Temperatures are dropping, leaves are changing and starting to fall, and many parts of the country have experienced the first snowfalls of the season. Fall is in full swing, and winter is just around the corner! With the change in the weather comes a change in how we use our heating appliances; fall and winter are known as burning seasons because of how often fireplaces, inserts, stoves, and other fuel-burning heating appliances are used.
The Farmer’s Almanac has predicted that this winter will have big chills and strong storms; a fireplace can help create a warm, welcoming environment in your home no matter the weather. While chimney systems are built to burn fires year after year, they do need regular care, maintenance, and upkeep in order to operate safely and efficiently. The following tips and tricks can help ensure your fireplace and chimney are ready for the arrival of burning season.
1. Schedule a sweeping and inspection as soon as possible
Burning season may be underway, but it’s still not too late to schedule a chimney sweeping and inspection! A chimney sweeping should be done at least once per year to remove soot, ash, and flammable creosote from the flue; likewise, inspections should be done annually to check for signs of damage or deterioration to the fireplace or chimney.
A chimney sweeping by a CSIA-certified chimney sweep can help ensure your fireplace is burning efficiently, extend the life of your chimney system, and significantly reduce the risk of a chimney fire. Fall and winter are the busiest seasons for chimney sweeps; because of this, it may take several weeks before your appointment can be scheduled. Want to beat the rush next year? Plan ahead and schedule your chimney maintenance in the offseason!
Have a gas fireplace? You still need to schedule a chimney inspection! Annual inspections of gas fireplaces are important to ensure that no components have shifted, no gas leaks are occurring, and the venting system is undamaged and has no blockages.
2. Choose the right firewood
Whether you have an insert, open-hearth fireplace, stove, or even an outdoor fire pit, the best fuel for your wood-burning fire is seasoned firewood. According to the CSIA, seasoned firewood is “wood that has a moisture content between 20-25%.” This low moisture content is achieved by cutting, stacking, and exposing wood to the elements for 6-12 months.
Seasoned wood produces less smoke, burns at a higher temperature, and produces less creosote than freshly cut or “green” firewood. Burning green wood should be avoided whenever possible; in addition to being difficult to ignite because of the high moisture content in the wood, green wood burns dirtier and produces excessive smoke – and creosote. Burning large amounts of greenwood often result in a mid-season call to the chimney sweep!
While it can be tempting to burn paper, packaging materials, or leftover scrap wood in the fireplace – particularly when unwrapping presents during the holidays – only firewood should be used in indoor fireplaces. Styrofoam, stained or painted wood, or even printed paper can release dangerous chemicals when burned; this can impact the air quality in your home or cause respiratory issues for friends and family. Likewise, burning plastics can melt onto fireplace components and cause long term damage to the chimney system.
3. Maintain smoke detectors and safety equipment
In the United States, three out of five fire-related deaths were in homes without working smoke alarms. Regularly testing and replacing smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers are an important part of keeping friends and family safe when the fireplace is in use. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be on every level of a home, as well as outside sleeping areas. Test alarms every six months and replace batteries as needed; replace safety equipment every 7-10 years to ensure they meet modern safety standards and technology.
A fire extinguisher should be purchased and placed in an easily-accessible area near the fireplace. Available at almost every big box or home improvement store, a working fire extinguisher can be used to prevent an unsafe situation from turning dangerous. A log rolling out of the fireplace, a fire burning out of control, or a stray ember landing on nearby furnishings are all situations where a fire extinguisher can help prevent devastating damage to a home.
4. Keep décor away from the fireplace
The stockings may have been hung by the chimney with care – but they need to be moved before the fireplace is used! During the holidays – and year-round – our mantles can hold décor such as garland, bunting, mementos, and more. Moving any hanging mantle décor out of the way before the fireplace is used can prevent stray sparks or embers from accidentally igniting a stocking; likewise, all carpets and other furnishings should be at least three feet away from the fireplace when in use.
Contact Jack Pixley Sweeps for your chimney needs this burning season
Following a few simple tips can keep your home safe and stress-free this burning season. Since 1977 staff has been providing the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area with quality, trustworthy fireplace and chimney services. For more information on fireplace safety or to schedule your next chimney sweeping or inspection, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!
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!
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.
Most consumers like to shop around to ensure that they are getting the best price. For many, this same mentality applies when looking for a chimney sweep. When choosing a chimney sweep company, however, the least expensive company might not be the best choice.
While it may be tempting to go with the company who offers the cheapest quotes and services, there are a number of factors that homeowners should consider before choosing a company to clean, maintain, and repair their chimney or fireplace.
Why choose a certified chimney sweep?
Although sweeping a chimney may seem like a relatively simple job, it is important to ensure that you are working with a CSIA, or Chimney Safety Institute of America, certified sweep. Hiring a CSIA certified chimney sweep guarantees that you are working with a highly trained and competent professional who is up to date on and comfortable using the most advanced techniques and technology in the industry. All of the technicians from Jack Pixley Sweeps are members of the National Chimney Sweep Guild and certified by the CSIA.
While there are competent companies without their CSIA or NCSG certifications, this may indicate that a chimney sweep is not fully trained or knowledgeable enough to successfully and accurately clean and assess the condition of your chimney or fireplace. Likewise, those with their CSIA certification are held to higher standards both in terms of professionalism and level of knowledge.
Chimney sweeps should do much more than just remove creosote residue and debris during an annual cleaning. Certified sweeps perform a number of additional duties during their inspections, including inspecting the inside and outside of the fireplace system for signs of deterioration, making sure there is no potential risk of carbon monoxide exposure, and even evaluating fireplace and chimney efficiency. A less expensive or less knowledgeable company may leave out these necessary services in an effort to save themselves time and money.
Choosing the right company
In an area where there are multiple chimney sweep companies to choose from, it is important that homeowners make educated and informed decisions about who they trust with the care and upkeep of their fireplace systems. To help homeowners in their decision making process, the CSIA has provided a list of questions to ask prospective chimney sweep companies.
How long has your company been in business?
- Can you offer current references?
- Does your company have unresolved complaints filed with the city, state, or Better Business Bureau?
- Do you have business liability insurance to protect against accidents?
- Will a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep will be on the job site?
While it may seem like an excellent way to save a few dollars, going with the cheapest chimney sweep company may lead to future problems. Incorrectly cleaned and maintained fireplaces and chimneys could lead to costly repairs as well as pose a potential safety and health hazard. With an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and countless reviews from satisfied customers, you can trust Jack Pixley Sweeps to get the job done right – the first time.