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Homestead Chimney Service Blog

The Science of Combustion

Both chemistry and physics play a part in the burning process of your chimney. If something is “off,” there could be very serious consequences for your home and family. Here is an overview.

Burning happens with the presence of three main ingredients: fuel, heat and oxygen. This is known as the fire triangle.

Burning happens with the presence of three main ingredients: fuel, heat and oxygen. This is known as the fire triangle.

 

 

 

 

Replace or Repair?

According to the CSIA, problems in your chimney’s flue can present serious risks to your home and family, because it’s no longer able to perform its primary function: to safely contain and vent the products of combustion to the outside of your home.  If your current liner was installed improperly or is deteriorating, it is highly recommended that you either have a new one installed by a licensed professional or have your current liner repaired (if possible).  There are several different relining options, depending on both the type of flue liner you currently have and the overall condition of your entire flue.

Whether or not you need to replace your liner, or simply have it repaired depends on the amount of damage. The flue liner protects the exterior of your chimney from intense heat.

Whether or not you need to replace your liner, or simply have it repaired depends on the amount of damage. The flue liner protects the exterior of your chimney from intense heat.

Terracotta Liners   The majority of older homes have chimneys with liners made of terracotta; it is commonplace to repair or replace them with new terracotta liners, although switching over to either a stainless steel or cast-in-place liner is an available option.  Terracotta tiles can withstand extremely high temperatures without damaging or hindering the performance of the liner itself; they also hold up quite well against the corrosive materials that are burned in and pass through the system. We now repair these liners at Homestead.

Stainless Steel Liners   The vast majority of newer homes have chimneys with stainless steel chimney liners already installed.  These liners come in two different forms: rigid and flexible.  The type your technician will choose ultimately depends on the shape of your chimney.  A huge selling point for stainless steel liners, in general, is that it comes with a lifetime warranty.  They resist rust and easily hold and move heat and smoke up through the house and out into the atmosphere.

Cast-in-Place Liners   As chimney liners go, this option offers the highest levels of safety, thermal efficiency, and longevity of any liner available.  These liners are installed by pumping a concrete-like material around a former, which is inserted down the full length of the chimney.  After the lining sets, the former is removed, giving you a smooth, seamless, and extremely well insulated chimney liner.  This type is ideal for applications in deteriorated chimneys that need structural support.  They are rated to withstand a higher temperature than either the clay or stainless steel liners.

HeatShield System   When it comes to economical alternatives, the HeatShield flue relining system is at the top of the list.  If it is learned that you have a few minor cracks in your current liner, completely relining it could prove to be quite costly.  Instead, restoring the current liner’s integrity with HeatShield’s patent pending joint repair system just might be the way to go.  It is installed similarly to a cast-in-place liner and restores your chimney to its original peak level of safety and efficiency.

There are many reasons you may need to reline your chimney, and you have several options available to you.  The CSIA-certified  professionals at Homestead Chimney Service will be there with you throughout the entire process.  If you suspect there may be a problem with your liner, call us at (229) 377-5863 or schedule your appointment online today!

Creosotes & Other Chimney Problems

Better safe than sorry could be considered a correct phrase to use when referring to your chimney.  It is important that you have your annual maintenance done on your chimney on time and by someone who knows what they are doing.  This is usually a sweep and basic inspection, and should be done by a professional technician that is certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America.  At the beginning of every season is when you should schedule, not just when you feel that something may be going wrong.  However, if you do feel that there is a problem you should call someone immediately to prevent harm toward, you, your family, or your home.  Homestead Chimney has a group of experienced professionals ready to help with any repairs of questions you may have.

It is much easier and less expensive to intervene early when your chimney shows signs of wear and tear.

It is much easier and less expensive to intervene early when your chimney shows signs of wear and tear.

Creosotes are a number one problem when causing malfunctions in chimneys.  Creosotes are formed when byproducts of burnt wood builds up on the side of the firebox area, and could eventually cause blockages that could lead to fire.  Also, if they are to build up on a throat damper it could prevent the metal plate from opening and closing correctly.  However, your annual sweep can prevent this problem.  Animals can also cause damage to the chimney when they bring in different types of material to bring nests, which could block the airflow.

Moisture can also harm the chimney as well.  It can be brought in off twigs and animals, but more commonly the weather.  When rain or melted snow gets inside of the structure it can rust the inside of the chimney.  If temperatures get low enough the water can freeze and thaw, overtime cracking the mortar.  If the water gets in an existing crack, it can mold and spread to the other parts of the home.  If you install a chimney cap it can work against letting the water in.  Settlement is another common issue and can cause a crack in the flue system, which means that carbon monoxide or smoke can get into the home and your air supply.  It is important to have any flue issue resolved immediately for the health of everyone in your home.

Call us today and lets get started improving the performance of your system.

Keep Water Out

Our chimneys are probably one of the most taken-for-granted parts of our homes.  It’s one of those things that often remain out of sight and out of mind.  We enjoy sitting by a blazing fire during the winter months, we keep the fireplace and hearth clean, and we even hire a professional to periodically come out and clean the inside of the chimney; however, not very many of us give much thought to keeping our chimney’s exterior in tiptop shape.  If you’re guilty of this, don’t be ashamed.  It’s time to look at the condition your chimney is in, get it repaired if necessary, and coat it with a chimney-waterproofing product.

When rain is not diverted from your chimney, it can wreak havoc on your masonry. This is, without a doubt, a safety issue.

When rain is not diverted from your chimney, it can wreak havoc on your masonry. This is, without a doubt, a safety issue.

The materials used to build most masonry chimneys experience hastened deterioration as a result of prolonged exposure to and contact with water.  The freezing and thawing process—during which time water that has penetrated the various chimney materials freezes and expands—quickly deteriorates the overall construction of your chimney.

Water in your chimney can also cause rust on steel and cast iron parts, ultimately weakening or destroying them.  The exterior of your chimney is constantly getting battered from the weather.  Harsh weather conditions can have a negative effect on your chimney.  In addition, when water mixes with the creosote that is often present in a wood-burning fireplace, it will generate an extremely unpleasant odor that can fill your entire home.  All of these things combined greatly compromise the overall structure of your chimney as a whole.  By waterproofing the chimney, it will repel damp elements—snow and rain—rather than allow them to penetrate the brick or other materials.

As you can see, there are many issues that can develop as a result of water being on and getting in to your chimney, and, as such, swift and immediate action should be taken to ensure that you’re not faced with unnecessary and avoidable repairs bills.  Remember though, waterproofing is only a preventive measure.  If your chimney is already damaged (i.e., it has gaps, voids, cracks, missing mortar, etc.), it should be repaired before any waterproofing agent is applied.  Your chimney’s exterior may also need to be cleaned by a chimneyprofessional before the waterproofing material can be applied.  However, taking all of these steps can help confirm that both the water outside won’t enter your house through thechimney and you are able to enjoy your fireplace for many years to come.

Common Chimney Repairs

These Things Happen

Many people do not give any thought to chimney repairs until it becomes clear that there is something wrong. If the chimney is starting to smell strange or is producing a great deal of smoke, it may be time to hire a certified chimney professional to investigate. A chimney specialist is a critical piece, because their training and experience give them the ability to see problems, or potential problems that you don’t notice or cannot interpret.

So you know you need to call a chimney professional, how often does your chimney need an inspection?  This should be done on an annual basis, not just when there seems to be a problem. In fact, having the chimney inspected each year is the best way to avoid most common chimney problems before they become major issues. This can save you money and prevent any damage to the structure of your home.

Annual inspections are critical for safety reasons, but also so that an expert pair of eyes can identify small problems before they become big and expensive.

Annual inspections are critical for safety reasons, but also so that an expert pair of eyes can identify small problems before they become big and expensive.

Replacing or relining the flue liner is a common repair. The liner protects the inside of the chimney from corrosive gas, chemicals and general wear and tear on the flue. In many cases, chimney specialists find that the liner has started to detach from the flue, making it ineffective. Older homes may not have a flue liner at all and, if this is the case, the chimney should not be used until one is properly installed.

A great deal of chimney damage is caused by excessive amounts of moisture that collect within the flue. This may be the result of rain or snow that makes its way into the chimney and collects there. A simple way to fix this problem is by having a chimney cap installed. This little piece fits right over the top of the chimney and prevents unwanted material from getting inside. This can prevent damage such as deteriorating bricks, dangerous molds or damage from critters setting up a home in your chimney.

Sometimes, a chimney inspection will show that there are cracks inside of the chimney as a result of foundation settlement. This is a serious issue that a homeowner would not likely know about if they did not have a proper inspection. In this case, it may be necessary to have the entire chimney refurbished or replaced. This may seem like a major undertaking but, if it is not addressed in a timely manner, the damage could spread throughout the foundation of the home.

It is important to remember that even the simplest of chimney repairs should only be handled by a professional chimney repair person. The average person who tries to repair their chimney may end up causing more problems instead of solving them. In addition, they put themselves at serious risk for bodily injury if they are not used to climbing up on the roof. The Chimney Safety Institute of America is a great place to find professionals who are trained to deal with many of these issues. Annual cleaning and inspection is a must-do for homeowners wanting to save money in the long term. Catching little issues before they become catastrophic is why expert eyes are needed.

Problems With Draft in Your Chimney

Draft problems

Your chimney was designed to pull smoke, gases and other byproducts of combustion up and out of your home, with the help of proper draft. That draft is created as the hotter, lighter air from your fire rises up and reacts with the heavier, cooler air outside. That’s the ideal. But a variety of issues can impede that draft, from poor design to flue damage to simple user error.

If your fire is hard to start or you have smoke filling up the living room, you have an issue with draft.

If your fire is hard to start or you have smoke filling up the living room, you have an issue with draft.

In most cases, you’ll realize that there’s a chimney draft issue because smoke is coming into your home. That’s unpleasant enough, but it also indicates the possibility that toxic carbon monoxide is getting into your living area, too. Homestead Chimney can correct all kinds of draft issues, whether that means simply helping you avoid user error or redesigning a poorly performing firebox to help encourage better draft.

Lots of different problems can lead to poor draft — these are just a few things we’ll look for:

Your Chimney Needs To Be Swept

Proper draft can’t occur in a blocked flue, so if you haven’t had your chimney swept recently, debris (animal nests, broken flue tiles) or creosote build-up might be creating your issue. We can sweep your flue and, if debris is your problem, install a chimney cap or top-sealing damper to keep nesting animals and falling debris out.

Your Appliance Isn’t Getting Enough Combustion Air

For gases to go up and out, combustion air needs to feed your fireplace. And our modern, energy-efficient doors and windows are great, but sometimes they work so well, your fireplace can’t get the air it needs. If opening a door or window solves your draft issue, that’s likely the culprit.

Your Flue Liner Has Cracks Or Gaps

Draft works kind of like a drinking straw, pulling contents upward. If you’ve ever tried to use a straw with a hole in it, you can imagine how your chimney works when the flue liner is damaged — that upward motion is hampered, in a big way. (And that’s just one of the problems that comes along with flue liner damage.) Homestead Chimney can check your flue liner for damage, and suggest the right fix, whether that’s repairing or replacing the liner.

Your Flue Isn’t Sized Correctly

To function correctly — and to produce proper draft — your flue needs to be sized according to your appliance. A too-large flue can let air cool down; a too-small flue can minimize flow. An improperly sized flue can sometimes be corrected with a new flue liner — Homestead Chimney technicians can tell you if this is your issue, and the most effective way to correct it.

Your Chimney Isn’t Tall Enough

A chimney, bottom to top, should be at least 15 feet tall, extending at least three feet above where it rises out of the roof. A shorter chimney results in weaker draft.

Wind Is Creating Downdraft Issues

Proper draft moves upward, but sometimes wind conditions outside can create what’s called a downdraft, pulling air in the wrong direction inside your chimney. If you’ve been noticing smoke and other draft issues when it’s windy out, a wind-induced downdraft might be your issue. In some cases, that can be corrected with a chimney cap that’s designed to prevent those downdrafts. Homestead Chimney technicians can tell you if that might be the right approach to help your chimney draft.

Smoke doesn’t always indicate a draft problem — if you’re using green or wet wood rather than seasoned cordwood, your fire will produce much more smoke, and even a chimney with proper draft may not be able to keep up. Let us know if you’re having trouble — we’ll figure out what’s happening in your chimney, what’s contributing to or causing draft issues, and suggest the best next steps.

Choosing the Right Firewood

 

Sweater weather will be here before you know it, which means it is almost time for building fires. Is there anything better on a cold winter night than sitting in front of a roaring fire relaxing? However, before you start tossing logs into the flames, you want to make sure you are using the best firewood. So, what constitutes good firewood and bad firewood?

Use Dry Wood - South GA, North FL - Homestead Chimney

Use Dry Wood – South GA, North FL – Homestead Chimney

Ideally, firewood should be solid (not half rotted), as it will burn longer and create more BTUs while it is burning. This is why oak is the favored wood of choice. Oak trees take much longer to grow than other trees, which is what gives it a better structure, especially for burning in fires. Other woods can be used, but they will burn more quickly and that cost does add up over the course of the season.

In addition to burning more rapidly, woods like cherry and pine will also pop when they burn. Cherry is a semi hardwood, many like due to the fragrance, don’t know about popping….popping is usually relative to knots, cat faces, and other areas of highly concentrated fuel storage exploding, sometimes sending the knot into orbit. Not only will this startle you, but it can be quite dangerous. Embers can become airborne and if there is no protective screen or the fireplace is out in the open, this could start a fire outside of the fireplace. You should always have a functioning screen to prevent any flying embers.

Before burning any firewood, it should be properly dried. If you bang dry wood together, the sound is crisp, while wet wood sounds muffled. Wood with too much moisture also causes a smokier fire. It also contributes to creosote buildup which is a fire hazard. With as little as 1/8″ being enough to cause a fire, this is an obvious concern.

Here is a great infographic on firewood that visualizes the concept of green wood vs. seasoned wood. Make sure your wood is covered on top, but not on the sides to allow for further drying. It is best when possible to burn with glass doors open and close when not in use or before leaving or going to bed. Glass doors are designed and rated for proper application and misapplication can cause shattering. Ideally, 1/4″ tempered glass is a good material. Choosing the proper firewood means a longer lasting fire, with less smoke and less toxic buildup in your chimney. Now you are ready for cozy nights by the fire.

Does Your Chimney Make Your Nose Wrinkle?

The Types of Odors That Come from a Chimney

 

Anyone who has a fireplace in their home knows that they will occasionally deal with odors coming from their chimney. This can be an annoyance, but it is not something that must be tolerated. Understanding where the odors come from is the first step to eliminating them and enjoying the fireplace without unpleasant odors. However, this can be tricky since there are a variety of factors that can contribute to chimney odors.

Chimney Odor - South GA, North FL - Homestead Chimney Service

Chimney Odor – South GA, North FL – Homestead Chimney Service

In many cases, the odor in a chimney is caused by creosote, a combination of chemicals that is left behind after wood or coal burns in the fireplace. If creosote is the culprit, the smell will be very similar to the smell of a burning fire, but it will occur even when there has not been a fire in the fireplace for some time. In the summertime, the combination of humidity and air conditioning can intensify this smell and allow it to spread throughout the home. In order to avoid this, it is a good idea to have the chimney cleaned as a part of the spring-cleaning routine.

Other times, the smell coming from the chimney will be one that is distinctly of smoke, even long after there has been a fire burning. Many people who have this smell in their homes notice that it is worse when it has been raining or very windy. This is because the damp weather intensifies the odor of normal fireplace debris, such as soot and ash. The best way to avoid this is by having a rain cap installed, which will help keep the moisture out of the chimney.

One of the most unpleasant situations is to have a rotting smell coming from the chimney and the fireplace. This is almost always the sign of something decaying and it could range from simply dead leaves and plant matter to the debris of animals that have set up their homes in the chimney. If there is a rotting smell coming from the chimney, it is best to hire a chimney sweep to look into the problem. If it is, in fact, the result of animals living in the chimney, untrained homeowners could put themselves in danger by trying to remove the animals on their own. A chimney sweep will be able to take care of the problem, whatever it is, efficiently and safely.

All chimneys create odors when they have been used but the smell usually goes outside of the house instead of in. If it is working the opposite way, it may be that there is negative air pressure in the chimney. There can be many causes, but in many cases, it is because of home improvements that have impacted the air pressure. Oncoming storms may also cause a “flow reversal” of pressure, causing the smells to come through the fireplace. The best way to prevent this is to keep the damper closed. This may be a change in venting, the installation of new windows or fans or weatherization of the home. In order to solve the problem of negative air pressure, it is necessary to first identify the change to the home that has created it.

There are a few simple tips homeowners can follow to control the odors that come from their chimneys. One simple solution is to close the fireplace damper when it is not in use, keeping odors out of the home. Using glass screens can also be an effective way of keeping all smoke and odors where they belong. If combustion appliances are used in the home, be sure to set up outside combustion and avoid the issue of negative air pressure. Of course, a chimney cap is also an effective way of avoiding many sources of chimney odors, from rain to animals.

