With fall in full swing, days getting shorter, and temperatures dropping, many homeowners are scrambling to have their chimney’s swept before winter arrives. However, it can be difficult to tell the good from the bad when it comes to chimney sweeps. Instead of price shopping or hiring the first person that comes to your door, make sure to trust your chimney system to a certified professional this year.
Are all chimney sweeps certified?
The mark of a CSIA certified chimney technician
The fireplace industry was unregulated for many years; this allowed anyone with a few brushes to call themselves a chimney sweep. Unfortunately, many of these “professionals” were untrained, seasonal workers who did nothing more than move soot and ash around and leave behind dirty fireboxes and floors.
For more than 30 years, the Chimney Safety Institute of America, or CSIA, has worked to regulate the fireplace industry by certifying chimney sweeps. Their education and training to industry professionals helps to prevent chimney fires and increase public awareness of safety issues surrounding fireplaces and chimneys.
Why hire a CSIA certified chimney sweep
The CSIA certification is the gold standard of education and training in the fireplace industry. CSIA certified sweeps have undergone years of rigorous education and testing on subjects including:
– Safety practices
– Fireplace and chimney building dynamics
– Local and national fire and building codes
– Maintenance and installation of gas heating appliances
– Current EPA emissions standards
In order to maintain their CSIA certifications, sweeps must complete continuing education courses and retest every three years. This ensures that CSIA certified sweeps are always up to date on the latest advancements in the fireplace industry.
Finding the right chimney sweep
While homeowners should do their research before hiring a chimney sweep, price shopping will find you savings – but rarely the best chimney services. Instead, look for a company with CSIA certified chimney sweeps, several years of experience, and a good professional reputation. The following are some examples of questions to ask before hiring a chimney sweep.
– How long have you been in business in this area?
– Do you have references available from current customers?
– Does the company or individual chimney sweep carry liability insurance?
– What is your rating with the Better Business Bureau? Are there any complaints filed against you currently?
– Will the chimney sweep who works at my home be CSIA certified?
Working with a professional chimney sweep makes a difference!
Chimney sweeps have come a long way since the days of Bert and the singing sweeps from Mary Poppins! Modern chimney sweeps are educated, certified, and trained professionals who can do much more than simply clean your flue.
Jack Pixley Sweeps are proud that all of our sweeps are CSIA certified; this gives our customers confidence knowing they are working with knowledgeable, reliable professionals. For more information on the importance of working with a certified chimney sweep or to schedule your next appointment, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!
Fall is here, and winter is right around the corner! As you prepare your fireplace for the burning season ahead, it is important to ensure you have the best firewood for your heating appliance. Many homeowners are surprised to learn that the firewood they use affect the safety and efficiency of their fireplaces. You have to purchase the right kind of firewood and store it correctly, these factors will improve your burning experience.
Types of firewood
Firewood are divided into two main categories: hard woods and soft woods. Hard woods are dense, heavy. They come from trees who’s leaves change color each season. Ash, birch, maple, and oak are a few of the most popular hard woods. Hard woods make excellent firewood because they create fires that burns hotter while creating less smoke.
Soft woods come from evergreen trees with needles such as firs and pines. They tend to ignite quickly. This makes them ideal for kindling. However, they are known for creating large amounts of fragrant smoke, even when seasoned. This makes them ideal for outdoor firepits or when smoking meats.
Choosing the right firewood
The kind of firewood you choose often comes down to personal preference. No matter what kind of firewood you choose, it is important that the wood has been properly seasoned. Seasoned wood is wood that has been cut, stacked, and stored for at least six months to reduce the moisture content in it.
Seasoned firewood has significantly less moisture in it then freshly cut wood. Lowering the moisture content allows the firewood to ignite faster, burn hotter, and produce less smoke. Jack Pixley Chimney Sweeps and Masonry sells moisture meters. This tool shows the moisture content in seasoned firewood. Wood should have less than 20% moisture content to be burned indoors.
Drying wood in four easy steps
The EPA suggests four easy steps to correctly and easily dry your firewood.
