Our Current Blog Articles
February 24, 2017
The Facts About Water Damage to Your Chimney
Chimneys, especially big heavy-duty masonry types, are often seen as indestructible and without need for care or upkeep. While this is true for the most part, the experts here at Chimney Sweeps of America want you to know all the facts about water damage to your chimney. With this information, you can avoid any issues with your chimney or damage to your wallet.
Now, most chimneys are hardy and don’t require a lot of effort on your part to keep performing without any major issues. However, a chimney that’s improperly protected from the elements and doesn’t receive occasional maintenance can end up suffering expensive problems. Plus, some issues such as flue obstructions, loose masonry materials, and lining systems damaged by the weather can pose a dangerous threat to your home and everyone who lives under your roof.
Let’s quickly clarify what we’re talking about when we say masonry chimneys just in case any of our readers are unsure if their chimney falls into this category or not. Masonry chimneys consist of masonry materials such as brick, stone, flue tile, mortar, concrete, concrete block, as well as a few metals such as cast iron and steel.
If you have a masonry chimney, it will have been built with some combination of these materials. As we mentioned, water under the right conditions is incredibly powerful and virtually all these materials will at some point or another succumb to its effects, often sustaining heavy and costly damage.
The Force of Water
How does water cause thousands of dollars of damage to a fortified (or so it would seem) masonry chimney? Let’s think back to high school science. Water in its liquid form takes up a certain amount of space. When water freezes, it takes up more space and therefore must expand. Water is strong, and this process is remarkably challenging to contain, so if water has managed to penetrate even the strongest of masonry materials, start watching for cracks to appear when the temperature drops.
If water has gotten inside your masonry materials and begins freezing, thawing, and refreezing again, this constant expansion and contraction will cause the chimney to quickly begin deteriorating. The only exception to this is stone. However, keep in mind that stone is held together with large amounts of mortar so even if you have a stone chimney and think you are safe, the mortar is susceptible to the force of water so you are not out of the woods at all and still should think about proper weather protection.
Water also causes problems for the metal parts of your masonry chimney. Both cast iron and steel can rust in the extended presence of water which will begin weakening and eventually destroy any metal parts of your chimney.
Still not convinced that water can be so harmful? Here’s a handy list of things that water can do to your chimney. It can:
- Cause the damper assembly to rust
- Cause the metal or masonry firebox assembly to deteriorate
- Leave water stains on the ceiling and walls
- Clog up the clean out area
- Cause any adjacent wood to rot
- Ruin wall coverings
- Cause the exterior mortar to decay
- Stain the exterior or the chimney
- Cause the flue lining system to crack or deteriorate
- Cause the chimney to settle
- Cause the hearth support to collapse
- Or cause the entire chimney structure to collapse
As you can see, water is a heavy-duty force, and the dangers should not be taken lightly. One additional, annoying fact is that if you have a wood burning chimney, water can mix with the creosote and create a nasty smell that can fill your home.
Now that we’ve got all the bad news out of the way, it’s time for some good news. Water damage is preventable, and the steps you should take are not necessarily expensive, especially once you compare it to the cost of rebuilding or repairing your chimney.
A chimney cap, sometimes called a rain cover, is a very popular and relatively inexpensive method for preventing water damage. As part of the basic design of a chimney, it has a large opening (the flue) at the top. Some chimneys have more than one of these. Rainwater can easily get into this opening and start wreaking havoc as soon as freezing temperatures arrive. A chimney cap is an effective method to prevent water from entering the flue.
It has some other great side benefits as well. Sometimes, small animals or birds will get inside during the summer. They can cause clogs and their own brand of damage, but a correctly designed chimney cap will keep them out also. Another important function is it prevents any live sparks from escaping your chimney and landing on your roof or any other nearby combustible materials.
There are a few requirements that chimney caps should meet to be effective and well-designed including a design to be easily removable so that it can be properly inspected and cleaned. Plus, for obvious reasons, it should be made of a corrosion resistant, durable, and sturdy material.
If your chimney is located on the downhill slope of your roof and water runoff is always being thrown against it, installing a cricket to divert water is a good idea. This deflector will direct runoff away from the chimney and help prevent any leaks into your home. If your chimney is over 30 inches wide or you have a very steep roof, a cricket is highly recommended.
