Tips For Building A Fire

Using a fireplace may seem simple, but the way that you build your fire can have a major impact on how well the fire burns. Using the wrong materials – or stacking wood logs incorrectly – can cause fires to burn out prematurely, burn sluggishly, or need to be constantly stoked. By changing how you build a fire, you and your family can fully enjoy your fireplace this winter!

1. Use the Right Firewood

For a more aromatic fire, consider using softwoods such as fir, pine, or cherry. These woods produce a fragrant smoke that makes them popular in smoking meats; while they produce larger amounts of smoke, they can be used in small amounts as kindling in indoor fires. Softwoods are also a good choice for outdoor firepits.

2. Warm the Flue

When the temperature outside is significantly colder than the temperature inside, reduce smoke blowback and drafting issues by warming the flue before starting the fire. To begin warming the flue, open the damper for several minutes; this allows the air temperature between your home and the flue to better stabilize. Next, light a bundle of kindling such as newspaper or small twigs and hold it under the open damper. This further warms up the air temperature in the flue and can make drafting easier when lighting the main fire.

3. Build Your Fire From the Top Down

How you stack the logs in your fireplace can impact how effectively the fire burns. One unusual – but extremely effective – way of stacking logs is the top-down method.. Top down fires minimize the need for stoking by ensuring the fire is well fed with fresh oxygen, helping burn all the wood in the firebox more completely.

Build a top down fire by stacking the largest logs on the bottom of the fireplace with the ends facing the front and back. Stack a layer of smaller logs on top perpendicularly; continue alternating front to back and side to side layers of progressively smaller logs until the firebox is almost full. Top the fire with kindling and add kindling throughout the stack. Ignite the kindling on top of the logs; as the fire burns down it naturally ignites each layer of logs, reducing the need to add logs or stoke the fire.

4. Have Your Chimney Swept Each Year

An annual chimney sweeping is the best way to ensure your fires burn safely and efficiently all season long. Chimney sweepings remove soot, ash, and flammable creosote, as well as check for blockages and other signs of damage. A chimney sweep can also help diagnose the cause of ongoing chimney issues such as drafting problems or leaks.

Contact Us Today!

Taking the extra time to correctly build and burn a fire can help you get the most out of your fireplace this winter. For more information on building a fire or to schedule your net chimney sweeping, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!

Chimney Sweeping In The Summer

As temperatures soar and the sun seems to stay up forever, few homeowners would ever consider using their fireplaces in the summer. Instead of letting your chimney sit idle, however, think about having your chimney swept in the summer.

There are a number of benefits to summer chimney sweeping that cannot be found in any other season. From convenient appointments to no lag in fireplace usability, now is the best time to have your fireplace swept!

The Importance of Annual Maintenance

Chimney systems are like any other home appliance; in order to keep working its best, it needs regularly scheduled maintenance. For your fireplace, this means an annual chimney sweeping and inspection. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that all homes have their chimney swept and inspected at least once per year.

“A chimney inspection is like an annual dental check-up,” says Ashley Eldridge, Director of Education for the CSIA. “It’s preventative maintenance that helps minimize potential hazards.”

Chimney sweepings ensure your fireplace and flue are clean, free from blockages and debris, and are safe to use throughout the burning season. Having these annual maintenance items accomplished during the summer allows you to use your fireplace system worry free all winter long.

Summer – The Best Season to have Your Chimney Swept

After a long winter season of burning, few homeowners think about their fireplaces during the warm months of summer. Be prepared for the first cold snap of fall, however, by having your chimney swept now. The following are three reasons to schedule your chimney sweeping this summer.

  1. More convenient appointments. Summer is considered the low season for many chimney sweeps. Because of this, it is often easy to get the right appointment time for your schedule – and to schedule it sooner rather than later. Instead of waiting for weeks and rearranging your schedule to be home for the chimney sweep, summer often gives homeowners the opportunity to find the most convenient appointment.
  2. Remove harmful buildup. Soot, ash, and flammable creosote build up in the hearth and flue during the burning season. Removing them over the summer can help your fireplace burn more safely and efficiently; the creosote removal during a chimney sweeping can also help reduce your risk of chimney fire.
  3. Be ready for fall. Be ready to use your fireplace on the first cold day fall has to offer by having the chimney swept now. This ensures there are no harmful blockages or dangerous buildup, and you can use your fireplace as soon as you want to – not as soon as you can wait for an appointment.

Schedule Your Appointment Today

While we are in the middle of the dog days of summer fall is just around the corner. Ensure your fireplace is ready for the upcoming burning season by scheduling your next chimney sweeping as soon as possible. For more information on the importance of annual maintenance or to schedule your chimney sweeping, 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.

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.

Differences In Minnesota Contractor Credentials

When preparing to have construction done on your home – including chimney repairs – the kind of contractor you hire can have an impact on the quality and reliability of the work. In the state of Minnesota, contractors may have either a Contractor Registration or a Contractor’s License. While the two credentials may seem similar, there are several significant differences between them. Homeowners should understand the difference between the two. Also, they should know how to look up a contractor’s credentials, before hiring someone to work on their home.

What is the Difference between Contractor Registration versus Contractor License


Only have accredited contractors work on your home, including repairs to your chimney and fireplace. In Minnesota, some contractors have a Contractor Registration. This is not an actual license. It only means that the contractor is registered with the state as a contractor. People with this designation do not need to pass any tests or other certification standards and may not carry insurance. Because of this, we recommend clients look for contractors with a Residential Contractor’s License in the state of Minnesota.

A Residential Contractor’s License is a credential that must be earned through a testing and background check process. In addition, contractors need to reapply for the license every two years. To earn a Residential Contractor’s license, the qualifying person must submit proof of insurance to the state, including the ability to provide workman’s comp and liability, as well as submit to a criminal background check. A rigorous exam must also be passed, testing the contractor’s knowledge of building dynamics, codes, safety standards, and more. In order to maintain this license, contractors must take continuing education courses as well as retest every two years; this ensures that licensed contractors are up to date on the latest industry standards.

Why choose a licensed contractor

While a licensed contractor may seem like a given when building or remodeling your home, most don’t consider it an important trait when dealing with a fireplace or chimney. However, hiring someone who is both a certified chimney sweep and a licensed contractor ensures your fireplace system is in expert hands.

When looking for a licensed contractor, homeowners can use the Department of Labor and Industry website to search for licensed professionals. Homeowners can use the search tool to find unique disciplines and classifications as well. It is able to verify the credentials of the contractors before hiring them as well.

At Jack Pixley Sweeps, we are proud to have both Chimney Safety Institute of America as well as a Minnesota Contractor’s License. We are happy to have our customers verifying our License Number #BC183369; having both CSIA certifications and contractor’s licenses allows us to provide our customers with the highest quality service possible. For more information about Jack Pixley Sweeps, our services, or why licenses matters, contact us today.

Pro-Active Chimney Applications

Chimneys are built to last. Although masonry is one of the toughest building materials in the world, it can still deteriorate over time due to aging, damage, or overexposure to the elements. Luckily, there are pro-active ways that homeowners can protect their chimneys against damage.

Because water can be extremely damaging to masonry, it is important to protect your chimney against it. Waterproofing is one of the most effective preventative maintenance applications homeowners can have put on their chimneys. Having your chimney waterproofed can protect it against future water damage, as well as slow – or stop – the progression of current masonry deterioration.

What is waterproofing?Waterproof Your Chimney - Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley Sweeps

The waterproofing process for chimneys involves applying specially-designed water repellent to the bricks and mortar of the chimney. This creates a protective barrier that keeps water from being absorbed by the masonry, protecting the bricks against water damage.

Bricks are a naturally porous building material, making them ideally suited for chimney construction. While this porous nature allows gasses to pass through the bricks to the outside, it also can allow water in. If too much water is absorbed by the bricks it can cause them to crack, chip, or break away from the chimney structure; this affects not only the curb appeal but also the structural stability of your chimney.

Paint vs sealants vs repellents

Not all waterproofing products are created equally. Because of this, it is important to only use professional strength masonry water repellents. While the names are often used interchangeably, paint, sealants, and repellents are all very different products that can have different effects on your chimney.

– Paint: Regular house paint is not vapor permeable and is not meant to keep water out; by painting the masonry you are trapping water and gas inside the bricks. Trapped moisture will continue to deteriorate the masonry behind the paint, causing unseen damage. Paint over masonry that has bubbled or flaked is a sign that there is trapped water – and damaged masonry – underneath.
– Sealant: Sealants are often clear or slightly tinted and are designed to keep water from being absorbed. However, most sealants are not vapor permeable and therefore trap moisture inside the masonry just like paint.
– Repellents: Water repellents are the best products to use on masonry. A repellent forms a thin, vapor permeable barrier on the masonry that allows water and gas to evaporate while still preventing new moisture from being absorbed. This not only protects the masonry from new water damage, but can help stop existing deterioration. Repellents aren’t just for your masonry; they can also be used to waterproof your chimney crown.

Proactively caring for your chimney can minimize damage and extend its lifespan. By having your masonry waterproofed, you can help protect it for years to come against water damage from weather, humidity, sprinklers, and hoses. For more information on waterproofing your chimney, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!