At Jack Pixley Sweeps, safety is our top priority. Through high-quality fireplace and chimney services and client education, we aim to keep our friends and neighbors’ homes safe, warm, and efficient. We are proud participants in Chimney Safety Week 2019.
In the United States, there are more than 22,000 chimney fires each year, endangering lives and costing more than 125 million dollars in damages. The goal of Chimney Safety Week is to help reduce the number of accidental chimney fires by educating both homeowners and chimney professionals about the latest trends and best practices in fire safety and prevention.
Facts about chimney fires
Chimney fires are a risk when using any fireplace, stove, or insert. However, chimney fires can be prevented by chimney sweepings, inspections, regular maintenance, and following safe burning guidelines. The following are some eye-opening facts about chimney fires many homeowners may not know.
- The majority of chimney fires go undetected. Many chimney fires are so small they go undetected. This does not mean, however, that the chimney is not damaged; no matter how small, chimney fires can cause serious damage to the flue.
- Chimney fires can reach up to 2,000 degrees
- Creosote buildup is the main cause of chimney fires. Creosote is a naturally occurring – and extremely flammable – byproduct of combustion. When not removed from the chimney during chimney sweepings, creosote can accumulate in the flue; stray sparks or embers from the fireplace can then cause creosote to ignite and lead to a chimney fire.
- Signs of a chimney fire include a discolored chimney cap, warped metal on the damper, creosote flakes in the flue box, cracks in the masonry, and more.
Fireplace safety tips
Our fireplaces and chimneys help keep our homes warm, but they can be dangerous when poorly maintained or when used incorrectly. The following are just a few safety tips to help prevent accidental chimney fires,
- Have the chimney swept at least once per year. Chimney sweeping is the single most important part of chimney maintenance and fire prevention. A chimney sweeping by a certified professional removes soot, ash, and creosote from the fireplace and flue; this ensures that the chimney can vent safely and efficiently no matter the season.
- Do not leave fires unattended. No matter the size or experience level of the homeowner, fires should never be left unattended. This safety tip is especially important in homes with pets or small children who could easily be injured by fire. Glass doors, grates, or fences can be used to help keep little hands – and paws – away from the fireplace when it is in use.
- Keep décor away from the fireplace. Hanging stockings on the mantle may be one of the most popular ways to decorate for the holidays, but home décor should always be removed before using the fireplace. Keep carpets, furnishings, and other décor at least three feet away from the fire to prevent scorch marks – and accidental fires.
- Properly store fireplace ashes. Fireplace safety doesn’t end when the fire goes out. Proper ash storage is an important part of preventing fires in trashcans or dumpsters; ashes should always be stored in a dedicated metal container and should not be mixed in with household trash.
Using these tips and having your chimney swept annually will help you decrease your risk of a chimney fire and keep your family and home as safe as possible. For questions, call Owens Chimney 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!
Scratching and clawing are sounds no homeowner wants to hear coming from their chimney. If you do, you may have an animal trapped inside.
The presence of an animal in the chimney is more than just a nuisance; animals often endanger themselves by getting stuck, can cause serious damage to your chimney components, and can expose your family to disease. Because of this, it is important to call a chimney professional at the first sign of animal entry.
How animals get in
Birds, raccoons, squirrels, and a number of other animals are known for trying to find their way into chimneys. Commonly, animals are able to get into the flues of uncapped chimneys or homes where the chimney cap has been damaged. Chimney caps that are ill-fitting, have shifted, or have damaged side screens can all leave gaps big enough for animals to get into. Raccoons have also been known to claw and scratch chimney caps until they break to gain entry.
Keeping animals out
The best way to keep out of your chimney is through regular chimney maintenance. An annual chimney inspection can help spot damage to the chimney cap and other chimney components. If repairs are needed, they can be quickly and easily completed – before animals get in.
I think I have an animal in my chimney – now what?
If you hear clawing, scratching, crying, or other animal noises coming from your chimney it is important to call a chimney professional as soon as possible. While animals may be able to find their way in, most are not able to get out on their own; when trapped and disoriented in the dark, enclosed space, wildlife rescue may be needed.
It is never recommended for homeowners to attempt to “smoke out” animals. First, opening the damper to start a fire can let whatever animal is in your chimney into your home; it is much easier to get a bird out of a chimney than it is a living room! Likewise, starting a fire with an animal in the chimney can be harmful to the animal as well as your home. The smoke, heat, and gasses from the fire often kill the animals long before they are able to escape up the chimney. If there are nesting materials in the chimney, sparks and embers from the fire can cause them to ignite and lead to chimney fires.
At Jack Pixley Sweeps, we provide professional animal removal services. We identify the area the animal is trapped in and remove four bricks; this creates an area large enough for the animal to escape on its own or be removed without causing significant damage to the chimney. By having a chimney company remove the animal, we are able to not only get the animals out, but repair the damage they have caused and keep them from coming back.
The presence of an animal in your chimney endangers the animals, causes chimney damage, and can expose your family to a variety of bacteria or diseases. At Jack Pixley Sweeps, we are experts at removing animals from your chimney – and keeping them from coming back. Contact us today for more information on wild animal removal.
Creosote Is Dirty And Dangerous
Most of the time, when chimney professionals like Jack Pixley Sweeps bring up the subject of creosote, we’re talking about fire safety. And there’s a good reason for that: Excessive creosote buildup — particularly if those creosote deposits develop into second or third stage creosote — can lead to a serious fire hazard.
But that’s not the only reason creosote buildup is dangerous, and why regular chimney sweeping is an important part of safer chimney use. Creosote itself — and the various chemicals that make it up — has been shown to be toxic.
Creosote exposure can cause skin irritations, as well as breathing difficulties.
Several different materials get dubbed creosote, including the dark liquid used to treat commercial lumber materials like railroad ties. The creosote we’re talking about is a chemical deposit that results from burning wood in a heating appliance. Gases rise in the chimney connected to that appliance as the wood burns, and the cooler flue causes condensation, resulting in creosote build-up.
The coal tar creosote used in wood treatment and the creosote in your flue do have something important in common, other than their descriptor: People should avoid prolonged direct exposure to either, because both can be dangerous.
Short-term and prolonged exposure to the chemicals in creosote has been shown to result in an array of health issues, from skin and respiratory irritation to stomach pains and a potential worsening of asthma symptoms, according the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
Limiting Creosote Exposure
Exposure to chimney creosote can happen in different ways. Airborne particles can be breathed in. Chemicals can be absorbed through the skin or — a particular concern with kids — orally, if fingers that came into contact with creosote were absent-mindedly put in your mouth.
Limiting exposure to creosote starts with limiting the development of creosote to begin with, by burning the right materials. Burning green or wetter wood leads to a cooler fire and more creosote — and burning anything else, like trash, can contribute to creosote build-up and give off toxic chemicals, depending on the material.
Sticking to burning kiln-dried or seasoned cordwood only is your best bet. It provides the best, cleanest burn, and is smarter to use both short and long term.
The other key step is having a professional chimney technician clean your flue regularly. During a chimney sweeping appointment, Jack Pixley Sweeps technicians will remove creosote deposits from your flue, using specially designed tools and vacuums to make sure the mess is completely confined and removed. Our technicians are trained to safely handle and safely dispose of creosote, so you don’t have to come into contact with it.
If you want to know more about creosote — and limiting and removing it from your chimney system — give Jack Pixley Sweeps a call. We’re always happy to help our clients!