AmChimney.com….American Chimney Cincinnati, OH
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 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.
Prefab Fireplace Repair and Replacement
Over the past few years, there has been some commotion in the industry regarding non-vented gas logs. (BEING UPDATED)
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.
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.
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 🙁
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 can
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!
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.
“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.
*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
… One of three possibilities Area of Concern.
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.
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 meltingand then dripping into the attic, then down into the ceiling in your bedrooms or living room of your home.
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!
-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.
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.
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.
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 .
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! 🙁
When 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.
I’m just so darn excited, after receiving over 2,000,000 (that’s Million) down loaded views on our Youtube channel .. *Ask The Chimney Sweep. we are now launch ing a podcast show called *Home Contractors HQ.com.
Please share this if your are or know of anyone thinking of starting their own business!
If you are not familiar with podcasting, I assure you that you will be soon! Podcasting is kind of like internet radio. Only you get to pick who you want to hear from, as well as when you want to hear them.
Home Contractors HQ podcast can now be heard on iTunes , Google Play and Stitcher podcast phone app.<——( podcast-catchers)
Yes, I’m Excited!
Ask The Chimney Sweep” …. is not going away !
For years service companies from all across the country have told me that they use our * Ask The Chimney Sweep videos, to train their own servicemen, as well as being a great a tool to email to their own customers to help explain, just what kind of repairs that they are recommending to be completed at their homes.
Our new educational training podcast is directed to help answer questions for new startup service companies, as well as hearing from hundreds of very seasoned contractors, that will be sharing their wisdom and experiences with the next generation of home repair service companies.
With thousands of visitors and subscribers * Ask The Chimney Sweep <——“is not going away “!
With all of the wood-stove and gas fireplaces being used by millions through -out America, our blog and the Q & A section is exploding.
After 35 years of being a home contractor, starting business’ in 5 different states, as wellas facilitating over 90 other service companies in Master-mind groups, we now have I a huge amount of educational resources that are sure to help both the new Home Contractor, as well as home owners who want to know what to expect from their own home contractor.
Visit us at www.HomeContractorsHQ.com
www.AsktheChimneySweep.com … Educational Videos
www.HomeContractorsHQ.com … Coaching Podcast
www.FireplaceandChimneySupply.com … Chimney products
Join our new podcast at …. www.HomeContractorsHQ.com
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.
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.
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
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.
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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!
) 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.
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!