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.
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 melting and 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.
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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Spring is right around the corner, and folks that means its home improvement time. Were you disappointed by your heating bill using a furnace? Or did you struggle with your fireplace all season long? There are so many modernizations available for fireplaces to make them more efficient, send heat further in the room, and much more, which you may want to look into this season while you are working on other parts of your home.
Its true although it may seem counter-intuitive, some fireplace are actually so inefficient that they lose more heat up the flue system than they emit into the room. Extreme cases can actually cause a 20% heat loss! Imagine factoring in an extra 20% to your heating bill from this winter, or more importantly factoring out 20%. Everyone wants lower energy bills, and achieving a lower heating bill next winter is as easy as taking some of the suggestions listed below.
Glass Doors display, at Bromwell Fireplace shop in Cincinnati, just an amazing store to visit and shop at!
One of the most obvious solutions to the problem of heat loss is to physically prevent the heat from exiting the home. Installing fireplace glass doors is an easy way of doing so which also is an attractive addition to any home. I find these glass doors most helpful when I’m waiting for the fire to go out and its burning low but its still too early to shut the chimney damper. Preventing air from
heading up the chimney is a huge efficiency booster.
Similarly, the installation of a fireplace fireback is another relatively small price to pay for increased fireplace efficiency. These firebacks can be highly decorative or very simple and can be made of stainless steel or a more expensive, decorative cast iron. Firebacks are simply set in the fireplace behind the grate and amplify the radiant heat from the fire into the room, more so than the firebox wall would. Some manufacturer’s cite huge efficiency increases with the installation of their product, most of which are noticeable immediately after installation.
Fireplace Tool Set
Some people might not think of efficiency of burning as including the stoking and care of the fire before and after the fire burns, but technically speaking if you can decrease your time spent handling the ashes, etc., that makes the fireplace a more efficient heating method because it provides heat in a shorter period of time. A nice tool set will aid in ash removal and stoking the fire so it burns to its maximum potential.
Options to Discuss with a Professional
If your fireplace smokes toward the beginning of your fire or continuously even during the time you are burning a fire, you are burning inefficiently due to a poor draft more than likely. You will want to discuss options with your professional to improve this draft because once draft is improved not only will the smoking problem cease but the fire will burn hotter and longer all the while
needing less care from you once its lit.
You also want to consider carefully if your fireplace has an odor when its raining or humid outside or if you feel cold air when the wind is blowing. In these cases you’ll want to install a top sealing damper, also called a chimney damper cap to close the chimney off at the top when your chimney is not in use.
Finally, a clean chimney is the most efficient version of your chimney without any other alterations because a clean chimney provides for the best draft (besides being more safe for burning). Having your chimney serviced and swept regularly will provide you with the opportunity to discuss options discussed above with a professional as well as make sure there aren’t any ongoing problems with your chimney.
Flashing provides protection against water for your chimney.
This video shows how to both install new flashing and repair flashing that has deteriorated.
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.
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!
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