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Common Problems Found During Chimney Inspections

Your chimney inspection can be nerve wracking, especially if it’s been awhile since the chimney has last been looked at by a professional. You don’t know what problems the inspection could turn up or how much those problems could cost to repair. To help you anticipate potential problems, here are some common issues that come up during chimney inspections.

Cracked Chimney Crown

Common Problems Found During Chimney Inspection - Fairfield and New Haven CT - Total Chimney CareChimney crowns, the exterior portion of the chimney that surrounds the chimney flue opening, are particularly susceptible to damage. That’s because chimney crowns are exposed to the elements and will crack or crumble due to moisture and freezing temperatures. On top of that, chimney crowns are often constructed from the wrong materials, which leads to faster breakdown and deterioration. It’s crucial to repair a cracked or damaged chimney crown because a failing chimney crown can allow water to seep into your home around the chimney flue, leading to further chimney damage or damage to your home’s structure.

Missing Chimney Caps

Chimney caps are metal tops that keep out water, wind gust, animals, and debris. Chimney caps should top off all chimneys, but sometimes they are not included during construction. Other times, wind or other elements damage the cap. A missing or damage chimney cap must be replaced, as a chimney cap is your chimney’s best defense against water damage.

Damaged Chimney Liner

Your chimney liner deals with the extreme temperatures from your fireplace, as well as moisture and soot. Sometimes the liner contains small chimney fires which go undetected until an inspection. All of these factors can cause cracks or weakening in the chimney liner. Repairing your chimney liner restores its function so it can continue to protect your home from the extreme temperatures, sparks and smoke from your fireplace.

Water Damage

Extending beyond your roofline, your chimney faces the brunt of the elements. It also provides and opening to your home’s structure. That makes your chimney extremely vulnerable to water damage. Chimney inspections often will turn up masonry water damage on your chimney’s exterior, top or interior. Inspections also can turn up leaks around the chimney base or through the structure. It’s especially important to address water damage in your chimney, as unaddressed water damage worsens over time. It weakens your chimney’s structure and potentially damages your surrounding home structure.


Particularly if a chimney goes unused for an extended period of time, chimney inspections turn up obstructions. Natural debris, animals or even uncleared creosote can obstruct your chimney. An obstructed chimney puts your home in danger of a chimney fire or can force dangerous carbon monoxide back into your home.

If you’re due for a chimney inspection, call the experts at Total Chimney Care! Trust our certified chimney technicians to perform a thorough inspection of your chimney. We clearly explain any problems discovered and propose the best solution to restoring your chimney’s appearance, structure and function.

By Steve Sobczak on December 1st, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment

Reduce Fire Hazards in Your Home

Fireplaces and chimneys result in more than 22,000 home fires, on average, each year, according to statistics from the Chimney Safety Institute of America. More often than not, a dirty chimney is to blame for a chimney fire. To avoid becoming another statistic, and to reduce the fire hazard in your home, have your chimney swept and inspected before you use your fireplace this fall.

Dirty Chimneys Spark FiresReduce Fire Hazards in Your Home Image - Fairfield CT - Total Chimney Care

Every time you burn a fire in your fireplace, creosote builds up within the chimney. As smoke travels up the chimney and cools, condensation forms on the walls of your chimney flue and then hardens into creosote. Creosote is a flammable substance, which means that if a burning ember makes its way into your chimney. If the temperature within the chimney suddenly spikes, the creosote can ignite and start a chimney fire. The longer creosote remains within the chimney, the more it builds up. Creosote can even boil and bubble, forming a layer several inches thick that can ignite or prevent smoke and carbon monoxide from exiting your chimney.

Your annual chimney sweeping removes creosote from your chimney flue before it can pose a danger. To lower your risk of a chimney fire, the National Fire Protection Association calls for having your chimney swept and inspected at least once per year, between fire-burning seasons. If you burn an excessive amount of wood each season — think four cords or more — you should have your chimney swept more often.

Why Your Chimney Inspection Matters

Your annual chimney sweeping isn’t just about removing hazardous creosote from your chimney flue. It should also include an inspection. Your annual inspection spots any problems in your chimney or fireplace that could pose a fire hazard. Cracks or weaknesses in the chimney liner can let the heat, smoke, and fire from your chimney to access the wooden structure of your home, which can lead to a fire. Your inspection also will spot any signs of a previous chimney fire. Often, an initial chimney fire smolders and goes undetected. It does, however, damage the chimney, opening the door for a second, more severe chimney fire that can spread to the rest of your home.

If you have gas logs or a gas fireplace insert, your chimney sweeping and inspection is still important to prevent a house fire! The sweeping removes corrosive soot from the chimney and dust or debris from the burners and blowers in your fireplace. The inspection verifies that the chimney is in good condition and that all working components of the fireplace or logs are operating properly and safe for use.

Schedule Your Chimney Maintenace Now!

If you haven’t had your chimney swept and inspected yet this fall, don’t wait any longer! You should not light your fireplace for the season before the entire system has been swept and inspected. Doing so puts your home and your family at risk of a dangerous house fire! Reduce your risk of a chimney fire by calling Total Chimney Care to schedule your annual chimney sweeping and inspection today.

By Steve Sobczak on November 15th, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment

Wood-burning Inserts Make Your Fireplace a Powerhouse

Fireplaces are meant to add to the warmth and comfort of your home, but if you have a traditional open-hearth the opposite might be true. Open-hearth fireplaces can send as much as 8 percent of your home’s heated air up and out of the chimney, meaning an open-hearth fireplace can actually make your home colder and more expensive to heat. Even when the fireplace is in use, an open-hearth wood-burning fireplace only returns about 10 percent of the fire’s heat to your home. The remaining 90 percent exiting the chimney.

If you love your wood-burning fireplace, you don’t have to trade of the comforting glow of a wood fire for a drafty, inefficient heat source! You can transform your hearth’s energy output with a wood-burning fireplace insert! A wood-burning insert can increase your fireplace’s efficiency and turn your fireplace into a heating powerhouse!

How does a fireplace insert work? Wood-burning Inserts Image - Fairfield CT - Total Chimney Care

As the name suggests, a fireplace insert is fitted into your existing hearth space. An insert features a heavy-duty metal box with a heavy ceramic door and a system of blowers. As the fire burns, air from your home is pulled into the space around the fireplace insert, where it’s heated. A blower returns that heated air to your home. The ceramic doors also capture the fire’s heat and radiate it outward into your room. Depending on your existing chimney structure, your chimney might be fitted with a new liner to properly vent and deal with the extreme heat of your fireplace insert.

How much heat does a wood-burning insert create?

The exact amount of heat put off by your wood-burning insert will depend on the model you choose. A wood-burning fireplace insert can heat as much as 3,000 square feet of living space. Efficiencies of different models generally range between 60 and 80 percent. Depending on your existing heating systems and the size and layout of your home, installing and using an efficient wood-burning fireplace insert can lower your home-heating bills by as much as 40 percent.

What are the other benefits of a wood-burning fireplace insert?

A wood-burning fireplace insert can serve as a low-cost heating source for your home. It also can increase the usability of your fireplace. While an open-hearth fireplace is generally lit for ambiance when people are using the room, a wood-burning fireplace insert can safely burn around the clock to provide a constant source of heat. Small inserts will generally burn up to four hours without needing to be reloaded or tended, while larger inserts can burn for up to 10 hours without needing more wood. Finally, an efficient wood-burning insert can improve the air quality in your home; all of the smoke and particulate matter put off by the fireplace exits through the chimney, rather than entering your home, as it does with an open-hearth fireplace.

How do I choose a wood-burning fireplace insert?

If you’re ready to turn your fireplace into a heating powerhouse with a wood-burning fireplace insert, visit Total Chimney Care’s online fireplace store or visit our retail showroom, The Cozy Flame Hearth Shop. Our fireplace experts will listen to your needs and help you select the wood-burning insert that’s perfect for your hearth.

By Steve Sobczak on November 1st, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

Energy Efficient Dampers Save You Money

Would you leave a window in your home wide open during the winter? Would you let a strong draft from your windows go unchecked? The answer to these questions is most likely “no;” you know that open or leaky windows rob your home of warm air in the winter and cost you money as your furnace works overtime to compensate.

If you have a traditional fireplace damper, you likely are leaving your chimney wide open to let warm air out and cold drafts in. Just like an open window, a leaky chimney damper can increase your home-heating costs. That’s why you should consider an energy-efficient damper to save you money this winter.

The Problem with Traditional Dampers

Energy Efficient Dampers Save You Money - Fairfield, CT - Total Chimney CareNearly all fireplaces are installed with a traditional throat damper. These dampers are located just above your firebox, and most feature a metal-on-metal closure. When the dampers are new, they might create a reasonably effective barrier between the warm air in your home and the cold air outside. These dampers warp quickly, however, due to moisture and the extreme heat from your fireplace. Over time, they fail to form an effective seal and let the warm air seep out of your house, even when closed.

