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Improving Your Indoor Air Quality

Air is an absolute necessity. Without air, survival is impossible for us. The risk is always there; various scientific organizations are constantly evaluating the state of our oxygen supply, with some being bold enough to predict when it will run out (if the current rate of decline remains consistent). Air pollution is a constant drain on the fresh air supply, both inside our homes as well as in the world outside of it. Granted, we still have a relatively abundant supply of oxygen; however, according to the National Geographic, a great percentage of the air in our atmosphere today is greatly polluted.

Indoor Air Quality - South GA - Homestead Chimney

Here at Homestead Chimney Service, we understand that as homeowners it is a top concern for you to make sure that your home’s indoor air quality (IAQ) is at the highest level possible to ensure that you’re providing your family with the safest environment possible.

A Clean House is a Happy House…Right?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air is often more than 10 times (and sometimes more than 100 times) more polluted than outdoor air. This can be attributed, at least partially, to the use of harsh cleaning chemicals and solvent-based cleaners. Not only are they potentially toxic to everyone in your home (especially those little ones that always seem to be opening up that cabinet under your sink), they are also one of the most notorious air pollutants present in one’s home.

Smoke in Your Home is a Definite IAQ Killer

The presence of any smoke inside your home is a definite detriment to the air quality. We’ve all been inundated with ads telling us how harmful smoking can be, and doing it in the house is even more detrimental. Minimizing the presence of smoke in your home is of the utmost importance as far as your IAQ is concerned. Harmful smoke is not caused by tobacco products alone however; unmaintained chimneys are another major obstacle. Your fireplace is a potential source of carbon monoxide (CO) and combustion pollutants, especially if it’s not properly maintained. Try to resolve these issues as soon as possible to ensure an improved level of air quality.

Excess Moisture can have Damaging Effects on your Health

The accumulation of excess moisture can and will lead to mold growth under the right conditions. The accumulation of moisture can lead to various scenarios that all lead to air pollution. It is impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores in your home; some mold spores can be found floating through the air and in the dust in your home. The mold spores will not grow if moisture isn’t present. If there is mold growth in your home, it must be cleaned up; the water problem that allowed the mold to grow in the first place must be fixed as well. Having an inspection completed by a professional will be your best course of action. If the mold is cleaned up, but the water problem isn’t fixed, then, most likely, the problem will return shortly after it’s cleaned up.

Adequate Ventilation is a No-Brainer

Your home needs to be well ventilated in order to ensure the proper flow of air in and out of your home. Open the doors and windows around your house to ensure that air can freely flow in and out whenever possible. Make sure to check that all your venting systems are working properly and are free from and defects that could cause them to negatively impact your home’s IAQ.

It’s important to consider the potential effects of indoor air pollution carefully. Keep woodstove and fireplace emissions to a minimum. Make certain that doors in old woodstoves are tight fitting. Use properly seasoned wood. Have your fireplace, flue, and chimney inspected annually; promptly repair cracks or damaged parts. Blocked, leaking, or damaged chimneys or flues release harmful combustion gases and particles and even fatal concentrations of CO. Proper maintenance is the key in this equation. If you have questions or concerns about your home’s IAQ, please give us a call. We’d love to work with you. Contact us and let Homestead Chimney Service help you today.

Help! My Chimney Stinks

In spite of all that goes on inside it, your fireplace and chimney should be virtually odorless. In addition, the room in which your fireplace or stove is located should not have a smoky, campfire-like smell either. In fact, the presence of an unpleasant smell—or of any smoke inside your living space—almost always indicates that your chimney requires some professional attention. In other words, if your chimney stinks to high heaven, it’s your chimney’s way of telling you that it’s sick.

If handing out clothespins to visitors isn't an option, getting that smelly fireplace looked at should be a top priority!

If handing out clothespins to visitors isn’t an option, getting that smelly fireplace looked at should be a top priority!

Homestead Chimney serves customers throughout south Georgia and north Florida, many of whom complain of chimney odors, especially during the hot summer months when their chimneys are essentially left to bake and the humidity mixes with the contents of the chimney, releasing the smells from years of fires.

What’s Causing My Fireplace to Stink?

We often recommend starting the chimney odor removal process with a good chimney sweeping. Otherwise attempting odor removal is a lost cause—like putting perfume on an unbathed person. By having your chimney cleaned, you’ll be removing all the built-up creosote that has accumulated. Creosote, which is a byproduct of burning wood, is usually what creates that strong smoky smell.

Still other people say they detect a musty, mildew smell. This type of smell tells us that water is getting inside your chimney and that water damage may have occurred. In addition, the propagation of mold inside your chimney can be a detriment to your family’s health. There are many ways Homestead Chimney can keep water out of your chimney in the future, including installing a chimney cap or top-sealing damper and waterproofing your chimney’s exterior.

If your chimney is drawing smoky smells directly into your living space this is a pretty good indication that your chimney has a drafting problem, which may be caused by a blockage or by an improperly sized chimney.

Lastly, animals and birds may have nested inside your chimney and become trapped there. If you think you smell a dead animal inside your chimney, a professional chimney sweep will be able to remove it, deodorize the area, and equip your chimney with the necessary components to keep animals out in the future.

For more information on deodorizing your chimney and preventing future odors, contact us today.

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.

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.

Proper Chimney Maintenance: How Often is Enough?

Given the seriousness of the problems that can result from an improperly functioning chimney, the importance of its maintenance cannot be overstated. At a minimum, the chimney and flue need to be inspected once a year, more if the fireplace gets a lot of use. These inspections should be done by a professional who is trained to spot early warning signs easily missed by homeowners.

Chimney Maintenance Frequency - South Georgia - Homestead Chimney

Chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning are the most deadly of the problems caused by chimneys in bad repair. The first occur when combustible creosote builds up in the flue and eventually catches on fire. The latter, known as the unseen killer, continues to claim hundreds of lives every year, typically resulting from poor draft and inadequate ventilation. Having a simple CO2 meter and alarm can help you know if this becomes a problem. They are accurate and inexpensive and they save lives.

The most important function of a chimney is to vent the toxic gases released every time you build a fire. Chimney blockages by debris and birds’ nests are common in improperly covered and capped chases and flues and are the primary cause of inadequate ventilation. The chimney also serves as a barrier between what goes up the chimney, heat and smoke, from the rest of the home.

Heat and smoke can seep through cracks in mortar, widening them and making the problem worse and can potentially ignite. Furthermore, there is no shortage of fuel in most flues, with creosote in different stages forming on their walls. A trained professional will see early indications of these issues and deal with them accordingly.

A thorough inspection will involve both the interior of the chimney, the flue and the exterior. This includes the chase cover and chimney cap. Your chimney sweep will check for signs of rusting of the chimney cap and chase cover, accumulation of soot and tar in the flue, and myriad other potential problems. Well worth the expense when you think about what it saves you long term. Making sure the annual maintenance of your chimney is done by a qualified sweep will insure that your chimney does what it was built to do: keep your family warm.

Why a Chimney Restoration May Be In Your Future

Most homeowners will have several indications by just looking at their chimney to see it is in need of restoration. These can include spalling or flaking of the brick and mortar as well as loose bricks and sometimes even missing bricks.

Chimney restorations are sometimes necessary

What you can’t see though might be the best indication that restoration of the chimney might be in your future. This is why we recommend a video inspection during the annual inspection process that is recommended by the National Fire Protection Association and Chimney Safety Institute of America. We are able to see what is going on inside the chimney from the firebox to the top of the flue and take detailed pictures so you are aware of the condition of your appliance from top to bottom and inside and out.

What we know from experience is that wood stoves and traditional fireplaces are subject to creosote buildup as well as other debris coming into the chimney if it has an open flue or any damage at the crown or chase. Allowing water in the system is one of the most damaging elements because masonry chimneys are susceptible to absorbing water and the inner working of all chimneys are made of metal, which in time will rust.

While restorations of a chimney can be costly, we cover all the options with homeowners so they are well informed and know what they are getting and why. The real expense comes when nothing is done about a broken system.

If the outer chimney is damaged beyond repair, it will need to be partially or fully rebuilt. There really is no other way to restore a masonry chimney but to relay the masonry components. If it’s the inner liner that is damaged, there are options depending on the type of liner you currently have and the total amount of damage. This is best discussed with your trusted chimney professional as they will have the information for your particular type of issue and the right options.