Most masonry materials are very porous, which means they will quickly wick water and moisture into the interior of the chimney. To prevent this, there are several waterproofing products you can buy and apply to your chimney. Always use products specially designed for this and not paints or clear sealers. These products might block moisture, but they also prevent vapors from escaping. A product specifically designed for waterproofing a chimney will protect it without trapping vapors inside the chimney.
We hope that these facts about water damage to your chimney have been helpful. Of course, you can always ask one of our experts here at Chimney Sweeps of America if you have any other questions. If it has been a while since the last time your chimney had a checkup, give us a call today and we will make sure everything is in proper and safe shape!
January 25, 2017
Anatomy Of A Fireplace
While closely understanding all the ins and outs of a fireplace is not required as a homeowner, having basic knowledge regarding the anatomy of a fireplace can come in handy. As a homeowner, if you take the time to educate yourself, you can better protect your family from an unfortunate, even devastating chimney fire. To get you started, our experts here at Chimney Sweeps of America has put together this handy guide to the basic anatomy of a fireplace. Read on to get acquainted with yours.
First, fireplaces are available in two general types. Masonry fireplaces are the impressive structures of brick, blocks, or stone and mortar that we often think of in reference to memorable family get-togethers around the holidays, or as magnificent centerpieces in stylish living rooms. Factory-built fireplaces are generally made of metal, including a lightweight metal firebox and round metal chimney.
Sometimes, the outside of factory-built fireplaces is decorated with stone or brick so it may take a bit of detective work on your part to figure out which type you have. However, it’s not all that difficult to determine the difference. Just check inside the firebox and chimney. If they’re made of brick, you have a masonry fireplace. If they’re made of metal, it is factory-built even if the outside is decorated with stone or brick. There are also some hybrid varieties that usually consist of a metal box connected to a brick chimney, so be on the lookout for that as well.
Now that you know about the basic two types let’s look at each one a little bit closer. The basic premise is the same for both types fireplaces of course, but some differences are helpful to be aware of.
As we mentioned earlier, masonry fireplaces are impressive structures. Because of their materials and size, these fireplaces can end up weighing 6 or 7 tons – not something to be trifled with! Along with looking fabulous, these fireplaces are very durable and will last for years with minimal maintenance. In fact, the general perception is that these fireplaces are indestructible. But don’t fall into a false sense of security. While masonry fireplaces are very durable, there are still a few things to keep an eye out for.
Because they are so heavy, masonry fireplaces need to have a very sturdy and extensive foundation to hold them up over the years. If the foundation is not built well, the fireplace will shift and crack over time, potentially allowing flames to escape and ignite nearby combustibles. Keep an eye out for cracks to avoid a potentially dangerous situation. Inside the firebox, where the facing material comes together with the brick, is a common place for cracks so be sure to check there regularly.
Ensure that downspouts or any other type of water runoff runs away from the structure and consider a quality chimney cover. Protecting your material from water, rain, and the cycle of freezing and thawing will go a long way towards ensuring a long life for your fireplace.
The firebox is built to be strong as it takes the most heat abuse. However, eventually, all that expanding and contracting will beat up the joints. A chimney cover will also help with this so that rainwater doesn’t get inside and exacerbate the issue. You can also use a refractory mortar to protect the joints further.
Most masonry fireplaces have a tile liner in the chimney that you don’t have to worry too much about. However, one chimney fire can crack the tiles considerably so be sure to keep it clean. A good rule of thumb is to have it cleaned once there is barely a ¼ inch of soot built up inside. If a chimney fire does occur, do not use the fireplace until it has been inspected by a professional and cleared for use.
These fireplaces are relative newcomers to the fireplace scene, only having been available for about 25 years or so. Instead of being built on-site like a masonry fireplace, these fireplaces come in a complete set with firebox, chimney and miscellaneous parts necessary to assemble the fireplace.
These parts are specifically tested and designed to go together, and the exact instructions from the manufacturer should be followed when installing. Minimum clearances should always be strictly observed to ensure that nothing eventually catches fire. You might think that nearby wood will be all right, but with prolonged exposure to high temperatures that wood will dry excessively and become combustible at a much lower than average temperature.
