Caring for Prefabs

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb is a Cincinnati Chimney Sweep contractor and the executive producer of the YouTube channel, podcast, and blog Ask the Chimney Sweep. He is also an award-winning educator and public speaker in the chimney and fireplace industry.

AsktheChimneySweep.com….Educational Videos
FireplaceandChimneySupply.com….Chimney products
AmChimney.com….American Chimney Cincinnati, OH
Clay Lamb

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Fireplace Pre Fab New Construction Firebox12

The fireplace has certainly changed since its original design so long ago. Improvements have been made since the primitive use of fire containing devices, one of the most recent of which being the factory built or prefabricated fireplace unit. A prefabricated unit, or prefab, is made of metal instead of brick or other masonry materials. A prefab uses insulation, pipes which are cooled by air, and blowers to move the heated air around the house. These systems are very sophisticated and manufactured and listed for use as a unit. Each part is approved by the Underwriters Laboratory to be used in a certain way under certain conditions with other parts that make up the unit.

A prefab doesn’t require a cement base for a foundation like a masonry unit due to how much lighter the prefab is. These systems have either cooling spaces in which air pockets act as insulation or actual insulation which allows the units to be closer to combustibles than would be otherwise.

 

 

Factory Built Fireplace
Prefabs have reduced clearances and can sometimes be housed in wooden chimneys.

Factory built fireplaces generally last until a part needs to be replaced but is no longer manufactured. At this time the prefabricated unit has reached the end of its useful life because it needs that specific part in order to be operated according to UL standards. They must be installed according to manufacturer’s instructions and is not easy to remove in order to conduct an inspection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never install a wood stove into a prefabricated unit, a prefab is meant to be operated according to the manufacturer’s instructions exactly. Similarly, it is not safe to burn paper waste in a prefabricated fireplace unit because of how hot these fires get and how quickly they get so hot. (Since its close to the holidays, please remember that it is not safe to burn your Christmas tree in a prefab either; it produces a similar effect to a paper waste fire.) Also, when operating your prefab, the damper must be completely open and should remain open until the fire is completely out. Prefabs require less clearance than other appliances and are easily to install in most areas of the home because they are so light weight.

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Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb is a Cincinnati Chimney Sweep contractor and the executive producer of the YouTube channel, podcast, and blog Ask the Chimney Sweep. He is also an award-winning educator and public speaker in the chimney and fireplace industry.

AsktheChimneySweep.com….Educational Videos
FireplaceandChimneySupply.com….Chimney products
AmChimney.com….American Chimney Cincinnati, OH
Clay Lamb

Latest posts by Clay Lamb (see all)

Expansion Joints Around the Top Flue Tile

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb is a Cincinnati Chimney Sweep contractor and the executive producer of the YouTube channel, podcast, and blog Ask the Chimney Sweep. He is also an award-winning educator and public speaker in the chimney and fireplace industry.

AsktheChimneySweep.com….Educational Videos
FireplaceandChimneySupply.com….Chimney products
AmChimney.com….American Chimney Cincinnati, OH
Clay Lamb

Latest posts by Clay Lamb (see all)

An expansion joint around the top flue tile serves a very practical purpose. As the fire burns in the fireplace, the hot gases of combustion vent up the flue system. These hot gases in turn warm the flue system, causing it to expand. If the crown is constructed such that the cement is installed all the way up to the top flue tile, as the top flue tile expands when it heats, it will crack the crown itself which can cause water problems or other problems to occur.July14 two chimneys 044 (2)

An expansion joint is created by leaving a gap between the actual cement crown and the top flue tile and filling it with a flexibleChimney crowns, even when constructed professionally, are often installed incorrectly. Everyone has a different philosophy on the proper construction of a chimney crown from the material that should be used to construct the crown to its whether the crown should hang over the edge of the actual brick on the chimney or stay flush. One fact that cannot be disputed, however, is the need for an expansion joint around the top flue tile. A chimney crown lacking an expansion joint around the top flue tile will almost always need to be repaired after some time.

 

 

Properly Constructed Crown
The white ring around these top flue tiles indicate that an expansion joint exists and cracking due to expansion of the top flue tile is not likely.

This flexible sealant allows the flue tile to expand without pushing against the cement crown, preventing cracking. The flue is most likely to expand and crack the cement in the winter time when it is very cold because the cold cement is even more prone to cracking from pressure exerted on it by the flue tile.

Crowns constructed without an expansion joint around the top flue tile usually need to be reconstructed entirely. Although filling the cracks in the crown is an option, the problem is likely to occur again because the same processes are occurring that caused the cracking in the first place. If your crown is cracking and you do not see an expansion joint around the top flue tile, consult a professional who will be able to assess the situation. Sometimes the cracking is minimal and the professional is able to seal the cracks using a high grade sealant and waterproof the crown to prevent water damage from deepening the existing cracks, but other times the cracking has become so severe that crown reconstruction becomes necessary….. Now I’m starting to sound like a dentist 🙁

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Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb is a Cincinnati Chimney Sweep contractor and the executive producer of the YouTube channel, podcast, and blog Ask the Chimney Sweep. He is also an award-winning educator and public speaker in the chimney and fireplace industry.

AsktheChimneySweep.com….Educational Videos
FireplaceandChimneySupply.com….Chimney products
AmChimney.com….American Chimney Cincinnati, OH
Clay Lamb

Latest posts by Clay Lamb (see all)

Replacing a . . . Fireplace Damper

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb is a Cincinnati Chimney Sweep contractor and the executive producer of the YouTube channel, podcast, and blog Ask the Chimney Sweep. He is also an award-winning educator and public speaker in the chimney and fireplace industry.

