Santa's Friend Chimney Service

Santa's Friend Chimney Service Blog

What’s Blocking Your Chimney?

A clogged up chimney flue can mean big trouble. Make sure there's nothing blocking your chimney by having it swept.

A clogged up chimney flue can mean big trouble. Make sure there’s nothing blocking your chimney by having it swept.

A fireplace can be a wonderful addition to any room in the house where the family might gather, providing warmth, light, and a cozy ambiance. However, a fireplace system has to be carefully maintained to make sure that they common problems that affect chimneys don’t impact the safety and beauty of your family’s favorite gathering spot. We as homeowners owe it to ourselves to remain constantly vigilant as far as the condition of any part of our homes are concerned. Like every appliance or piece of furniture we own, a chimney requires just as much attention; one could even argue that it requires more attention.

The Dangers of Creosote Buildup

So what exactly is creosote, and why is it dangerous to allow it to accumulate inside your chimney? Creosote is a sticky chemical residue that forms when wood is burned at low temperatures and is capable of building up to dangerous levels within your chimney. More creosote is formed from burning unseasoned softwoods in your fireplace than properly seasoned hardwoods. The residue begins as unburned oil in the form of gas; as it moves up the chimney, the oils build up into a coating inside the chimney as they begin to cool. This buildup is extremely flammable!

The residue can become quite thick over the course of a single season. Depending on the internal dimensions of your chimney, this can really restrict the flow of air, which can cause smoke to build up in the fireplace as well as in your home. This reduced airflow can also cause cooler burning fires because they’re not able to get the requisite amount of oxygen for increased combustion; all of this results in, you guessed it, more creosote buildup in your chimney. It becomes dangerous when it is allowed to accumulate in your chimney, as it becomes a fuel source for a possible chimney fire. The build up of creosote cannot be avoided completely, however, burning small, hot fires and using dry, seasoned wood can minimize the buildup.

There’s a What Living in my Chimney!?

If you are hearing noises in your chimney it may be one of two situations: a wild animal (such as a raccoon) is using your chimney as a den; or an animal (such as a squirrel or a bird) has fallen down the chimney and cannot get back up. Under absolutely no circumstances should you try to smoke an animal out of your chimney – you will only succeed in burning and/or killing the animal! Wild animals frequently mistake uncapped chimneys for hollow trees, and they have no idea that the “tree” is connected to your home! In contrast to hollow trees, however, the inside of a chimney is quite slippery, and raccoons seem to be the only animals capable of climbing up and down it.

One way to tell the difference between a denning animal (raccoon) and an animal that’s stuck (squirrel or bird) is by listening to the noise that the animal makes. An animal that is stuck is often frantic, and will scratch at the damper or flap its wings repeatedly in an effort to get out. If the damper is not closed, the animal may fall down into the fireplace, and even if he is able to get back up above the damper or onto the smoke shelf, it is important to recognize that this animal is unable to climb the entire length of the chimney. On the other hand, if the animal is using the chimney as a den site you may occasionally hear movement, as well as the sounds of wild animal babies calling out to their mother. The noises follow a more predictable pattern, and often occur only a certain times of the day.

While the firebox of your beloved fireplace can be easily seen and therefore monitored, the chimney itself commonly faces a number of troubles that are often caught only by a chimney professional during the annual chimney system inspection and sweeping. These things will help to ensure the safety and continued functionality of your fireplace and chimney for many years to come. You can always come to Santa’s Friend Chimney Service with any of your questions or needs. Our staff is always here to help.

Yes, You Need a Chimney Cap

Using Chimney Caps to Protect Your Home, Neighbors and Wildlife

Many people install chimney caps on their chimneys because they think it improves the look and line of their roof. Although this is true, there are many more important reasons to make sure that the chimney has a cap. In addition to looking nice, these simple pieces can help protect the home, local wildlife, and even the homes of neighbors. As simple as it looks, it is actually very important to get the right size chimney cap and to have it installed properly.

One of the primary reasons for installing a chimney cap is that it keeps wildlife from building nests inside of the chimney. It is common to find chimney swifts, a species of bird that can only perch vertically, in a chimney. However, many people also find that rodents of all sizes have set up homes in their chimneys. This is not only dangerous for the animals themselves, but it can cause significant damage to the structure of the chimney. In addition, the presence of animals may put the family at risk for a host of diseases.

A chimney caps keeps out both critters and moisture, ensuring proper draft.

A chimney caps keeps out both critters and moisture, ensuring proper draft.

In addition to keeping animals out of the chimney, a chimney cap protects against excess moisture. If rain or snow is allowed to get into the chimney, it can cause the clay or brick interior to weaken and flake away. This compromises the integrity of the structure and makes it more likely that there could be a collapse. This would impact the entire foundation of the home and cause a serious safety risk for the entire family.

Even simple materials such as leaves and twigs getting into the chimney can be dangerous. If the chimney becomes clogged, it will not properly vent. Instead of leaving the home through the chimney, smoke will remain in the fireplace and eventually enter the home. Clearly, this can pose a significant health risk, especially if there is a member of the family who suffers from asthma.

In addition to keeping things out of the chimney, a chimney cap protects the home and homes around it by keeping things in. The cap will make sure that all hot embers stay safely inside the flue and the fireplace, where they belong. Hot embers often remain warm enough to ignite for many days. If they pop out onto the roof, they can start a dangerous roof fire. This will not only impact the home with the fireplace in question, but these fires have been known to jump to the roofs of neighbors, causing fires in their homes as well.

Since there are so many ways that a chimney cap can help protect a home, it may seem as if it would be a complicated or expensive structure. In fact, these small pieces are relatively inexpensive and simple to install. Any chimney maintenance professional can quickly install one. They are also an excellent resource in terms of deciding what type of chimney cap will work best with the particular chimney.

Anyone who has a fireplace in their home should make sure that they have a chimney cap installed. These simple structures prevent animals from making their homes in the chimney as well as keeping other debris out. They ensure that the chimney vents properly but they also keep dangerously hot embers inside the structure to prevent external fires. This not only protects the home with the chimney, but surrounding homes. They are simple and inexpensive, and can be quickly installed by any chimney professional.