It is a good idea to have these fireplaces professionally installed, or at the very least professionally inspected before use. These types of inspections reveal that more than half of them are not correctly installed. As this can have dire consequences for your home and family, the peace of mind that comes with a professional installation is well worth it!
Birds can pose a hazard for factory built fireplaces--particularly those that have a fake brick housing. They find this to be an ideal nesting area. Virtually all their nest building materials are combustible and can catch fire directly or block essential airflow and cause the chimney to overheat. Either way, you end up with a potentially devastating house fire. Be sure to screen over any possible access points and regularly check your chimney for signs of these unwanted house guests to prevent this.
It is also important to be aware that factory built fireplaces are not as sturdy and durable as masonry fireplaces, and you cannot expect them to last as long. Repairs may be possible, but after many years, models are often discontinued, or manufacturers go out of business, and it becomes difficult to find the proper replacement parts. It is always safer and worth it to replace a factory-built fireplace before it gets to the point of being a serious safety hazard.
Of course, always keep in mind that you don’t have to be an expert in fireplace care and maintenance, that’s what we are here for! Knowing the basic anatomy of a fireplace and keeping an eye out for these signs is just a helpful aid. If you have questions or see something that you are not certain about, call us here at Chimney Sweeps of America, and one of our friendly professionals will be happy to help.
If it has been a while since your last inspection and cleaning, then it’s a good idea to schedule one today!
December 15, 2016
Creating a Unique Outdoor Fire Pit for Your Home
This time of year, we all love a good fireplace. It’s fun to snuggle up in front of the fire with a cup of hot cocoa and watch a movie with a loved one or read a good book. But what about enjoying that feeling all year round? Chimney Sweeps of America would like to take this opportunity to give you some ideas for creating a unique outdoor fire pit for your home.
An outdoor fire pit is a fun way to spruce up the look of your backyard and add a nice focal point. Plus, it’s a great place to kick back and relax with a group of guests while enjoying a beautiful summer evening. Even when the evenings get to be a bit chilly, a fire pit wards off the chill enough to that you don’t have to retreat indoors to avoid freezing fingers and toes.
There are a couple of things to consider first when creating a unique outdoor fire pit for your home. First, determine the best location, then move on to designing. Let’s break it all down.
This is one of the most important factors for your fire pit. As you begin to think about where you want to place your fire pit, be sure to consider the following:
What kind of atmosphere do you want to create? A fun, party feel for large gatherings? A quiet, intimate space as a nice place to relax with a few guests? Something in between?
- Where does it tie in best with your decor? A particularly a large pit or full outdoor fireplace will become a focal point that draws the eye, so think about where you want to focus attention.
- How accessible do you want it to be? Directly on a deck or patio? Adjacent to it? Set off by itself? Again, this comes back to the type of atmosphere you want to create.
- What kind of fuel do you want? Propane? Wood? Gas? Fuels burn differently, and each gives a little different feel to the fire pit.
When you’re planning your fire pit’s location, be aware that a gas line can’t go everywhere in your yard. Propane and wood are both very portable and give a more authentic campfire feel but require a bit more work, especially wood. So, you just have to decide what is more important to you.
Regardless of how you answer any of these questions, there is an outdoor heating product that will fit your needs, so the sky is the limit! Create, dream, plan and we’ll help you make it a reality.
Once you get the practical stuff out of the way and have chosen your location, now you get to do the fun stuff. Decide how you want your fire pit to look and how you want to decorate the surrounding area. There are three basic categories of outdoor fire pits to choose from:
Built-in: This type feels the most like a traditional indoor fireplace and is ideal for creating a stunning piece in a rather large area.
Freestanding: This variety is more like a stove and makes more efficient use of heat. They are generally smaller than built-ins and work well when trying to heat challenging areas.
Portable: A portable fire pit is, well, portable and gives you the option of taking it with you for a long weekend at a cabin in the woods, camping out under the stars, etc.
Of course, within these three categories, the design possibilities are virtually endless when creating a unique outdoor fire pit for your home. With the right advice and planning, you can easily create the outdoor space that you’ve always dreamed of. Here are a few ideas to get those creative juices flowing:
This type of built-in fireplace is perfect for installing in a wall. You can have it double sided for double the seating area or stick with just one side if your space isn’t quite that large. You can choose from a variety of materials to create the look you want. Even inside the fireplace, you can change things up with different driftwood log sets, colored glass or even river rocks.
