Review Our Business
Schedule an appointment TODAY! 763-422-0481

Jack Pixley Sweeps' Blog

Garden Time! Recycle Your Ashes!

Homeowners with wood-burning heating appliances are often unsure of what to do with their excess ashes after a long burning season. In fact, burning a cord of wood can produce as much as 50 pounds of ash! Instead of throwing ashes away, consider recycling them in your garden!

While many homeowners consider ashes a necessary nuisance, they have a number of surprising alternative uses. In the spring and summer, this mineral rich substance can be used to keep your garden lush, green, and beautiful. The following are just a few of the ways that you can recycle your ashes.

Recycling AshesGarden Time Ashes Image - Minneapolis, MN - Jack Pixley Sweeps

  1. Block snails and slugs. Instead of using insecticides to keep pests away, reach for your fireplace ashes! Sprinkling ashes around the edge of a flower bed or garden plot keep pests such as slugs and snails away by creating a natural barrier. Refresh the ash barrier several times throughout the season.
  2. Add alkalinity to the soil. Because they are naturally alkaline, adding ashes to soil can change the pH. Mixing in a few ashes with potting or gardening soil can create a more alkaline environment, ideal for many flowering and ornamental plants.
  3. Reduce pond algae. If you have a water feature such as a fountain or pond, fighting against algae can be difficult. Ashes can be used as a natural alternative to harsh chemicals to keep pond algae away, making them ideal for homes with pets or small children who may come in contact with the water. Only a small amount is needed; adding as little as one tablespoon per 1,000 gallons of water adds enough potassium to control algae growth.

Storing Ashes

No matter how you plan on using your ashes, it is important that they are stored correctly. First, a special metal ash container with a handle that does not sit directly on the ground should be used. This is important because “Wood ashes retain enough heat to ignite other combustible materials for several days”. Ash containers should be placed away from other combustible materials to prevent accidental fires. If you have more ashes than you could ever use in alternate ways, check with your local sanitation company on the guidelines for safely disposing of ashes.

It is important to note that ashes from treated wood and other commercial wood products should not be used in gardening or other alternative uses; this is due to the chemical compounds in the wood that can remain even after burning. If you use commercial wood products such as fire starting logs, keep those ashes separate from those where only wood was burned. Likewise, check with the individual manufacturer to see if the ashes are safe for use in the garden.

There are a number of alternates – and surprising – uses for your remaining wood ashes. Help naturally improve your garden by recycling your ashes outside this summer! For more information on alternate ways to use your wood ashes, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today.

What Is A Cord Of Firewood?

While it’s warm and sunny now, cooler weather will be here before we know it. Summer is the perfect time to start thinking about firewood for the fall.

What Is A Cord Of Firewood img - Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley SweepsHow much wood you purchase can depend on a number of factors, such as how often you use your fireplace, the number of wood burning appliances in your home, the availability of firewood in your area, if the fireplace is a primary heat source, and more. Many homeowners, however, are surprised to learn how they can benefit from buying a cord of wood.

What is a cord of firewood?

When sold in large quantities, wood is typically sold by the cord. However, many people are unfamiliar with how large – or small – a cord of wood is. Unfortunately, many wood dealers capitalize on this confusion by cutting corners and underselling on cords of wood. The following measurements of the different cords of wood can help buyers ensure they are getting the correct amount of wood in their cord.

  • Standard cord: Also known as a full or bush cord. 4’H X 8’L X 4’ Deep, 128 cubic feet
  • Face cord: Also known as a rick or short cord. 4’H X 8’L X 1’-2’ Deep
  • Long cord: 4’H X 8’L with a depth greater than 4’
  • Unit: 1/24th of a standard cord; can fit in the trunk of most cars. 2’H X 2’L X 16” Deep

When buying wood, especially in quantities of a cord or larger, it is important to ensure you are getting wood that has been seasoned. Seasoned wood has been cut, stacked, and stored for at least six months or longer to reduce the moisture content in the wood.

Additional tips for buying firewood

The following tips can help ensure you are getting the best possible firewood.

  1. Find a reputable dealer. There are a number of places to find firewood; hardware stores, fireplace dealers, tree trimmers, and independent sellers are just a number of places to find firewood. A reputable seller should be able to answer questions about the wood, such as when it was cut, what type of trees it came from, and how long it has been seasoned.
  2. Pick the right wood. While the type of wood you use often comes down to personal preference, not all woods were created equally. Hard woods such as ash, maple, and oak burn at hotter temperatures and with less smoke, making them ideal for indoor fires.
  3. Store your firewood correctly. After spending – and money!- finding the right firewood, don’t ruin your investment by storing it incorrectly. Wood should be stored off the ground in a neat stack; while the top should be covered to prevent moisture from seeping into the wood pile, leave the sides open for ventilation.

Finding and buying the right amount of firewood can ensure you and your family enjoy cost effective fires all season long. For more information on firewood cords, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today.

What Is A Chimney Crown?

A chimney is not simply one solid piece of masonry. Instead, it is a complex structure with a number of important components that work together to help the fireplace burn safely and efficiently.

What Is A Chimney Crown Image - Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley SweepsWhile many of us are familiar with interior fireplace components such as the damper or firebox, few are as familiar with the components that protect the top of the chimney. One of the most important, yet often forgotten, chimney components is the chimney crown.

What is a chimney crown?

The chimney crown is a slab of stone or masonry that sits on the top of the chimney, covering the top of the chimney and sealing the space around the flue. This helps protect against water entry while also protecting the masonry of the chimney structure.

Chimney crowns often suffer the worst exposure to the elements out of any chimney component. Because of this, it is important that the crown is built using quality materials and good building practices. Doing this will help extend the life of the chimney crown and protect the fireplace system.

While they may look flat from the street, chimney crowns are actually built with a slight slope. This prevents water from pooling on top of the chimney crown and encourages correct drainage. Likewise, chimney crowns also have an overhang known as a kerf. Extending several inches over the edge of the chimney, the kerf directs water onto the roof instead of directly onto the masonry of the chimney.

Chimney crown damage and repair.

Damage to the chimney crown can be difficult to immediately recognize, especially if you do not regularly climb onto the roof. Because of this, chimney crown damage is typically discovered during chimney sweepings or inspections rather than because of performance problems.

Chimney crown damage typically occurs due to a combination of overexposure to the elements and poor construction. Their location and purpose mean the chimney crown is exposed to more water than most other chimney elements; this makes it more prone to leaks and cracking. Likewise, poor construction or using improper building materials can also cause the chimney crown to prematurely deteriorate.

If damage to the chimney crown is discovered, it is important to have it repaired as soon as possible. The type of repairs needed while depend on the cause and severity of the damage; small, hairline cracks may be simple masonry repairs, whereas extensive damage could require a full chimney crown rebuild.

In addition to chimney crown repairs, a waterproof sealant may be recommended. Applying CrownCoat, flexible waterproof sealant, can protect your chimney crown against further water entry or water damage.

The chimney crown plays an important role in protecting your chimney system. Because of this, it is important to have it inspected regularly for signs of damage or deterioration. To schedule your next chimney inspection or for more information about protecting your chimney crown with CrownCoat, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!

When To Address Chimney Repairs

Spring has finally arrived; with increasingly warm temperatures outside, most homeowners have already stopped using their fireplaces for the season. However, it is important not to neglect your fireplace until the first cold snap of fall. Instead, have chimney repairs addressed now to ensure your fireplace will be ready to use next season.

What causes chimney damage?

The bricks and mortar used in chimney construction are one of the strongest and most durable building materials in the world. This makes them uniquely suited for use in chimney construction; in addition to exposure to the elements, chimneys must be able to withstand the heat and byproducts of combustion created while the fireplace is in use.

Despite their durability, there are a number of ways fireplaces can become damaged. When To Address Chimney Repairs Image - Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley Sweeps

Common Causes of Chimney Damage

  1. Water
    Water can be an extremely damaging force to your chimney system. Exterior masonry can crack, spall, or crumble due to long term water damage, especially when compounded with freezing temperatures in the freeze thaw cycle. Likewise, delicate interior fireplace components such as the damper or refractory bricks of the firebox are easily damaged by even small chimney leaks and water entry.
  2. Settling
    All homes settle over time; if a fireplace system is not built on a strong foundation, this settling can cause structural damage. Cracks within the firebox, large cracks in the chimney structure, or even tilting chimneys can all be caused by settling.
  3. Other causes
    There is no one cause of chimney damage. Chimney damage can even be caused by reroofing, painting the masonry, climbing plants, or even power washing the bricks and mortar. A chimney inspection by a certified chimney sweep is often the best way to discover chimney damage.

