Water leaks can cause corrosion, deterioration, dimensional damage, efflorescence, freeze-thaw spalling, staining, damage to interior finishes, and, ultimately, structural failure.
Best Cincinnati Chimney sees a lot of problems every year but one reoccurring problem is the presence of Chimney Swifts nesting in the chimneys.
Chimney Swifts are brown and gray birds known for their cigar-shaped bodies and wide, flat beaks. While their natural habitat is in trees, the destruction of forests has resulted in them having an affinity for chimneys as they are warm and protected from predators. These birds do not roost like most birds but they like to hang and they build their nests against ledges so a chimney is perfect for them. One definite sign that you have chimney swifts is the cry of their young hatchlings. They let off a high pitched screaming that sounds like a little girl screaming.
Why not just let them be?
Regardless of how much you love birds, you should ask a chimney professional to keep swifts out of your chimney. Besides the irritating sounds that they make, they also pose some dangers. One of the dangers is that of diseases. Due to their tendencies to travel long distances and even across continents they are exposed to many microorganisms that can cause diseases to you and your family.
Another reason why you should keep them out of your chimney is because they put your home at the risk of catching fire. When they construct nests, the nests block the chimney flue thus harmful gasses, and smoke doesn’t escape into the environment. This results to creosote getting deposited on the chimney walls. As you know, the more the creosote deposits, the higher the chances of your chimney catching fire. Also the nests themselves are flammable.
What do we do to get them out?
Many birds, including swifts, are protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The act states that it’s a federal offense to remove or damage the swift nests before the hatchlings have left. Once they are there, you have them for a life cycle. The good thing is that the birds have short life cycles where the time from nesting to the time that the hatchlings leave the nest is less than 6 weeks. After the six weeks, you should contact a chimney company to remove the nests and clean the entire chimney. We usually just wait them out and then seal them out.
Keeping them out
Swifts spend their winters in South American then migrate to North America in spring and summer. If you don’t take measures to prevent the birds from getting into your chimney they will come back during summer. One of the ways of ensuring that they don’t find their way into your chimney again installing a chimney cap. All you need to do is hire a chimney masonry repair professional to install it for you. Since the birds are very small, ensure that you hire a professional who will install a unit that the birds can’t fit through. The smaller the mesh around the cap, the better.
In addition to installing chimney caps, you should also inspect the entire chimney and fix any holes that the birds can get through and remove all debris that they brought into the chimney.
Call Best Cincinnati Chimney for a complete cleaning and inspection today at 513-474-1158.
- Published in Water Leaks
CHOOSING A FIREPLACE
Many homeowners choose to use a fireplace to add style and comfort to their homes. Many like the open crackle and pop of the open wood flame while others like the simplicity of the gas units. It’s a common dilemma for homeowners when they’re comparing gas fireplaces or log sets with traditional wood burning fireplaces. Best Cincinnati Chimney has cleaned many of both, so let’s take a look at the differences between them and compare atmosphere, safety features, ease of use, efficiency and more.
Many customers want roaring flames and crackling sounds and you will mostly get this from wood burning units. Different colors, different aromas, and different sounds are a constant with wood burning fireplaces. Gas fireplaces can have variable flames and some can even come with color selection but once they are set, they are pretty constant and pretty quiet.
In terms of safety features, gas fireplaces out perform traditional fireplaces. Modern gas fireplaces have sensors that can detect dangerous levels of carbon monoxide or other gases in the air. They also include safety shut-off switches that will turn off the flame if it gets too hot.
Traditional fireplaces lack these features but do come with screens that can help prevent sparks from flying out into your living space. The best choice for wood burning are the inserts. These are higher efficiency and have closed systems that have no danger of sparks.
Ease of use
When talking about convenience, gas fireplaces are much easier to use than traditional ones. You don’t need to chop wood or purchase logs to fuel your gas fireplace. All you need to do is turn on the switch or press a button on the remote control. Plus, you won’t have to worry about cleaning up ashes after you’re done using it because there are no logs or embers left behind like in a traditional fireplace. You still have to have them serviced and cleaned because gas fires draw many impurities from your home (Think hair, skin, carpet fabric) into the fireplace and form soot that can clog the unit and cover the walls and furniture.
Measuring the efficiency of fireplaces is all up to the user. For example, modern gas fireplaces are much more efficient than their predecessors, as they burn cleaner and produce fewer emissions into the air. On the flip side, traditional fireplaces are still not as efficient as modern gas fireplaces, but they are an efficient source of heat when used correctly. There are now many models of wood burning inserts that have catalytic converters that have very high efficiency ratings. Many of these come with a 30% government tax credit as well.
We have seen them all
As you can tell, whether or not you use gas fireplaces vs. traditional fireplaces is up to you. Both come with benefits and room for improvement. Still, choosing the right one for your lifestyle and use is important. But, no matter which one you choose, you’ll still need a reliable chimney sweep and inspector in your corner. That’s why so many homeowners in Greater Cincinnati call Best Cincinnati Chimney. Call at 513-474-1158
- Published in Water Leaks
WHY YOU SHOULD HIRE A CCP CERTIFIED CHIMNEY PROFESSIONAL
Hiring a chimney company that you can trust can be a tough task. After all, getting your chimney regularly inspected and swept is essential to the safety of your family and home. Whether it is for chimney sweeping, chimney caps, chimney crowns, or fireplace maintenance, choosing a trustworthy company is important and often challenging to navigate. Besides asking friends and neighbors for recommendations and checking out companies’ reviews online, we recommend checking to see if the company employs CCP certified chimney professionals.
Today, we’ll explain what a CCP certified chimney professional is and why this certification is a good indicator of a chimney company’s competence and trustworthiness. Are you seeking a chimney company that you can trust in the Cincinnati/ Northern Kentucky market? Best Cincinnati Chimney is a CCP certified chimney professional company and has been serving the community with honors for years. Call 513-474-1158 to book a chimney sweep or to ask your chimney-related questions.
What is a CCP Certified Chimney Professional?
CCP, or Certified Chimney Professionals is associated with the National Chimney Guild and makes it easier for homeowners to find reliable, experienced, highly-trained chimney and liner professionals. This nonprofit organization has been in business for over forty years, and has created a standard of excellence in the industry by providing expert-led education and training to industry professionals.
More specifically, a CCP Certified chimney professional is a credential that chimney professionals earn through this institute. It ensures that a specific chimney technician has a high level of knowledge regarding the evaluation and maintenance of chimney and lining systems. Chimney technicians need to prepare for and pass a challenging and detailed exam in order to gain this credential. After companies earn this credential, homeowners can easily find local certified chimney sweeps through CCP’s certified provider search tool.
Why You Should Hire a CCP Certified Chimney Professional
Keep Your Home and Family Safe
CCP certified chimney technicians are not only highly trained and made to pass a difficult exam, but they also sign a code of conduct, stating that they will follow all outlined safety standards. By hiring a certified chimney professional to ensure that your chimney is clean and safe, you are placing your trust in someone who is committed to integrity. Best Cincinnati chimney prides themselves in hiring highly ethical professionals.
Avoid Expensive Chimney Issues
Chimney issues can be expensive. By ensuring that your chimney is properly maintained, you can avoid a host of dangerous or expensive issues such as creosote build up, especially glazed creosote, and animals nesting in your chimney.
Peace of Mind
If your chimney is swept by someone who is trustworthy, you can relax and enjoy your fireplace during the cold months without having to worry about the state of your chimney. Get the assurance that you deserve by hiring a CCP certified chimney professional for all of your Cincinnati chimney care.
Are You Looking for a Cincinnati Area Chimney Professional?
If you’re looking for a certified Chimney Professional, look no further than Best Cincinnati Chimney. Not only does Best Cincinnati Chimney offer chimney sweeps, but we also offer chimney repairs, masonry work, chimney installations, and Gas log replacement. Click here or call 513-474-1158 to get in touch today!
