Company Blog

Get your Chimney Swept for the New Year

After a relatively mild start to the season, winter weather has made quite an arrival. Dramatic falls in temperature have driven everyone indoors, working hard to stay warm. For some homeowners, keeping warm in sub-freezing temperatures might involve starting a toasty fire in the wood stove or fireplace. In order to keep these heating appliances safe and functional, they need some regular maintenance. The chimney, in particular, requires a good sweep every year. If it has been more than one year since the last chimney sweep, make it a New Year’s resolution to have it swept soon.

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Experts from the National Fire Protection Association say chimneys must be swept at least once per year. For fireplaces and wood stoves that receive a lot of use, the association recommends more frequent sweeps. Chimney sweeps serve a couple vital functions to maintain the safety of the chimney and fireplace. The first role is to remove the creosote buildup inside the chimney. A product of burning wood, creosote is a black and tarry substance that rises through the chimney with the smoke and condenses on the interior surface as it cools. The residue builds on itself with every new fire and can even become so thick that it blocks the air flow through the chimney. A more ominous problem presented by creosote is its high flammability. A stray ember can ignite the creosote, resulting in a chimney fire. Because it burns many times hotter than wood or gas fires, the creosote fire can be difficult to extinguish, as well. Fortunately, chimney fires like this can be prevented by having a chimney sweep performed at least once every year.

The other function of a chimney sweep is to check for and remove any obstructions. A lot of different debris can unintentionally end up stuck in the chimney, but a common issue, especially in the winter months, is animal nesting. With the cold weather, animals like birds and squirrels are on the lookout for a cozy spot to escape the elements, and to them, a warm chimney can seem very ideal. However, this causes some problems. An animal or even just its nest in the chimney can block or greatly reduce the air flow, meaning the smoke and other toxic gases from the fire cannot properly vent out of the house. Instead, the gases flow back into the house, filling the living area with toxins like creosote and carbon monoxide. A simple chimney sweep can locate and clear out dangers like animals in the chimney, preventing health threats from these poisons.

If your chimney has gone over one year without a sweep, or if you suspect it needs some extra attention, do not hesitate to contact a chimney specialist. In fact, this New Year’s resolution could save your life. In the lower Hudson Valley area, contact All Seasons Chimney to schedule a chimney sweep.

When to Replace Refractory Panels

Winter is just around the corner, and weather experts have forecasted another brutal winter. After the frigid 2013 to 2014 winter, everyone has staying warm on their minds. Keeping warm means bundling up in a jacket, scarf, and hat when heading outside. However, keeping warm has different requirements for those staying indoors. In many homes throughout Hudson Valley, a fireplace plays a big role in warming up the space. With increasing popularity, homeowners are having factory built fireplaces installed as new additions or in place of old, degraded fireplaces.

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A factory built fireplace is exactly what it sounds like: a firebox unit manufactured off-site and brought to a home for installation. The lightweight materials allow for easier installation than a masonry fireplace and chimney because it has fewer foundation requirements. A factory built fireplace also costs significantly less than a custom made or masonry fireplace since the factory built units are mass produced.

Generally made of metal, factory built fireplaces have special insulated walls. These walls protect any nearby combustibles, like woodwork and drywall, from experiencing excess heat from the fire. On top of these walls lay decorative panels that are visible from the inside of the room. The panels, known as refractory panels, can have different colors, designs, and textures to help customize the look of a factory built fireplace.

Refractory panels serve two main purposes. The most important purpose is protection as part of the insulative barrier between the home and the fire. It takes the brunt of the fire’s heat and stands up to the high temperatures fire after fire. Without these panels, unintentional house fires become a very real risk. Refractory panels also direct heat into the home, as suggested by the name. The panels sit on angles designed to direct the fast-moving hot air into the house. This increases the efficiency of the fireplace significantly, meaning you spend less money because the fire uses less fuel to create more heat.

Because of the extreme environment of the refractory panels, they do require regular inspection and even replacement to keep the fireplace functioning safely. An expert chimney inspector can help you determine if the panels need replacement, but you can also keep an eye out, as well. If the refractory panels show any obvious signs of damage like holes, cracks, or a crumbling surface, the panels should be replaced before lighting another fire. Experts also recommend switching out the old panels if a nickel on its end can slide in between two panels. While this may be tougher to determine, if more than a quarter inch of the surface has worn off the panel, it is too thin and needs replacement.

If you live in the lower Hudson Valley area of New York and have a factory-built fireplace, have an inspector out soon to check the condition of the refractory panels. An annual inspection is recommended anyway, so you can ask then. For an inspector in your area, contact All Seasons Chimney to speak with a professional.