Some chimney odors can become such an issue that people avoid using their fireplaces all together. Instead of denying the family the pleasure of a warm fire during cold months, simply take steps to avoid chimney odors. They come from a variety of different places, from the air pressure to debris in the chimney, so it is important to properly identify the culprit before coming up with a plan of attack. Hiring a professional sweep can make life a lot easier on the homeowner by answering these questions more quickly…and with an eye toward the care of the chimney and your own well-being.

How You Can Keep Your Home Protected From Fire

Keeping Your Home Safe from Fire

Your home should be a place where everyone feels safe. Even the most attentive homeowners cannot control every variable. This could include; water, a spark, wind, a critter, or a faulty alarm. It can be compounded by creosote, lint, gas, circuit breakers, and batteries. Because it is impossible to take care of all these risks yourself, there are several things you need to do to ensure that your family knows what to do in case of a fire.

Danger Zones

Most house fires start in certain areas of the home; the kitchen, the laundry room, the fireplace – but it is vital to remember that every area of your house is a danger zone. Even though 28% of house fires start in the kitchen, electrical wiring and other household malfunctions can produce an open flame…and that is all it takes.

Open Flames - South GA/North FL - Homestead Chimney Service

Open Flames – South GA/North FL – Homestead Chimney Service

Similarly, outdoor fires are almost always started by carelessness or inattention to the safe use of pits, places, and grills. They are made worse when no one is there to see the spark slip through the screen and onto something flammable. Open fire, regardless of where it is, needs to be watched to prevent it from causing damage.

Oversight and Supervision

The other real damper, the one for your fireplace, should never be closed until a smoldering fire is completely out. There is no way for the smoke to leave your home when you close the damper, so the smoke has to stop first. If you misjudged it, you need operating smoke detectors to alert you to the mistake. There should be a fire alarm on every floor of your home. Batteries should be checked at least once a year.

As for the chimney and dryer vent, both need regular professional cleaning and inspection of their condition. Beyond that, attentiveness to nearby clutter, flammables, and warning signs of problems are where non-professional care makes a difference. Keeping your home safe from fire is a matter of identifying its likely sources and being a responsible homeowner – learning to call in the professionals to confirm your home is as protected as it can be.

Do You Know the Clearance to Combustibles of Your Fireplace?

There are different combustible clearances for your fireplace that are highly dependent on the type of unit, how your home is constructed and the codes and standards in place where you live. To try and list them without having all of this information is non-productive at best. If you are looking to install a new unit, retro-fit a new appliance where an old one now sits or tear out one kind of system and replace it with another, your best bet is to hire a professional chimney specialist. The person you are looking for is versed in the maintenance of fireplaces, inserts and wood stoves as well as knows a thing or two about masonry for chimney systems.

Clearance to Combustibles - South Georgia - Homestead ChimneyA fireplace and chimney specialist will know and understand the autonomy of the system and what will need to be done for your project to turn out the way you envision  That means starting with safety first followed by performance and then decor. If you don’t think this way you will end up with a beautiful fireplace that everyone admires that doesn’t work very well and may not be as safe as it needs to be.

We see problems with clearance to combustibles in new construction where brick layers are hired to build the fireplace and they just don’t have the knowledge to do it correctly and when people do additions or renovations and don’t pay attention to the details that make a unit safe and function well while they were “getting it to look right”.

At its best you will have a fireplace that may or may not work properly. At its worst you will have a fire.

This can happen when short cuts are made and wood to frame another room or act as support runs are placed too close to the flue or up in the attic next to the chimney. The heat from the fire that runs up that flue can catch the wood on fire and easily catch the home on fire. This is why clearance to combustibles is not something you should miss and chimney specialists know it.

Different clearances may also be specified by manufacturers of various components of different fireplaces. If all homeowners have to rely on are the manufacturers instructions, they can easily miss something important. Knowing the clearance to combustibles  and being able to access those areas to determine if they can be met or not are also things a specialist will do.

Luckily, homeowners do not have to learn the variable numbers imposed by residential codes or ascertain the compliance of their house with those regulations. That is what fireplace and chimney professionals are for, fully informed of the specifications of both city codes and manufacturers. They are the ones who will check clearances to combustibles, both those that can be easily reached and those that require research.