AsktheChimneySweep.com….Educational Videos
FireplaceandChimneySupply.com….Chimney products
AmChimney.com….American Chimney Cincinnati, OH
Clay Lamb

Latest posts by Clay Lamb (see all)

 

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Fireplace dampers sit almost directly above the heat of the fire. Over time, the extreme heat and rapid change in temperature can warp and damage the fireplace damper such that they need replaced. A damper must be in one piece that is snug to the flue in order for it to work properly, and if the damper cracks while being rapidly heated and cooled, it will no longer work properly. Replacing a fireplace damper by yourself is possible, and you can save yourself some serious money by foregoing professional consultation.

 

One step that folks who want to complete the job themselves often skip is actually removing any debris up where the damper sits and also in the firebox itself. Any ashes in the firebox should be removed and thrown away, but be sure that the ashes have fully cooled before manipulating them. We recommend putting the ashes into a metal can100_0853

From here the process is actually quite simple. There will be a rod that is fixed inside the chimney by nuts. Use a wrench to loosen the nuts and remove the metal rod. The damper itself will now be able to be twisted off. If your damper has significant rusting, this part may be difficult, and if the metal rod itself has rusted you will want to replace it and the corresponding nuts. You may want to consult a professional in choosing a new damper, but if you do not want to simply taking your existing damper with you when you go to get the new one will allow you to compare dimensions and ensure that you have a proper fit. Very large chimneys may need custom made dampers, but this is rarely the case.

Installing the damper is quite easy– simply slide it back onto the rod in the same fashion that you removed the old damper and fix the rod and damper back into place using the same nuts as before. Be sure it is securely fastened and that it will not wiggle or fall over time. Despite the simplicity of replacing a fireplace damper, I have heard from folks who have installed the damper incorrectly that they lit their first fire after the replacement and their whole room filled with smoke! LT II Cap Damper 2 09507

This is no problem and is usually not the fault of the damper’s construction.

Put the fire out and look closely at the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure that you have installed it as the manufacturer had intended. If you are still experiencing problems, consult a professional.

When replacing your existing damper, a product now available on the market is called a top sealing damper, where the damper is actually located at the top of the chimney, controlled by a cable that reaches down the chimney, which prevents heated air in the winter from being lost up and out of the chimney. LockTop top sealing damper systems are generally what are installed by professionals these days because of their efficiency and ease of use for the customer.

LY Damper Handle (2)

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Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb is a Cincinnati Chimney Sweep contractor and the executive producer of the YouTube channel, podcast, and blog Ask the Chimney Sweep. He is also an award-winning educator and public speaker in the chimney and fireplace industry.

AsktheChimneySweep.com….Educational Videos
FireplaceandChimneySupply.com….Chimney products
AmChimney.com….American Chimney Cincinnati, OH
Clay Lamb

Latest posts by Clay Lamb (see all)

Chimney leaking ? . . Get a bucket Honey, no get lots of buckets”

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb is a Cincinnati Chimney Sweep contractor and the executive producer of the YouTube channel, podcast, and blog Ask the Chimney Sweep. He is also an award-winning educator and public speaker in the chimney and fireplace industry.

AsktheChimneySweep.com….Educational Videos
FireplaceandChimneySupply.com….Chimney products
AmChimney.com….American Chimney Cincinnati, OH
Clay Lamb

Latest posts by Clay Lamb (see all)

“Oh my gosh, Honey the ceiling by the fireplace is leaking like crazy, get a bucket, NO…. get lots of buckets”

I get lots of water problems phone calls like this all during our rainy season March – July

I found some interesting rain fall statistics for Cincinnati

Did you know that our heaviest rainfall herein Cincinnati occurs during the month of May, with over 5 inches rainfall

The month of June is 2nd and has over 4” of rain

The months of March, April, and July are darn close to tying at 3.86 rainfall

Cincinnati has on the average 132 days rain that brings us 42 “1/4 inches of rain For a little comparison of a few other cities Portland, OR has 39” and Seattle, WA comes in at about 38”.

Atlanta comes in at 48 inches and Orlando Florida is just a touch over 53inches.That is almost 41/2 feet of rain.

Chase Pan is Reinstalled (New) 

My Job is to help identify where the water is making entry into the structure of a home.

I want you to keep in mind, that there actually may be multiple points for water entry into the home.

When addressing water problems use “ a systematic process for eliminating each possible points for unwanted water entry”

It is my opinion that almost in all residential interior water problems are derived from

July14 two chimneys 015

… One of three possibilities Area of Concern.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My 1st Area of Concern is what I’ll refer to as the “Rooftop Area”

Starting from the top of your roof it heir could be damaged or actually missing shingles.

There could also be water entry through popped nail holes on the wood decking where the shingles were once installed.

Did you know that just one little hole could allow gallons of water into your home?

There are a number of roof penetrations that may be problematic, such as those rubber boots around those short plumbing vent stacks, these could be cracked or worn out from the sun.MVC-006S (3)

 

Roof vents are those square looking vents are required to exchange the air in our homes and attics. Whole house attic fans, Sky lights and window lintels flashings may need to be re-calked or replaced or weatherized.

There is metal valley flashing on the rooftop that can be found at every angle, rise or dimension of the rooftop shape

 

 

There is term called Ice Damming this is where in the winter ice is collecting in the gutter and as it melts on those sunny after noon it refreezes as the sun goes down, but the problem here it that it starts to accumulate and backs-up under the shingle and now is again freezing and melting and then dripping into the attic, then down into the ceiling in your bedrooms or living room of your home.

metal cricket)

 

 

A Cricket is a pyramid design that flush rainwater around the backside of a chimney and into the gutter. Then there is the chimney flashing this is a metal collar that fits around the chimney that may have rusted out or damage by raccoon working to pull it back as they are making entry into your attic or maybe tree branches may have been rubbing against it. Metal chimney flashing wraps round the shape of the chimneystack preventing rainwater entry that is running down the roof top shingles.