- You must split the wood. Start by splitting large logs into uniform pieces. Having smaller logs in even sizes helps the wood dry faster.
- You need to stack them. Stack wood split side down on a dedicated firewood rack. Keep wood off the ground and away from buildings, this allows air to circulate through the wood pile and dry faster without rotting.
- You need to cover them. While the sides of the stack should remain open, cover the top of the firewood stack. This keeps moisture from rain and snow from seeping down to the stack.
- Then you need to store them properly. You need to give wood enough time to dry. Soft woods take around 6 months to dry when cut and stacked. Hard woods take upwards of 12 months before they are completely seasoned.
The kind of firewood you pick for your fireplace can really impact the efficiency and performance of your fire. This winter, make sure to burn wood that has been seasoned. For more information about seasoning firewood or purchasing a Moisture Meter, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!
Gas fireplaces and heating appliances have steadily increased in popularity in the last several years. Homeowners are drawn to the low cost to operate, the ease of getting heat at the push of a button, and the draw of significantly less maintenance. While there are a number of benefits to switching to gas, it is important to remember that gas heating appliances still need regular maintenance.
Maintaining your gas fireplace or insert
Many homeowners have the misconception that gas heating appliances do not require maintenance. While they may not produce soot and ash the same way as their wood burning counterparts, it is still important to have them regularly maintained!
It is extremely important to hire a technician who is certified to clean and inspect gas fireplaces and inserts. Many of the components of gas fireplaces are delicate and must be handled with care; even a tiny shift to a gas line can create a gas leak or fireplace performance problems! Likewise, gas heating appliances have their own unique maintenance needs that differs from their wood burning counterparts. At Jack Pixley Sweeps, we are proud to be one of the few companies that has a NFI Certified Technician on staff for gas heating appliance maintenance.
Ask us about your gas fireplace!
At Jack Pixley Sweeps, we are dedicated to helping our customers get the most out of their gas fireplaces and inserts! After installing a new gas heating appliance, we are happy to answer any questions you may have; this helps you have the peace of mind to fully use and enjoy your new gas fireplace or insert! Some of the most frequently asked questions include:
- How do I adjust flame height?
- How do I adjust the heat output?
- How do I control the blower?
- How do I clean the fireplace and vent?
Other gas fireplace issues our technicians can help with include:
- Navigating issues with the pilot light
- Programming the fireplace to automatically turn off when a room reaches a certain temperature
- What kinds of fuels can be burned in the fireplace
- Whether or not it is normal to have blue flames
- What is normal regarding the temperature of the fireplace’s glass doors
- Cooking food using gas heating appliances
At home maintenance for gas fireplaces
In addition to regular maintenance by a certified professional, there are a number of things homeowners can do to keep their gas fireplaces and inserts burning safely and efficiently.
- Exterior fireplace components: Exterior glass doors or metal components can be cleaned using regular household cleaners and clean, dry cloths. Make sure to only clean the fireplace when it is completely cooled after use.
- Interior fireplace components: Interior fireplace components should be cleaned one to two times per year. Using a soft, clean brush or a soft bristled, clean paint brush, gently remove dust and soot from gas lines or ceramic logs. Use extreme caution when cleaning interior components to avoid shifting gas lines, which can create leaks or reduce fireplace performance.
Regular maintenance of your gas fireplace can ensure it burns safely and efficiently for years to come. For more information on maintaining your gas heating appliances or to schedule an appointment with our NFI Certified Technicians, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!
There are a number of ways to spot that your fireplace system needs to be repaired; crumbling exterior masonry, leaks, unpleasant odors, or fires that don’t burn correctly are just a few signs that it may be time to call a chimney sweep. However, there is one part of the fireplace that is often ignored, but may need to be repaired – the firebox.
The firebox of your fireplace is built to withstand extremely high temperatures, direct heat from flames, the accumulation of soot and ash, and exposure to smoke and other byproducts of combustion. While extremely sturdy and durable, there are a number of things that can cause damage to the firebox. Because the firebox plays an important role in protecting the surrounding building materials from heat transfer, repairing firebox damage is extremely important.
Causes of firebox damage
Fireboxes are built using special, refractory masonry; this makes them capable of withstanding high temperatures, direct exposure to flames, and other wear and tear from firewood and fireplace use. While designed to safely contain fires for years, there are a number of ways that fireboxes can be damaged. The following are three of the most common cause of firebox damage.
- Settling. All homes – and therefore all chimney systems – are prone to settling. As time passes, the soil surrounding the home can shift and compress; this causes the home to move, or settle, and can lead to cracks in the foundation, walls, chimney, and firebox. Because settling can occur for decades after a home has been built, cracks in the firebox may appear seemingly overnight and progressively get worse over time. Firebox damage caused by settling is often due to footings that cannot bear the full weight of the chimney system.
- Improper building materials. Because the firebox is exposed to direct heat and flame, it is important that special, refractory bricks and masonry is used. If improper building materials were used during firebox construction, the firebox may deteriorate prematurely; surrounding floors, walls, or building materials may experience heat transfer is the firebox was not correctly built. This type of damage can also be seen if a firebox was built by a contractor instead of a trained mason.
- Exposure to moisture. While fireboxes are meant to withstand high heats, they can be severely damaged by exposure to moisture. Water damage is primarily caused by a leak somewhere in the chimney system, but can also occur if water is used to prematurely extinguish fires.
Rebuilding damaged fireboxes
Damaged fireboxes can make it unsafe to use your fireplace; because of this, it is important to have it professionally repaired as soon as possible. Refractory panels with minor damaged may be able to be replaced without rebuilding the entire firebox. In addition to better containing and reflecting heat from the fireplace, replacing refractory panels can help make an aging firebox structurally sound. The masonry joints in the firebox can be repaired through a process called tuckpointing. Tuckpointing involves carefully removing the damaged mortar before applying new mortar to the joints.
Don’t let a damaged firebox prevent you from enjoying your fireplace this winter. Contact the fireplace experts at Jack Pixley Sweeps today for more information on rebuilding your damaged firebox!
The chimney and fireplace industry is still widely unregulated, especially when compared to other professional groups. Because of this, almost anyone with a truck and brushes can call themselves a chimney sweep. One of the most effective ways to tell professional chimney sweeps is their membership in professional organizations and guilds. At Jack Pixley Sweeps, we are proud to have certified sweeps. We are also proud of our memberships in a variety of professional groups including the National Chimney Sweep Guild (NCSG).
What is the NCSG?
The National Chimney Sweep Guild is a professional guild for chimney sweeps dedicated to improving fireplace safety, educating consumers, and encouraging professionalism among chimney sweeps. Founded in 1977, NCSG is dedicated to its mission of “inspiring innovation, professionalism and community among chimney sweeps and venting professionals through advocacy, industry leading conferences and journalism, covering people, tools, health, standards, and education for a successful business and the safety of the American people.”
What does the NCSG do?
The NCSG aims to increase professional standards for chimney sweeps throughout the country. Through education, members can take part in up-to-date training to keep informed on safety standards in the fireplace industry. The NCSG also holds an annual conference that allows chimney professionals to network, connect, and learn from respected industry professionals. They even go beyond the surface by providing its members with a Code of Ethics to guide their business.
The most important parts of NCSG membership is the Code of Ethics. It is designed to hold chimney sweeps to a higher standard of performance and professional behavior. Homeowners can put their full trust in members of the NCSG. Our members are trustworthy and trained professionals, who really care about fireplace and chimney with the utmost professionalism and care.
Choose a professional chimney sweep!
At Jack Pixley Sweeps, we are proud to be professional, full-time chimney sweeps. In addition to our membership in the National Chimney Sweep Guild, our sweeps are members of other professional organizations including the Builders Association of Minnesota, the Brick Industry Association, and our sweeps are all Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) certified.
Since 1977, we have been providing our friends in the greater Minneapolis area with comprehensive chimney and fireplace care. With more than 100,000 satisfied customers, we are ready to handle everything from annual sweepings to major fireplace rebuilds! Trust the professionals at Jack Pixley Sweeps to care for your heating appliance. Contact us today for more information on how we strive to be “The name you can trust!”