How to Save Energy with a Top-Sealing Damper

If you’ve noticed the cold draft from your fireplace — or if you’re trying to improve your home’s efficiency — choose a top-selling damper. Top-sealing dampers are installed atop your chimney. They feature gaskets that form a perfect seal when closed, so when your fireplace isn’t in use, you can be sure that warm air isn’t escaping from your home and cold drafts won’t be finding their way down your flue. Just like traditional dampers, top-sealing dampers can be opened and closed with a lever in your firebox.

Other Benefits of Top-Sealing Dampers

Conserving energy and lowering your home-heating bills aren’t the only benefits of top-sealing dampers. Top-sealing dampers also keep animals out of your chimney, while preventing debris from blowing down the flue. They also keep moisture out of your chimney and fireplace, preserving your chimney structure and fireplace from water damage. Top-sealing dampers also can help stop downdrafts that can drive unpleasant smells from your chimney into your home during warm summer months.

Call to Have Your Chimney Outfitted with an Energy-Saving Damper Today!

If you’re ready to conserve energy and lower your home-heating bills, call Total Chimney Care to schedule a consultation today! We can help you determine which type of top-sealing damper is ideal for your chimney. Finally, we can get your top-sealing damper installed as soon as possible so you can see lower energy bills this winter!

By Steve Sobczak on October 16th, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

Don’t Forget Your Chimney’s Oil Flue This Fall

Most homeowners know the importance of having their fireplace chimneys and furnaces inspected, but many homeowners forget the cleaning and inspection of another vital chimney system: their oil flue. Just like fireplaces and furnaces, oil flues require regular cleaning and inspection to keep them running safely. Many homeowners with chimney flues assume that their annual furnace maintenance will include a cleaning of the chimney flue, but the reality is that it rarely does. While furnace technicians will often shovel out the base of the chimney and brush the furnace’s connector pipes, the furnace technician usually will not clean and inspect the chimney from top to bottom. A full oil flue cleaning and inspection requires the services of a certified chimney sweep.Don't Forget Your Oil Chimney This Fall Image - Fairfield CT - Total Chimney Care

Many homeowners with chimney flues assume that their annual furnace maintenance will include a cleaning of the chimney flue, but the reality is that it rarely does. While furnace technicians will often shovel out the base of the chimney and brush the furnace’s connector pipes, the furnace technician usually will not clean and inspect the chimney from top to bottom. A full oil flue cleaning and inspection requires the services of a certified chimney sweep.

The Importance of Oil Flue Cleaning

Just like the chimney flue that vents your fireplace, your oil furnace’s flue should be swept and inspected at least once a year, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America. That’s because the oil combustion within your furnace leads to a buildup of soot within the chimney flue. Over time that soot can build-up and prevent your oil furnace from running safely and effectively. A buildup of soot can lead to a buildup of carbon monoxide in your home, or to a chimney a fire. At the very least, the soot that builds up in your oil furnace flue is highly corrosive. It can cause the chimney flue liner to break down. Flakes from the liner can fall onto the furnace and cause it to malfunction, or the liner can break down to the point where it’s no longer safe. Signs your oil flue needs to be cleaned

Signs Your Oil Flue Needs Cleaned

One of the worst-case scenarios we see is neglected oil flues causing furnaces to malfunction in the middle of winter. This leaves homeowners to deal with emergency repairs to keep their homes warm. An oil flue cleaning can help to prevent mid-winter furnace breakdowns. Even if you have your oil flue cleaned, you should be on the lookout for these signs of a dirty flue:

  • Black smoke billowing from the combustion chamber
  • Excessive heat coming from the combustion chamber
  • Strange odors coming from the furnace
  • Burning through more fuel than usual

If you notice any signs that your furnace flue could be clogged — even if you had your flue cleaned for the fall — call to have your flue inspected and cleaned, if needed.

Call Now!

Don’t wait until you have a problem; schedule your oil flue cleaning today!

The biggest mistake you can make is to wait to have your oil flue cleaned and inspected after a clogged chimney causes a malfunction with your furnace, or worse, a chimney fire. To ensure your oil furnace is ready to safely heat your home this winter, call Total Chimney Care to schedule your oil flue cleaning today!

By Steve Sobczak on October 2nd, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment