How often do I need to Clean my Fireplace
It is recommended by the National Fire Protection Association that chimneys and fireplaces are Inspected annually and cleaned as needed.
If you are unsure when the last time you had your fireplace and chimney cleaned, or if it is even necessary, don’t hesitate to give our office a call! We will schedule one of our Nationally Certified Chimney Sweeps to come and assess. If cleaning is needed at this time, they will perform the cleaning service with inspection at that time. If a cleaning is not needed at the time of your appointment, our technicians will still provide the safety inspection with camera capability, providing a full condition assessment of your fireplace and chimney.
Here at Pratt’s Chimney our goal is to provide our customers with as much education and insight into their fireplace and chimney systems as possible. By completing an annual fireplace and chimney cleaning (chimney sweep) with inspection, it allows us to ensure that the system is running efficiently, and meeting safety standards for use. Our technicians are provided with an education from the CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) which is maintained to keep up with current codes, chimney physics, and industry standards. Paired with years of experience, they are able to provide a quality of workmanship and customer experience that far exceeds expectations.
I Am Buying Or Selling A Home, Will My Home Inspection Be Enough?
Fireplaces and Chimneys should be cleaned and/or inspected during the home sale process. Fireplace and chimney repairs can not only be costly, but pose a safety hazard to the new owners and the home itself if not addressed. While most home inspectors do a fantastic job of inspecting visible areas of your chimneys and fireplaces, most do not have the capability to fully assess if the systems are in good working order and up to safety standards for use. If you are new to your home it is very important that the fireplace is cleaned and inspected prior to use.
What Should I Expect With My Chimney Cleaning?
A “Chimney Cleaning” or “Chimney Sweep” is performed with the intention of removing soot, creosote, potential blockages, and debris from your chimney flue system. Our certified technicians clean from the fireplace/firebox, up through the damper system, smoke shelf, smoke chamber, chimney flue, and exterior chimney cap. Drop cloths are placed in the work area, and debris from the chimney cleaning is collected and contained with our Triple Hepa Filtered Vacuums, ensuring 100 percent dust free service.
What if we have went years without cleaning our fireplace?:
There’s nothing to feel ashamed about! We have had plenty of customers who just learn that their fireplace chimney needed to be cleaned on a routine basis, or even at all. Others have just gotten busy and it’s just easy to let maintenance slip through the cracks. We can and will work hard to bring your system back into safe working condition. Fireplaces that have gone multiple years without service will sometimes require mechanical cleaning.
What Is A Mechanical Cleaning and When Is It Recommended?
Mechanical Chimney Cleanings are recommended when routine cleaning will not remove the creosote build up from the interior of the chimney flue. This is often seen when a wood burning fireplace is not maintained as often as necessary for the burn habits of the homeowner. This can cause a dangerous build up called Glazed Creosote on the flue walls and other areas inside the fireplace. Glaze Creosote is very dangerous due to the fact that it can ignite at a really low temperature leading to a chimney fire.
Mechanical Cleanings utilize cable whips and/or chains to break out and remove glazed creosote from the walls of the chimney flue. Debris from the cleaning is then removed by a Triple Hepa Filtered Vacuum, followed by a Level II inspection.
Our CSIA Certified Technicians are trained to follow the NFPA 211 Standard, which states that all chimney and venting systems require annual inspections. All of our fireplace and chimney cleanings do include an inspection of the entire system, top to bottom.
There are other instances in which an inspection should be performed, outside of your annual service.
- You have had or suspect that there has been a chimney fire/high heat event.
- Lightning Strike or Impact (tree limbs, etc.)
- You have noticed a change in the way your fireplace is operating.
- You are looking to make changes to your fireplace, adding/removing appliances, replacing your flue liner, or changing the fuel type.
- You’re moving into a new home! Inspections before the purchase of your home can provide insight into the fireplace and flue system, along with any potential repair cost associated.
What’s included in a chimney inspection?
Pratt’s Chimney Sweeps are trained to provide three different levels of inspections (per the NFPA 211 Standard). Level II inspections are provided standard with all of our fireplace chimney cleanings, providing a full top to bottom assessment of your fireplace system.
When do you need a level 1 chimney inspection?
A Level I inspection is a minimum requirement for your fireplace and/or appliance flue inspection. Level I fireplace & chimney inspections are recommended if your appliance or venting system has not changed. This is not recommended if appliances have been removed or added to the ventilation system or any other changes/adjustments to usage have occurred.
What To Expect:
In a level 1 inspection, your CSIA-Certified Chimney Technician will inspect the readily available portions of the chimney system, both interior and exterior, plus accessible portions of the appliance, ventilation run and connections. Pratt’s Technicians will inspect for structural soundness, venting defects, installation requirements, termination covers are present, and verify that your chimney is free of obstruction and that there is not a build up of combustible deposits.
When do you need a level 2 chimney inspection?
A level 2 inspection is the standard for inspections that we provide with our fireplace and chimney cleanings.
When selling or purchasing a home you may notice that your home inspector recommends having a Level II inspection completed by a Certified Chimney Sweep. This is an important step in the home sale/home purchase process, providing a full assessment of the fireplace, chimney and appliance flue system. Providing insight into any code or operating issues within these systems, any unmet safety standards, and cost associated with any repairs required.
Other factors that may require a level II fireplace and chimney inspection include, high heat events/chimney fires, acts of God (lightning strike, impact from trees/branches, tornado/derecho/high wind events.) If you have noticed a change in your chimney draft and/or suspect blockage from an animal/nesting material.
What to expect?
A level II inspection, while it includes all things covered in a Level I inspection, does delve deeper into the venting structure of your fireplace and/or appliance flue systems. Level II inspections often include a visual assist from a camera system, to scan the interior of the flue system to inspect for defects such as deteriorating mortar joints and cracked flue systems. A level II Inspection will determine if proper clearances from combustibles are met where accessible. Our Level II Fireplace and Chimney Inspections cover the exterior chimney, as well as the interior, including but not limited to attics, basements and crawl spaces.
When do you need a level 3 chimney inspection?
Level III Inspections are recommended when a lower level inspection suggests there may be hazards beyond where accessible. Often Level III Fireplace and Chimney inspections require tools and alterations to the fireplace and chimney system to allow for access to fully inspect what would normally be inaccessible portions of your fireplace and/or chimney.
What To Expect:
A Level III inspection determines whether the fireplace and flue system is properly constructed/installed within concealed portions of the chimney/chase structure. It will include all the areas and items inspected with a lower level chimney inspection, as well as gaining access to areas of the chimney/chase structure that are not readily accessible in a traditional inspection. This may require removal of portions of the chimney structure, (chimney crown, chase cover, interior wall/panel, or exterior brick.)
Fireplace Liner Repair:
CALL TODAY FOR YOUR FREE ESTIMATE ON FIREPLACE RELINING AND ALL OTHER CHIMNEY NEEDS!
What Is A Chimney Flue Liner?
The flue of your chimney is the passageway inside the chimney structure that carries the byproducts of combustion up and out of the home. Most chimneys built post 1920’s are lined with a clay flue liner. Clay flue tiles, stacked on top of each other with a high temp mortar applied between each clay flue tile. While these tiles provide an excellent venting structure for your fireplace, there is a life expectancy of approximately 50 years, with regular and routine maintenance.
When these tile structures degrade with age, crack, experience high heat events (chimney fires), and the mortar between the tiles begins to fall out, our CSIA Certified Chimney Technicians will often recommend a reline of the chimney flue system with stainless steel liner.
What To Expect From A Fireplace Relining
When relining the fireplace, we take into account the size of the firebox as well as the length of the chimney run to determine the size liner needed to properly vent your fireplace. If needed, the clay flue tiles are removed to be able to install the appropriate size lining system and insulation necessary. Stainless steel fireplace liner is run from the top of the smoke chamber, to the top of the chimney. Stainless steel fireplace liners are insulated with either a poured chimney insulation, a wrapped chimney insulation or lining is manufactured and installed pre-insulated. The liner is then sealed with a 2000 degree rated mortar to the smoke chamber, and if the smoke chamber is corbeled, it is then parged smooth to allow smoke and gasses to flow into the liner seamlessly. By parging the smoke chamber it allows the gasses and smoke to flow up the chimney without cooling down too much, which assists in discouraging the build up of creosote on the walls of the smoke chamber, and interior of the lining system. More often than not, the interior damper mechanism needs to be removed to properly seal the smoke chamber, so Pratt’s Chimney will install a top sealing energy efficient damper system, with cage surround.
All stainless steel lining systems installed by Pratt’s Chimney, come paired with a limited lifetime warranty that is one time transferable in the sale of the home.
Firebox/Smoke Chamber Repair:
Give our office a call to schedule your free estimate on your Firebox & Smoke Chamber Repairs!
Masonry fireplaces are constructed with firebrick and high temp mortar, to build the interior of the firebox structure. With age and use it is normal wear and tear for the joints in the fireplace and the firebrick themselves, to start to degrade. When you discover loose or deteriorated mortar joints/firebrick, cracks greater then 1/16th of an inch in width, it should be assessed for tuckpointing, brick replacement, or rebuild.
If you have a prefabricated fireplace, your firebox is constructed of 4 panels, (floor, back, left and right side.) Each panel is able to be removed, and replaced with either a manufacturer listed panel, or a custom cut-to fit panel. These factory built panels do crack under certain conditions.
You may notice hairline cracks in the panels, which is often caused by the heating/cooling process. The panels expand as they heat and contract as they cool. You may notice gaping around the panel vs. the panels touching which allows for this process to occur without causing damage to the panels themselves.
Larger cracks in your panels can be caused by impact from logs being thrown into the firebox. Too large of a fire being built, causing excessive heat to be applied to the panels. Even quick cooling or “Thermal Shock” from applying water to put out a fire/embers. Once the cracks reach a width greater than 1/16th of an inch (approximately the width of a dime) it is time to have the panels inspected and recommended repair completed.
Located above the firebox, your smoke chamber is what funnels the smoke and gasses from your fireplace into the lining system of your chimney. Often these smoke chambers are constructed of brick, in a step formation (corbeled) to create the transitional space. Unfortunately when the smoke chamber is not parged smooth, it allows the smoke and gasses to cool within the smoke chamber area before it makes its way up the chimney. This causes the bi-products of combustion (creosote) to form on the walls of the smoke chamber and flue system at a greater rate. Creosote, being highly combustible, is the cause of the majority of Chimney Fires or High Heat Events we diagnose.
The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) recommends that all inner surfaces of the smoke chamber be parged smooth with an insulating refractory mortar. (220.127.116.11)
IF YOU BELEIVE YOU HAVE OR MAY HAVE EXPERIENCED A CHIMNEY FIRE OR HIGH HEAT EVENT CALL TO SCHEDULE ONE OF OUR CERTIFIED TECHNICIANS PRIOR TO ANY ADDITIONAL USE.
Chimney fires, although preventable, are not an uncommon occurrence. Our goal is to educate our customers as to how to prevent a chimney fire, and what your next steps are if one occurs at your home.
What Causes Chimney Fires?
When you have a wood burning fireplace, the byproduct of combustion that we are most concerned about is going to be creosote. Creosote is formed as the smoke travels through the system, cooling as it goes, it creates condensation deposits that include unburned wood particles. It will appear as a black or brown residue on the walls of the chimney flue system. It may be black or brown, appears to be a tar like substance, crusty/flakey, and will become shiny as it hardens. Each fire that you have in your fireplace, the deposits will continue to build, causing a glaze of creosote.
Creosote being one of many reasons a chimney fire can occur you also want to look out for other flammable materials that may be blocking your flue system. Uncapped chimneys welcome birds, raccoons, squirrels, and other critters as a warm place to build their nests. Nesting materials, animal waste, fur, feathers and other debris can cause a blockage in the flue system and ignite, causing a chimney fire/high heat event.
Why Is This A Concern?
Creosote is not only highly corrosive to your flue system, due to the unburned wood particles that are deposited it creates a highly combustible environment. When the flue system heats, it may cause the creosote to ignite causing what we refer to as a chimney fire. While you may think it is your chimney’s job to keep the fire maintained within its’ structure, the truth of the matter is it is not. Chimneys are constructed to lead smoke and gasses from your fireplace, not to withstand an actual fire in its’ structure.
What Happens To My Chimney In A Chimney Fire?
When you have a clay lined, masonry chimney, the temperatures that they experience can reach over 2000 degrees. This can cause thermal shock which cracks the clay tiles (if present,) can melt mortar joints, can cause flues to collapse, and mortar to shift. The major concern when this occurs is to the surrounding combustible material. Where the chimney fire spreads to the surrounding areas in the home, creating further damage and risk.
Prefabricated or factory built chimneys are often required to be UL Listed to withstand heat of up to 2100 degrees fahrenheit. Unfortunately, they are still able to be damaged by chimney fires/high heat events. Once these flue systems are damaged they are required to be replaced prior to any further use.
When it comes to wood stoves, they are designed to maintain excessive temperatures however the connections and pipe do not hold the same ability. A chimney fire can cause the wood stove pipe to buckle, warp, and completely separate from the wood stove allowing smoke and/or fire to escape into the home and onto surrounding combustible materials.
What Can I Do To Prevent A Chimney Fire?
The CSIA recommends at minimum, having an annual inspection of your fireplace/firebox, flue system, and exterior. Cleaning can differ depending on how often you use your fireplace and the type of wood you are burning. The rule of thumb is approximately a face cord and a half of wood, more often if the wood you are burning is not hard, dry, aged or left in the elements. On average this equates to approximately 50 or so fires.
Creosote logs while they provide a bit of assistance with cleaning, do not replace chimney cleaning as a whole. You will still need chimney cleaning to remove the deposits from the chimney flue.