Total Chimney Care's Blog

Are you ready to light your fireplace?

Lighting Your Fireplace Image - Fairfield & New Haven CT - Total Chimney Care LLCTemperatures are dipping, and the holidays are almost upon us. This time of year has many homeowners lighting their first fires of the season. Before you use your fireplace for the first time this fall, you need to follow this checklist to determine: Are you ready to light your fireplace?

Have your fireplace swept and inspected.

If your fireplace hasn’t been swept or inspected since your last fire of the spring, you aren’t ready to light your fireplace. Your annual chimney sweeping removes dangerous creosote deposits, which can ignite a chimney fire or block smoke from exiting your fireplace if left unchecked. Your annual chimney inspection checks for any weaknesses, damage or blockages in your chimney that could pose a hazard when your fireplace is lit. Don’t light your first fire if you haven’t had your chimney swept and inspected!

Perform any recommended repairs.

If your chimney inspection turned up any needed repairs, don’t ignore them, no matter how small they seem! Even the smallest chimney issue can put your fireplace or your home at risk. Small cracks in your firebox or chimney liner can allow heat and smoke to enter your home, causing damage or a fire or sickening your family with carbon monoxide. Cracks in the chimney crown or exterior masonry can allow water to penetrate your chimney and your home and do damage. As tempting as it is to ignore recommended repairs when it comes time for the first fire of the fall, make sure you take care of chimney repairs before you use your fireplace.

Make any improvements.

Did last winter have you thinking about fireplace improvements? Did you consider a new damper to replace one that no longer sealed out cold air? Would you like to install an efficient gas fireplace insert to your existing hearth? Could your hearth’s masonry use some cosmetic work? It’s not too late to make improvements to your fireplace or chimney! You could still have a new fireplace insert, fireplace or heating stove installed to enjoy all winter long, or you could replace dated or aged chimney or fireplace parts that are no longer working optimally to improve the function of your fireplace and chimney this winter.

Waterproof your chimney.

Water is your chimney’s greatest enemy. It erodes your chimney’s masonry and can compromise its structure. It can rust your damper, fireplace grate and fireplace doors. It can even seep into your home and cause structural or cosmetic damage. You can save your chimney from water damage this winter by having your chimney waterproofed!

Call Total Chimney Care to Schedule an appointment today!

If your fireplace and chimney aren’t quite ready for fall, call Total Chimney Care to schedule an appointment today! We can clean and inspect your chimney, perform any needed repairs or desired improvements, or waterproof your chimney to protect it from moisture this winter. With Total Chimney Care, you can be sure that your chimney and fireplace are ready for the first fire of the fall!

By Steve Sobczak on November 25th, 2016 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment

Creosote F.A.Q.

Fireplaces are designed to safely contain a wood-fueled fire, while, at the same time, heating your home.  Chimneys are designed to expel the substances—smoke, water vapor, gases, etc.—produced from your wood fire.  As these substances are ushered up and out of your house, another substance is formed in the process; that substance is known as creosote.

Do you have questions about creosote removal? Feel free to call us with any chimney-related concerns.

Do you have questions about creosote removal? Feel free to call us with any chimney-related concerns.

You’re probably asking yourself, “what exactly is creosote, and why is it dangerous to allow it to accumulate inside your chimney?”  It’s fairly easy to explain.  Creosote is a sticky chemical residue—somewhat similar to watery tar—that is formed when wood is burned at lower-than-optimal temperatures and is capable of building up within your chimney, thereby decreasing the amount of open space through which exhaust gases and smoke can pass.

Increased amounts of creosote are formed from burning unseasoned softwoods in your fireplace than properly seasoned hardwoods as well.  The residue begins as unburned oil in the form of gas.  As this gas exits the fireplace and flows up into the relatively cooler chimney, condensation occurs.  When the condensation dries, it gradually hardens, taking the following forms: Stage 1 creosote (velvety soot), Stage 2 creosote (porous and crunchy), and Stage 3 creosote (shiny, rock-hard glaze).  This buildup is a definite fire hazard.

Fresh layers of creosote can build up rapidly, accumulating quickly when previously deposited layers of creosote don’t dry completely.  These newly formed layers insulate the older layers from the heat of the rising wood exhaust, which eventually dries them and creates a heavy buildup of sticky creosote that eventually solidifies completely; this results in a rock-solid layer of creosote is often referred to as glaze.

Depending on the internal dimensions of your chimney, this buildup can seriously restrict the flow of air, which can lead to smoke buildup in the fireplace as well as in your house.  This reduced airflow can also cause your fires to burn cooler, as they’re not able to get the necessary amount of oxygen for increased combustion; all of this results in additional creosote buildup inside your chimney.

Creosote becomes dangerous when it is allowed to accumulate in your chimney because it turns into a fuel source for a possible deadly chimney fire.  The build up of creosote can never be avoided completely; however, burning small, hot fires and using dry, seasoned wood can minimize the buildup.

Sooner or later, every chimney needs to be cleaned, as this is the only way to truly remove dangerous creosote buildup.  It is highly recommended that you leave this task to a CSIA Certified chimney sweep to ensure that the job is done properly.  The frequency for your cleanings will depend on the amount of use your fireplace receives, but it should never be any longer than a year between cleanings.

Remember: a clean chimney is far less likely to catch fire than a dirty one.  So what are you waiting for?  Call Total Chimney Care today to schedule an appointment to have your chimney cleaned so you can enjoy the cold-weather months with a little additional peace of mind.

All About Liners

Your chimney’s liner serves a critical purpose: it protects the exterior masonry from the direct impact of heat. Over time, your liner may develop cracks and need to be replaced or repaired.

All-About-Chimney-Liners-New-Haven-Fairfield-CT-Total-Chimney-Care

Common Points of Fire Safety

Counter-intuitively and therefore surprisingly, the focal ‘points of fire safety’ are different for different people. Environmentalists, loving parents, managers, park rangers, landlords,  and homeowners all see ‘the point of fire safety’ in slightly different ways. Nonetheless, they have in common both certain points and the single point of all of them: protection of what they value.

Fire Safety - New Haven CT - Total Chimney Care

Certain Safety Points in Common

Regardless of whom is making them, certain points are stressed in every discussion of fire safety. Among them is the need to:

  • take extraordinary precautions with respect to children big and small
  • understand the proper way to extinguish different types of fire
  • have appropriate extinguishers and alarms
  • incorporate fire resistance measures in areas surrounding likely fire sources
  • provide safe storage for flammables

There are many others, but too much information can simply overwhelm, and these points should be helpful.

Being prepared to put out both accidental and built fires is essential to fire safety. In every case, the ability of air to reach the fire has to be shut down, but the other fuel for the fire calls for different ‘extinguishers’. A grease fire may be stoppable with flour and a lid, but that is not the best approach to a stack of papers on fire.

Flammables, which include paper, wood, and common liquids as well as those intended to be accelerants, require safe storage. That is as true indoors as out – whether back yard or campground, office or home. Unprotected, whether they are for the printer, fireplace, or campfire, things that can ignite should not be near a source of fire.

The Single Point Of All

Whatever it is they are protecting, the single point of safety measures is to prevent harm from fire. This is surely nowhere more important than at home, and its truth only increases with children. Since “faulty systems” are to blame in a huge number of fires wherever they occur, please involve professionals in the proper maintenance of yours.

By Steve Sobczak on May 13th, 2013 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment