Our Company Blog

The Truth About Burn Bans

For owners of fuel burning appliances, the threat of burn bans can be extremely frustrating. Likewise, complex burn ban regulations can be difficult to understand. At Pristine Sweeps, our goal is to help our customers understand burn bans so they can use their fuel burning appliances as often as possible.


What is a burn ban?

Burn bans can be put in place by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. They are mandatory orders that restrict the use of wood burning fireplaces and stoves and outdoor burning. There are two main kinds of burn bans: air quality burn bans and fire safety burn bans.

Air quality burn bans are enacted air quality is degraded and the health of area residents may be negatively impacted. Although they are mandatory, air quality burn bans are merely temporary measures. They usually occur during the fall and winter months and only last for a day or two, but may last as long as a week or more.

Fire safety burn bans, on the other hand, are issued by local fire marshals when dry conditions have increased the risk for wildfire. Most fire safety burn bans last for several months at a time, but typically only effect outdoor burning, such as campfires.

When are burn bans enacted?

Air quality burn bans are typically put into place during stagnant weather conditions when there is an increased risk of air pollution. As most fuel burning fires produce fine particles, or soot, this can be harmful to the heath of small children, the elderly, or people who suffer from respiratory illnesses. By restricting wood smoke emissions, the health of those living in affected areas can be protected.

Stages of burn bans

Based on state burn ban requirements, there are two stages of burn bans. The stage of burn ban that is instated is determined by the air quality in individual counties.

Stage one: A stage one [http://waburnbans.net/terms-explained/] burn ban is based on the possibility of rising pollution levels coupled with current weather conditions. During a stage one burn ban:

  • No burning in wood burning fireplaces, uncertified wood stoves, or uncertified inserts is allowed. This does not apply if the wood burning appliance is your only source of heat.
  • No wood burning appliances – even those that are certified or are primary heat sources – may produce visible smoke.
  • All outdoor burning is banned, including charcoal recreational fires.

Stage two: Stage two burn bans are enacted when the levels of fine particulate emission reach the trigger values set by state law. During a stage two burn ban:

  • No burning in wood burning appliances – certified or uncertified – is allowed, unless it is your only heat source.
  • No visible smoke may be generated.
  • All outdoor burning is banned, including charcoal recreational fires

Should I be concerned about burn bans?

Although the prospect of a burn ban may seem like a deterrent to purchasing a fuel burning appliance, in actuality there are very few burn bans in the Seattle area each year. Typically, there are only three or fewer burn ban days each year, and almost all burn bans are stage one.

If you have questions about burn bans or if your heating appliance meets the certification requirements to operate during burn bans, contact Pristine Sweeps today!

Painted Chimneys

Many homeowners view painting their masonry chimney as an easy way to update the look of their home. Others paint their chimneys in an attempt to reduce the amount of maintenance they need to perform by waterproofing the brick with paint. A few even paint their chimneys in the hopes that it will prevent existing damage from getting worse.

While some homeowners opt to paint their chimneys, others purchase homes where the bricks have been previously painted. This can affect the overall performance of the fireplace system, and homes with painted chimneys require special care and maintenance.


Maintenance of painted chimneys

Although all chimneys require regular maintenance, painted chimneys require additional care. First, painted brick chimneys need to be repainted more frequently than other exterior portions of the home. According to the Brick Industry Association, chimneys need to be repainted at least every three to five years.

It is also extremely important that painted chimneys are protected from exposure to moisture. Because of this, homeowners should pay special attention to the condition of their chimney crown and chimney cap. Having a properly fitting and well maintained chimney crown and chimney cap can prevent water damage to a painted chimney.

The chimney crown is a slab of concrete or metal that covers the top of the chimney. A proper chimney crown will have an overhang of about two inches on each side. This overhang keeps water off of the sides of the chimney, preventing water damage. Meanwhile, the chimney cap protects the entrance to the flue from moisture, debris, or animals from entering the chimney, flue, and firebox.

Moisture and painted chimneys

With siding, stucco, and other exterior finishes, paint is often used to protect the materials from water damage. While this rule is true for many exterior building materials, it is not true of brick. Rather than protecting the masonry from water damage, paint traps moisture inside of the normally porous brick.

“When water seeps in through the mortar, it also seeps into the brick through the inside, and since the bulk of the surface area is blocked, the moisture cannot evaporate off,” says Diana Zumeta of Brick Restoration. Trapped moisture will then expand and contract as the water freezes and thaws. Not only will this cause the paint to chip and peel, but it can also lead to brick damage that could possibly compromise the stability of the chimney structure.

Can paint be removed?

Although it is possible to remove paint from a chimney, it is often a long and difficult process. The most popular method involves the use of harsh chemicals which can sometimes damage the brick itself as the paint is removed. Unfortunately, in some cases the paint cannot be completely. Because of this, homeowners should think twice before painting their chimney as it often cannot be undone.

Before painting your chimney, contact Pristine Sweeps to assess the health of your chimney system. In many cases there is maintenance that can be completed before painting to ensure the chimney undergoes as little damage as possible. Likewise, if you have questions about how to maintain your painted chimney, contact the experts at Pristine Sweeps today!