Total Chimney Care's Blog

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

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

The Importance of Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

No matter what time of the year, house fires and carbon monoxide poisoning are very real dangers. However, homeowners must take extra precaution this time of year because every home is running a furnace, boiler, fireplace or wood stove. While these heating appliances help people survive in the most frigid weather, they also pose a threat to survival with the risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. To stay warm and safe this winter, install and test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home.

Carbon Monoxide Detector Safety - New Haven & Fairfield CT - Total Chimney CareIn the case of an unintentional house fire, people living in the house have a few short minutes at best to escape the building. To help maximize the time the inhabitants have for escape, every level of the house should be equipped with a smoke detector, in addition to inside every bedroom and outside the sleeping area. Each smoke detector should be tested once per month and totally replaced at least every 10 years. Having working smoke detectors in the house actually doubles the odds of survival in reported house fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Possibly more dangerous than house fires, carbon monoxide is another serious safety threat during the winter months. The gas has no color, smell or taste, which means your body cannot detect carbon monoxide unless signs of poisoning have started to set in. Therefore, unlike a fire, you cannot immediately tell your life is in danger. Because of this insidious threat, the home must be equipped with updated carbon monoxide detectors.

Every type of burning creates carbon monoxide. Hence, a poorly venting chimney could cause your gas or wood burning fireplace to pour carbon monoxide into the living space. A gas furnace with a hole in the fire chamber could mean unhealthy concentrations of carbon monoxide. During a power outage, using a propane lantern to gather the family together could potentially be lethal.

Inhaling carbon monoxide prevents oxygen from entering the blood stream. The more you breathe, the more evident the lack of oxygen becomes. First, carbon monoxide poisoning feels like dizziness, vertigo and nausea. These initial signs can be reversed by moving to an open outdoor area, but all too often, the poisoning progresses to a loss of consciousness and chances of reversal become quite dim. Eventually, the organs begin to fail and death quickly ensues. This entire process can actually happen in just one minute if the concentration of carbon monoxide is high enough

The hazards of fire and carbon monoxide must be respected. Maintaining and updating smoke and carbon monoxide detectors around the house is vital to staying safe, but you can also protect your family by educating everyone on the proper safety in case of an emergency. These simple measures can save lives. For more information on smoke or carbon monoxide detectors, contact the local fire department or Total Chimney Care of New Haven, Connecticut.

By Steve Sobczak on December 17th, 2014 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

Fireplace Safety During the Holidays

Holiday Safety Tips - New Haven - Fairfield CT - Total Chimney CareMuch of the country has already seen its first snow of the season, which only means that winter is right around the corner. Along with winter comes preparation for the parade of holidays at the end of the year. The Christmas tree goes up with all the glittering ornaments, the front yard glows with red and green lights placed with care, and the children go to bed dreaming of Santa and reindeer. However, the holiday season comes with its own set of serious responsibilities, especially if they are being celebrated with a fireplace in the house as well.

Basic fireplace and fire safety still goes, even around the holidays. Yet, with all the hustle and bustle, the children running about, and the champagne flowing, mistakes can happen. For that reason, it pays to take a little extra care to ensure the season does not end tragically.

Be sure to keep the Christmas tree, whether it is a true pine or a trusty artificial, far away from any stove or fireplace. The artificial needles and even pine needles on a live tree that has sat drying for too many days can catch fire quickly, so do not even make it an option. The same goes for decorations around a fireplace you intend to use. Stocking look festive, but do not let them hang low or close to the firebox. Secure any decorations on the mantle or hearth to ensure they do not end up near or in the fire.

Once the holidays are over, some people like to burn their live trees, wreaths, and even crumpled wrapping paper. Margate Firefight Chris Baumgartel explains that this is a bad idea because “pine burns very hot and very fast.” The high temperatures can ignite the creosote built up in the fireplace and chimney, resulting in an unintended chimney or house fire. Creosote results from incompletely burnt wood, and it is highly flammable. Therefore, the fast burst of hot fire that occurs when burning a dried out pine tree is the perfect recipe for starting a creosote fire.

For further safety that extends beyond the realm of the holidays, experts recommend only burning wood that has seasoned for 12 to 18 months. Burning this dried out wood reduces the amount of creosote and other toxins given off by the fire.

With over 17,000 holiday fires reported across the nation in 2013, you can never be too careful. Use common sense, and keep an eye on children near the fireplace. For added security, update batteries in the home’s smoke detectors. For more information on fireplace safety or to have your fireplace and chimney swept and inspected before the holidays, contact Total Chimney Care out of New Haven and Fairfield, Connecticut.

By Steve Sobczak on November 24th, 2014 | 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.