Santa's Friend Chimney Service

Santa's Friend Chimney Service Blog

6 Questions to Ask Your Sweep

If you find yourself in the market for someone to handle all of your chimney maintenance needs, we want you to know that knowledge is power.  Here are some questions you can ask your prospective chimney sweeps to ensure that you’re getting the right people for the job.

We at Santa's Friend Chimney Service can answer all of your questions and provide you with peace of mind.

We at Santa’s Friend Chimney Service can answer all of your questions and provide you with peace of mind.

By Jim Robinson on April 28th, 2014 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment

Log vs. Sweep

In our lives, we applaud each other for working late, laugh at those who don’t, and measure our self-worth in time stamps.  Meanwhile, those who take the proverbial “easy way out” are ridiculed, criticized and/or passed over for promotions.  An online search returns pages of blogs explaining how to kick the habit of taking it easy.  By all accounts, taking the easy way out seems harmful and counterproductive.  Why, then, do so many of us seem so drawn to the path of least resistance?  If the hard route leads to more profitable outcomes, why aren’t more people willing to go that route?  Why do we tend to look for the easy way out of a situation?

Chimney Sweeping Logs: The Easy Way Out   It’s easier that way, for one.  Physics says that the path of least resistance is generally the one taken.  The decision on the best method for cleaning your chimney should not be one in which you opt for the easy way.  There are all sorts of advertisements for chimney sweeping logs (CSLs) flooding the marketplace today.  These products claim to do the work of a chimney sweep, all for a price of around $15 per log.  Sounds too good to be true, huh?  If you answered yes, you are correct.

Using a log that claims to rid your chimney of creosote may cause more problems than it promises to solve.

Using a log that claims to rid your chimney of creosote may cause more problems than it promises to solve.

What the CSLs Actually Do   It really isn’t the logs that are supposed to do anything; it is the chemicals and minerals they’re impregnated with that do all of the work.  When a CSL is burned, the chemicals and minerals are carried up the flue by the rising exhaust gases.  After entering the flue, they attach themselves to the creosote in your chimney and, over the course of several subsequent fires, break it down, causing it to crumble away from the chimney walls.

What’s in a Name   The name, CSL, is a bit misleading.  One would expect a product called a chimney sweeping log to actually sweep the chimney, or at least perform an equivalent function.  According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), the use of CSLs alone is not an adequate substitute for mechanical chimney cleaning and inspection because they do not provide for the same level of protection to your chimney system.  The CSIA mandates that all CSL manufacturers include a CSIA Accepted Product logo, including the following message: “When used according to the manufacturer’s instructions, this product is accepted by the Chimney Safety Institute of America.  For improved safety and home heating efficiency, CSIA recommends that all chimney and vented appliances be inspected every year by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep.”

This CSIA recommendation of regular chimney inspection and cleaning should be proof enough that CSLs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.  If you want to spend your hard earned money on CSLs, please feel free to do so.  However, keep in mind that nothing can ever replace the services provided by a qualified chimney sweeping professional, including annual inspections and cleaning.

Getting Your Wood Stove Ready During Summer

Keep Your Wood Stove Clean

Summer is the time to get your wood stove ready cooler nights. During the seasons of heavier use, your wood stove should be cleaned out at least once a month. However, in warmer months, it is time to schedule a certified sweep to take a look at the parts of your stove you aren’t trained to inspect or clean. An unclean wood stove is not only messier and hazardous, it is also inefficient.

Keep Wood Stove Clean - Jackson MS - Santa's Friend Chimney Service

Keep Wood Stove Clean – Jackson MS – Santa’s Friend Chimney Service

Let’s start with the most important reason why you need to regularly clean your wood stove and chimney — safety. According to the EPA nearly 7% of house fires are a result of creosote buildup in your chimney. Creosote is the unburned remainder of gases and is highly flammable. If you burn anything other than dry, seasoned wood, you increase the amount and the frequency with which the creosote accumulates. This includes any type of paper. A certified sweep will let you know if the layer of creosote in your chimney must be removed. Believe it or not, any more than one-quarter inch is perilous.

Now you are ready to clean the stove…what do you need? Here is a good checklist:

  • A drop cloth or newspapers to protect your floor.
  • Old newspapers or paper towels for glass cleaning
  • Gloves to protect your hands while cleaning.
  • Small brush for ash
  • Small ash shovel to scoop out the ashes.
  • Metal ash container to collect the ashes in for disposal later. Make sure the ash is well-cooled before removal.
  • Spray bottle containing a vinegar, water, and soap solution, two parts water to one part vinegar with a squeeze of dish soap.
  • Dust mask to protect yourself from breathing in ash.
  • A fireplace ash vacuum is great, but not necessary. A household vacuum isn’t recommended. You can use fireplace ash in your garden if distributed evenly and lightly.

Hiring a sweep to clean out your stove pipe will ensure that creosote doesn’t become a fire or health hazard for your family. Remember to always follow any directions provided with your wood stove. Keep a fire extinguisher close at hand for emergencies. You are on your way to toasty rooms in winter and a worry-free mind.

By Jim Robinson on July 28th, 2013 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment

The Signs that It Is Time for Firebox Replacement

Most people choose their fireplace based on the way that it looks and never imagine that fireplace replacement will ever be something that they need. However, over time, a firebox does become worn down or damaged and may need to be maintained. There are a few signs homeowners can look for to let them know that it is time to call in some help.

Fireplace Insert - Jackson MS - Santa's Friend Chimney

Over time,  firebox panels may begin to look cracked or worn down. Although some homeowners enjoy this look, it can actually be dangerous. If it is cracked or there appears to be pieces falling down from the inside, it is time for repairs or for a complete firebox replacement.

In addition to the wear and tear of old age, water buildup can lead to significant damage in a fireplace system. If the it is exposed to a great deal of moisture, it will eventually weaken and fall apart. Try scraping the firebox and see if it starts to come apart in any places. If it does, then it would be a good idea to replace it before the damage becomes even more significant.

Some homeowners may look at their fireplaces and not be able to tell whether or not they require any maintenance. In this situation, it is better to be safe than sorry. Instead of playing a guessing game, call in a CSIA certified chimney sweep to take a look and determine what maintenance, if any, is necessary.

If a firebox is not properly maintained, the entire household may be at risk every time they decide to enjoy a warm fire. If any pieces appear to be crumbling or falling off, it is time to call in a professional to assess the situation. This damage may occur over time as the result of age, but it can also be caused by significant water damage.

By Jim Robinson on May 19th, 2013 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

What Is the Best Season for Your Annual Chimney Inspection?

The language used in authoritative recommendations of annual chimney inspections contributes to the debate regarding this. “Before every heating season” and “before use” lead many to conclude that annual inspections should be done in fall. “Before further use of the fireplace” might or might not have caused fewer leaps to the same conclusions.

Annual Chimney Inspections - Jackson MS - Santa's Friend Chimney

The point really is that the chimney was inspected and then time passed. What was true about it before is no longer necessarily true. No one can know that it is still in good condition. Accordingly, somewhere between last-and-first regular uses – which often are responses to seasonal weather changes – the chimney needs to be inspected.  Which season is the best for that obviously varies with chimneys and circumstance.

There can be good reasons for inspections in any season. The important thing is that home owners not introduce fire to systems of uncertain condition. There are two quick points in that connection which together say, “Home-Buyer Beware!” A home inspector only inspects what he can see and lack of use does not stop time.

All of this becomes especially salient when chimneys have no caps and crowns are improperly constructed. It is extremely difficult, therefore, to pronounce one season better than another for your annual chimney inspection. We can tell you that when problems are detected in spring, there is time to correct them before fall.

We can also tell you that CSIA certified chimney sweeps are conscientious year round, so there is no real problem with fall inspections. That, however, assumes that a certified sweep found everything to be in great condition last fall and there was no change in use. These professionals can work around your choice of season. The important thing is for you to schedule annual inspections.

By Jim Robinson on April 26th, 2013 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment