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Spotting 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

House Pressure Issues

Fireplaces are supposed to add warmth and comfort to our homes. However, if you are experiencing pressure issues your fireplace could be directly affected. If it seems like your fireplace is not producing any heat, is using too much wood, or is letting cold air in you are most likely experiencing problems with house pressure.

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Airtight homes

Open hearth masonry fireplaces are not known for being efficient; what they lack in efficiency is more than made up for in warmth and ambiance. However, more and more modern homeowners find themselves experiencing burn issues with their open hearth fireplaces. This is, in part, due to a home’s air pressure.

Modern homes are designed and built to be air tight, keeping the conditioned air inside and the hot or cold air outside. While this lack of airflow saves you money on your monthly gas and electric bills, it can have a major negative impact on your fireplace system.

Fires need oxygen in order to burn their best; in an airtight home, a lack of fresh oxygen can cause fires to burn sluggishly. Likewise, tight homes may also have issues with drafting. A lack of outside air can create a weak draft, making it difficult for smoke to be pushed up and out of the chimney. This can lead to smoky fires that affect your home’s overall air quality.

The stack effect

House pressure issues can also be caused by the stack effect. The stack effect is based on a principle that everyone knows – cold air sinks and hot air rises. However, this can wreak havoc when you are trying to heat your home or use your fireplace in the winter.

As the warm air in your home rises up – and out – through upper attics and windows, cold outside air is drawn in through holes or cracks near the bottom of your home. For homeowners with a fireplace, the stack affect can cause cold air to be drawn down the chimney and into your home. In addition to causing your heater to work harder to compensate for the influx of cold air, this can also create fireplace burning problems. The cold air being drawn down the chimney can disrupt the draft of the fireplace, pushing smoke, soot, and ash back into your home.

Fixing pressure issues with makeup air

While an airtight home or the stack effect can create drafting issues in your home, utilizing exterior air intakes, or makeup air, may help resolve the problem. Makeup air can be as simple as cracking windows or doors around the fireplace; for homes with more serious pressure issues may need to install a permanent supply of outdoor air. By installing an exterior air intake, the pressure inside your home can naturally equalize, leading to a reduction in fireplace draft issues.

House pressure issues can have a major negative impact on your ability to enjoy your fireplace system during the winter. This year, rather than dealing with problematic pressure problems, contact the experts at Pristine Sweeps. Our staff can help identify and fix the cause of your pressure issues, allowing you to get back to worry-free enjoyment of your fireplace.