An Insider’s Guide to Soot Buildup

There are over 20,000 chimney and fireplace-related fires each year in the United States. A majority of these fires are caused by a buildup of creosote, more commonly known as soot. Here are some facts we think you should know about soot in your chimney.

chimney repair – before and after

What Is Soot?

Soot occurs naturally by burning fuel, such as wood, in your fireplace. Soot cannot be prevented, and is the result of unburned fuel collecting and forming as a black powder, flakes, or a glaze on your chimney liner. Because it is unburned fuel, soot is highly flammable.

Soot Hazards

A buildup of soot can cause a fire when the temperature inside of the chimney rises. As the temperature rises, the soot can ignite, causing a fire that can potentially reach other areas of the home, such as the roof. A buildup of soot will also prevent smoke and gases like carbon dioxide from leaving your home through the chimney. Instead, the smoke and gases can enter into your home, potentially causing an unhealthy environment and stains on walls, ceilings, or furniture. Soot can also create a foul, musty odor, which can worsen in summer heat and humidity.

Contributors to Soot Buildup

While creosote buildup in your chimney cannot be totally prevented, there are ways to reduce soot buildup in your chimney. Some of the factors that can increase soot buildup include the following:

  • Burning artificial logs
  • Slow, smoldering fires
  • A buildup of creosote in your chimney
  • Burning trash

Oftentimes, the creosote that occurs from these situations is highly flammable.Removing Soot

To help prevent the hazards of a soot buildup, including the potential for fire, you should have your chimney cleaned. But when should you remove soot buildup? The answer can depend on how often the chimney is used, the type of fireplace you have, what has been burned in the fireplace, and the condition of the chimney.

The National Fire Protection Association recommends that your chimney be inspected for damage and buildup (both of soot and any other blockage, such as animal nests) at least once a year. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that an open masonry chimney be swept when there is a 1/8″ buildup of soot. For factory-built fireplaces, they recommend sweeping if there is enough buildup to cause a chimney fire capable of damaging the chimney or home. When you get expert soot removal for your chimney, the professional will also inspect it for any damages or potential issues.

How Old Chimneys Can Be Scarier Than Dating Taylor Swift

While we’re pretty sure Taylor Swift was exaggerating just a little when she informed the world in “Blank Space” that her exes think she’s insane, we do know there’s quite a list of them, and many of them are immortalized in song form. The ups and downs of a roller-coaster romance can be pretty painful, and waiting for that breakup song would be even worse. Most people, however, don’t have to deal with such loud public displays, and their fears come from anticipating common household dangers like those that come from an old chimney.

chimney repair – before and after

Chimneys venting fireplaces, furnaces, and stoves are all susceptible to chimney fires due to the cracks and flaws that inevitably form in the materials over time. For instance, your flue tiles might flake or crack, or gaps might form around them. These can create serious problems, which is why proper maintenance and regular inspections can literally save lives. Not all problems are immediately detectable, but they can cause house fires or the more subtle but just as insidious spread of poisonous gas as the flue liner becomes compromised.

Schedule a chimney inspection to look for signs that you’ve had a chimney fire, especially if you notice dense smoke, an intense smell, or a loud popping noise. The inspector will check for other physical signs like puffy creosote, warped metal, damaged roofing material, or cracked exterior masonry. If you have had a chimney fire, you may need to protect your home and family by investing in a complete chimney rebuilding project, or you may just need to replace a few flue tiles, depending on the severity of the case. If your chimney no longer contains fires like it should, then chimney repair is an absolute necessity. Make no mistake, experiencing a house fire is far worse than featuring in “I Knew You Were Trouble” or “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” so stay alert and put in the effort to make your home a safe place to be.

09/25/15

5 Benefits of Stainless Steel Chimney Liners

Chimney liners perform a very important function for your chimney and home. The liner helps protect the masonry of the chimney from exposure to gases an smoke that can cause deterioration over time, as well as preventing the smoke and these gases, such as hazardous carbon monoxide, from entering into your home. Chimney liners come in a few choices of materials, including clay, cement, aluminum, and steel. Here are 5 reasons we recommend choosing stainless steel chimney liners for your home.

chimney repair – before and after

Seamless Seal

A stainless steel liner is made of one continuous piece, which means it will not have any seams that could potentially allow smoke and gases to leak out.

Durable Material

Stainless steel is corrosion resistant, and unlike clay liners, a stainless steel liner will not crack or split over time. This also allows the liner to last much longer than liners made of other materials, which can save you money on replacement costs over time.

Affordable Option

Stainless steel is a fairly affordable material. In addition, unlike clay liners, stainless steel liners are fairly easy to install, which means that the installation costs will most likely be less expensive than it would be for clay liners.

Easier to Maintain

Clay liners will have a square shape that matches the shape of the masonry chimney. Stainless steel liners have a round shape, which means no corners and easier creosote cleanup.

Allow for Insulation

In addition to their round shape, stainless steel chimney liners allow room for adding insulation, which can also reduce creosote buildup. By adding insulation around the liner or between the liner and the chimney walls, the temperature in the chimney stays warmer. In the warmer temperature, the smoke and gases are more likely to remain smoke and gases until they exit the chimney, rather than condensing as creosote deposits on the side of the liner. The insulation can also help reduce cold drafts into the home through the chimney when it is not in use.

09/25/15

Checking Your Roof and Chimney for Damage after a Hailstorm

Did you know that hail can damage your roof and cause leaks? If you live in an area that gets hailstorms, then it’s a good idea to inspect your roof after each storm to assess any damage. If you let any damage to your roof or chimney go unnoticed, you could soon have leaks causing extensive damage that can be costly to fix. Instead, if you catch the damage early on, you can fix it and move on without much fuss.

chimney repair – before and after

The Roof and Chimney

Roofs are typically covered with shingles made from a variety of materials. Shingles are meant to direct water off the roof and into the gutters for drainage. Underneath the shingles is a layer of felt that repels water in case any gets under the shingles. A chimney provides a unique challenge because it breaks the uniformity of the roof. Because of this, there is flashing around the chimney to prevent leaks from getting in the crevices. Flashing is metal shaped like an L that sits on the roof and against the chimney.

Looking for Damage

After a hailstorm, we recommend inspecting your roof and chimney for damage. If you’re worried about doing this safely, you can hire a professional to come look at it. What exactly are you looking for? Hail can dent the shingles and flashing. Dents can turn into weak spots that will eventually let water in. When you’re inspecting your roof, look for these dents in the shingles or flashing. They may be small, but if water starts to get in, you can have a huge headache of problems to fix. If you do find damage, you can replace individual shingles or the leaking chimney flashing to prevent water damage before it starts. Professional roofers are well equipped to fix these minor problems if you aren’t super handy. Don’t let the next hailstorm at your house escalate to a huge problem. Catch the damage early and fix it for peace of mind at a reasonable cost.

09/25/15

Do You Have a Roof Leak or a Chimney Leak?

When you first discover that you have a leak inside the house, you might just simply stick a pail underneath the dripping water and forget all about it, hoping the rain will stop and the problem will go away. This is not a good plan. It’s better to get the leak fixed before the next rain storm. Water leaking around the chimney area might be an indication that it’s your chimney and not the roof that’s leaking. We at Chimney Doctor, LLC would like to help you know the difference between the two by suggesting the following signs to look for. 

a red brick chimney

Roof Leak?

Spotting missing shingles on your roof or finding shingles below on the ground is one sign you might have aleaking roof. The area of the missing shingles–easily spotted because the difference in color in certain spots on your roof–can guide you to the spot on your ceiling that might have the beginnings of a leak. Another sign of a roof leak is having gutters that are clogged. Two ways to quickly spot this are seeing leaves sticking up out of the gutter or noticing that the downspouts are not freely releasing water–or releasing it at all!

Chimney Leak?

Rain can come down into your chimney if your chimney cover has fallen or blown away, or wasn’t installed in the first place. A chimney cover is important not only to avoid water leaking around the chimney, but it prevents debris and small animals from getting in as well. If the cover (aka, crown), is cracked, it might take a little longer, but the rain will get in this way too. Leaking bricks can also bring water into your house.

Flashing, the thin metal underneath your shingles, can crack, and when this happens close by the chimney area of the roof, it might be hard to figure out whether the leak is coming from the roof or the chimney.

No matter where the leak is coming from, it’s important to get it fixed right away. Letting the problem go too long can not only cause problems with your roof or chimney, but the problem can also spread to the walls and even cause damage to your floors. Even furniture and appliances can share in the damage originating from one small leak that goes unrepaired.

