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Cap and Screen Installs for Spring

While our chimneys may seem simple, they are actually made of a number of different components that each play an important role. One of the most important – but often ignored – parts of the chimney system is the chimney cap. Chimney caps protect the fireplace from water damage, animal entry, and debris buildup; because they cannot be seen from street level, however, many homeowners do not know when their chimney caps need to be repaired or replaced.

Cap and Screen Installs for Spring - Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley SweepsWhat is a chimney cap?

A chimney cap is a metal cover that protects the top of the chimney structure as well as the top of the flue. Made of out metal, chimney caps have a solid hood with wire or mesh sides; this allows smoke and gasses to safely draft out of the fireplace while preventing animals, debris, and water from getting in.

The price range for chimney caps varies by the quality and materials; a new chimney cap can range anywhere from $50 to $1500 dollars. Differences in chimney caps include double flue caps, heavy meshed bolted down caps, small venting caps, chase pan covers, and top-mounted dampers. Other pricing differences include access to the roofline, extra visits needed for measurements or installation, or the need of additional access equipment.

Choosing the right chimney cap

There is not one “standard” chimney cap. There are a variety of chimney caps – including custom chimney caps designed specifically for your unique chimney size and shape. Most homes still have their original, factory-built chimney cap. While effective, they can rust and deteriorate over time.

At Jack Pixley Sweeps, we install a variety of chimney caps; this includes small furnace flue caps, standard metal rain covers and screencaps, top-mounted dampers, and large chase pan caps that are found on manufactured fireplaces.

The type of chimney cap your home requires depends on a number of factors including the type of fireplace, fuel source, size of the chimney, and age of the fireplace system. We often recommend stainless steel chimney caps to our customers; stainless steel prevents future rusting and can be attached securely to prevent movement in severe weather.

Likewise, stainless steel chimney caps are also durable enough to prevent animal entry. Raccoons are notorious at clawing, biting, and scratching at chimney caps to create gaps in the mesh; once they have damaged the chimney cap, raccoons can access the chimney and build a nest for their young in the flue.

Consider switching to a top-mounted damper!

While we recommend that every chimney has a chimney cap, there is another option: a top-mounted damper. Top-mounted dampers replace the traditional throat dampers that most fireplaces have while also replacing the need for a chimney cap.

Top-mounted dampers are located at the top of the chimney structure in place of a traditional chimney cap. When closed, the entire chimney and flue is sealed from outside air; this prevents outside air – as well as animals and debris – from entering the chimney. When the fireplace is in use, the damper can be easily opened to allow smoke and gasses to safely draft out of the chimney.

Top-mounted dampers are considered an energy-efficient chimney upgrade. While installing a top-mounted damper does not make a fireplace itself more efficient, it can help lower heating and cooling costs for your home. Because the entire flue is closed from outside air, the air temperature in the flue is not affected by the air temperature outside. This helps keep the rooms surrounding the flue at a more consistent temperature, reducing the utility costs associated with heating and cooling the home.

Why do I need a chimney cap?

Chimney caps serve an important purpose; every chimney needs one! Whether you choose a standard chimney cap, have one custom-designed for your specific chimney, or opt to install a top-mounted damper, the following are three of the major reasons all chimneys need a chimney cap.

  • Keep out animals. Animals love chimneys! Birds, squirrels, raccoons, and other animals view chimneys as a safe and protected space to build nests, birth young, and hide from predators. Unfortunately, an uncapped chimney – or a chimney with a damaged chimney cap – is an open invitation for animals to nest in your flue. Animals in the flue can cause damage to the chimney system, create blockages that prevent proper drafting, increase the risk of chimney fire due to dried nesting materials, or even expose members occupants of the house to insects or disease.
  • Prevent debris from blocking the chimney. Without a chimney cap, chimneys can be prone to blockages from leaves and twigs; even stray balls, frisbees, or blowing plastic bags can fall into an uncapped chimney! This debris can then cause chimney blockages; a blockage can prevent smoke and gas from drafting properly, keep fires from burning as the chimney cannot draw in outside air, or cause smoke to back up into the room.
  • Prevent water damage. The exterior of the chimney is designed to withstand the elements; internal chimney components are designed to withstand heat. If the chimney cap is missing or damaged, water can severely damage interior fireplace components. Cracks to the flue liner, rust on the damper, or water in the firebox can all indicate a leaky chimney. Likewise, water in the cold, dark flue can lead to mold or mildew growth if the source of the leak is not repaired.

A well-fitted, well-constructed chimney cap can help keep your fireplace system in good condition for years to come. For more information on the importance of the chimney cap or to have your chimney cap inspected contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!

Winter Maintenance Tips For Your Home

Severe winter weather can cause significant damage to your home; some estimates find that winter storms cause more than $1 billion in damage each year. To avoid costly repairs this winter, help prepare your home for winter weather with these five tips.

Winter Maintenance Tips For Your Home - Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley Sweeps1. Inspect your fireplace

Whether you have a fireplace as a primary heat source or use one to supplement the furnace on cold days, regular chimney maintenance is extremely important. A fireplace sweeping and inspection can keep your fireplace burning safely and efficiently all winter long.

During a fireplace sweeping, the chimney sweep will remove soot, ash, and flammable creosote from the flue. In addition to preventing chimney blockages and allowing the chimney to draft effectively, removing creosote is extremely important in preventing chimney fires. Because it is so flammable, creosote buildup in the flue can be accidentally ignited by stray sparks or embers from the fireplace; removing creosote through annual chimney sweepings can reduce the risk of a chimney fire occurring.

As part of the chimney inspection, the chimney sweep will assess all interior and exterior portions of the chimney. This allows them to check for signs of damage or deterioration, such as:

  • Damage to or missing chimney cap
  • Signs of animal entry
  • Tree limbs or branches overhanging the chimney
  • Cracked or crumbling chimney masonry
  • Loss of watertight seal on chimney flashing
  • Staining on or around the chimney
  • When caught early, chimney damage can be easily repaired by a skilled chimney technician.

2. Seal leaky doors and windows

Gaps around doors and windows can allow cold air to seep into your home during winter months. In addition to creating cold pockets in your home, this forces your furnace to work harder to keep your home at a consistent temperature. According to the US Department of Energy, reducing drafts can help reduce energy costs by up to 20% during winter months.

Adding new weatherstripping is an easy way homeowners to stop conditioned air from seeping out of their home. There are a variety of weatherstripping choices available, each with their own pros and cons.

  • Bronze weatherstripping. Bronze weatherstripping is extremely durable and can last for decades. However, it is pricier than other options – and can be time-consuming to install.
  • Self-stick plastic weatherstripping. Extremely easy to install, self-stick plastic weatherstripping needs to be replaced often.
  • Adhesive-backed EPDM. This type of weatherstripping is more durable than self-stick plastic but is easier to install than bronze. Most EPDM weatherstripping can last for up to 10 years.
  • Don’t forget to seal around the exterior of doors and windows with latex caulk!

3. Keep pipes from freezing

Consistent temperatures below zero can wreak havoc on plumbing systems – especially for exterior pipes. While constantly moving water and warmer interior temperatures helps protect interior plumbing, exterior pipes are prone to cracking. In addition to releasing hundreds of gallons of water in a single day, the leaks from cracked pipes can lead to serious structural damage to a home.

Begin by shutting off external pipes at the beginning of winter. Check pipes again after a few days to ensure they have fully drained and to flush any remaining water out of the system. Consider wrapping insulating tape around any exterior pipes or pipes in basements or crawlspaces to help prevent cracks. Likewise, invest in exterior faucet covers to cover and project exterior spigots.

4. Clean the dryer vents

In winter it is too cold to dry laundry on the line or on a rack; this often leads to dryers being used more. Ensure your dryer is operating safely and efficiently by having the dryer vents cleaned.

Each year, more than 15,000 house fires are caused by clogged dryer vents. When dryer vents become clogged, dryers may stop operating efficiently, take longer than 1 cycle to dry, create excessive lint, or have lint that is visible from exterior vents.

To reduce the risk of a dryer fire, vents should be cleaned once per year. This is especially important for homes or buildings with longer dryer vents; the longer the dryer vent has to stretch, the more lint can become trapped inside.

5. Prevent ice dams

In areas of the country like Minnesota, significant snowfall is a part of life during the winter. Protect your roof from damage by helping prevent ice dams from forming. Ice dams form at the edge of the roofline and prevent melting snow from draining.

Ice dams form on the roof when warm air in the upper floors or attic melts snow or ice on parts of the roof – but not the eaves. As this snow melts prematurely, it freezes again on a colder part of the roof, such as the eaves; this creates the ice dam that can back up the flow of melting water and lead to roof damage.

There are several ways that ice dams can damage the roof. First, backed up water can sit on shingles, leaking through the roof and onto insulation and drywall. Ice dams also put downspouts and gutters at risk; because they sit at the edge of the roofline, a large ice dam can pull gutters down with it if it falls.

Ice dams can be carefully removed by breaking away small chunks at a time or using tools such as a rake or shovel to remove snow from the roof after a storm. However, the best solution to ice dams is to address the underlying cause: parts of the roof where snow melts too quickly due to leaking warm air. Adding insulation, keeping all parts of the home a consistent temperature, and preventing air leaks in the attic can all help prevent ice dams from forming.

At Jack Pixley Sweeps, we are used to dealing with cold Minnesota winters! Contact us today for information on how we can prepare your fireplace and chimney for the winter.

It’s Not Too Late To Take Care Of Your Chimney

Winter is in full swing; for many homeowners, this means that the fireplace is being frequently used to bring warmth and comfort to their homes. However, there is still time to take care of your chimney!

With the holiday season at a close, it is easier for many families to find time to schedule chimney services. In addition, the team at Jack Pixley Sweeps have a variety of deal and promotions for our customers during these winter months!

$40 off any sweep with an inspectionred chimney in the snow

If they schedule their appointment for the month of February, customers can get $40 off any sweep with an inspection. If you have not yet had your chimney swept or inspected this season, this is the perfect opportunity!

Chimney sweepings are one of the most important things homeowners can do to keep their fireplaces burning safely and efficiently. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends all chimneys should be swept at least once per year. Chimney sweeping removes soot, ash, and debris from the flue; sweepings also remove any flammable creosote that has built up in the flue.

Creosote, which is a natural byproduct of combustion, is highly flammable. If accidentally ignited by stray sparks or embers, this can lead to a chimney fire. While small amounts of creosote are produced by every fire, there are a number of factors that can lead to increased creosote production. Burning green wood or wood that has not been properly seasoned or purposefully burning fires at low temperatures are two things that can cause excess creosote to accumulate in the flue.

Annual Sweepings

While an annual chimney sweeping is all that is necessary for most homes, additional chimney sweepings may be recommended for homes that burn more than one cord of wood each season. Mid-winter sweeps are recommended when 1/8th of an inch of soot has accumulated in the flue; this typically occurs after one cord of wood has been burned. Homes that use a wood-burning stove or fireplace as a primary heat source are often in the most need of a mid-season sweeping.

A chimney inspection goes hand in hand with chimney sweeping. The National Fire Protection Agency, or NFPA, states that “Chimneys, fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances. Cleaning, maintenance, and repairs shall be done if necessary.”

During a chimney inspection, the chimney sweep will check all accessible areas of the fireplace and chimney for signs of damage or deterioration. Chimney inspections are an important diagnostic tool for fireplace problems. An inspection could find small cracks in the masonry of the chimney, for example. This minor issue could be identified and repaired long before the structure of the chimney itself is damaged.

No charge for insert consultations!

Thinking about changing fuel sources? Jack Pixley Sweeps is currently offering no-cost gas and wood insert consultations! Fireplace inserts are efficient, easy to use, and an excellent alternative to open-hearth fireplaces.

For many homeowners with masonry fireplaces, inserts can be installed directly into the existing hearth. This makes it easier than ever before to switch fuel sources. While there is nothing that replaces the look and feel of a real wood-burning fire, the push-button ease of a gas burning fireplace can’t be beat! Gas fireplace inserts are more realistic than ever before. They also come in a variety of sizes and styles, and with features like adjustable thermostats that offer more control.

Don’t want to switch fuel sources but want better efficiency? There are wood burning inserts, too! According to the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association, installing an insert into an existing fireplace can help reduce energy bills by as much as 40%! This is because inserts operate using closed system combustion. Less heat is lost up the fireplace, so the insert can better heat the home. Likewise, inserts burn wood more completely than masonry fireplaces, reducing the amount of firewood needed.

No charge refacing consultations!

Tired of old, drab, or stained masonry? Want a fireplace that better fits your décor and style? Consider having your fireplace refaced!

During the month of January, we are offering our customers no charge consultations for fireplace refacing! Fireplace refacing involves switching out the existing fireplace front without making changes to the fireplace or chimney. Redoing the fireplace front can be as minor as installing a new mantle or new glass doors or can be as dramatic as totally replacing all the brick, tile, or stone for a totally new look.

