To Avoid A Chimney Fire
** Creosote is the main cause of chimney fires. The buildup of creosote is highly combustible and can result in a chimney fire.
To minimize creosote:
Burn only seasoned woods
Do not burn trash in a fireplace or woodstove
Don’t allow the fire to smolder
Contact your chimney professional to clean your chimney regularly
Think Fire Prevention! Make sure your fireplace habits are safe and do not pose a danger to your home or your neighborhood. It’s easy, just follow these seven basic guidelines:
Have your fireplace inspected annually and cleaned when necessary by a professional chimney sweep. A dirty fireplace can cause chimney fires and inhibit proper venting of smoke up the flue.
Clear the area around the hearth. Debris too close to the fireplace could cause a fire. Check the flue for obstructions and trim overhanging branches or large trees near the chimney. Keep Christmas stockings and holiday decorations away from the firebox when the fireplace is in use.
Always use a fireplace screen. Use a metal, mesh fireplace screen. Leave glass doors open while burning a fire – unless fireplace manufacturers’ instructions indicate otherwise.
Never overload the fireplace with to many logs. Don’t use the fireplace as an incinerator, and never burn garbage, Christmas trees, or glossy magazine paper. Be careful not to add to much firewood. In a fireplace, keep the top of the flames visible below the fireplace opening. In a woodstove, keep the flames confined to the woodstove itself.
Keep a fire extinguisher on hand and place smoke detectors throughout the house. Test the smoke detectors and batteries regularly. Teach all the family members to operate the fire extinguisher. Consider installing a carbon monoxide detector in rooms that have a fire place.
When building a fire, place logs at the rear of the fireplace, on a adequate supporting grate.
Never leave a fire unattended. Be sure the fire is extinguished before you go to bed. Never leave children unsupervised near the fireplace.
Efficient Burning Techniques
The key is to burn small, hot fires, using hardwood – that will minimize creosote accumulation and maximize heat output. Keep fires burning hot with flames, not smoldering with a lot of smoke. Be careful not to add to much firewood. In a fireplace, keep the top of the flames visible below the fireplace opening. In a woodstove, keep the flames confined to the woodstove itself. With glass doors, keep the doors wide open with the screen closed for a good half hour after starting the fire. When you see the fire is burning well, close the doors a set any draft controls It’s better to add smaller loads more often than to cram in a lot of wood trying to get an all-day burn. When you’re ready to put out a fire, separate the logs by moving them to the side of the fireplace or stand them on end in the back of the fireplace. Close the screen or glass doors tightly, but don’t close the damper until you’re sure the fire and coals are completely out.
Brick Masonry Cleaning Guide Red Brick – Textured & Smooth
This category includes all red through-the-body brick.
Brick in this category may be cleaned by the bucket and brush method, high water pressure method. or by sandblasting. in the two “wet'” systems, a 10% solution or mutiatic acid may be used, or approved commercial cleaning compounds.
Red Brick – Heavy Sand Finish
This category includes all red through-the-body brick with various applied heavy sand finish faces.
Brick in this category may best be cleaned by the bucket and brush method. using plain water and scrub brush or with lightly applied high pressure water system, with plain water being used. Sandblast cleaning is not recommended. if mortar stains are excessive. use or cleaning compounds may be required.
Brown Brick (Manganese Body), Iron-Spot, Gray. Buff & White
This category includes all textured and sand finish brick with through-the-body colors other than natural red.
Brick in this category may be cleaned by the bucket and brush method. or by lightly applied high pressure water system. Sandblast cleaning is also recommended except in the cases where heavy sand finish is involved. In the two wet cleaning systems. no mutiatic acid may be used. Only plain water and detergent. or Sure Klean Vanatrol or equal may be used.
SPECIALTY CLEANING WHITE EFFLORESCENCE-White efflorescence is a water soluble salt that is brought to the surface or masonry by evaporation of either construction water or by evaporation or rain water that has penetrated the wall.
Water used in mortar, grout, etc. will sometimes cause this “New Building Bloom.” As the wall dries out. and as successive rains wash the wall, the “Bloom” should disappear.
If the masonry has received its regular cleaning and white efflorescence appears or reappears. no further action should be taken until the wall has had an opportunity to dry out completely. Application of additional cleaning solutions may only aggravate the problem at this point. Also, application or clear waterproofing materials at this time may lock in moisture and crystalline growth, causing more scumming and possible spalling of brick.
If efflorescence stains persist, it is likely that rainwater is penetrating the wall. An inspection or the stained areas should be made to determine if sizeable cracks or openings exist. permitting water penetration. Faulty flashing or a lack or flashing will contribute to staining.
Any large openings should be repaired. Where only very fine hairline cracks are assumed to be allowing water penetration, a clear waterproofing application may be the only solution to the problem short or a complete tuck-pointing job.
Before applying waterproofing materials, all possible repairs should be made and all efflorescence removed. This may be removed by applying plain water and brushing the affected area. If water fails to remove stain, use dilute solution or commercial cleaning compounds such as Sure Klean 600 for red brick and Sure Klean Vanatrol for all others. Allow entire wall to dry out completely (over a period or little or no rainfall) before applying waterproofing solutions.
GREEN STAINS-Green staining is caused by presence or vanadium salts. Color and solubility or these salts are dependent upon acidity or the brick. Very often green stains are brought about by wrongful use or muriatic acid or compounds containing muriatic acid. When green stains appear, brick manufacturer should be consulted before attempting to remove the stain.
Green stains may be removed by using Sure Klean 800 Stain Remover, or if the brick have been silicone treated, use Sure Klean Ferrous Stain Remover or equal.
Homeowners Self Safety Checklist
Chimney safety should be a concern for every homeowner. You can use the following checklist to monitor your chimney safety yourself. But other parts need to be checked by a professional. If you do find warning signs of problems please contact your chimney professional to have a professional chimney inspection, before it becomes and expensive or dangerous situation. A chimney professional is trained to look for conditions that a homeowner could easily miss even with the helpful checklist. The experience he brings to the process of checking the chimney is well worth the visit. Condition. First, take a look at the chimney. Is there anything visibly wrong with it? For masonry chimneys, look for loose or missing bricks, chipped bricks or masonry joints, cracks, holes, a leaning chimney, or anything else that doesn’t look right. Use binoculars to check the chimney for cracks. And if the chimney is exposed in the attic, don’t forget to check it there, also.
Checklist: Things you can check.
Condition of exterior chimney.
Chimney Cap: Is there one?
Cleanout doors/base of flue
Visual check of flues
Condition of appliances & pipes
For metal factory-built chimneys, look for corrosion, loose sections, bending, any movement in windy conditions, and stains. Any visible damage to the outside of a chimney is cause to have the chimney checked by a professional. If the outside is damaged, the inside could be in even worse shape.
Chimney Cap. Is there a cap on the chimney? Water from rain and snow entering chimneys gradually damages the inside of a chimney. Joints between liner tiles gradually dissolve, and corrosive elements in exhaust from furnaces mix with water and slowly weaken the lining. Water pooling at the base damages the chimney structure. Freezing and thawing of water causes expansion damage.
A good chimney cap reduces this damage by keeping most of the water out. Caps with a screen mesh also keep animals out. Raccoons, squirrels, and birds often nest in chimneys. These animals can bring fleas and ticks into your home, as well as rabies, worms and other diseases and, of course, animals and their nests can clog the chimney. And finally, a cap with a screen mesh helps keep sparks off the roof. So if you don’t have one, it is a good investment. Look for a cap that carries a lifetime warranty, and ask your chimney professional for a copy of the warranty card for your files.
Types of chimney caps. Some masonry chimneys have brick, stone, or concrete caps, raised above the top of the flues on brick or stone legs. Metal caps are also available. Stainless steel and copper caps offers superior durability, and often incorporate a screen mesh to keep animals out and keep sparks off the roof. Most factory-built chimneys incorporate a cap specifically designed to fit that brand of chimney. Leaks/Stains. Next, look for leaks or stains inside the house near the chimney. Peeling wallpaper, stains on the walls, and dampness near the chimney are sure signs of chimney problems. Sometimes these problems are caused by faulty roof flashing around the chimney. But sometimes the source is the inside of the chimney, and this can mean trouble. Missing or damaged flue liners, interior decay, or excessive condensation in the flue could be the culprit. Consult a chimney professional.
A note about condensation in flues: Today’s gas-fired appliances emit a considerable amount of water vapor. If not vented into a properly-sized flue, condensation in the chimney can become a serious hazard. If you have a gas-fired appliance connected to your chimney it is critical to have the chimney checked periodically by a chimney professional. Don’t make the assumption that just because there is no smoke, there is no problem with the chimney. Odorless, colorless carbon monoxide fumes from improperly-vented gas appliances can be fatal.
Don’t check a flue that’s currently in use, such as a flue serving a wood stove that is lit or a furnace that is turned on. First, make sure the appliance is off. And remember wear gloves for protection. Open cleanout doors slowly! There may be a considerable buildup of soot at the base of the flue.
Base of the Flue. Take a look at the base of the chimney (look in the cellar or for chimneys built up the outside of the house, check the base outside, too). Look for one or more cleanout doors. Take a look inside the door. Using a small mirror and a flashlight, you can look up the flue from the bottom. Some flues have bends in them, so you might not see all the way to the top. But take note of any buildup of soot or debris at the base of the flue, and on the flue walls as far up as you can see. But be aware that even if the base looks pretty clean, the rest of the flue isn’t necessarily clean.
Most of the action takes place from the appliance up. So the chimney might still need cleaning. While you are looking up the flue, try to spot any holes, cracks, or separations. But don’t panic if you see something that doesn’t look right. It takes a trained eye to determine just what’s going on in a chimney flue. And lastly, you can check the condition of the appliances and connector pipes. Again, this doesn’t take the place of a professional check, but it will give you some ideas, and questions to ask.
Wear protective clothing including eye and ear protection when looking up into chimneys. Turn off appliances & give ample time to cool exhaust pipeline
Fireplaces. Check the brickwork for wear and breakage. Check the damper. It should open and close easily, without binding on anything. Look up into the smoke chamber, above the damper. Does the smoke chamber look clean, or sooty? If there is any amount of soot up there, or if you haven’t had your chimney cleaned recently, have it checked and cleaned if necessary.
Wood Stoves. Check the condition of the stovepipe leading to the chimney. If it is rusty, soft, or has holes in it, replace it. Do you see any soot, creosote, or signs of leakage on the outside of the stove or stovepipe anywhere? This could signal an improper installation, and problems with the operation of the stove. Check both the inside and the outside of the stove for cracks, bulges, warping, rust, or other signs of damage or wear. Most stove doors have a rope-style gasket around the edge for a good seal. Is the gasket in good shape?
Furnaces. Checking the internal components of a furnace is a job for a furnace technician. But you can check the connector pipe for signs of damage. Look for rust, soft spots, effloresce or leaks. Be careful not to touch any electrical components, or anything attached to the connector pipe. If you see anything amiss with the appliances or connector pipes, give your chimney professional a call and find out if immediate attention is warranted.
Here’s a trick for checking flues: Hold a small mirror in the base of the flue, and hold the flashlight so it is pointing at the mirror, from the same angle as your eyes. Then you’ll be looking (in the mirror) at the spot that the flashlight is illuminating. You can move the mirror around to see different parts of the flue. It is the same principle as the coal miner’s hat with a light on it. The light shines where you are looking. It takes some getting used to, but it works.