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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!

Common Problems Found During Chimney Inspections

During the cold months of winter, homeowners rely on their fireplaces to work day in and day out in order to provide warmth and comfort in their homes. However, few us of truly understand the inner workings of our chimney and fireplace systems; because of this, small damage or performance problems may go unnoticed for months – or years – at a time.

Because few of us spend much time on our roofs or looking up the flue, chimney damage often goes unnoticed until a chimney inspection. A chimney inspection done by a certified chimney professional can assess the state of your fireplace system, identify areas of damage or deterioration, and allow recommendation for repairs to be made. Common Chimney Problems - Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley Sweeps

Levels of chimney inspection

The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA)] and the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) created three standard levels of chimney inspections; the type of chimney inspection your home needs will depend on its condition, time since last maintenance, or performance problems it may be experiencing.

  • Level 1: Level 1 chimney inspections are standard and all that is needed for most homes. During a Level 1 inspection, the chimney sweep will check the accessible interior and exterior portions of the fireplace and chimney for signs of damage or deterioration.
  • Level 2: Level 2 chimney inspections are more in-depth, typically involving the use of technology such as closed-circuit cameras. Level 2 inspections are often recommended in real estate transactions or when the fuel source of a fireplace has been changed.
  • Level 3: Level 3 chimney inspections are the most in-depth and only recommended when the structural stability of the chimney is in question, such as after a chimney fire or natural disaster. A portion of the masonry or walls may need to be removed during a Level 3 inspection.

Common issues uncovered in chimney inspections

  • Every fireplace system and every chimney inspection are unique; however, there are a number of common issues that are often uncovered during an inspection. The following are three of the most common chimney issues uncovered during inspections.
  • Water damage. Chimneys are built to withstand exposure to moisture, but it can still be extremely damaging to a fireplace system. Damaged chimney caps, cracks in the exterior masonry, or damaged flashing are just a few of the many ways water can get into a chimney.
  • Cracked chimney crown. Chimney crown damage is extremely difficult to spot without climbing onto the roof or chimney. The flat masonry of the chimney crown bears the brunt of the exposure to the elements; changes in temperature or exposure to moisture can cause the chimney crown to crack over time.
  • Damaged chimney liner. The chimney liner protects the surrounding building materials from heat transfer from the fireplace. Liners can become damaged from animal entry, leaks, lack of maintenance, or debris in the chimney.

Preventative maintenance is one of the best ways to extend the life of our fireplaces and chimneys. An annual chimney inspection done by a certified chimney professional can uncover hidden issues that many homeowners might not otherwise notice. For more information on the importance of chimney inspections or to schedule your next chimney appointment, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!

Chimney Liners: Stainless Steel Vs Clay Tiles

Our chimneys are complex structures with a number of different components hidden behind the bricks and mortar. One of the most important – and least recognized – parts of the chimney is the chimney liner. While chimney liners are designed to protect our homes against heat transfer, damage, changing fuel sources, or simple wear and tear may require the chimney to be relined.

What is a chimney liner?Stainless Steel Vs Clay Tiles Image - Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley Sweeps

The Chimney Safety Institute of America defines a chimney liner as “a clay, ceramic, or metal conduit installed inside of a chimney, intended to contain the combustion products, direct them to the outside atmosphere, and protect the chimney walls from heat and corrosion.”

The chimney liner is used as a barrier between the heat and gas produced by the fire and the rest of your home. If the chimney liner is damaged or missing your house is at significant risk for a chimney fire; National Bureau of Standards found that without a chimney liner insulation, framing, and walls around a chimney can ignite in as little as three and a half hours.

Clay Tile VS Stainless Steel Liner

Clay tile and stainless steel are the two most common kinds of chimney liners. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, understanding their differences can help homeowners determine the best type of chimney liner for their fireplace system.

  • Clay tiles. Clay tiles are the most common kind of chimney liner. The majority of new chimneys are built using clay tile liners because of their affordability and ease of installation. Clay tile liners are recommended for fireplaces that burn wood or pellets. However, they are not recommended for use with gas fireplaces; the acidic condensation produced by gas can cause premature deterioration to clay tiles.

    While built to withstand regular wear and tear, clay tiles are extremely susceptible to damage from moisture, chimney leaks, or chimney fires. Because of the way they are installed, individual clay tiles cannot be replaced without removing parts of the surrounding masonry.

  • Stainless steel. Stainless steel liners are not often used in new chimney construction. Instead, they are used when relining chimneys as a way to repair damage or when changing fuel sources. Stainless steel liners are known for their safety and durability. Likewise, they can be used with fireplaces that burn all fuel sources including wood, gas, pellets, and oil.

    Although they are more expensive than clay tile liners, stainless steel liners offer increased safety and durability. Because stainless steel liners are manufactured, most include a limited or lifetime warranty after installation. This can help prevent or significantly reduce any future maintenance costs associated with the liner.

Call Us Today

At Jack Pixley Sweeps, we recommend stainless steel liners to all our customers who need to have their chimneys relined. The unmatched safety, affordability, and durability of stainless steel liners can benefit you and your family for years to come. For more information on the benefits of relining your chimney with a stainless steel chimney liner, contact our expert staff today!

Hire A Pro To Install Your Fireplace

Fireplaces are one of the most requested and sought after home features in real estate. In addition to adding value to your home, a new fireplace has the ability to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere, unlike any other feature or appliance.Hire A Pro To Install Your Fireplace Image - Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley Sweeps

If you’re replacing an aging fireplace or preparing to add a new heating appliance to your home, the cost of the new unit alone can be daunting; it can be tempting to then choose whatever installation package is least expensive – or attempt to do it yourself. However, it is important to only have fireplaces installed by certified and trained professionals. Doing this ensures the new fireplace is installed correctly and can burn safely and efficiently.

Why Choose a Professional for Installation

Choosing a new fireplace can be a difficult decision – and a major investment in your home’s value. Between choices for fuel sources, heat output, and even finish and style details, finding the perfect heating appliance can take time and research. In order to both protect and get the most out of your new fireplace, make sure to choose a chimney professional for installation.

Fireplaces and chimneys can look deceptively simple; however, they are actually complex systems comprised of a number of different parts and components. In order for your fireplace to burn as safely and efficiently as possible, these components must all be properly installed. A difference of just a few inches – or in gas fireplaces, the difference of just a few millimeters – can create safety issues, minimize efficiency, and cause loss of heat.

While it can be tempting to go with an inexpensive company – or attempt to install it yourself – as a way to save money, many installers lack the training and experience necessary to safely and correctly install a new fireplace unit. Instead, trust a chimney professional certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. Certified chimney sweeps have the training and education necessary to properly install new fireplace units. If you previously had a fireplace installed by someone else, a certified sweep can also inspect the fireplace to ensure it is burning safely and efficiently.

Trust Jack Pixley Sweeps to Install Your New Fireplace

At Jack Pixley Sweeps, our CSIA certified chimney sweeps are experts at more than just servicing your fireplaces and inserts – we can help install them, too! Our fireplace experts have the training and experience necessary to follow the exact instructions required for the setup and installation of new fireplaces. Haven’t found the perfect fireplace for your home yet? Our staff can help you find a new gas or wood insert to add to your home or transform your existing fireplace into a brand new heating appliance.

If you’ve recently purchased a new fireplace, don’t search for an inexpensive, third-party contractor to install it for you – or try to do it yourself without the necessary training or tools. Instead, trust the expert staff at Jack Pixley Sweeps to safely and correctly install your new fireplace unit, allowing you and your family to enjoy it for years to come. For more information on installing a new fireplace insert or to schedule a fireplace installation, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!

Practice Safety With Smoke And Carbon Monoxide Detectors

We trust our fireplaces, stoves, and other fuel burning appliances to burn safely. However, even when used properly and well maintained, there are hidden dangers. Accidental house fire and carbon monoxide poisoning are just a few safety concerns when it comes to operating fuel burning appliances. We trust our fireplaces, stoves, and other fuel burning appliances to burn safely.

One of the biggest safety concerns surrounding heating appliances is the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning. This “silent killer” takes the lives of more than 400 people each year  in the United States; carbon monoxide poisoning is particularly prevalent during the cold months of fall and winter as families increase heater use.

Homeowners must be aware of the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, as well as how it can be prevented.

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Practice Safety with Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors - Minneapolis, MN - Jack Pixley SweepsCarbon monoxide is often referred to as a “silent killer” because it is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. Because of this, it can be almost impossible to detect without specialized detectors.

Carbon monoxide gas is naturally occurring and is created by all fuel burning fires and appliances. Burning wood, pellets, natural gas, propane, coal, gasoline, and kerosene all creates carbon monoxide; likewise, it can be created by several different appliances around your home including fireplaces, space heaters, furnaces, water heaters, stoves, and ovens.

Safety Tips for Preventing Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be preventable with proper precautions and common sense safety. The following tips can help protect your family against carbon monoxide poisoning.

– Install carbon monoxide detectors. Carbon monoxide detectors should be installed in every floor of your home, as well as near any fuel-burning appliances and outside of sleeping areas. Batteries should be tested every six months to ensure functionality. Likewise, detectors should be replaced every five to seven years to stay up to date with the latest safety and technology standards.

– Install smoke detectors. Working smoke detectors are just as important as functional carbon monoxide detectors in all homes. Install them on all levels of your home, including near sleeping areas.

– Maintain fuel-burning appliances. Fireplaces, furnaces, and water heaters should all receive regular annual inspections and maintenance as needed. Likewise, inspect venting and ductwork to ensure there are no kinks or blockages. Any space heaters used in the home should meet current safety standards, be free from frayed wires, and used in accordance with manufacturer instructions.

– Keep grills and generators away. Do not use grills and generators indoors or in garages. In addition, operate them away from the home or open windows. This prevents accidental fires and keeps carbon monoxide from venting into your home.

The prospect of a house fire or carbon monoxide poisoning is frightening. However, the risk of these occurring is reduced by maintaining fuel burning appliances and following common sense safety precautions. For more information on the importance of up to date carbon monoxide and smoke detectors or how to use them correctly in your home, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!

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