… Honeys get the buckets it is raining in the living room; all over new Flat screen TV 🙁

My 2nd Area of Concern Is what I’ll refer to as the Chimney Chase Area; this is the shape of the chimney. It could be made of wood framing or brick masonry it really doesn’t make any difference if the water is coming into your house

.. Just fix my  water problem  ……. is what I hear the most!MVC-021S

-Starting at the top of the chimney, it maybe called by a number of names such as the crown, cap, crown wash, splay or if it is made of metal it is refer to a as a metal chase cover.

-The Crown of the chimney must be watertight. I often refer to it as the Icing on top of a cupcake.

 

 

 

July14 two chimneys 052

One of the biggest problems we see, is that during the rapid construction days of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s that many of the masonry crowns were made of left over brick mortar that is a much softer material, than the properly required harder concrete that is needed to protect the brick on the chimney masonry.

Masonry tuck-pointing is the process of replacing damaged or worn out mortar joints from the bricks on both the chimney, and any other masonry surface of your home.

 

This is often a big problem that is found at the top the brick chimney as well as what is referred to as the corbels, which are hips or shaping on the outside of the chimney.

 

MVC-005S

All of these damaged mortar joints need to be ground-out and filled back to prevent water from enters the home, We always want our work to blend in with the rest of the home as well as can be.

We always use colored dye tints in our mortar.We do this so that our tuck-pointing work does not have that bright gray newly repaired look.

Again “moisture is not your friend” as over hanging tree branches, and shrubs laying up against the house brick can bring big problem.

The same is true as we are watering our yards and shrubs in the summer, as well as repeated water sprinkling of the masonry brick surface over and over is very damaging.

My 3rd and final Area of Concern; is the internal working of the chimney flue system.

The flue system is designed to move hot gases from the hot water heater and furnace.

MVC-004S (3)   For every100.000 BTU of natural gas that is  burned, it produces about 1 gallon of water. Either it goes up the chimney or it will condensate and leak back down into the ceilings and wall of of living space or back into your basement. Your Chimney flue may have been improperly sized, for a new furnace or hot water heater replacement and possible water  is now running out onto the basement floor .

Animals Birds Nest extracted.jpg

 

 

If the chimney flue is blocked this will also cause condensation water problems You may ask what could case this blockage, it could be broken chimney flue liners or bird nesting blockage/ This is why we always recommend a properly sized chimney cap along with a bird screening on every chimney top.

 

 

 

 

To summaries all of this up for you, we have identified the water problems, and I have offered you some reasonable solutions.

“Now picture this with me”……  you have had a very busy day, your rather tired, it is 10:30 at night, you shut the TV off,

your locking up the house and preparing to go upstairs to bed, then you hear that voice coming from upstairs saying.

… Honey hurry; get the buckets it is raining in our bedroom.  …. And it’s on your side of the bed! 🙁

Chimney Leaks

https://youtu.be/hNU-W7YmI5E

Tuck Pointing

https://youtu.be/kkzpzqx4axA

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Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb is a Cincinnati Chimney Sweep contractor and the executive producer of the YouTube channel, podcast, and blog Ask the Chimney Sweep. He is also an award-winning educator and public speaker in the chimney and fireplace industry.

AsktheChimneySweep.com….Educational Videos
FireplaceandChimneySupply.com….Chimney products
AmChimney.com….American Chimney Cincinnati, OH
Clay Lamb

Latest posts by Clay Lamb (see all)

What the Heck is a Sudden Occurrence Insurance Claim

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb is a Cincinnati Chimney Sweep contractor and the executive producer of the YouTube channel, podcast, and blog Ask the Chimney Sweep. He is also an award-winning educator and public speaker in the chimney and fireplace industry.

AsktheChimneySweep.com….Educational Videos
FireplaceandChimneySupply.com….Chimney products
AmChimney.com….American Chimney Cincinnati, OH
Clay Lamb

Latest posts by Clay Lamb (see all)

Chase blown over3.jpg copyWhen a chimney fire occurs, wind damage, or lightning strikes your chimney, damage is incurred.  Most folks’ insurance policies cover such occurrences, and a chimney professional must try to help homeowners to make the insurance process go as smoothly as possible. My number one recommendation when it comes to insurance claims, no matter what kind of insurance, is to document everything at the very beginning of the process. You need to be sure to document the date it occurred, the name of the professional(s) who comes out to evaluate the situation, and the date(s) the professional evaluated the situation. Your professional should also be doing some documentation as well.

