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Install A Chimney Cap To Keep Animals Out

The arrival of spring brings warmer temperatures, plenty of green plant growth, and the birth of adorable baby animals. Unfortunately, many animals think chimneys are the perfect nesting spot to protect their new babies from predators and the elements.

While the presence of animals in the chimney may seem like a minor inconvenience – especially if you are not using your fireplace – it can lead to significant chimney damage or expose your family to disease. However, animal entry can be avoided with the use of a chimney cap.Chimney Caps Keep Animals Out Image - Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley Sweeps

How animals get in

The primary way that animals get into the flue is through a damaged – or missing – chimney cap. Sitting at the top of the chimney, the chimney cap covers and protects the flue from the elements. The metal top and mesh or wire sides allow smoke and gas to safety vent from the fireplace while preventing water, debris, and animals from getting in.

Even minor damage to the chimney cap can create enough space for animals to gain entry to the chimney; small holes in the mesh sides, dents in the metal, or missing screws can all create opportunities for animal entry. While birds and small mammals may only need a few inches to squeeze through, raccoons have been known to claw and bite at weak areas in order to create large enough openings for them to fit through.

How animals damage your chimney

While a chimney might seem like the ideal nesting spot for an animal, the presence of wildlife in the flue can cause significant problems for your chimney system. The following are just a few of the ways animals cause damage to your chimney.

– Chimney cap: Animal entry can worsen damage to a chimney cap. In addition to leaving space for more animals to enter in the future, this can also allow water and debris into the flue year-round.
– Flue liner: Beaks, talons, and claws can all scratch or chip the flue liner as animals attempt to navigate the cramped, dark flue. Likewise, nesting materials may have a corrosive effect on the liner, sometimes requiring chimney relining.
– Debris: Animal houseguests in the chimney do not come empty-handed; nesting materials, food, and droppings can accumulate in the flue. In addition to increasing the risk of chimney fire, this can also exposure your family to bacteria, bugs, and other diseases.

How to keep animals out

The most effective way to keep animals out of your chimney is through the use of a chimney cap. Good chimney caps are made of quality materials, correctly sized and fitted to your chimney, and have been professionally installed. In addition to preventing animal entry, chimney caps can also keep moisture and debris out of the flue; this protects your chimney system year round and helps prevent damage and deterioration.

Don’t let animal entry affect your chimney system this spring. Instead, have a new chimney cap installed to prevent birds, raccoons, and other animals from gaining entry to your home. For more information on the dangers of animals in the flue or to have a new chimney cap installed on your fireplace system, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today.

Why Creosote Must Be Removed From Your Venting System

Whether your fireplace burns wood, gas, oil, or another fuel source, it is important to have it swept at least once per year as part of a regular maintenance plan. However, many homeowners – particularly those with gas fireplaces or who infrequently use their fireplace – wonder if an annual sweeping is absolutely necessary.Why Creosote Must Be Removed Image - Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley Sweeps

The primary purpose of an annual chimney sweeping is to remove soot, ash, and creosote buildup from the flue and venting system. This is an extremely important part of ensuring your fireplace burns safely and efficiently; without regular sweepings, buildup in the flue can cause damage to the venting system, chimney fires, and more.

What is creosote?

Creosote is a highly flammable, naturally occurring byproduct of combustion; while it is created in all fuel-burning fires in small amounts, wood burning fires produce the largest amounts of creosote. Creosote accumulates in the venting system over time, sticking to the walls and crevices of the flue. The longer it remains in the flue, the harder it is to remove.

The Importance of Removing Creosote

Creosote is more than just a hard-to-remove chimney nuisance; the presence of creosote in the flue creates serious safety hazards. There are three primary reasons why creosote should be removed.

  1. Chimney fires
    The primary cause of chimney fires is accidental ignition of creosote; creosote is responsible for more than 25,000 chimney fires in the United States each year. These kinds of chimney fires are caused when flames or high temperatures from a fire cause creosote buildup in the flue to ignite. Some signs of a chimney fire include:- Loud roaring or popping noises
    –  Visible flames from the top of the chimney
    –  Smoke or smoky odors in adjoining rooms or attics
    –  Glowing, red-hot connector
    –  Vibrating stove or connector
    –  Visible flames through cracks in the connector
    If you believe you have had a chimney fire, it is extremely important to contact a certified chimney sweep for an inspection before using the fireplace or stove again.
  2. Chimney corrosion
    In addition to being highly flammable, creosote is also acidic. Because of this, it can corrode chimney materials, including mortar, steel, clay tiles, and mortar connectors.
    Stage three creosote, also known as glazed creosote, has a hard, glassy finish that makes it extremely difficult to remove. It is important to have an experienced chimney sweep remove this level of creosote; because creosote is corrosive, there are often cracked flue tiles or missing mortar joints left behind when glazed creosote is removed.
  3. Creosote expansion
    When allowed to accumulate in significant amounts, creosote can expand when exposed to heat. In addition to leading to chimney fires, this can narrow the diameter of the flue, lowering draft, causing smoking problems, or even blocking the flue entirely.

Contact Us Today

Don’t let creosote accumulation in your flue lead to a dangerous chimney fire. Instead, contact the experts at Jack Pixley Sweeps to safely sweep your flue and remove any creosote deposits.

Preparing to Sell Your Home

Preparing to put your home on the market can be a stressful time. You must deep clean, fill out paper work, and work with a real estate agent or broker. However, it can be easy to look over one important selling feature in your home – your fireplace.

Fireplaces are one of the most sought after features in real estate and can add value to your home. The National Center for Real Estate Research found that “fireplaces have a strong, positive effect on selling price with each fireplace adding about 12 percent.”

However, potential buyers want to see that a fireplace is in good condition, ready to burn safely, and operate efficiently. To give potential buyers peace of mind and show off the condition of your home’s fireplace, invest in a Level 2 chimney inspection before putting your home on the market.

Chimney Inspections for Sellers – and Buyers

Preparing to Sell Your Home - Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley SweepsHome inspections are used to ascertain the value and condition of your home. However, many inspectors lack the expertise to effectively evaluate a fireplace system. Therefore, an outside chimney report can help protect both buyers and sellers.

Sellers can have the report from a Level 2 chimney inspection included in their documentation. This gives potential buyers information concerning the fireplace condition not covered during a standard home inspection. Likewise, buyers can also request an outside chimney inspection once under contact. This ensures there is no bias in the information provided about the fireplace system.

About Level 2 Chimney Inspections

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) created three standardized levels of chimney inspections. Level 1 chimney inspections are standard for regular annual maintenance, while Level 3 chimney inspections are used in case of serious damage or natural disaster.

Level 2 chimney inspections are used when buying or selling a home. This level of chimney inspection includes a comprehensive look at the condition of the entire chimney system – without being overly invasive or damaging the fireplace in any way.

During a Level 2 chimney inspection, the certified chimney technician will visually inspect all interior and exterior portions of the fireplace and chimney for signs of damage or deterioration. Inspections note anything affecting fireplace functionality or safety while recommending appropriate repairs.

Level 2 inspections also include the use of technology such as closed circuit cameras. This allows chimney technicians to view otherwise inaccessible portions of the flue, report on its condition, and identify otherwise hidden damage that could affect fireplace safety.

Buying or selling a home is stressful enough; don’t let the condition of your chimney add more fuel to the fire. Have a Level 2 chimney inspection to insure there are no hidden hazards or underlying damage in your fireplace system. If you are in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, trust the experts at Jack Pixley Sweeps to perform a comprehensive inspection on your chimney. Contact us today  to schedule an inspection before selling your home.

What Is It Like To Have A Chimney Fire?

During the fall and winter, we rely on our fireplaces to keep our families warm and to add comfort to our homes. Unfortunately, this high use time is also the most common time for chimney fires to occur. Chimney fires can wreak havoc on your chimney, damage your fireplace system, and can quickly spread to the rest of your home if not contained. Thankfully, there are several ways that homeowners can reduce their risk of accidental chimney fire.

What Happens During a Chimney Fire

What is it Like to Have a Chimney Fire - Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley SweepsChimney fires are caused by accidental creosote ignition; stray sparks or embers from an active fire can travel up the flue and ignite the highly flammable creosote. This is most common in homes where the chimney has not been swept for several years and creosote has accumulated in the flue.

Because creosote is so flammable, it will quickly spread throughout the flue. The fire creates a strong draft with a sound often equated to a freight train; loud cracking or popping from the mortar or cement may also be heard. Outside, flames shoot out from the chimney.

While a chimney fire is extremely serious, it is important to stay calm and act quickly. Begin by calling the fire department. Next, attempt to extinguish the fire in the fireplace either with a fire extinguisher or by throwing salt on the flames; this will not put out the fire in the chimney but can help control the high temperatures and lessen the strong drafts. After the chimney fire, it is important to call a certified chimney sweep to evaluate the condition of the chimney before attempting to use the fireplace again.

Preventing Chimney Fire

The best way to prevent future chimney fires is through regular annual chimney sweeping and inspections. Annual chimney sweepings protect your flue against excessive creosote buildup; accidental ignition of this flammable substance is the leading cause of chimney fire.

Because creosote is a naturally occurring byproduct of combustion, it is impossible to prevent it from forming entirely. However, there are several ways that homeowners can prevent excessive creosote buildup.

– Only use seasoned firewood. Seasoned firewood is wood that has been chopped, cut into logs, stacked, and allowed to dry in the elements. This seasoning process removes the majority of the moisture from the wood; wood with high moisture content such as green or freshly cut wood will produce more creosote than seasoned wood.
– Do not burn at low temperatures. Low burning fires smolder for long periods of time, and their low temperaturesr create more creosote. Letting the fires burn naturally hot and allowing them to quickly extinguish can minimize creosote creation.

A chimney fire can be a scary experience; however, it should not stop you from using your fireplace again. If you think you have had a chimney fire, contact the experts at Jack Pixley Sweeps today. Our highly trained staff can evaluate the damage caused by a chimney fire and make recommendations to repair any damage the fire may have caused.

How To Light A Fireplace Fire

While there are few truly wrong ways to light a fire, there are a number of fire starting techniques that can make lighting a fireplace fire easier and more efficient. Follow these five easy steps to help learn how to light your best ever fires in your fireplace this winter.

Step OneHow To Light A Fireplace Fire Image - Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley Sweeps

Have your fireplace swept and inspected each year. Whether you use your fireplace every day or only a few times per year, every chimney needs to be swept and inspected annually. This prevents buildup and blockages in the flue, as well as helps spot damage or deterioration before it causes major fireplace performance problems.

Step 2

Use the right firewood. The kind of firewood you use in your fires can have a major impact on fireplace performance. Firewood should be cut, stacked, and seasoned for at least a year to remove moisture content from the wood, helping it burn hotter and produce less smoke and creosote. Hardwoods such as ash, beech, cedar, maple, and oak burn hotter, more efficiently, and with less smoke; softwoods such as firs, pines, and spruces should be avoided in indoor fires. Likewise, woods from fruit trees such as cherry, apple, or plum are known for their pleasant aroma and can be used to create a pleasant smelling fire.

Step 3

Warm the flue. Before lighting even the kindling, make sure the damper is completely open. Opening the damper prevents smoke and gas from blowing back into your home. After opening the damper, there may be a rush of cold air for a few moments; if this downward draft of cold air continues for more than a few minutes, try warming the flue. Light rolled up newspaper and hold it directly below the damper. Doing this creates enough warm air to stop downdrafts without creating large amounts of smoke that can be blown back into your home.

Step 4

Start with kindling before adding wood. At the bottom of the grate, place rolled up lint, newspaper, or other fire starting aids between two large pieces of kindling wood. Create a second row of kindling lengthwise over the first stacked at a 90 degree angle; continue this until you have 3-4 rows of alternately-stacked kindling. Light the kindling from the newspaper at the bottom.

Step 5

Add logs after the kindling has ignited. Once the kindling is well-lit, begin adding firewood logs. Begin by placing 2 smaller, split logs onto the kindling; after 10 minutes, continue adding additional logs. Most smaller logs take between 5-15 minutes to burn; larger logs can burn for longer amounts of time, but also take longer to ignite. Try to add your next logs while the fire is still actively burning as adding wood on top of glowing charcoals or embers can be extremely difficult to ignite.

Contact Jack Pixley Sweeps

Following these steps to light your next fireplace fire can help ensure you have a fire that burns safer, more efficiently, longer, and with less smoke. For more information on the best way to start a fire in your fireplace, contact the chimney experts at Jack Pixley Sweeps today!

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