A fun addition to any patio, you can use wall-mounted fireplaces to create cool accents on posts and pillars or add some spectacular flair to your entryway.
Highly portable and a bit more versatile, these work great for chasing away the cool of the evening when enjoying an early spring or fall barbecue. You can have it set up by the grill while you’re cooking or use it to reflect heat back down into the deck space where everyone sits.
A traditional fire pit gives you the most authentic camping feel. Units come in all types, built-in, freestanding and portable and you can choose whether they are propane or natural gas. Perfect for relaxing on your deck and enjoying campfire conditions, roasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories, all within the comfort of your backyard space!
These are just some of the options available for outdoor heating. Be sure to check out our website or come on down to the store to see more great ideas. We haven’t even talked about colors or stonework designs! There’s a whole other set of personalization and design options to choose.
Whether you want a chic patio for hosting elegant parties or an intimate campfire experience, we can help you design just the right space and then install it for you.
Feel free to give us a call today, and one of the knowledgeable representatives here at Chimney Sweeps of America will be happy to get you started with creating a unique outdoor fire pit for your home. If you know what you want, but feel a little at a loss for how to create it, our design professionals know just what to do. Plus, we can help you with the practical, boring stuff like picking out the right materials and so forth. No matter what, don’t put off your dream outdoor space any longer. Give us a call today!
November 28, 2016
Fireplace Design Upgrade Ideas
Does looking at your fireplace take you back to a time when bell bottoms and flower power was groovy? If it does, then it might be time to start thinking about changing things up a bit. Modernizing a fireplace is an easy way to quickly freshen up a room. To help get the idea train rolling, our experts at Chimney Sweeps of America would like to offer a few fireplace design upgrade ideas.
Some options you’ll find here don't require a complete overhaul of your fireplace, so they’re a bit more easy and inexpensive. Others are helpful if your budget allows for a complete redo.
Whitewash your brick hearth
This one's a great option for older homes that have a beautiful, sturdy brick hearth. You don't want to rip it out because it is still in great shape and the texture is interesting, but that bright red just doesn't quite flow with the rest of your décor anymore.
An easy method for preserving the original fireplace and just toning down the red a little (or a lot) is to whitewash it. The resulting muted tone is lovely and combines well with a variety of colors to set the mood in your living room. Plus, if you do it yourself, you can easily customize how it looks.
Whitewashing is super easy and doesn't take that long to accomplish. You just need to know how to paint, and you're set to create a new look in your living room. To do it, simply thin white paint with water until it is the right consistency. Making a perfect mixture depends on how porous your brick is, and how much of the brick you want to show through.
Note: it will look different as it dries, so it may require some trial and error to find the right ratio of paint to water initially.
Add some shiplap
Rustic wood is one of the most popular fireplace design upgrade ideas. If you don't believe us, check it out on Pinterest! You'll see all sorts of fireplaces incorporating interesting wood designs. Shiplap is a great way to add some interest to your unique fireplace design. It looks especially good when you build a mantel that goes all the way to the ceiling to give each piece room to shine. There are even do-it-yourself options that are relatively inexpensive and easy.
Of course, whenever you are planning to add combustible materials to a fireplace, carefully read the product manual to ensure the proper amount of clearance. You don't want a classy new fireplace to literally, go up in flames because you put combustible material where it shouldn't be. Also be sure to find out what the local building codes are and comply with them. If you are unsure, contact the professionals at Chimney Sweeps of America to help you plan a correct and safe design.
Add a twist to traditional brick
Brick is traditionally installed horizontally. But there is more than one direction that it can go! Turning your bricks vertical can add an interesting bit of pizzazz to an otherwise ordinary look. Or you can make a herringbone pattern. This style adds a lot of character and works excellently in outdoor fireplaces, where the materials need to be hardy and able to handle harsh weather. Don't be afraid to get creative; you can easily have an interesting look, even with this very familiar material.
50 shades of gray
Interior designers are having a love affair with gray right now. It's a versatile color that can be used in different shades, creating a wide variety of looks. Delicate shades can be used to lighten and freshen a space just like white but without the starkness. Darker grays can be used to accent and create a strong, dominating feel. It's so versatile that some designers are even calling it the new beige.
Dust off your painting skills
This is one of the more unique fireplace design upgrade ideas.
Handmade tile is gorgeous, and sometimes, you can find the exact tile you want to make your hearth pop, in a perfect way. Unfortunately, the price tag is not nearly as desirable as the tile itself. Luckily there's a viable way of getting around that price tag and still having a fireplace that will make your friends go wow!
If you've got a little creative talent, you can hand paint the ceramic tile yourself. The sky is the limit, as you can create whatever design you like. If you're not that savvy with a paintbrush, you can still create beautiful looks with geometric patterns or well-placed stencils.
Here's a great option that remains versatile even long after installation. Flank your fireplace with custom shelving that runs the length of the wall. Doing so will make your fireplace stand out as a gorgeous centerpiece, and you can enjoy the flexibility of extra shelving space.
Now you can add original pictures, sculptures, artwork—whatever you want! Use bright accent colors to emphasize different moods in your space. The best part, easily swap out decorations for new ones to change up the room whenever you want. Adding shelving is the perfect design option for homeowners that get bored with their décor quickly and want to have a lot of versatility and options without a whole lot of work.
Of course, these are just a few of the options for fireplace design upgrade ideas. If you want to create a fresh and modern look for your fireplace, as well as add more pizzazz to your home, you can get a full rundown of design options by talking to one of our experts here at Chimney Sweeps. We’re experienced with fireplaces, inserts, gas stoves and everything in between. We can help you find the perfect solution for your space.
As a local, family-owned and operated business, we’ve been serving our neighbors in Denver, Colorado and the surrounding areas since 1982. We are proud to have served over 10,000 satisfied clients in the greater Denver area, we look forward to providing you with the expertise and customer service we’re knowing for providing. Call Chimney Sweeps of America today to learn more about what we can do for your home with fireplace design upgrade ideas.
October 28, 2016
About Chimney Liners
Okay, you’ve probably never heard about chimney liners. However, if you have a fireplace, gas furnace, wood burning stove – anything using a chimney in your home, you might be interested to know a little about chimney liners. Our professionals here at Chimney Sweeps of America in Denver, Colorado can help you with all the specifics and answer your questions. Read on a for a quick chimney liner overview.
First off, why are chimney liners necessary?
Research shows that unlined chimneys are much more likely to allow sufficient heat transfer to combustible parts of your home and cause fires. Liners also help to ensure that toxic byproducts of the combustion process (like carbon monoxide) are correctly funneled out of your home and not back into the room.
Liners not only keep your home safe, but they also protect and lengthen the life of the chimney itself. Those same gasses that you don’t want to be breathing can be tough on the mortar joints used to hold your brick chimney together. They can begin to erode rather quickly and jeopardize the integrity of your chimney and start letting those toxic gasses into your house.
Finally, liners can be used as a flue in conjunction with appliances like modern wood stoves and gas or oil furnaces. When the liner is sized correctly, it actually increases efficiency by allowing for both venting gasses and supplying the air that your appliance needs for combustion.
So, what are my options for chimney liners?
There are three main varieties of chimney liners. Clay tiles, metal and cast-in-place. Regulations concerning liners are different depending on where you live. That’s why talking about chimney liners with a local professional familiar with your particular regional rules can come in handy.
Each type of liner serves the same purpose but has slightly different benefits and disadvantages. Let’s take a look at these:
- Clay tiles are the most common, probably because they’re the least expensive, easy to get ahold of and work well in a properly maintained chimney. Their main disadvantage, however, is that they cannot evenly absorb heat which can often lead to cracking and splitting apart over time.
- The most commonly used are aluminum and stainless steel metal chimney liners. Stainless steel is rather versatile and used for wood, gas or oil. The less expensive aluminum option can only be used for certain gas stoves. A professional can point you in the right direction if you want to go this route.
- Cast-in-place liners are created using a cement-like product that is installed directly inside the chimney for a seamless passage for gasses. They are great for helping with the structural integrity of an old chimney and work with all fuel types.
If you have an existing chimney in your home but aren’t sure whether it has a proper chimney liner, call us here at Chimney Sweeps of America in Denver, Colorado. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about chimney liners and provide an inspection to ensure that your home is safe and ready for winter.