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Preventative Maintenance For Spring

Preventative Chimney Sweeping Image - Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley SweepsWhile 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.

Have You Had Your Chimney Swept This Year?

Chimney Swept This Year Image - Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley SweepsWhile 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!

Jack Pixley Provides Animal Removal

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 inJack Pixley Provides Animal Removal - Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley Sweeps

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.

Clean Out the Creosote

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.

Creosote exposure can cause skin irritations, as well as breathing difficulties.

Creosote Development

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!

Care for Your Wood Stove

To those of us living in the Minneapolis / St. Paul areas, keeping warm is a top priority for more of the year than we’d like to admit. Many homeowners use wood stoves and fireplaces to supplement central heating, so it’s important to know how to care for your wood burning appliance. If you have a wood stove, some of the following tips can be helpful.

First off, let’s cover the don’ts. Never burn driftwood, artificial logs, treated wood, or trash, which could contain zinc, sulfur, plastic, or lead. It might be easier to assume that if you can seal the door, you’re not breathing anything dangerous, but these things can emit harmful gases when burned that could start a chimney fire or compromise your air quality.

Make sure that any wood you use is properly seasoned. Wet or green wood will cause additional creosote buildup.

Make sure that any wood you use is properly seasoned. Wet or green wood will cause additional creosote buildup.

As with any wood burning appliance, it is always best to burn only dry, seasoned wood.  This will maximize heating efficiency and minimize creosote buildup. Small, hot fires that range between 300°-400° degrees is what you’re aiming for. If you have a stack thermometer installed, it’s easier to maintain this temperature for optimum efficiency and the least amount of pollution. Another way to determine if your fire is burning hot and clean is to take a look outside. The less smoke you see coming out of chimney the better.

Keep those air-intake vents clean. Ash can collect around the vents, so be sure to remove it regularly. Not only will this help you keep your fire hotter, it will also mean that your fire won’t require as much oxygen to burn. (And guess where the oxygen comes from? That’s right, your home.) Another thing to keep in mind is that other exhaust appliances can interfere with the air consumed by your wood stove. If the fire doesn’t have enough air, smoke will reverse its flow and enter your home.

Make sure your stove is safe. A safety tested wood stove will bear an NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) label to identify it as being in compliance with building and safety codes. At Jack Pixley, we are equipped to install top-quality wood stoves that adhere to safety codes, and we’re certified to keep your stove and chimney clean and in proper working order. We know what to look for and where, and are here to look out for your safety.

A wood stove can be a great asset for keeping your home warm, but remember that heavy use also means faster creosote buildup. Creosote buildup is a part of every wood burning appliance, no matter how efficient your fires are, and it’s important to keep the chimney clear of creosote or any other obstruction. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends having your wood stove and chimney inspected and cleaned at least annually to ensure that every component is working properly and safely. Don’t hesitate to give us a call at (763) 422-0481. We also offer convenient online scheduling if you’re strapped for time.