on the exterior of your chimney or signs of water damage on your walls or ceiling, it’s time to call in chimney experts! Call Total Chimney Care to schedule an appointment today! Our chimney technicians can locate the cause of your chimney leak and diagnose the best way to fix your chimney leak.

By Steve Sobczak on May 22nd, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment

What is creosote?

If you have a wood-burning fireplace, fireplace insert or heating stove, you undoubtedly have heard of creosote. You likely know that your chimney sweep’s goal is to remove creosote from your chimney to prevent chimney fires. But what exactly is creosote? How does creosote form? And what, exactly, are the dangers of creosote?

What is creosote?

Creosote is the substance the builds up inside your chimney when you burn a wood fire. Usually, when people refer to creosote, they refer to all of the buildup within the chimney, which includes the creosote itself, soot, ash and tar. Creosote buildup can be hard and smooth or sticky and tar like. Creosote can be dark brown in color or a dark black.

How does creosote form? What is Creosote Image - Fairfield CT - Total Chimney Care LLC

When wood burns, the smoke that travels up the chimney carries all sorts of byproducts, including unburned wood particles, tar fog, hydrocarbon, water vapor, gases like carbon monoxide and minerals. As the smoke that carries the byproducts travels up the chimney, it cools and forms condensation on the chimney walls. That condensation hardens over time into creosote.

What are the dangers of creosote?

For the average homeowner, the biggest danger of creosote is a chimney fire or blockage. Creosote is highly flammable. If it builds up too thickly within a chimney — as little as one-eighth of an inch buildup is considered dangerous — creosote can catch fire and ignite the entire chimney.

If neglected long-term, creosote can build up so thickly within a chimney that it can prevent smoke and gases from escaping the fireplace altogether; that can cause carbon monoxide and other gases to build up dangerously within your home. Creosote can be a health hazard, causing everything from skin and eye irritation to lung damage, but only to people who are in regular, direct contact with creosote and creosote particles.

How can you keep your home safe from creosote?

While creosote can pose a danger to your chimney and your home, it doesn’t have to. Regular chimney sweepings clear away creosote to reduce your risk of a dangerous chimney fire. Per the National Fire Protection Association, chimneys should be swept and inspected at least once per year to eliminate a fire hazard. If you use your fireplace heavily each winter, you might want to consider having your chimney cleaned again during the fire-burning season.

How can you reduce creosote buildup?

In between chimney sweepings, it’s also positive to slow the accumulation of creosote within your chimney. Cooler, less efficient fires cause more condensation, and thus more creosote, to build up within the chimney. Burn only hard, seasoned firewood in your fireplace. Fireplace doors and the fireplace damper should be opened fully each time a fire is burning so the fire can get adequate oxygen to burn hotly.

If your chimney is due to be cleared of creosote, call Total Chimney Care to schedule an appointment today! We can clear away any dangerous creosote and answer any questions you have about creosote formation and how to reduce its buildup in your chimney.

By Steve Sobczak on May 8th, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

Is carbon monoxide dangerous?

Carbon monoxide gets a lot of buzz. We hear warnings in the news regularly about the dangers of carbon monoxide and how we should protect ourselves, our homes and our families from the potentially deadly gas. But is all the buzz just hype, or is carbon monoxide truly dangerous? If it is, how can you keep your home and family safe?

Dangers of Carbon Monoxide img - New Haven CT - Total Chimney CareThe dangers of carbon monoxide

The truth is carbon monoxide is dangerous. It can cause irreparable damage and even death. Here’s why: When inhaled, carbon monoxide bonds with the cells in your blood, taking the place of oxygen. Also, with carbon monoxide edging it out, oxygen can no longer enter your blood stream and make its way throughout your body and to your organs. That can lead to organ damage and even death. Carbon monoxide is made more dangerous by the fact that it is odorless and invisible. So, in most cases, most people can’t tell that they are being exposed to carbon monoxide.

How carbon monoxide forms

Carbon monoxide results from incomplete combustion. So, whether it’s a malfunctioning heating appliance or hot water heater, a fireplace with a blocked chimney, or a car or generator that isn’t properly ventilated, carbon monoxide can come from any appliance or machine fueled by combustion.

Signs of carbon monoxide poisoning

At the early stages, carbon monoxide exposure mimics symptoms of the flu. Also, people who breathe in carbon monoxide experience headaches, fatigue, nausea, achiness and exhaustion. If not removed from the source of the carbon monoxide, people can become weak, confused or forgetful. And, they can vomit or lose consciousness.

How to prevent carbon monoxide exposure

Maintaining your appliances is the first step in protecting your home from carbon monoxide poisoning. So, fireplaces, furnaces and chimneys should be cleaned and inspected by a professional at least once per year. Clothing dryer vents also need to be cleaned once per year to prevent blockages that can allow carbon monoxide to back up into your home. Also, make sure that you never burn anything in your fireplace or heating stove that wasn’t intended to be burned, don’t use outdoor appliances — like camp stoves or generators — indoors. Never leave a car running in the garage, even with the door opened.

Carbon monoxide detection

To keep your home and family safe from carbon monoxide poisoning, you also should equip your home with carbon monoxide detectors. Also, carbon monoxide detectors should be installed on each floor of your home and outside of all sleeping areas. Check your carbon monoxide detectors regularly to make sure the batteries are fresh and the carbon monoxide detectors are in working order.