The Dangers of a Chimney in Disrepair

Chimneys often bring to mind a cozy, warm setting on a chilly night. But a chimney that is in disrepair can cause a lot of damage to a home and its inhabitants. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that a chimney be inspected at least once a year. In this way, the professionals can help you know if your chimney is in need of a simple cleaning or if it needs a more serious chimney leak repair. To help you understand the importance of regular chimney maintenance, we’ve explained some of the dangers associated with chimney disrepair below. 

weathered chimney

House Fires

Each year, chimneys that have not been properly cared for lead to numerous house fires. Blockages in the chimney due to animal nests, leaves and debris, or fallen masonry can cause the smoke and flames to travel into the home rather than up and out of the chimney. Creosote, which is a black or dark brown tar and soot caused by burning wood and other items, can also build up over time and cause a blockage. This is particularly dangerous as not only does it block the smoke and fumes from the fire from leaving the house properly, but is also a very flammable substance that can catch fire itself.

Another potential cause of house fires from chimneys is a damaged chimney liner. The liner is there to protect other more flammable areas of the home from exposure to sparks and smoke. If the liner is damaged, these other areas of the home are more susceptible to fire.

Dangerous Fumes

Blockages and damaged liners can also allow smoke to travel about the house, which can cause soot stains and make the house smell. But besides being annoying, this can also allow dangerous fumes to enter the home, such as carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless gas that can cause illness and can potentially lead to death.

Water Damage

One of the biggest causes of chimney damage, whether it is to the brickwork, liner, or other components, is water. A faulty chimney cap, crown, or flashing should be repaired as soon as possible to help prevent water damage from occurring in the chimney. Chimney leak repair can also help prevent water damage from occurring in other areas, such as the ceiling, walls, or attic space near the chimney.

How to Choose Your Chimney Sweep Provider

Most people who have fireplaces do not know that an annual chimney cleaning is vital to the functioning of your fireplace and chimney as well as having many health benefits for you and your family. We’d like to explain some things that you should look for when looking to hire achimney sweep

chimney cleaning in action

Years of Experience

You may find a lot of information on many different chimney sweeps, but you want to find the one that offers many years of experience in the local area providing chimney sweep services. If you have friends or family who have had their chimneys swept recently, ask them who they have used. You can also find a lot of information about different companies online.

Recent References

Ask about recent references of the company so that you can ask previous clients of theirs whether they did a good job, how they treated the client’s property, and whether the job was done efficiently.

Positive Reputation

Look for a company that has a positive reputation in the local area. There are likely to be many fly-by-night businesses that are around for just a short period. You want to make sure that the company you work with provides a quality service and has a positive reputation in the local community for doing so.

Licensed and Insured

Look for a company that can provide copies of their license and insurance information. License and insurance that is current and up to date shows you that the company is in good standing with the city and state and also protects you from liability of they are injured on the job at your home.

Video Scanning

It is important that the chimney sweep you use is able to utilize the most up-to-date technology in chimney sweeping. This means providing a video scan of your chimney so that you can see what they see if they are spotting any issues. You will be more likely to have a problem resolved if you can see for yourself what the issue is.

3 Ways Chimney Caps Improve the Aesthetics of Your Home

Chimney caps serve a very important function. They help keep out leaves and other debris that can cause chimney blockages, prevent animals from finding their way inside your chimney, and prevent water from entering the chimney to cause damage to masonry, liners, fireboxes, and other chimney components. They often will also have a spark arrestor that prevents sparks from leaving your chimney onto your roof or property where they could potentially start a fire. Another bonus of a chimney cap you may not have thought of is that they can also improve the appearance of your chimney, and thus your home. We’d like to share 3 reasons why chimneys improve the aesthetics of your home. 

new chimney

1. Variety of Styles

Chimney caps come in a variety of styles. Because they are often made from workable metals like copper and stainless steel, the style options are numerous. In fact, at Atlanta Chimney Doctor, LLC, we even offer custom chimney cap options. Because of the variety of style choices for chimney caps, you are almost guaranteed to find an option that fits the style of your home.

2. Variety of Finishes

Chimney caps come in several types of materials that offer several types of finishes, such as powder-coated black or galvanized steel. One of the most popular choices in materials for chimney caps is stainless steel. Stainless steel provides a practically maintenance-free, durable shine that will look good for years. Some stainless steel chimney caps are even guaranteed to last a lifetime due to its rust-resistant properties. Because it is a popular choice, stainless steel also offers a wide selection of style choices.

3. Copper Is a Choice

Copper chimney caps are appealing for their durability and natural resistance to rust, but also because, like many copper items, they are usually aesthetically pleasing. Copper has an easy to clean, durable shine that can last for years with polishing. Even if you do not feel like polishing the copper cap on a regular basis, copper ages well, developing a patina that many people find desirable. Like stainless steel chimney caps, copper chimney caps often have a lifetime warranty.