  • The service technician must document the damage, the date it was discovered, and how they discovered it. Most chimney fires are discovered by chimney sweeps who come out and observe signs that a chimney fire has occurred when running a video inspection of the flue system. This is a dangerous situation which cannot be ignored; you cannot continue to burn wood regularly in your fireplace without repair. You may notice exterior damage on the chimney caused by a lightning strike, in which case the technician should document that he came out to observe possible lightning strike damage at the request of the owner of the home.
  • Most insurance policies do not cover normal wear and tear of the chimney, for example, deterioration over many years. Similarly,
Vertical Crack
Vertical cracks in flue tiles often indicate a chimney fire has occurred.they do not cover problems such as a clogged flue or spalling brick, which is almost always the result of poor maintenance of the chimney. Instead, documentation for insurance claims are used to file a “sudden occurrence.” It has been my experience that most insurance companies are willing to work with you so long as you provide the documentation and information that they require.
  • Fire is only supposed to be contained within the firebox of your chimney. When the fire escapes this area, it often causes vertical cracks in the flue tiles of a chimney, can warp a stainless steel liner, and cause other damage to the chimney and home in general. Documenting your claim on a large, roaring chimney fire is easy, seeing that the fire department must be called. What about slow burning chimney fires, which most home owners are not even aware occurred until a chimney sweep comes out and tells them.
  • Chimney professionals are almost always willing to come out, meet with an insurance agent or a homeowner, and do whatever work is necessary in cases regarding sudden occurrence insurance claims. My policy is to never get ahead of the insurance agency and follow their lead when it comes to the claim, providing what documentation and service they require. Remember, it is not the chimney professional’s job to defend the home owner’s claim, but review observable facts and provide documentation that a person other than a trained professional could not do. Call out one or more professionals if you suspect a sudden occurrence has taken place; they can almost always make the insurance claim process less of a hassle
  • Sudden Occurrence Insurance Claims

  • https://youtu.be/ImkfRabTTPI

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Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb is a Cincinnati Chimney Sweep contractor and the executive producer of the YouTube channel, podcast, and blog Ask the Chimney Sweep. He is also an award-winning educator and public speaker in the chimney and fireplace industry.

AsktheChimneySweep.com….Educational Videos
FireplaceandChimneySupply.com….Chimney products
AmChimney.com….American Chimney Cincinnati, OH
Clay Lamb

Latest posts by Clay Lamb (see all)

Learn More About Dryer Vent Safety

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb is a Cincinnati Chimney Sweep contractor and the executive producer of the YouTube channel, podcast, and blog Ask the Chimney Sweep. He is also an award-winning educator and public speaker in the chimney and fireplace industry.

AsktheChimneySweep.com….Educational Videos
FireplaceandChimneySupply.com….Chimney products
AmChimney.com….American Chimney Cincinnati, OH
Clay Lamb

Latest posts by Clay Lamb (see all)

linteatersystem
Unlike some appliances which need maintenance only when a problem arises, dryer vents need ongoing maintenance to keep them safe. When it comes to a sweeping company, most people really only consider having their fireplaces cleaned, and maybe their furnace, but what about your dryer vent? This must be cleaned regularly in order to best prevent a fire from starting. Here are some tips in caring for your dryer in between servicing.

<—-Gardus RLE202 LintEater system

 

 

 

1. After every load of laundry, clean off the lint screen! This simple task is a habit for most people accustomed to doing laundry, but doing so really increases the efficiency of your dryer.

images-10

2. If your dryer vent (the circular, flexible pipe extending from the back of the dryer to outside of your home) is a vinyl hose, it should be replaced. These are very old dryer vents. Newer models of dryers come with rigid, metal ducts in order to decrease the likelihood of a fire occurring. These rigid pipes are smooth on the inside to keep lint and other debris from catching on the sides and causing blockage. Regarding your chimney’s duct, the shorter the better; the longer the pipe and the more turns that exist the harder your dryer has to work, increasing your electric bill monthly.

Pic courtesy of Chimney Solutions Alanta GA

3. Check the exhaust flap to ensure that you have strong air pressure.

Having your dryer vent serviced yearly keeps your dryer running efficiently for a longer period of time. Dryers that don’t work efficiently causes each load to take longer to dry and for heavy items such as towels to come out still damp. Having to put items back through the cycle again is extremely wasteful. Finally, if there is no lint appearing on the lint screen when you check it for lint (meaning none whatsoever) there is a very good chance that your dryer vent’s exhaust system may be clogged.

Most chimney sweeping companies are also certified for cleaning dryer vents. Don’t skip this process! An inefficient dryer or a fire caused by a clogged dryer vent will cost you more in the long runt. It is very important to check your dryer vents to ensure there is not a  lint buildup! Clogged vents will restrict the  flow of air and the efficiency of the dryer. Your dryer will work much harder and longer to dry your clothes, which  cost you money and energy.
Make sure you check out our YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/user/askthechimneysweep
And other blogs
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Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb is a Cincinnati Chimney Sweep contractor and the executive producer of the YouTube channel, podcast, and blog Ask the Chimney Sweep. He is also an award-winning educator and public speaker in the chimney and fireplace industry.

AsktheChimneySweep.com….Educational Videos
FireplaceandChimneySupply.com….Chimney products
AmChimney.com….American Chimney Cincinnati, OH
Clay Lamb

Latest posts by Clay Lamb (see all)

It’s is the . . . Perfect Time for a Chimney Fire !

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb is a Cincinnati Chimney Sweep contractor and the executive producer of the YouTube channel, podcast, and blog Ask the Chimney Sweep. He is also an award-winning educator and public speaker in the chimney and fireplace industry.

AsktheChimneySweep.com….Educational Videos
FireplaceandChimneySupply.com….Chimney products
AmChimney.com….American Chimney Cincinnati, OH
Clay Lamb

Latest posts by Clay Lamb (see all)

Chimney FireChimney Fires and Insurance Claims at Christmas  ………Yes it is the perfect time for a  “Chimney Fire”

I certainly would hope that no one would ever experience one of these hostile chimney fires in their home. Many a chimney fire ruined a Christmas or New Years Holiday gathering. Chimney fires are known to be either very quiet and almost an undetectable rumbling, or as many customers has told me it had a sound like that of a very loud jet aircraft or freight train going through the house.

This loud tornado wind sound is caused as room air is being sucked up the chimney flue and is often accompanied by hot flames that are shooting out of the chimney, while spitting hot chunks of swollen creosote on to the rooftop. A loud popping and cracking sound is often heard as terra-cotta clay flue tiles are breaking from the rapid heat expansion.

It is not uncommon to hear from a homeowner that a neighbor came pounding on their front door, shouting that flames from a fire where shooting out of the top of their chimney, then the local fire department was called and came rushing to the fire.

As I mentioned, to often chimney fires are not heard at all. It may be a quiet rumbling and referred to as being slow burning. This slow burning fire is what chimney sweeps often discover during a standard maintenance chimney cleaning. If a chimney fire is discovered, a video scanning of the interior of chimney liner is recommended, we would be assessing for any possible damage. I will say that it is rather unusual that no fire damage had occurred, as this intense heat from the fire can exceed 2,000 degrees, buckling metal chimney pipes and cracking flue tiles as well as damaging mortar joints found both in the smoke chamber and the flue tiles mortar system.                                                                                 chim fire

 Signs of a Chimney Fire https://youtu.be/5e2_6HUVtjI

It is very important to understand that fire is only supposed to be present in the firebox area, and not in the smoke chamber or chimney flue system!

According to building codes standards, a fireplace chimney flue system must be able to contain the products of combustion (smoke) and that the fireplace must be repaired before further use, if it is damaged!

 

cleaning

Sudden Occurrence Insurance Claims https://youtu.be/ImkfRabTTPI 

Video Scanning the interior of  the Chimney Flue

I would recommend that a chimney contractor photograph damage areas of the chimney, bag a sample of the swollen or puffed creosote. As a chimney contractor we will have our customers sign our receipt of our discovery, documentation and communication of their chimney fire incident and to discontinue use further use, until proper repairs are made. We will also recommend having the homeowner contact their homeowners insurance carrier, as this is most often considered a “Sudden Occurrence” within the insurance industry terminology and possibly chimney repairs of like and kind may be covered under their Home Owners insurance policy.

In conclusion Christmas …..is a perfect time for a Chimney Fire, as any homeowners toss their Christmas wrapping paper and cardboard boxes in the fireplace and ignite a needless chimney fire. As a side bar there are two other times of the year that a chimney fire often occurs. One is when the Christmas tree is broken apart and used to get a roaring fire started. The other time is on those “Special Football Sundays” as greasy pizza boxes are pitched into the fireplace… A loud whoosh can be heard as a chimney-fire is now blazing out of control from the top of your house. Smoke alarms are blasting, the sound of fire truck sirens can be heard 6 blocks away, as they are coming into your neighborhood to connect their fire-truck hoses up to the water hydrant, ladders are going to be thrown up onto your gutters to mount your rooftop to begin attacking your chimney fire. This doesn’t need to happen to you and your family over the holiday season or at all. That is if you’re having your fireplace regularly serviced and practices some basic fireplace burning techniques.

Burn Safe and Warm

Clay Lamb

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Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb is a Cincinnati Chimney Sweep contractor and the executive producer of the YouTube channel, podcast, and blog Ask the Chimney Sweep. He is also an award-winning educator and public speaker in the chimney and fireplace industry.

AsktheChimneySweep.com….Educational Videos
FireplaceandChimneySupply.com….Chimney products
AmChimney.com….American Chimney Cincinnati, OH
Clay Lamb

Latest posts by Clay Lamb (see all)

Creosote Odors fireplace problems

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb is a Cincinnati Chimney Sweep contractor and the executive producer of the YouTube channel, podcast, and blog Ask the Chimney Sweep. He is also an award-winning educator and public speaker in the chimney and fireplace industry.

AsktheChimneySweep.com….Educational Videos
FireplaceandChimneySupply.com….Chimney products
AmChimney.com….American Chimney Cincinnati, OH
Clay Lamb

Latest posts by Clay Lamb (see all)

Creosote odor problem. … Oh my goodness do they ever stink up a home!

I couldn’t tell you how many times over the years that I have been called by a rather frustrated customers, telling me they have a horrible odor that is filling their home and the smell seams to be coming from the fireplace.Being in the fireplace business over 30 years I have found that most odor problems stem from one of two things.

Either there is something dead in a chimney such as birds, squirrels or a big old nasty dead raccoon. Not going into detail here, trust me that is not a fun job to remove!The second odor culprit and the most common is the foul smell of creosote soaked air that is being pulled down into the home often by the cold air returns and furnace ductwork.Creosote is from smoke that contains droplets of unburned carbon and is often referred to as tar-fog, within the chimney and fireplace business, These tar-fog droplets often will condense and collect on the cooler interior walls of both the fireplace and chimney flue system.Creosote is that black flammable substance that is left in a fireplace or wooding burn stove.

Hot fires that are associated with burning cardboard or paper can easily flame up past the damper area and often ignite droplets of creosote. Now you have an un-friendly or possibly an out of control chimney fire. Know well that many chimney-fires are much quieter and are referred to as being “slow burning”, still often cause a huge amount of damage to the interior of the fireplace masonry as well as to hidden wooden framing and mantels.

Now lets get back to identifying and solving your fireplace odor problem. Over the years I have tried many concoctions’ of home remedies. I have read a lot regarding house pressures induced odor problems. I have purchased many of these odor products online as well as at the local hardware store. Using those fresh air smelling small carbon jell tubs, vinegar filled bowls or those Chimney cleaning logs all work to some degree, but have not offer a lasting solution for stinky fireplaces. I’m sorry to report to you, but these pungent odors don’t seem to be able to masked over to satisfy for myself, or my customers’ noses’

So let start with your wood source, and as we discussed that incomplete combustion term may sound high tech, but in reality is that it boils down to your firewood is not being “burned completely and /or the fireplace is not drafting up enough to properly flush those Smokey-gases out of your homes fast enough.

In other words the smoke is lingering in the chimney flue way to long, it is then condensing into creosote and collecting on the cooler walls of the fireplace. Then when your furnace system kicks on, the air pressures within your home are often reversed, thus pulling odors down and are now being re-distributed throughout the home.

Whenever I’m called out to a customer’s home for an odor problem, as soon as I arrive I go looking for their woodpile. I want to see if the wood is covered properly from those soaking snowfalls and spring rains and if it is it soaking wet?

Wet unseasoned wood burns slow and will often make a hissing sound as it is steaming the water out. I’ll check to see if is it appears to be a hard wood or not. Most important is the wood seasoned.

Just because the woodpile appears to look gray or weathered, it does not indicate to me that it is seasoned properly. Looking at the butt end of the wood is it smooth like it was just cut recently or does it have lots of weathered cracked ends. This cracking is, caused by the moisture being dried out of the wood. For properly seasoned wood it is often cut, stacked and has a waterproof covering and should have a moisture content after seasoning of 15% to 25%.

When I enter a home I’m questioning, where are the cold air returns in the room? Is there a cathedral ceiling, what is the proximity to the stairwell in relationship to the mouth of the fireplace opening?

Odor Problems   ——————->  https://youtu.be/2s_DsVFXc1A

Did you know that a stairwell could produce a much stronger up draft than the actual fireplace? This is especially true while starting a fire, so I recommend starting off with smaller fires. It takes about 45 minutes to heat cold masonry up to draw properly. Smoke and odors will follow the path of least resistance, so high cathedrals ceiling and stairway can be very problematic to the air balance within your home.

The locations of your furnace cold air returns within the home can be very critical in creating a sluggish draft. This is especially true when starting up your fireplace. Also leaving large amounts of ash in the fireplace can actually hold moisture and odors, so be sure to remove these ashes if you’re having an ongoing problem.

To often I have gone to homes where the customer is choking the fireplace damper down, they are doing this to create a much longer burn time. Often this smoke is getting up to the top of the chimney, but it is now collecting on the spark arrestor screening. This sluggish draft is now lingering way to long and this creosote is now collecting on the walls of the flue system, as well as the screening. This is way to often the case for my wood stove burning customers.

Negative Pressure Issues   ——–>   https://youtu.be/AN4X9jPJdqI

Be sure to check the spark arrestor, as you drive off to work or are taking the kids to school take a look back at your chimney top is your spark arrestor clear of blockage or not?

Be sure to check the spark arrestor, as you drive off to work or are taking the kids to school take a look back at your chimney top is your spark arrestor clear of blockage or not?

Like most things in life, most problems need to be resolved by a process of elimination.

Here are my possible solutions to your stinky fireplace problem!

imgres-1) In early spring before your AC kicks on have your fireplace cleaned by a professional chimney sweep. You can find a reputable Chimney Sweep in your area by using this link to the National Chimney Sweep Guild locator http://www.ncsg.org/search.  Also be sure and go online and read their customer reviews from Google, BBB and AngiesList. I’m never impressed with those cheaper “Swab and Rob companies

2) Only burned wood that has been seasoned properly for at least 6 months.

3) Coverer your seasoned firewood.

4) Don’t choke your fireplace damper down so much!

5) Consistently monitor the spark arrestor on the top of your chimney cap.

* Let me Know if this help with your odor problem or not!

Burn safe and warm!

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Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb is a Cincinnati Chimney Sweep contractor and the executive producer of the YouTube channel, podcast, and blog Ask the Chimney Sweep. He is also an award-winning educator and public speaker in the chimney and fireplace industry.

AsktheChimneySweep.com….Educational Videos
FireplaceandChimneySupply.com….Chimney products
AmChimney.com….American Chimney Cincinnati, OH
Clay Lamb

Latest posts by Clay Lamb (see all)

The Pros and Cons of Using Manufactured Fire Logs

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb is a Cincinnati Chimney Sweep contractor and the executive producer of the YouTube channel, podcast, and blog Ask the Chimney Sweep. He is also an award-winning educator and public speaker in the chimney and fireplace industry.

AsktheChimneySweep.com….Educational Videos
FireplaceandChimneySupply.com….Chimney products
AmChimney.com….American Chimney Cincinnati, OH
Clay Lamb

Latest posts by Clay Lamb (see all)

There are very few supermarkets these days that do not have firewood stacked up outside: small batches of logs wrapped in cellophane with a handle attached that seems to be more useful for punishing hands than serving as an effective method of carrying 20 pounds of wood.

It’s all in the spirit of convenience, however, and although those tortuous totes of timber can make an effective fire, there is no retail option more appealing than manufactured firelogs.  There are many brands, but one purpose: to provide a quick, easy-to-light fire for homeowners who wish to entertain their family or guests for the evening.

But how safe are they?  Are they better than just using traditional firewood?  Let’s compare firewood and firelogs to figure out the pros and cons of each.

1) Emissions

The biggest complaint against burning firewood is the amount of greenhouse gases created by a typical fire.   Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of burning wood, and although the levels are not high enough for concern to the homeowner, the gases that come out of the chimney are considered significant enough by some locales that limits have been placed on wood burning, such as “no burn” days.

imgresThe most common fire logs are made from two components: paraffin wax (a petroleum byproduct) and sawdust.  Both are manufacturing waste products that are now combined, packaged and resold by some companies as firelogs.

The origin of firelogs may not sound incredibly environmentally friendly, but they do provide ecological upside when used in the fireplace as a replacement for wood.  Studies have been performed on the emissions from firelogs, and although their final conclusions vary, they all agree that firelogs give off less harmful emissions than a fire fueled by wood.

Part of the difference is also due to the amount of material used.  In a typical evening’s fire, 20-25 pounds of wood are used.  Firelogs are designed for single use, and weigh up to six pounds.  Less material burned equates to less emissions.  It also means less creosote buildup over the course of a burning season.

Manufacturers have improved on the initial sawdust and wax model over the years by offering products that use more natural vegetable-based binders and even coffee beans.  So, as far as the Earth is concerned, chalk a victory up to firelogs.

Winner: Firelogs

2) Ambiance

Part of the appeal of a fire in the fireplace are the nostalgic tingling of many senses: the smell of a fire, the crackles and pops, the dancing flames.

Burning a firelog may be a bit of a letdown for those looking for a more traditional fire.  The smell is certainly different, the flames are there but aren’t necessarily as random as a wood fire, and all that can be heard is the faint hiss of the escaping gases.

Some manufacturers have introduced firelogs that imitate the sounds of a wood fire, and even some with different colored flames.  But quite honestly, there’s nothing that compares to a good, raging wood fire.P33CE-A-610x340

Winner: Wood

3) Heat

Although aesthetic appeal is a big plus of owning a fireplace, many also enjoy (or even rely on) the heat that is generated by their fires.  It’s one thing to see the beauty of a fire from across the room, but even better when it can be felt from up close.

As mentioned previously, a wood fire is often made up of many logs, not just one, and the volume of fuel helps to create a warmth that is a signature of wood fires.  As firelogs are designed to only be burned one at a time, the single log certainly does not generate enough warmth to attract anyone to want to sit closer.

If the attraction of heat is a big desire, steer away from firelogs.

Winner: Wood

4) Convenience

Walking by that woodpile in front of the local supermarket might be tempting, but consider this: is tinder and kindling handy?  Will someone be around to add another wood log on the fire when it dies down?  Is someone even available who knows how to properly start a wood fire?

Picking up a four-hour firelog for the night and merely lighting the packaging may seem like cheating to some, but it sure makes having missed out on being a scout that much easier to deal with.

Winner: Firelogs

5) Cost

This may seem like an easy answer, but it all depends on how often the fireplace is used.  Will it be used on just the occasional weekend, or is this the type of home that has a fire every night?

For some, wood is easily the cheaper choice because fallen trees are readily available for cutting and splitting.  (Of course, the monetary cost is replace with much blood, sweat and tears, but adds the benefit of feeling tough.)  For the frequent burners, it may also be more economical to buy a cord or two of wood every burning season.

For others, it is much better to buy individual firelogs for the handful of times company is over to enjoy the fireplace. So, as the frequency of fires increases, wood becomes the more affordable choice, and firelogs benefit the casual burners.

Winner: Even

What did you expect, an endorsement of some sort?  Of course, it is not the chimney sweep’s job to recommend one over the other, as both have their positives and negatives. Regardless of whether wood or firelogs are the best choice for home burning, make sure to still have an annual inspection done by a reputable chimney professional, and cleaned if necessary

Smoking Fireplace Problems

https://youtu.be/4F9m8dMhJmQ

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Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb is a Cincinnati Chimney Sweep contractor and the executive producer of the YouTube channel, podcast, and blog Ask the Chimney Sweep. He is also an award-winning educator and public speaker in the chimney and fireplace industry.

AsktheChimneySweep.com….Educational Videos
FireplaceandChimneySupply.com….Chimney products
AmChimney.com….American Chimney Cincinnati, OH
Clay Lamb

Latest posts by Clay Lamb (see all)

Nine Things To Know About Chimney Fires

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb is a Cincinnati Chimney Sweep contractor and the executive producer of the YouTube channel, podcast, and blog Ask the Chimney Sweep. He is also an award-winning educator and public speaker in the chimney and fireplace industry.

AsktheChimneySweep.com….Educational Videos
FireplaceandChimneySupply.com….Chimney products
AmChimney.com….American Chimney Cincinnati, OH
Clay Lamb

Latest posts by Clay Lamb (see all)

In the middle of a brutal winter, it is only natural to desire the warmth of your own home.  In most homes a fireplace is a natural gathering place for the family to escape the truth of the cold air right outside.Panorama_P42

Unfortunately, that soothing fire could start a chimney fire, causing significant and even dangerous damage to your chimney system.  It is no wonder that most chimney fires occur in the winter, but what do you know about them?  Here are nine items to keep in mind to help avoid or deal with chimney fires.

1) A fire is only meant to be within a fireplace.

A popular news item around the holidays is the home caught ablaze due to a chimney fire. A chimney is designed to handle hot gases, such as the smoke that comes from burning a fire down below, but once flames enter the system direct above the top of your fireplace, damage can quickly occur.

So, how does that happen?  One common cause is an lit item floating up and igniting creosote build-up. That’s why any chimney sweep worth their weight in soot will recommend only burning wood or approved fire logs in your fireplace.  Items such as wrapping paper left behind after frenzied Christmas present opening and pizza boxes from your winter sports bash should never be burned in a fireplace.

2) A chimney fire may go undetected.

It is commonly said that a chimney fire can sound like a freight train or jet coming through your house.  While that is certainly true for large-scale chimney fires, smaller ones can often go undetected.