If you are concerned about carbon monoxide hazards in your home, call the experts at Total Chimney Care! We clean and inspect chimneys, oil flues and clothing dryer vents. And, we can spot carbon monoxide hazards in and around your appliances. We can help you resolve any hazards and provide you with carbon monoxide safety tips.

By Steve Sobczak on April 24th, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

Time to start planning for chimney repairs

Chimney Repair Planning Photo - Fairfield & New Haven CT - Total Chimney Care LLCFor many homeowners, spring ushers in a season of home maintenance and improvements. If your chimney needs to be repaired, the start of spring means it is time to start planning for those repairs.

Here are some reasons spring is the time to plan for chimney repairs:

  • Better weather. Winter is no time for chimney repairs. A mason or chimney technician might be able to work out a wintertime repair in dire circumstances, but by far, spring’s warmer temperatures and drier weather makes it a better time for chimney repairs. That’s especially true for masonry repairs; masonry materials require warmer, drier weather for proper curing.
  • Easier scheduling. Most people light their last fire of the season and quickly put their fireplaces and chimneys out of their minds until late summer or early fall, when they begin to prepare for the next winter’s fires. That makes spring the perfect time for chimney repairs because chimney companies are less busy. That means they’ll be able to schedule your repairs quickly.
  • Wintertime chimney damage. Chimneys deal with a lot during the winter: high winds, wet weather, freezing temperatures and the extreme heat of your fireplace. That means that chimney’s face the potential for a lot of damage during the winter months. That makes spring the right time to damage winter chimney repairs, before the damage worsens or causes problems with your fireplace or your home’s structure.
  • Ample time for improvements. When you address chimney repairs or improvements in the spring, you have plenty of time to have your chimney fixed or upgraded between the next fire-burning season. By addressing your chimney repairs in the spring, you can weigh all of your chimney repair options and consider functional or aesthetic upgrades, which you might not do if you’re planning chimney repairs under the pressure of impending fall temperatures.

So how do you know if chimney repairs should be on your home maintenance list? Obviously, if your sweep told you during your fall sweeping and inspection that repairs were imminent, you will know to schedule your repairs this spring. But if your chimney faced damage during the winter months, you might not realize that repairs are in order. For that reason, spring can be a great time for a chimney sweeping and inspection. If you have your chimney inspected now, rather than in the fall, you can spot and address needed repairs quickly.

If you choose to wait until fall for your chimney sweeping and inspection, you should be on the lookout for signs of chimney damage. Look for cracks in your chimney’s masonry, crumbling bricks or mortar and discoloration on the chimney exterior. Make sure the chimney cap remains firmly in place, the crown is free from cracks and the flashing is corrosion free and snug against the chimney base. Inside your home, rust on fireplace part, cracks in the firebox masonry, chunks of tile inside the firebox or stains on the walls or chimney around the chimney can be signs of a chimney leak or interior chimney damage.

If you are in need of chimney repairs, or if you would like to have your chimney inspected to make sure it is damage free, call Total Chimney Care to schedule an appointment today!

By Steve Sobczak on April 10th, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment

Install a Chimney Cap for Weather Protection

Water can destroy your fireplace, your chimney and even your home. That’s why it is important to make sure your chimney is protected from the elements. The best way to do that, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, is to install a chimney cap.

Install a Chimney Cap for Weather Protection Image - Fairfield & New Haven CT - Total Chimney CareHow a chimney cap protects your chimney.

The primary function of the chimney cap is to block water from flowing down your chimney each time it rains, snows or sleets. The chimney cap serves as a little roof to keep moisture out of the chimney flue. Moisture in your chimney can have a host of ill effects. It can cause flue tiles to crack and crumble. It can cause metal dampers, fire grates and fireplace doors to rust and warp. Consequently, it cal also can lead to unpleasant odors in your home. And, ultimately, moisture in your chimney can cause deterioration that threatens your chimney structure. This increases the risk of a home fire.

While water protection is undoubtedly an important function, your chimney cap protects your chimney in other ways. A chimney cap can prevent debris from being blown into the chimney and cause a blockage. In addition, a caged chimney cap can prevent animals or birds from making their way into your chimney flue. Plus, your chimney cap can block strong down drafts from entering your home. Downdrafts can blow smoke and ash into your living space and it can make your home cold and uncomfortable.

How to choose a chimney cap.

If you find yourself in need of a new chimney cap, you might be surprised to find how many chimney cap options are available. Chimney caps come in different sizes, shapes and materials. There are also some chimney caps that have added functions. Your chimney sweep will be able to steer you toward options that are appropriate for your home’s chimney.
One chimney cap trait you will need to choose is the material the chimney cap is made of.

Chimney caps are available in galvanized steel, aluminum, stainless steel and copper. Galvanized steel is often used because it’s economical, but it also breaks down quickly and will need to be replaced within a few years. Aluminum chimney caps are similarly economical, and they won’t corrode the way galvanized steel caps will, but they are lightweight and prone to being blown away or damaged. Stainless steel caps are the industry favorite, as they are durable, sturdy and reasonably priced. Copper chimney caps are beautiful and sturdy, but are often passed over due to cost. Copper caps most often are chosen for aesthetic reasons.

Knowing when to replace your chimney cap.

Has your chimney cap has been thrown off by a storm? Also, has it has become corroded or damaged? If so, it’s time for a new chimney cap. In addition, are you unsure about the health of your chimney cap? Make sure you ask your chimney sweep during your next sweeping and inspection. If you do need a new chimney cap, call Total Chimney Care. We’ll help you find the right cap for your chimney and get it installed the right way.

By Steve Sobczak on March 23rd, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment