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Spotting Potential Problems with Your Chimney and Fireplace

The chimney can be hard to troubleshoot, especially for the novice, new homeowner, or even an experienced one! This is because the largest portion of the chimney system is hidden, inaccessible to even a certified chimney sweep, who has to use specially made tools and cameras to get the best look into your chimney system. So it’s important to do all you can, and allow them to do what they can.

Spotting Potential Problems with Your Chimney and Fireplace Image - Seattle WA - Pristine SweepsWhat You Can Do

The average homeowner won’t notice a problem with the chimney system until it’s a serious one. There is usually unseen damage for weeks or months that goes unnoticed before it’s visible. This is why homeowners should be vigilant about fireplace and chimney upkeep and looking over the system when they use it.

Look for signs of a problem:

  • DRIPPING OR STAINING
    This means you have water in your chimney system. This can be the result of damaged masonry or can simply mean the chimney cap or flashing is missing or damaged. Since water can wreck your masonry you should call a professional as soon as you notice a problem.
  • A SUDDEN DECREASE IN EFFICIENCY
    May mean many things, but it always means there’s a problem. When your chimney system stops working well it can be anything from a draft problem or your firewood, to a serious hazard like an obstruction or flue damage. You can try to diagnose a draft problem by cracking a window in your home and you can make sure you’re burning only properly seasoned wood. If the problem persists you should call a professional for an assessment.
  • A DRAFTY OR SMOKY FIREPLACE
    This is a serious indication of a problem and can mean there’s an obstruction or a problem with the damper. If you troubleshoot and the problem persists, there is a bigger problem and you need an expert.
  • HOT WALLS OR SUPPORTS NEAR THE CHIMNEY
    More than likely, this means the flue liner isn’t doing it’s job of protecting your home from the chimney’s heat. You probably need a chimney relining.
  • CRACKING, SPALLING, OR HOLES IN MASONRY
    Often caused from water damage, and this type of damage can be a serious hazard. It can be repaired by a certified professional with proper training and experience.

Schedule Routine Maintenance

This includes annual chimney inspections and regular chimney sweeps. These appointments are the only time a professional will see your chimney system unless you have a problem. You don’t want your first call to a chimney expert to be when you have a fire or when you need a repair. Even the most affordable and fair companies will charge more for repairs than diagnostics. The old saying is true: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Inspections and sweeps help you avoid hazards that can lead to catastrophic cost later.

If you haven’t had a chimney inspection this year, this call can be the best thing you can do for your chimney and your wallet. A chimney expert at Pristine Sweeps is standing by to be your chimney choice. Call Pristine Sweeps at 206-574-8414 today.

By Aaron Woodward | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

Fire Safety Tips for Winter

Practicing Fire Safety Photo - Seattle WA - Pristine SweepsWinter is in full swing now, even in mild Seattle, and you’re likely using your fireplace regularly, if not daily.

As members of the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) we strive to educate our customers about fire safety. Since our start in 2008 we have made it our top priority at Pristine Sweeps to put our customers safety and comfort above all else and over the years we have even learned a thing or two because of our continued education through CSIA, but also through our experience. No matter how long you’ve had a fireplace, it’s never a bad time to review safety precautions or learn something new.

Treat fire as a danger.

Fire isn’t only dangerous because it is hot and can burn you. Fire also produces harmful byproducts like carbon monoxide that can cause illness and even death.

Teach everyone in your home consistent rules for the fireplace.

You won’t have to worry that someone else is being unsafe with your fireplace if you teach them how to operate it correctly and safely. Set boundaries for people in your home whom you don’t want operating your fireplace. This is important! This can be the one thing that keeps you from costly damage and even injury later (not to mention an insurance claim).

Use proper fuel only.

You should only burn proper fuel in your fireplace. Burning trash or clothes can mean sparks or flames flying out of the fireplace, or up the chimney, igniting debris in the flue. Burning improper fuel also increases the production of soot and creosote, which leads to creosote buildup. A creosote buildup is highly flammable and can also obstruct the airflow required for the chimney to work.

Build a proper fire.

Instead of the traditional fire with kindling on bottom, struggling to light the larger fuel on top, try the top-down burn. It is the opposite of everything you know about fire-building, with the larger logs at the bottom, then medium logs and sticks, with the kindling on top. This creates a cleaner burn because the fire, ashes, and coals fall, igniting the fuel below (bonus: less sparks fly from your fireplace as a result).

Remove wood ash.

Remove wood ash before it crowds your fireplace. If too much ash is allowed to build up in your fireplace it can make it difficult to feed your fire without wood, coals, and ashes falling onto the hearth or out of your stove door. Make sure you clean the fireplace or stove of ashes regularly, allowing for some to blanket the bottom to insulate your coals. Ash removal can be dangerous if you don’t have the proper tools which include a metal bucket and a long-handled shovel. Be sure you do not store hot ashes inside the house, as they can ignite for several hours after removed.

While you only use your fireplace for a few months out of the year, it’s important to remember fireplace safety year round. This includes child-proofing your fireplace and scheduling routine maintenance that keeps your fireplace and chimney in tip-top shape.

Schedule with Pristine Sweeps and worry less. There is always a chimney and fire expert waiting to talk to you.

By Aaron Woodward | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment