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!
For homeowners who own a fireplace system, deciding when to have it swept can sometimes be a mystery. Most of us know our chimneys need regular maintenance. The guesswork often determines when and how often we have our chimneys swept.
Most chimney sweeps recommend having your chimney swept at least once per year. However, there may be other reasons to call the chimney sweep. Below are some signs that your chimney needs sweeping!
Do you use your fireplace as a primary heating source for your home? If so, it may need to be swept several times during the burning season. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, chimneys should be swept any time there is 1/8th of an inch of buildup in the flue. In normal burning conditions, this amount of buildup occurs after a full cord of wood is burned. Do you burn more than a cord of wood each burning season? Consider having a mid-season chimney sweeping done.
Before burning season.
After several months of sitting idle, your chimney may need to be cleaned before using the fireplace again. Sweep the chimney in the late summer or early fall before the burning season begins! This ensures that there are no debris or blockages in the flue. Also, it is especially important in areas where migratory birds are present or other animal entry into the chimney may have occurred.
Have you recently purchased a home? If you have, you may want to have the chimney swept before using the fireplace. Most home inspections include a cursory inspection of the fireplace system. Consequently, many inspectors may lack the knowledge to truly diagnose chimney problems. In addition, they typically will not clean the chimney. Having the chimney swept allows you to assess the condition of the fireplace system before you use it.
Leaks, drafts, and odors – oh my! Is your chimney experiencing burning or performance problems? If so, a chimney sweeping and inspection may be necessary to discover the root cause of the problem. According to the National Fire Protection Association, “Chimneys, fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances. Cleaning, maintenance, and repairs shall be done if necessary.”
Unless you are experiencing any of the reasons above, an annual chimney sweep is recommended for all homes. Having annual maintenance allows your chimney sweep to keep your chimney free from buildup or debris. Plus, it allows them to regularly assess the condition of your chimney. This allows the sweep to identify and address any areas of new or worsening deterioration. Also, as well as recommended any changes or improvements that need to be made to your fireplace or chimney system.
Regular chimney sweepings can keep you and your family safe an extend the life of your fireplace system. So, let your family continue to enjoy your fireplace for years to come. If you need to schedule your next chimney sweeping, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!
Getting the most out of your fireplace takes more than just throwing wood and some kindling into the firebox. Starting a fire the wrong way can lead to sluggish fires that do not burn well, burn out quickly, or need to be stoked or have wood added constantly. By taking the time to correctly build a fire, you can spend less time stoking and more time enjoying it with family and friends. The following easy-to-follow tips can help you build a better fire the next time you use your fireplace!
Start a top down fire
How you stack your logs has a big impact on the quality of your fire. Top down fires minimize the need for stoking by making sure the wood gets enough oxygen as it burns. Build a top down fire by putting the largest logs on the bottom of the grate, ends facing the front and back of the firebox. Continue pyramid stacking progressively smaller and smaller logs, intertwining the stack with kindling. Ignite the top log and kindling; as the wood burns down it will naturally ignite the logs underneath it, reducing the need to add to or stoke the fire.
Warm your flue
If the weather outside is significantly colder than the temperature inside your home, warming the flue before starting a fire can reduce smoke blow-back and drafting problems. Open the damper before creating a kindling bundle of newspaper; ignite the newspaper and hold it under the open damper for several minutes – or until it burns up – to gradually warm the air temperature in the flue.
Use the right firewood
The type of firewood you use can have a major impact on the quality of your fire. For best results, seasoned hard woods should be used. Seasoned wood is made when logs are cut, stacked, and allowed to naturally dry by exposure to the elements; this reduces the moisture content in the wood and helps fires burn hotter, longer, produce less smoke, and create less creosote.
If you want to create a more aromatic fire, seasoned soft woods like cherry, pine, or fir can be used. However, soft woods often burn at a lower heat and create more smoke, making them better tailored to outdoor fire pits than indoor fireplaces. Using citrus peels as a natural kindling is an easy alternative that can add additional fragrance to your fires.
Have your chimney swept
Chimneys should be swept and inspected annually. Doing this ensures that the fireplace and flue are clean, undamaged, and safe to use. Chimney inspections can also help spot areas of damage or deterioration in the chimney and flue that may not be easily recognized by homeowners. Certified chimney sweeps can also help diagnose and repair fireplace performance problems such as drafts, odors, or leaks.
Get the most out of your fireplace this winter by following our easy burning tips. For more information on starting a good fire or to schedule your next chimney sweeping, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!
While the fall burning season may have just started, it’s never too early to start thinking about spring. If you haven’t had your chimney swept or inspected this season, now may be the best time to have it done; however, now is also an excellent time to have new chimney caps installed. Not only will they protect your chimney this winter, but they can keep animals out when spring arrives.
The importance of preventative maintenance
Fireplaces and chimneys are built to last, but they need regular cleanings and inspections in order to burn safely and efficiently. By having regular preventative maintenance performed, you can ensure your fireplace will burn safely for years to come.
One of the most common – and most important – parts of fireplace maintenance is an annual chimney sweeping. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that all homes should have their chimneys swept at least once per year, regardless of how often you use your fireplace. Regular chimney sweepings remove creosote, a highly flammable byproduct of fuel burning fires that accumulates in the chimney over time. Likewise, regular sweepings ensure there are no other blockages in the chimney that prevent proper drafting or create a fire hazard.
Chimney inspections are another important part of fireplace maintenance. An inspection can help identify minor areas of damage before they turn into more serious deterioration. This is especially important for areas of the chimney that are not easily accessible or cannot be seen from street level. Chimney caps are one fireplace component that benefit from being inspected, as their damage may otherwise go unnoticed.
Chimney caps protect your fireplace system year round!
Chimney caps, sometimes known as spark arrestors or rain guards, are an important part of your chimney system; sitting at the top of the chimney, these caps have metal tops and mesh or wires sides that keep animals, debris, and moisture out while letting smoke safely draft. During the busy burning season, chimney caps protect your fireplace by keeping rain, sleet, and snow out, as well as keeping sparks from flying onto the roof or nearby bushes and trees. This protects your home – and your neighbors – from roof fires when the fireplace is in use.
Chimney caps continue to protect your home into the spring. Raccoons are especially fond of nesting in chimneys during the early spring; often taking up residence on the fireplace’s smoke shelf, they can be difficult to remove and can cause damage to your chimney system. A well installed, sturdy chimney cap cannot be pulled up by handy paws and keeps raccoons and other animals out.
Maintaining your fireplace and chimney is a year round job; make sure your system is ready for next spring by having your chimney cap inspected. If you need a new chimney cap, trust the experts at Jack Pixley Sweeps to install a cap that will keep raccoons – along with moisture and debris – out of your chimney. Contact us today to learn more about this preventative chimney maintenance.
While fall may not start until September 22, cooler temperatures are already starting to arrive. This year, make sure your fireplace is ready to go when the first cold snap hits by having your chimney swept now! It’s not too late to have your chimney swept for the year; annual maintenance is an important part of keeping your chimney burning efficiently, and now may be the perfect time to have it swept.
The importance of annual chimney sweepings
Your fireplace needs attention more than just when you’re using it – or when it isn’t working properly. Regular preventative maintenance can help lengthen the lifespan of your chimney system while also keeping your fireplace burning safely and efficiently. One of the most important – and most well-known – annual maintenance items homeowners can have done is a chimney sweeping.
During the sweeping, the chimney sweep will use brushes, vacuums, and other tools to remove soot, ash, and creosote from the firebox and flue. The removal of creosote is one of the most important parts of the chimney sweeping; creosote is highly flammable, and the accidental ignition of creosote buildup in the chimney is the leading cause of chimney fires.
According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, all chimneys – no matter how often they are used – should be swept at least once per year. This follows the National Fire Protection Association Standard 211 which says, “Chimneys, fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances. Cleaning, maintenance, and repairs shall be done if necessary.” Whether you use your fireplace a few times each season or are burning in it every day, maintenance needs to be done at least once per year. If you use your fireplace as a primary heating source in your home, it may need to be swept more often.
Don’t forget a chimney inspection!
In addition to your chimney sweeping, a chimney inspection can be another important part of annual maintenance.
“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.”
During a chimney inspection, the chimney sweep will evaluate all accessible interior and exterior portions of the fireplace and chimney. Doing this can help identify any areas of damage or deterioration, often long before the fireplace has begun experiencing performance problem. This allows problem areas to be repaired sooner, saving you money on major repairs in the future.
Chimney inspections can also be used as a diagnostic tool. If you are experiencing a fireplace performance problem such as drafting issues, ongoing leaks, or repeated animal entry, a chimney inspection can help identify the root cause of the problem.
Whether you use your fireplace once per year or every day, a regular annual chimney sweeping is the best way to protect the longevity of your chimney system. To schedule your next chimney sweeping, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!