If you suspect you may have had a chimney fire, an inspection of the flue system will certainly uncover some clues. Something to look for are blotches or spotted areas where some creosote is present but some of the flue tile is clean. Other telltale signs of a chimney fire are puffy creosote (looking very much like black cheese puffs) and vertical cracks in the flue tiles.  All of these are sure signs your chimney may be damaged from a chimney fire.

If any signs of a chimney fire are present, it can be assumed that the system has been compromised and should be considered unsafe to burn.  A chimney professional can come and investigate as well to confirm your suspicions.

IMG_01323) Having your chimney inspected annually and swept (if necessary) is the best prevention for a chimney fire.

As with any fire, there needs to be a catalyst of some sort, and fuel.  Some catalysts have already been mentioned (if you’re not starting your fire, don’t throw all that newspaper in there!), but normal levels of creosote that build up in a year are typically not enough fuel for a chimney fire to ignite.

It takes what is known as glazed creosote, and it is much different than its powdery sooty beginnings.  Using treated, green or wet wood in your fires will cause creosote to build up faster. Burning too much of this wood, or any excessive wood burning without cleaning, turns what most recognize as soot into a glossy, oily looking creosote that is baked onto the tile and brick of the chimney.

Annual inspection and cleaning when necessary is the best way to prevent this buildup.  Look for a chimney professional to provide this service, and schedule it annually to prevent your chimney from developing glazed creosote.

Also, using commercially available products such as creosote powder treatments on your logs can help to alleviate this buildup.  This is a great option for those homeowners who have wood burning stoves, or use their fireplaces daily throughout the winter, though it should not be used as a substitute for a proper cleaning.

4) Chimney fires are considered “sudden occurrences” by most homeowner’s insurance policies, and repairs are therefore typically covered.

Repairing the damage caused by a chimney fire can be an expensive proposition.  In most cases, the chimney fire has damaged the system to the point that the liner can no longer protect your home from the hot gases emitted by a fire.  A repair of this magnitude can cost thousands of dollars

This is one of those cases where homeowner’s insurance comes in handy.  A chimney fire is classified as a “sudden occurrence” in most homeowner’s insurance policies.  Although each policy is different, making a call to your insurance agent to verify coverage is a good idea if you have had a chimney fire.  This can take an expensive repair and makes it much more affordable.

5) The most important thing to do if a chimney fire has occurred is to document everything possible.

Working with an insurance company is certainly not a homeowner’s dream, but the best plan to make it as pleasant as possible is to properly document what has happened.

Things to consider having documented are the date and time the fire occurred (if known), the name of the service professional who inspected the chimney after the fire, and the date it was inspected. Also be sure to save any paperwork provided by the professional, as it will often contain additional items observed by the service company that would be traditional signs of a chimney fire.  Many times an insurance claim can be expedited if these things are documented in advance.

Home & Garden Pic's 2906) Video and/or photographic evidence of the damage done by a chimney fire is crucial if the date of the fire is not known.

If the fire occurs slowly and quietly, in many cases it can still do enough damage to make your chimney unsafe to burn.  So, if the fire department wasn’t called and flames weren’t seen coming out of the top of the chimney, it can often be difficult when the damage occurred.

Chimney professionals who work with insurance companies will typically offer to do a video chimney scan when a chimney fire is suspected.  In this type of inspection, a small closed circuit camera is attached to a rod and run through the entire length of the chimney system and recorded.  This is a level of inspection that insurance companies prefer, as it can provide irrefutable evidence of a chimney fire.  If video is not available, photographs are a recommended fallback option

.MVC-009S (2) 2

Looking down the chimney to damaged flue liners that  must be replaced!

7) Let the insurance company lead the investigation, but keep a dialogue with them every step of the way.

When working with insurance, it is always the best policy to allow them to take the lead and provided the documentation and assistance they need as they need it.  If no one has been out to service the fireplace yet after the fire, feel free to arrange that service after the insurance asks for a more detailed inspection.

However, feel free to check in with the insurance company from time to time, asking what the status of the claim is and if they need anything other information or documentation.

8) The first word from the insurance company may not be the last word.

Sometimes a homeowner may initially get a “no.”  This can be for many reasons and can vary from company to company, but don’t just assume that is the end of the conversation.  A policy holder certainly has a right for an explanation to any denied claim.  Many times, it may be because they do not have enough information or the correct information.

Once again, documentation is priceless in this situation.  Ask to have the claim reviewed by another claims supervisor or the manager of the claims department.  See what gaps in information might be there and suggest ways you can provide what they need to reconsider.

9) Even if the insurance company ends up denying the claim, there are other legal options.

Although most claims are hassle-free if you have proper documentation, there are certain times when the homeowner and the insurance company may come to an impasse.  If that is the case, there are ways to challenge the insurance company legally. As a final effort, the homeowner can consider contacting an attorney that specializes in insurance fire loss claims.

In most situations, though, the insurance company is more than willing to work with homeowners who are well prepared.  With a bit of documentation, a homeowner who suffers a chimney fire can join their family around their fireplace with a newly repaired chimney system in no time flat

Signs of a Chimney Fire

https://youtu.be/5e2_6HUVtjI

Sudden Occurrence Insurance Claims

https://youtu.be/ImkfRabTTPI

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Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb is a Cincinnati Chimney Sweep contractor and the executive producer of the YouTube channel, podcast, and blog Ask the Chimney Sweep. He is also an award-winning educator and public speaker in the chimney and fireplace industry.

AsktheChimneySweep.com….Educational Videos
FireplaceandChimneySupply.com….Chimney products
AmChimney.com….American Chimney Cincinnati, OH
Clay Lamb

Latest posts by Clay Lamb (see all)