Because every fireplace is unique, every fireplace front redo is unique as well! Homeowners can work with our teams of highly skilled masons to design a new fireplace front that will seamlessly blend in with the rest of the décor in their home – or stand out as a totally unique, eye-catching focal point. Our fireplace refacing ensures that your new fireplace is both functional and beautiful.

Contact us today to take advantage of our new year promotions!

We may be into the middle of winter, but there is still plenty of time to have your fireplace serviced! Take advantage of the new year promotions at Jack Pixley Sweeps and contact us today to schedule a sweeping or inspection with a discount or to set up a free insert or refacing consultation!

Make Your Mantle Merry!

Fireplaces are typically the center of the room, naturally drawing our eyes. Unfortunately, older, damaged, dirty, or out-of-date fireplaces can attract the fireplacewrong type of attention.

The weeks following the hectic holiday season are the perfect times to give the front of your fireplace a facelift. Likewise, while many outdoor masonry repairs cannot be done in the winter due to cold outdoor temperatures that prevent materials from property curing, indoor masonry work can be done year-round!

If you are ready to revamp your fireplace front, trust the experts at Jack Pixley Sweeps to help! Our staff can help you design the fireplace of your dreams that can help transform the look of your home!

Why should I remodel my fireplace front?

Fireplaces are one of the most sought after home features in real estate. In a recent survey, 40% of homebuyers said they would pay more for a house with a fireplace; buyers said they would pay as much as $1,400 more for homes with updated fireplaces.

Unfortunately, the National Association of Homebuilders found that 46% of buyers’ looks are the most important part of a fireplace. No matter how much heat your old fireplace produces or how efficient it is, buyers are still more interested in form over function when it comes to fireplaces.

If your fireplace is starting to show its age, now is the perfect time to consider redoing the fireplace front! Whether the masonry is stained, doesn’t match the style of the rest of your home, or is simply seriously out of style, the staff at Jack Pixley Sweep can help you design the fireplace front of your dreams!

Three reasons to redo your fireplace front

An outdated or out of style fireplace can attract the wrong kind of attention in a room. Investing in a new fireplace front can ensure your fireplace is a beautiful design focal point – rather than one you hide behind paint, shelves, or furniture. The following are three of the top reasons to redo your fireplace front.

1. Add value to your home
Home buyers want fireplaces in their homes – and are willing to pay for them! Redoing the front of your fireplace is a project that will provide high return on investment, adding value to your home and making it more marketable when you are ready to move.

2. Match the décor in the rest of your home
Do you prefer a sleek, minimalist look but are stuck with a rustic fireplace? Have a mid-century modern brick wall when you want French Country?

Even when a fireplace is in good condition, it can stick out like a sore thumb if it does not match the décor of the rest of the home. The team at Jack Pixley Sweeps can help you design a new fireplace face that fits in seamlessly with the style surrounding it. From brick and stone to river rock and tile, our expert masons can help you design the fireplace of your dreams.

3. Make a big – or small – change
Redoing the face of the fireplace doesn’t have to be a major construction project. Because every fireplace is unique, so is every fireplace face we design! Our staff works with homeowners to create a personalized fireplace front that meets your heating needs while reflecting the style of your home.

One easy yet effective way to change the look of a fireplace – without significant construction – is to add a new mantle. Taking this simple step can completely change the look of a fireplace, even without removing or changing the existing bricks or tile.

Fireplace doors are easy to install and extremely effective at quickly updating the look of a fireplace. In addition, this fireplace accessory can help improve the efficiency of wood-burning fireplaces by letting less outside air into the room.

Redoing the fireplace front? Consider switching fuel sources!

If you are ready to remodel the front of your fireplace, consider switching fuel sources! While there is nothing that compares to sitting in front of an open, crackling fire, modern gas and pellet inserts are efficient and easy to use. Many homeowners prefer the push-button ease of gas or the efficient heat of pellets overcutting and stacking logs or stoking wood fires.

Changing fuel sources can be easy thanks to fireplace inserts. A fireplace insert is installed into the existing hearth; this is often able to prevent the need for major demolition or construction. There are inserts that burn gas, pellets, and even wood.

Whatever your reason for remodeling, we can help!

Remodeling your fireplace front creates a beautiful design focal point in any room – while adding value to your home. In addition to fireplace front facelifts, Jack Pixley Sweeps offers a wide variety of fireplace, chimney, and masonry services; we can take care of everything fireplace and chimney related from the bottom of the firebox to the top of the flue! For more information on redoing your fireplace front or to schedule your next chimney services, contact us today

Is Your Chimney Ready For Burn Season?

Temperatures are dropping, leaves are changing and starting to fall, and many parts of the country have experienced the first snowfalls of the season. Fall is in full swing, and winter is just around the corner! With the change in the weather comes a change in how we use our heating appliances; fall and winter are known as burning seasons because of how often fireplaces, inserts, stoves, and other fuel-burning heating appliances are used.

snowy roof with chimneyThe Farmer’s Almanac has predicted that this winter will have big chills and strong storms; a fireplace can help create a warm, welcoming environment in your home no matter the weather. While chimney systems are built to burn fires year after year, they do need regular care, maintenance, and upkeep in order to operate safely and efficiently. The following tips and tricks can help ensure your fireplace and chimney are ready for the arrival of burning season.

1. Schedule a sweeping and inspection as soon as possible

Burning season may be underway, but it’s still not too late to schedule a chimney sweeping and inspection! A chimney sweeping should be done at least once per year to remove soot, ash, and flammable creosote from the flue; likewise, inspections should be done annually to check for signs of damage or deterioration to the fireplace or chimney.

A chimney sweeping by a CSIA-certified chimney sweep can help ensure your fireplace is burning efficiently, extend the life of your chimney system, and significantly reduce the risk of a chimney fire. Fall and winter are the busiest seasons for chimney sweeps; because of this, it may take several weeks before your appointment can be scheduled. Want to beat the rush next year? Plan ahead and schedule your chimney maintenance in the offseason!

Have a gas fireplace? You still need to schedule a chimney inspection! Annual inspections of gas fireplaces are important to ensure that no components have shifted, no gas leaks are occurring, and the venting system is undamaged and has no blockages.

2. Choose the right firewood

Whether you have an insert, open-hearth fireplace, stove, or even an outdoor fire pit, the best fuel for your wood-burning fire is seasoned firewood. According to the CSIA, seasoned firewood is “wood that has a moisture content between 20-25%.” This low moisture content is achieved by cutting, stacking, and exposing wood to the elements for 6-12 months.

Seasoned wood produces less smoke, burns at a higher temperature, and produces less creosote than freshly cut or “green” firewood. Burning green wood should be avoided whenever possible; in addition to being difficult to ignite because of the high moisture content in the wood, green wood burns dirtier and produces excessive smoke – and creosote. Burning large amounts of greenwood often result in a mid-season call to the chimney sweep!

While it can be tempting to burn paper, packaging materials, or leftover scrap wood in the fireplace – particularly when unwrapping presents during the holidays – only firewood should be used in indoor fireplaces. Styrofoam, stained or painted wood, or even printed paper can release dangerous chemicals when burned; this can impact the air quality in your home or cause respiratory issues for friends and family. Likewise, burning plastics can melt onto fireplace components and cause long term damage to the chimney system.

3. Maintain smoke detectors and safety equipment

In the United States, three out of five fire-related deaths were in homes without working smoke alarms. Regularly testing and replacing smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers are an important part of keeping friends and family safe when the fireplace is in use. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be on every level of a home, as well as outside sleeping areas. Test alarms every six months and replace batteries as needed; replace safety equipment every 7-10 years to ensure they meet modern safety standards and technology.

A fire extinguisher should be purchased and placed in an easily-accessible area near the fireplace. Available at almost every big box or home improvement store, a working fire extinguisher can be used to prevent an unsafe situation from turning dangerous. A log rolling out of the fireplace, a fire burning out of control, or a stray ember landing on nearby furnishings are all situations where a fire extinguisher can help prevent devastating damage to a home.

4. Keep décor away from the fireplace

The stockings may have been hung by the chimney with care – but they need to be moved before the fireplace is used! During the holidays – and year-round – our mantles can hold décor such as garland, bunting, mementos, and more. Moving any hanging mantle décor out of the way before the fireplace is used can prevent stray sparks or embers from accidentally igniting a stocking; likewise, all carpets and other furnishings should be at least three feet away from the fireplace when in use.

Contact Jack Pixley Sweeps for your chimney needs this burning season

Following a few simple tips can keep your home safe and stress-free this burning season. Since 1977 staff has been providing the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area with quality, trustworthy fireplace and chimney services. For more information on fireplace safety or to schedule your next chimney sweeping or inspection, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!