- Published in Water Leaks
Signs You Need a Chimney Sweep
Having your chimney cleaned by a certified chimney professional is a serious matter. There are a few signals that will alert you to the time to schedule a cleaning.The four signs you need a chimney sweep are odors, changing
seasons, the quality of your fire, and visual clues.
First, let’s talk about odors
Smells from your chimney can come in several forms.The most common is creosote, which is unburned carbons, a sticky tar-like substance that can be extremely dangerous when allowed to build up. If the smell is acidic or bitter, a layer of creosote buildup may be to blame and may need a creosote treatment to remove it. If you clean on a regular basis, you can save money on not having to do expensive creosote treatments.
Another cause of odor is trapped debris or the presence of animals or insects. When you don’t have a chimney cap installed (or it is damaged), things can find their way into your chimney. They then decompose, make their nest, or block the exit of smoke and gases. These can all lead to odors in your home as well. A certified chimney sweep is the best way to remove the source of the odor.
Change of Seasons
My chimney looks fine from the outside and I haven’t used for a long while, so I can probably skip my chimney cleaning, right? Wrong! Actually an unused chimney can deteriorate faster than one that is used, The moisture that comes from your home is never burned off and begins to soak into the masonry. Ideally, you should schedule a chimney sweep at least once a year whether you use it or not.
In as early as one season, animals can take up residence inside (as we mentioned in the previous section). Other things, like leaves and debris, can be blown in and get stuck, forming a block that you wouldn’t discover until your next fire.
Additionally, if you’ve recently bought your home and don’t know when it was last swept, schedule an appointment for cleaning and a complete inspection. This will give you a starting point of where your fireplace is. Proactive maintenance is a necessary step and scheduling a regular chimney sweep will help ensure you catch potential problems early.
Changes in fire quality
Occasionally, you might notice a change in the quality of your burn. Your fires may burn less efficiently, or you may notice a larger amount of smoke. This could be a draft issue caused by several things but let’s start with the simplest. This issue can be due to a problem with your damper (the piece of your chimney that regulates airflow). Dampers should be open when you’re using your fireplace and closed otherwise. If your damper won’t fully open or fully close, it can lead to a significant decrease in fire quality.
A chimney sweep will be able to identify the source of this problem.
Changes in fire quality can also be caused by too much creosote buildup inside the flue. Creosote is dangerous, both leading to blockages and potential fires. If you’re able to visually see creosote buildup forming, it needs to be removed before continued use of your fireplace.
Schedule a sweep as soon as possible!
Call the Certified Professionals
If you haven’t had your chimney cleaned recently or you have a concern about your chimney and want us to take a look, give the team at Best Cincinnati Chimney a call. They are trained to efficiently clean your chimney and get it ready for the winter while also spotting any potential issues before they have a chance to put your home and family in danger.
Call us at 513-474-1148
- Published in Water Leaks
Animals in Your Chimney
Spring and Summer in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky are lovely seasons when plants and animals flourish. While this is wonderful to experience in a majority of cases, it can also cause some annoyances. Just ask anyone with allergies how much they love spring.
Extra pollen in the air isn’t the only issue that might come from this time of year. All of those little critters may be looking for a nice place to call home and some of them may mistake your chimney for a great piece of real estate. It’s warm, dry, and safe–at least until you start up the fireplace! Racoons, possums, chimney swifts, squirrels and many other friends of the wild can set up residence in your home, and cause damage to your chimney and they don’t pay taxes.
Animals getting into your chimney isn’t something that we advise trying to address yourself. Let the experts at Best Cincinnati Chimney walk through the process of getting those unwelcomed guests removed from your chimney.
Step 1Warning signs of invaders
Knowing what warning signs to watch is the first step in identifying unwelcomed guests, and we are not talking about your mother-in-law. If you aren’t sure about whether there is an animal in your chimney, make sure to check for these warning signs:
- • Bad aromas: It may smell musty or dirty or, in a worst-case scenario, you may even be smelling decay from an animal that passed while in your chimney. If something smells weird in your chimney it is always best to call Best Cincinnati Chimney to check it out.
- • You can hear something in the chimney: Animals, even small ones, go about their business eating, sleeping, moving around. They love clean chimneys but they don’t stay clean for long. This is why it is a good idea to listen for those little squeaks and squawks. The sooner you detect them, the better.
- • You can see them. Sometimes the animals use your chimney as a pathway to your kitchen, so if you see them or evidence in your home, check the chimney.
- • There is visible debris: Maybe it is fur or droppings or dirt or something else. Whatever form it takes, animal debris is going to be one of the more obvious signs that there is an unwanted guest in your chimney.
Step 2. Getting them out of there
If you discover that there is indeed an animal or animals in your chimney, We would recommend first, that you contact an animal removal agency. Animal removal requires emergency equipment and gear that most chimney companies do not have. We can then clean and inspect your chimney for damage that they might have done.
Step 3. Talk to a Chimney Technician About Ways to Keep Critters Out
And the big AHA moment is: Close up their entry way. Many houses are equipped with galvanized caps and screens that racoons and other critters can chew right through. We can help install stainless steel chimney screens and caps to keep animals and other debris out of your chimney, that have a lifetime warranty.
Animal entry is no joke. Animals can cause many diseases and can cause much physical damage to your property. Call Best Cincinnati Chimney today if you suspect that you have an animal in your chimney.
- Published in Water Leaks
Sealing your chimney and walls from the elements
If you have a masonry chimney or walls made with mortar and materials such as brick, stone, or cement, Your chimney was designed to absorb water. That is not a good thing, but it is a fact. Water repellent sealants can help greatly.
The Enemy Inside
Masonry chimneys are more susceptible to moisture. The mortar and bricks, stone, or cement are porous, somewhat like a sponge. Porous materials have a higher capillary action, meaning they can absorb moisture without the aid of external forces such as gravity. The action is also known as “wicking.” When a masonry chimney has wicked moisture, winter weather and rainy seasons like we have in Cincinnati becomes an issue.
Moisture inside can do extensive damage to your chimney during the freeze-thaw cycle and can loosen the mortar around the bricks, stones, or cement blocks and cause your chimney to crumble and collapse. Once the mortar opens cracks for the water to seep in, it creates even more opportunity for moisture to get in. If it gets behind the brick, the face of the brick will pop off, this is known as spalling. You can see how moisture can be a significant problem for masonry chimneys; that is where a chimney sealant becomes a solution.
What is a Water-Resistant Sealant?
A water-resistant sealant is a coating designed to keep moisture out while being vapor permeable, meaning it won’t trap moisture inside your chimney. A chimney sealant is made primarily from polyurethane or silicone and can be sprayed, brushed, or troweled. It is best to let a qualified chimney sweep apply a chimney sealant rather than attempt to do it yourself. A chimney sweep will know how many coats to apply to the chimney and what type of chimney sealant will work best.
Is My Masonry Chimney Moisture Damaged?
If you have been considering using a water repellant sealant, you probably already suspect your masonry chimney already has some degree of moisture damage, but you need to be sure. Here are a few common signs of moisture damage from the team at Best Cincinnati Chimney.
- White powdery deposits on the exterior of your chimney.
- Hairline or larger cracks.
- Bricks, stone, or cement that has chips or flakes coming loose.
- Eroded or absent mortar joints.
- Loose or missing bricks, stones, or blocks.
If you have noticed one or more of the last three problems on your chimney, it may be too late for a sealant to work and may need to be repaired by a qualified chimney sweep.
Is a Water Repellant Sealant needed on a new chimney?
A chimney sealant on a new masonry chimney is an excellent way to perform preventative maintenance. A chimney sealant can protect a chimney anywhere from five to fifteen years which extends the life of your chimney by the same amount of time. Apply coats of chimney sealer about every five years will keep your chimney in good shape.
