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Frequently Asked Questions

This page lists commonly asked questions with regard to chimney cleaning, chimney repair, fireplace drafting, chimney height, smoke problems, fireplace smoke guards and other questions of interest. Our CSIA-Certified Technicians are trained to provide solutions to these problems.

Q: With the rising cost of heating, is there anything I can do to minimize heat loss in the area of my fireplace?

A. Most fireplaces/chimneys were originally built with a cast iron damper. Unfortunately these types of dampers warp and rust out over time, preventing your fireplace from becoming properly sealed. Installing a top-sealing damper can dramatically cut your energy costs by preventing cold air from ever entering your chimney because it is sealed off from the top.

Q: I’ve been noticing that there is a strong odor of soot and ashes coming from my fireplace on hot, humid days. Sometimes the odor is also strong after it rains. What’s causing this, and how can I get rid of it?

A. The first thing to do is have your chimney and fireplace cleaned if you haven’t had this done in a while. If you have recently had a cleaning, there could be some underlying problems causing the smell. These include negative air issues: making sure your damper is closed, lack of a raincap at the top of your chimney, moisture problems within the chimney, your smoke chamber may have corbelled brick (which allows creosote to build up), or your chimney could be too short which doesn’t allow enough draft to draw smoke and odors up and out.

Q: With the rising cost of fuel prices, is there anything I can do to make my fireplace more efficient?

A. There are a few options you have to increase the heat output of your fireplace. The first option is to install a wood-burning insert. This option can be costly and you would lose the aesthetic value of your natural fireplace. The most economical option would be to install a cozy grate heater ™. You simply place your logs on the grate and the thermostatically-controlled blower circulates the warm air into your living space. This is a very cost effective way to bring more heat into your home. Feel free to call us for more information and a free quote.

Q: How do I know what type of chimney cap to get?

A. Insist on a stainless steel cap. Painted Black or galvanized caps can be ripped off by animals and will rust over time leaving ugly stains on the chimney. Stainless steel caps usually come with a lifetime warranty. Your chimney professional will be able to size and install a chimney cap for you.

Q: Why do I need a chimney cap?

A. Chimney caps are vital for several reasons including:

  • To stop rain – the chimney cap prevents rain,which causes damper and firebox rust leading to expensive repairs, from entering the chimney
  • To stop birds & animals – the chimney cap will not allow birds, squirrels or other animals to enter the chimney.
  • To discourage backdraft – where certain wind conditions exist, the chimney cap will discourage downdrafts.
  • To arrest sparks – the wire mesh reduces the amount of sparks and large ash that is normally blown into the air and onto rooftops.

Q: What should and should not be burned in a chimney?

A. To reduce creosote build-up in your chimney, always burn well-split seasoned hardwood such as oak, maple, ash, etc. It is best to split, stack and then allow your wood to dry for at least one year before burning. When burning your wood, moisture should never bubble out of the end grain. This would indicate poorly seasoned wood.

Never burn any type of painted, stained or treated wood that will give off toxic fumes. Avoid plywood, chipboard, particle board, etc. due to the glue that will again give off dangerous fumes. A minimal amount of paper, placed under the grate is OK to start a fire, but avoid glossy paper or paper with color print. Large amounts of paper like gift wrapping should not be burned because it creates a large flame that can reach creosote deposits and start a chimney fire. The top of the flame should always be visible.

Q: How is a chimney cleaned, and is it messy?

A. The chimney cleaning can be done from the top and from the bottom (most commonly done from the bottom). A high speed rotary “brush” expands (centrifugal force) while inside the chimney and scrubs the entire flue area, the smoke chamber above the damper, and the firebox. This new system cleans much better than the old-fashioned hand & wire brushes. A vacuum is set up at the bottom to collect all the dust and debris before it enters your home.

Q: How often should my chimney be cleaned?

A. If you burn for heat or have frequent fires (3-4 times a week during the burning season), your chimney should be cleaned yearly. If you burn a half of a cord of wood or more, your chimney should be inspected on a yearly basis and cleaned when necessary. Even if you do not burn very often, the NFPA states that all chimneys should be inspected annually.

Inspections are done to check for creosote build-up, blockage, cracks, and any deterioration of the chimney.

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