When should I have my chimney repaired?

If your chimney has been damaged in any way, it is important to address potential repairs as soon as possible. Delaying or putting off repairs can cause chimney damage to worsen, even to the point of affecting the safety and structural stability of the chimney.

Because it is an off season for fireplace use, spring is an excellent time to have chimney repairs completed. The following are three reasons to address your chimney repairs now.

  1. Fireplace use is not affected. Warm outside temperatures in the spring mean the fireplace is rarely used. Having repairs done during the spring and summer keep you from missing out on using your fireplace when you most need it.
  2. Shorter wait time. Fall is the busiest season for chimney sweeps as homeowners scramble to get their fireplaces repaired and ready to use. By having your chimney repairs addressed now you are more likely to avoid a long wait before your appointment – as well as be able to schedule an appointment time that is convenient for your schedule.
  3. Fewer delays. Some chimney repairs cannot be done when the weather is too cold; by having repairs done during the spring you can help avoid weather related delays.

If your chimney needs repairs, don’t delay; contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today to have your chimney repairs addressed as soon as possible this spring.

Dangers Of A Leaky Chimney

While water in the fireplace can be easily cleaned up, it should never be ignored. Chimney leaks, even minor ones, can cause serious damage throughout your fireplace system.

Signs of a Chimney Leak

While chimney leaks are often discovered by the presence of water in the firebox, there are a number of other signs that water entry may be affecting your chimney. The following are just a few of the signs of a chimney leak.Dangers of a Leaky Chimney Image - Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley Sweeps

  • Moisture, dampness, or water in the firebox
  • Rust on the damper
  • Masonry spalling
  • Sounds of dripping inside the chimney

What Causes a Chimney Leak?

Because chimneys are complex structures there are a number of ways that water can get into the chimney system. The following are three of the most common areas where water can enter your chimney.

  • Chimney cap. A chimney cap is a metal top with mesh sides that protects the top of the flue from animal, debris, and water entry. A damaged, sized or incorrectly installed chimney cap allows water into the unprotected chimney.
  • Chimney crown. Made of stone or cement, the chimney crown is a slab that covers and seals the top of the chimney. Because of their location, chimney crowns are prone to overexposure to the elements; chips and cracks from repeated exposure can create chimney leaks.
  • Chimney flashing. Flashing is when metal strips and other waterproofing materials are layered on the joint between the roofline and the chimney. This watertight seal can be damaged by weather, overexposure, improper installation, or even roof repairs. Leaky flashing can damage not just the chimney, but also nearby walls, ceilings, and building materials.

Repairing a Leaky Chimney

Before repairing a leaky chimney, the source of the water entry must be identified. Identifying and repairing the source of a leak before repairing the damage ensures that the leak will not return in the future. A chimney inspection is often the best way to identify the source of a leak as well as evaluate the damage a leak has caused.

Once the source of the leak has been identified, the damaged caused by the leak can be repaired; repairing a leaky chimney as soon as possible prevents serious masonry or structural damage from occurring. There are a few of the ways your chimney can be repaired after a chimney leak. One option is to replace damaged bricks and mortar through tuckpointing. Another option is to install a new chimney cap.

Preventing Future Chimney Leaks

One way to protect your chimney against future leaks is by having the masonry waterproofed. In the waterproofing process, a water repellent specifically designed for masonry is applied to the bricks and mortar of your chimney. Our SaverSystems products help prevent leaks by repelling water from the masonry and can used to stop additional water damage from occurring.

A leaky chimney is more than just a minor inconvenience. You should repair leaks as soon as possible to prevent dangerous chimney damage from occurring. For more information on preventing or repairing chimney leaks, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today.

Recent Posts

Find Posts About