Suppose your chimney is just starting to show signs of moisture damage; it’s probably not too late for a chimney sealant to be effective. Hairline cracks and slightly eroded mortar can still be coated with a sealer to slow or stop the progression of the damage. However, if your chimney has bricks, stones or blocks missing and the mortar is nearly gone, it is more likely that your chimney will need to be repaired. As we stated earlier, if your chimney is starting to crumble, then it’s a matter of when it will collapse, not if it will collapse. Once a masonry chimney has been repaired or replaced, it can then be sealed with a water repellent to keep those repairs for years to come.
Get A Chimney Inspection
To really know if your chimney should be sealed or repaired, an examination by a certified chimney inspector will be required. A chimney inspector can detect problems with your chimney the untrained eye will miss.
When it comes to the safety of your home and the well-being of your chimney, an inspection should be done annually. There are other issues in addition to moisture damage that may need to be addressed.
Best Cincinnati Chimney to the Rescue
If you think your masonry chimney has moisture damage, or you just want to seal your chimney for its long-term benefit, Best Cincinnati Chimney can help. Call us today or fill out our contact form, and one of our knowledgeable and friendly staff will reach out to you. We can schedule a time convenient for you to have your chimney inspected. At the time of the inspection, we can seal your chimney to help preserve it for the life of your home.
- Published in Water Leaks
Chimney Fires Can Be Prevented
Chimney fires can cause thousands of dollars of damages in your home and are caused by the flames migrating upward, melting, warping, or negatively affecting the masonry or chimney walls. This sudden combustion, in the majority of cases, can ruin houses and risk lives. These tragedies are normally preventable because you can have your chimney inspected, repaired, or cleaned. This way, the chimney will not be prone to malfunction or collect build-ups that can damage your roof and burn down your home.
A chimney inspection service from Best Cincinnati Chimney can prevent any of this from happening, and can keep you from losing person or property.
What is it?
Combustibles that you burn in the chimney only burn partially. It is hard to avoid incomplete combustion, but you can minimize the impact by properly burning seasoned wood if you have a clean chimney. The residue that comes from incomplete combustion builds up over time that lines the flue with creosote.
Creosote is combustible if it is at the right temperature. When the airflow is blocked or there is a damaged flue, it leads to poor airflow. If there is poor heat flow in your flue, it can cause trapped heat, the chimney heats up more than intended, and this ignites creosote. It burns up that fuel and seeks for more and that fuel may be your home. This chimney fire can be extremely dangerous.
Debris Causes Chimney Fires
Dust build up in your chimney can also cause fires. Leaves, animal carcasses, and other debris can cause flue fires as well. If you have not used your fireplace for a while, you should have it cleaned first.
Chimney fires creates a popping noise and loud cracking, with a lot of dense smoke, and an intense and hot smell. Chimney fires burn explosively that is noisy and dramatic enough that can be detected by people or neighbors around you. Dense smoke or flames shoots from the chimney. Homeowners get startled by rumbling sounds that remind them of a low-flying airplane or freight train.
Flue Tiles Get Damaged
A lot of homes use clay flue tiles to line their chimney. This is rated to be able to withstand high temperatures. However, there are chimney fires that burn over 2,000 degrees that can be too hot for tiles causes damages such as cracking. A vertical crack is a true sign of a previous flue fire.
A crack in your flue liner is a big concern. It increases the possibility for combustibles nearby in the construction in your home. The cracked tiles allow a new pathway for the fire to get out of the flue, which potentially causes a house fire.
Exterior Masonry Cracks
Similar to flue tiles, the brick masonry of the chimney can be damaged by heat. If there is a chimney fire, the brick or mortar joints can open and crack new pathways for fire or heat. These types of cracks are repaired by filling in or “tuck pointing” the crack with new mortar. This is a reason why yearly chimney inspections become critical. These cracks are hard to notice and can cause disaster if it is not repaired before another chimney fire happens.
Most of them are Undetected
Slow-burning chimney fires do not have enough air or have fuel that becomes dramatic or visible and they normally go undetected until there is a chimney inspection. However, the temperatures they reach are high and cause a lot of damage to the chimney’s structure. In addition, the nearby combustible house parts are connected to this.
The chimney fire because of high heat can also scorch away the deposits in certain parts of the chimney. This is called glazing and leaves behind areas that only look clean, but are surrounded by combustible deposits.
You can go to Bestcincinnatichimney.com to set an appointment for a chimney inspection.
Tags:Chimney Cleaning chimney cleaning expert chimney cleaning professional chimney company Chimney Inspection chimney professional chimney repair technician Chimney Sweep
- Published in Water Leaks
My chimney stinketh!
Cincinnati has plenty of Rain fall, High Humidity, and cold weather dips where we burn hard and fast These elements can all work together to make the chimney stink. It’s time for a chimney cleaning.
Some homeowners might shrug-off the fireplace smell as most households have air conditioning. If you have the air conditioning on, then the fireplace won’t smell…right?
Not so fast.
First, glass doors are frequently found in front of the fireplace. How does the fresh air get in there? It doesn’t. Also, let’s say you have a screen in front of the fireplace, the cool air might linger in the fireplace itself, but it doesn’t go up the chimney. That’s where the smells build and linger.
5 Causes of Moisture Build-Up Inside of the Chimney
- Poor Ventilation: Air flow in the chimney is important to keep the moisture level down. When moisture builds, the musty smell occurs. But remember, the musty smell can be the start of something more like mold and mildew.
- Humidity: Cincinnati certainly has plenty of humid days. As the cool air stays in the fireplace, you can be sure the warm moist air is slowly moving through your chimney, sometimes just sitting there for longer periods of time.
- Chimney Cap: An old, broken or non-existent chimney cap causes the rain and snow to make its way inside of the chimney. With the rain coming at us horizontally lately, there’s certainly cause for concern with the rain making its way down the chimney.
- Rain and Snow: Speaking of weather elements, we want to try to keep rain and snow down to minimum in the chimney as it’s quite easy for the moisture to accumulate.
- Cracks in the Chimney: As we all know, as soon as there is a crack in the bricks and/or mortar, moisture just found a new entry point. Over time, it will continue to deteriorate and more moisture will build up and continue to open it up more.
The Smell of Moisture
So now that we know how moisture builds up and gets into our home, let’s talk about the musty smell.
- Creosote: If you have a wood burning fireplace, use it or not, there may be creosote deposits on the side of the walls or chimney liner of the chimney. Add moisture to the creosote and you get a musty, smoky smell that is quite unpleasant if left untreated. It is also dangerous because creosote is combustible.
- Mold & Mildew: Mold and mildew does have a musty like smell. This gets formed from a buildup of moisture that gets trapped.
- BBQ or Smoky Smell: This is not a fresh smell of a steak cooking on the BBQ, it’s more of the unpleasant stale burnt smell. One of my certified chimney professionals call it the “stinky sock” smell. This is often caused by soot or creosote sitting in the chimney. Mix it with moisture and it develops this not-so friendly smell.
So now that you know this is a bigger problem than you thought and the lovely smell won’t go away by itself, let’s discuss what a Best Cincinnati Chimney inspection can offer to get rid of the musty, smoky, BBQ smell.
- Inspect the Chimney Flue: The chimney flue is the vent for the flow of air & exhaust from your firebox to the chimney top. If there is an obstruction, the certified technician will find and clear the path. At the same time, they’ll inspect the chimney flue to ensure it is in good working order.
- Chimney Sweep: With regular sweeping of the chimney and fireplace, the musty order may be controlled. This may also prevent any mold or mildew build up, along with creosote or debris that easily form over time. Remember, the smell can come from wood burning and gas fireplaces. It’s just not one or the other, it is both.
- Chimney cap: The
- plays a vital role in the health of your chimney – Every chimney needs a chimney cap for the same reasons every home needs a roof! It works to keep the weather elements out of your home along with your neighborhood squirrels, raccoons, birds, bats and much, much more. If the chimney cap is missing, rusted, or broken it can play a part of developing the musty smell. The chimney inspection will uncover if there is a problem with the chimney cap and if one needs to be added or replaced.
- Waterproof the Chimney: We use a product called Chimney saver. If you want to keep moisture out of the porous bricks and mortar, then waterproofing the chimney will certainly do the trick. It isn’t a solution you do every year; Chimney Saver usually lasts about 5 years. Ask your certified chimney technicians if its right for you.
Yes, it is a challenge living in Cincinnati where we have extreme temperatures, high and low humidity, each and every year. Can you imagine what your poor chimney goes through every day? It’s the highest point of the home and it takes a beating. So be nice to your chimney and, in return, it won’t stink. Schedule an inspection today.
A problem in aging homes
Common Chimney Problems in Aging & Historic Homes in the Cincinnati/ Northern Kentucky Market
Since at least the 1940s, the absence of a chimney liner in a chimney has been recognized as an imminent danger. Historic homes that reflect the architecture and charm of designs from our history have tremendous appeal, but with an old home comes an old chimney. In aging and historic homes, chimney problems are inevitable. This is a list of some of the most common problems associated with the chimneys in old and historic homes.
Dangers of Having No Chimney Liner
Fire safety experts continue to share a quote from that time period in which it was said that not having a chimney liner is hazardous at a near-criminal level.
In the 1950’s Chimney liners became mandatory in the U.S. Historic homes from the 1940s and earlier were usually built with no chimney liner, just bricks and not even fire bricks. These bricks are substandard for fireplaces and can create a lot of issues in a chimney. The following are the primary dangers associated with using any chimney that is not protected with a liner.
The Threat of a House Fire Due to Pyrolysis
A chimney liner protects against fire getting to combustibles which are not fuel (Like your house) When a fireplace is used without a flue liner or with a damaged liner, the exposed combustion materials go through a gradual process known as pyrolysis. As a result of pyrolysis, the structures are altered so that they combust at a much lower temperature. With no warning, a house fire will ignite and spread rapidly throughout the home.
Highly Combustible Creosote
Wood fires produce creosote, a highly flammable tar-like substance that is deposited into a chimney every time a fire is lit. If a burning ember floats up the chimney, it can cause the creosote to ignite. Chimney fires are always dangerous but especially when a chimney is not lined because virtually any chimney fire could easily spread throughout the home.
Bricks are durable, lasting a century or more if undamaged. Mortar, on the other hand, lasts only about 25 years at best. The mortar should be replaced whenever it begins to deteriorate because one of its primary functions is to protect the masonry system from moisture. If moisture intrusion occurs, winter cycles of freezing and thawing create movement in the bricks that break them down. A chimney will begin to lean and could even collapse when this occurs, though moisture can get in through other avenues besides damaged mortar as well.
Spalling is evidence of masonry damage. Spalling is when the front face of the brick pops off, and piles of debris around the chimney on the roof or the ground below provide evidence that the destructive process is occurring.
Exposure to Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide is one of the byproducts of fires. Chimney liners keep this toxic combustible gases from fires contained in the chimney until they escape to the outdoors. In the absence of a chimney liner or with a broken one, these gases enter the residence. Carbon Monoxide is known as a silent killer because it is odorless, tasteless, invisible, and symptomless and escape from the deadly fumes is often impossible.
Normal settling of a house doesn’t necessarily cause foundation damage, but in older homes, there is a greater chance of damage caused by a shifting foundation due to the additional time. Cracks in the masonry is one of the symptoms of settling. When the cracks form, they begin to absorb water and then the water freezes and expands the cracks even larger.
- Published in Chimney, Chimney Liners, Chimney Repair, Cincinnati Chimney Sweep, Cincinnati Roofing, Water Leaks
Rachael Ray’s house fire highlights chimney dangers. Here’s how to check yours is safe
TODAY• September 22, 2020
A massive fire that destroyed Rachael Ray’s New York home in August was started in the chimney, according to the celebrity chef. The sad news comes as a reminder to homeowners about the dangers of chimneys as fall begins and cold weather approaches.
Ray told “Entertainment Tonight” the fire started after the fireplace “burped,” causing the roof to catch on fire. The house in Lake Luzerne, about an hour north of Albany, was only 15 years old, she said, and they had the chimney cleaned twice a year.
“Basically the fireplace burped, and when it burped onto the roof, the roof lit, and just the way the day was and the weather, it just went up in kind of no time, but it burned for a long time,” she explained. “It caught again the next day for a short time.”
Russ Dimmitt, director of education for the Chimney Safety Institute of America, told TODAY that the “burp” Ray describes could have been caused by creosote — the deposits that are left in your chimney after you burn wood.
“If you have a chimney fire, what happens is that creosote is very flammable as it burns,” he explained. “It can burn so violently that it will actually shoot some creosote out top and it might land on the roof.”
Dimmitt said that with chimney fires like Ray’s, there’s lot of investigating to be done to determine the actual cause. But it does highlight the dangers associated with having a fireplace at home. Low section of couple resting by fireplace at home (Cavan Images / Getty Images)
According to data provided to TODAY by the National Fire Protection Association, fireplaces or chimneys were involved in an average of 16,030 fires per year from 2012-2016, with an average of 40 civilian deaths, 80 civilian injuries, and $256 million in direct property damage annually.
It’s scary to think about, but there are steps you can take right now to help prevent a chimney fire at your own home.
Have it professionally inspected and cleaned
The NFPA reports that the leading factor contributing to home heating fires is failure to clean the equipment. The organization recommends having your chimney inspected and cleaned every year by a qualified professional who can check to make sure it’s structurally sound and in good working order.
Make sure the wood you burn is dry
Man putting wood in fireplace (Johner Images / Getty Images)
Burning wet wood can create more flammable material deposits (creosote) on the inside of the chimney, Dimmitt explained. That’s why it’s important to make sure the wood you use is dry. “The ideal moisture content for wood to burn is between 15-25%,” he said. “If you just go cut wood, it’s going to be 50% moisture content or higher. So in order to dry that, you really have to split it.”
To split wood, cut it lengthwise so more surface area is exposed, and do so at least six months before you use it, he advised. Also, don’t put anything else in the fireplace except for wood.
“No Christmas trees,” Dimmitt said, adding that doing so can result in a massive house fire.
Make sure you have a chimney cap and take other precautions
Chimney caps are designed to keep animals out, said Dimmitt. “It’s possible (they’ll still come in), but they’ve got to really want to get in there,” he said.
Without a chimney cap, animals can nest inside. When you light a fire, the nesting material can ignite a chimney fire.
Other things you’ll want to ensure: Make sure there are no branches or trees within 15 feet of the top of your chimney, always keep your hearth area clean and void of combustibles, use a sturdy screen to prevent sparks from flying into the room, and never leave the fire unattended.
Know the indications of a chimney fire
“You might hear loud cracking or popping noises,” Dimmitt said. “There might be dense smoke coming out of your chimney. There might be a hot smell — everyone knows that hot smell, although we can’t really describe it.”
Gas fireplaces can also create problems
“It’s possible for someone to think, ‘Well, I don’t have wood so I don’t have a problem to worry about,’” Dimmitt said. “That’s actually not true.”
Your furnace or water heater could be vented into your chimney, and if the chimney is blocked for any reason, carbon monoxide could be coming into your home.
“With a gas burning appliance in particular you don’t have any smoke so you may not know you have a problem,” Dimmitt said. That’s why it’s important to have both carbon monoxide and smoke detectors in your home, he added.