Total Chimney Care's Blog

Spring Cleaning Tips For Your Chimney

Spring cleaning helps refresh your home. Don’t forget to include your chimney in your spring cleaning! From the inside or out, a dirty chimney can subvert your spring cleaning efforts. It can fill your home with unpleasant smells or add a dinginess to the overall look of your home. Here’s what you need to know about spring cleaning your chimney.

Cleaning the Inside of Your Chimney

When your chimney’s dirty on the inside, the air that drafts back fills your home with unpleasant smoky or damp smells. Those smells intensify during the heat of the summer. You can avoid foul smells by scheduling your annual chimney sweeping and inspection for the spring. This helps you avoid the scheduling crunch of

Cleaning Your Hearth

A clean hearth free of ash and debris freshens the look of your living space. You should also clean fireplace doors with a glass cleaner and dust your gas logs. Whatever your hearth material, it should be able to be cleaned with a mild detergent mixed with water. If there are severe stains or if your hearth is deeply imbedded with soot and grime, there are specialty products that can be applied and peeled away to remove that deeply seated grime.

Cleaning the Outside of Your Chimney

If your chimney’s exterior is dingy, it can lower the curb appeal of your entire home. Cleaning your chimney’s exterior is a relatively simple process, and the easiest way is to use a pressure washer.  If you have a masonry chimney, be sure to check out recommendations for the right setting for your pressure washer. Too much pressure could damage the mortar that holds your chimney together. Stains on your masonry chimney can be scrubbed with a brush and a mixture of bleach and water. If you do notice black, white or mold stains on your chimney, be sure to discuss them with your chimney sweep during your annual inspection. That can be a sign that your chimney is taking on water and is susceptible to water damage.

If you’re spring cleaning your house, call Total Chimney Care to schedule an appointment today! We can help you get your hearth and your chimney in top shape.

By Steve Sobczak on April 11th, 2018 | 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

Nearly 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

Schedule Your Chimney Inspection and Repairs Now!

Too many homeowners wait until the last few days of summer, or the early days of fall, to schedule their chimney inspection and repairs. For the easiest scheduling of cleaning and repairs, schedule your chimney services now!

Avoid the Fall Rush

As soon as Labor Day strikes and temperatures show signs of cooling off, nearly every homeowner with a fireplace calls to schedule their annual sweeping and inspection, along with any repairs they may have planned. While that’s certainly fine, waiting until the late summer or early fall can have you struggling to get on a chimney’s sweep’s schedule. By calling to schedule your chimney sweeping and inspection now, you can avoid the fall rush. You will be able to schedule your appointment more easily, have a wider range of dates and times available to you, and you won’t risk delaying lighting your first fire while you wait to have your fireplace and chimney serviced.

Leave Ample Time for Repairs

The other major problem with waiting until fall to have your chimney swept and inspected is that if your sweep finds the need for repairs, you might not have time to have the repairs completed before cold, wet weather sets in. Most masonry materials require warmer, dry weather to properly set. To make sure you can have your chimney repaired while the weather is optimal, call now to schedule your chimney sweeping and inspection. Or, if you see cracks or damaged masonry on your chimney and expect that repairs are needed, call now to get those repairs scheduled!

Stop Further Chimney Damage

Most chimney damage occurs in the winter, as the result of winter precipitation, freezing temperatures, and vicious winter winds. And with most chimney damage, the longer the damage goes unchecked, the more severe the problem becomes and the more expensive it can become to fix. That’s why it’s wise to have your chimney inspected in the spring or early summer. That allows you to catch and repair any damage incurred over the winter before it can worsen.

Make Upgrades

Most people think of upgrading their fireplace or chimney when it’s in use for the season. They put off the improvements because they don’t want to interrupt the usage of their hearth. Then summer rolls around, and the improvements go forgotten until it’s time to light the fire again. If you want to improve your hearth with a new insert, new fuel type, new damper or hearth rebuild, summer is the time to make your upgrades! By planning for upgrades in the summer, your improved hearth will be ready for your first fire come fall.

Don’t wait to have your chimney swept and inspected, your fireplace repaired or your hearth upgraded! Call Total Chimney Care now to schedule your chimney service or to speak to one of our fireplace and chimney experts about the possibility of upgrades or repairs!

By Steve Sobczak on June 19th, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment

How Does a Top-Sealing Damper Work?

Your chimney’s aging damper could be costing you money. Most chimney dampers lie within the chimney throat. They comprise two metal pieces that, when new, make a relatively tight seal. Over time, however, those metal components warp due from exposure to moisture and the extreme heat of your fireplace. Once that seal is broken, the warm air from your home can flow freely up your chimney and cold drafts can find their way in when the fireplace isn’t in use.

You can solve this problem with a top-sealing damper. Top-sealing dampers securely close off the top of your chimney flue, keeping hot air in and cold air out.

Top-Sealing Dampers Save Money

Unlike a traditional chimney damper, top-sealing dampers are constructed to form a tight seal.  They don’t break down the way throat dampers do. With a top-sealing damper in place, air can’t easily escape through your chimney flue when your fireplace isn’t in use. In fact, it’s estimated that top-sealing dampers can reduce heat loss by 90 percent!

Top-sealing dampers come in two basic forms. Some models feature a stainless steel cap atop a diagonal spring wire. The wire expands to open the damper and compresses to close it. The top of the damper stays horizontal the entire time, so in the “open” position, the damper also serves as a chimney cap. Other models feature a low-profile frame that fits the very top of the damper. A spring pulls open the hinged damper top.

From the inside, the operation of both types of top-sealing dampers is the same. A stainless steel cable attaches the damper to a lever within the firebox that is used to open and close the damper, similar to the operation of a traditional throat damper. Both types of dampers also feature rubber gaskets that form a tight seal between the chimney flue and the outside. Top-sealing dampers most often come in stainless steel or cast aluminum, so rust and corrosion don’t wear down their utility.

Other Benefits of Top-Sealing Dampers

While preventing heat exchange might be the biggest benefit to a top-sealing damper, the benefits don’t stop there. Top-sealing dampers also do a better job at keeping water and moisture out of your chimney, saving your chimney from damage. Some top-sealing dampers are fitted with metal cages. These cages keep animals and debris out even if the damper is open. If you want to prevent warm air from escaping your home through your chimney and costing you money on your home-heating bills,

If you want to prevent warm air from escaping your home through your chimney and costing you money on your home-heating bills, call Total Chimney Care to schedule an appointment today! We can fit your chimney with a top-sealing damper to keep warm air in while protecting your chimney from water, animals, and debris.

By Steve Sobczak on June 5th, 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?

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