JEFFREY L. DECKER
CHIMNEY SWEEP AND HEARTH PROFESSIONAL OF CT MA AND RI
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
is it necessary to clean chimneys where it is a gas burning appliance?
How often should my chimney be cleaned?
The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) recommends a yearly inspection and cleaning and repairs done as necessary. Freestanding wood stoves or fireplace inserts used to heat the home should be inspected and if needed, cleaned every year. Regular open fireplaces need to be maintained and cleaned on a consistent basis as well. Usually, cleaning is needed for every cord of wood burned.
How long will it take to clean my chimney and is there any MESS!!
It usually takes about an hour to clean most masonry chimneys including setup of tarps, vacuum and tools, and cleanup.
We guarantee absolutely No Mess in your home.
Pre-fab fireplaces typically take about 35-45 min.
Inserts can take from 1-3 hours depending on how often they are cleaned, the type of wood burned, and the way the stove is operated, (units choked down to a slow smolder type burning will produce more creosote, taking longer to clean.)
There is no mess. We have tarps, vacuums, and brushes to clean your chimney without making a mess in your home.
How do you clean a chimney?
We clean most chimneys from inside the home. Upon entering your home we are careful to find the best way for us to get equipment and personal in and out of your home. We need some space in front of the fireplace to spread out the tarp that covers the carpet and hearth. "Special Stuff" on the mantel or walls above the fireplace is safe. If you want to remove items on the mantel please do. We set up all the needed tools and our vacuum to aid in dust control. We assess the chimney's condition noting any problems and proceed with cleaning.
We start by removing the grates and any ash from the firebox. The walls and damper blade are brushed with a hand brush to remove any soot and creosote from this area.
We remove the damper blade and handle (if possible) to check for rust and missing parts. While cleaning the firebox area we are checking for cracks in brick and missing or severely eroded mortar joints.
On "Pre-fab" model fireplaces we are checking for cracks in the back and side refractory panels in the firebox. Some hairline cracks are acceptable and a part of normal operations, however, we are looking for larger cracks and gaps that will allow the fire to reach behind the metal box enclosure of the fireplace. This can cause damage to the firebox making it unsafe for use. These panels are replaceable so do not fear. We can most likely find and replace old damaged panels making your fireplace usable again (if the unit is not obsolete).
On masonry chimneys, we reach up inside the smoke chamber area with hand brush to clean the breast area and the sides where the larger brush misses.
Next, we either sweep the chimney from the roof or from inside the home in the following manner (whichever is most safe); we insert a steel wire brush attached to a flexible fiberglass rod and clean the upper smoke chamber area. The brush is pushed up or down into the flue, working in a scrubbing motion with sections of fiberglass rods added until the brush exits the top of the chimney or penetrates into the smoke shelf area.
The process is reversed, and the liner is check for cracks, gaps, and missing joints using a spotlight. We clean off debris that has fallen onto a smoke shelf, the damper blade, handle and cotter pin is put back in place and dust is swept out of the firebox. We vacuum off the hearth, and remove all equipment and tarps from your home, complete our report, providing you with a copy and any explanations of corrective measures, get paid for the amount due, thank you for the business, sprinkle some good luck around and look forward to the next customers' dirty chimney. The whole process takes about 1 hour more or less depending on conditions and such.
Do you install chimney caps?
Yes, we can provide painted, stainless steel or copper chimney caps, that in most cases, carry a lifetime guarantee. A cap will keep out animals, leaves, twigs, and rain. Rain entering from the uncovered top does most of the damage in a chimney by getting into the mortar joints inside the firebox causing them to become weak and deteriorate.
Can you do repairs?
YES, we repair fireboxes, replace lost or damaged damper blades, or install a top mount damper if a replacement blade is not available. We also repair crowns, replace chase covers, install chimney caps, and waterproof chimneys. If you are having problems with your chimney, we can most likely find a workable solution.
I have rust stains on the top and running down the siding of my chimney. What causes this and what can be done about it?
Pre-fab fireplaces have a metal covering (chase top) to prevent water from entering the interior of the chimney structure. The chase top is usually made of a cheap galvanized sheet metal. Over the years the metal coating wears off from the sun, rain, and other forces. Most tops have a low spot that holds water as well. When you get pine straw and leaves blowing around some are bound to get stuck on the water that has collected during rain, snow, ice storms. Pine straw and certain leaves are very acidic when they are decomposing especially when sitting in water. The acid breaks down the galvanized coating and you soon get bare metal.
After a while, the metal starts to rust and when water runs off the top during rain, it carries the rust with it down the side of your beautiful siding causing a stain that gets bigger over time. You may even hear water dripping on the inside of chase after rain as the rust has pitted the metal allowing water to seep through. Then you know you have a problem. The rust stains on the outside of a chimney are the first clue as it can take several months for the metal to pit enough for water to seep through. The time to act is when you first notice rust stains not when you hear water dripping...
The best way to fix the problem is to remove old rusted chimney tops and replace it with a new one. We use and recommend stainless steel for its strength and ability to resist rust. You can use the regular galvanized metal when it is less costly but not as long-lasting. The cost difference is usually $150-$175 less than stainless steel.
What is a chimney liner?
Currently, most masonry chimneys are built with terra-cotta clay tiles stacked and mortared inside the brick structure. These tiles serve as a gas-tight and heat-resistant insulator against the masonry structure. Without a liner, or with cracked and damaged liners, there would be heat transfer or actual seepage through the brick and mortar. A liner is a stainless steel tube inserted into a chimney to draft a furnace, wood stove, or fireplace. The appliance will vent through that stainless pipe and use the existing chimney structure as an encasement. New liners are gas-tight systems and maybe insulated for the highest efficiency. This system can solve most drafting and safety issues of chimney fire damaged or older unlined chimney flues. For more info about chimney Liners and the Chimney Safety Institute click here
How often should my dryer vent be cleaned?
Dryer vents should be cleaned at least every year. Frequency depends on the length of your vent, how many turns, and how often the dryer is used. Dryers that have short vents and little usage may be able to go longer than normal before being cleaned. On the other hand, if you have a large family and/or are constantly running the washer and dryer then you might need to have a dryer vent cleaned more often.
Cleaning the dryer vent can help prevent the possibility of a fire in your home or, in the case of a gas dryer, the build-up of dangerous carbon monoxide gas, plus can save you money on electricity and/or gas cost. A clean vent pipe allows the dryer to move the proper amount of air through the system taking the humidity out of the clothes, caused by the heating of gas burners or electric elements in your dryer thus allowing your clothes to dry quicker with less energy consumed. Take time to notice if your dryer is running longer with the same amount of clothes, it may be time to have the vent cleaned. And, with all the talk about power shortages we all must do our part and make sure all our appliances are operating at peak efficiency.
Speaking of energy savings, one of the best ways is a programmable thermostat that will automatically raise and lower the temp in your home when you are at work. They work by allowing the temp to rise during a summer day to around 81 and before you get home have the temp back to 78. Some other ways of saving energy are to set your A/C cooling temp at 77 or 78 degrees instead of 74 or lower, and during heating season try 68 instead of 70. You won't notice the difference till the electric or gas bill comes. (If you need help figuring out how to spend all the money you saved give me a call... :) Try hanging clothes out on nice days to get the FREE drying to provide by Mr. Sun. I figure some things in life are free, you just have to take advantage of them...
......Climbing down off my soapbox now......
We often see the white vinyl vent coming out the back of 60% of dryers we service. This type of vent pipe is extremely flammable and causes dangerous fumes when burning. If the lint catches on fire while the dryer is running it can blow flames into the vent pipe catching the vinyl connector between the dryer and wall on fire. It can also blow flaming balls of lint around in the area where the dryer sits and into the Sheetrock behind the dryer and causing the fire to spread faster. Hopefully, you catch it soon enough and the Fire Dept gets there in time to keep the damage to a minimum. The washer/dryer area is one place we recommend putting a smoke detector to give an early warning about smoke or fire in this area and have a good ABC type fire extinguisher in that area handy in case you need one quick. This can be the difference between knocking down a small fire and having the house burn down.
We can replace the old vinyl dryer vent material with the new flame-resistant silver in color UL listed flex or rigid venting.
What is the difference between a Pre-Fab fireplace and
a Masonry fireplace?
The quickest way to tell is by the chimney outside. If it's covered in wood or vinyl siding like the house it is most likely a pre-fab fireplace. Pre-fab fireplaces are installed on-site from UL listed components made in a factory, while a masonry chimney is constructed on-site by brick masons. A pre-fab chimney has a metal pipe flue to vent smoke out of the house. Pre-fabs are smaller and some have blowers built-in. All pre-fab fireplaces are UL listed. The pre-fab chimney is encased in a wood chase covered by a metal cap to prevent water penetration.
A masonry/brick chimney is built on-site using brick and terra cotta tile for liners and is more expensive to build and maintain. Most masonry chimneys do not have chimney caps installed allowing water and animals to get inside the structure and sometimes inside your home. A pre-fab fireplace can be removed if damaged and replaced with a new unit for less cost than a masonry chimney. Pre-fab fireplaces are not any more or less safe than masonry fireplaces. They are just different. But both will help keep you warm, however, neither are very efficient!!
What is the difference between vented and non vented gas logs? What else is there?
There are several different types of gas logs. We deal with the most popular types, vented and non vented. The differences between these two logs sets are very technical. But to boil it down, vented type logs can only be used in fireplaces with a working chimney that meets current codes. The damper is locked open upon installation and must be kept open when burning. Placement of the logs can be changed to make the fire look different. The flame has a more orange look and soot is more prevalent in the chimney. A chimney cap is HIGHLY recommended when using either type of log set to prevent water and other debris from falling on the log set. Water can rust the burner, grate, and also damage the logs in a very short amount of time.
Non vented logs can be used in approved fireboxes, with or without a chimney flue, and still, meet current building codes. The damper (if there is one) is only cracked open (1/4" to 3/8") allowing most of the heat to enter the living space. If you are using a vent free fireplace a window needs to be cracked open during use to allow for fresh air into the home. Once vent-free logs are set up they must stay in this configuration throughout their life. The flame is bluer with yellow tips and these logs produce no soot. In some cases, they don't look that great in the fireplace. However, most of the newer models have come to a long way in the looks dept.
Direct vent appliances offer a nice looking alternative to ventless logs without the indoor air pollution problems. These units produce a good amount of heat and with blowers; can provide enough heat for a medium-size house for less than regular gas logs. And, yes they do work during an ice storm with no power for the fan. You still get good heat circulation through the vents and a lot of heat off the ceramic glass front area. I have several customers with gas inserts that did just fine with no power.
You work with and install gas logs but can you run the gas line for me?
We are not able to run the gas lines into fireboxes at this time. If you look in the yellow pages under "Gas Lines" you will find several companies that provide this service. I recommend getting at least 2-3 different price quotes before deciding on one company. You may also want to check out the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Web site. After the line is installed we are able to hook up and set up your new gas logs.
My chimney has white stains on the brick what is this?
The white stains or powder-like material is often the result of water penetration of the chimney. During rain, snow, or ice stormwater is absorbed by the brick and mortar crown. In the case of snow and ice storms, the freeze-thaw cycles can enlarge the cracks on the top of the chimney crown allowing excessive amounts of water to enter the structure this way. The chimney will soon be saturated with water. As the chimney dries, lime and salts from brick and mortar are pushed out of pores in the chimney. Any wood in contact with the chimney will also absorb water, and in most cases, start to rot. This is a common problem that we can help prevent. The cost of this service depends on many factors. Call us for more info or to schedule a visit.
What can be done to prevent the white stains on my brick?
The first step is a visual evaluation of the chimney crown, mortar joints, and flashing. Often we find the crown has cracks caused by shrinkage of the mortar during construction. These start out as hairline cracks but get bigger over the years from freeze-thaw cycles and the natural expansion-contraction that occurs during the spring & summer seasons. If the chimney has darkened from mold and mildew, we recommend cleaning the surface of the brick with a power washing. This opens the pores of the brick and cleans off mold and mildew deposits. We apply a layer of CrownSeal (a flexible crown topping) on the mortar crown, sealing the cracks but remaining flexible to allow for expansion-contraction cycles. Afterward, we then apply the water repellent product ChimneySaver® with a low-pressure sprayer. Both products have a 10-year warranty and we have confidence in their ability to perform as stated by the manufacturer.
Can I get replacement glass for my fireplace doors?
Yes, we now have a great source where we can provide high temp tempered glass for fireplace doors. We need the length, width, and thickness of glass, and if the glass is enclosed in full-frame or has exposed edges. We can also get super high temp ceramic glass especially for wood stove inserts and freestanding models.
Why should we choose your company as our chimney professional?
We are chimney and hearth professionals, with over 30 years in the industry. Chimney sweeping is a very straightforward, simple maintenance process but, there are aspects of chimneys and venting systems that are very technical. Ongoing training is needed to provide accurate evaluation reports and building codes are always changing. We are current members of the National Chimney Sweep Guild and remain abreast of the latest building codes (This helps us keep up to date with the latest changes in our industry and code changes at the state level) and are we are fully insured. We have many references from our exhaustive list of satisfied customers.
Do you have references?
We can give you the names of past customers, Realtors, and Property Management Company’s we have performed chimney services for in the past if you desire. Please call and let us know in advance. We will be happy to let you hear and in some cases read, all the nice things our customers are saying about us!!
What can I do about the birds in my chimney??
The chimney swift, a colony bird from South America, spends the summer in your chimney nesting, raising their young and getting ready for the long flight back to the forests of Peru. Chimney Swifts on average eat several times their weight in flying bugs such as mosquitoes. Being a colony bird they will return to the same chimney they hatched in each year. We start seeing the birds in this area mid to late April. They stay until mid-Sept and are usually gone by the first cold snap. We like to wait until the birds are gone or between nesting activity to put out the "No Vacancy" sign.
These birds can have 1-2 nesting a year depending on weather and other factors. The hatching period usually lasts 4-5 weeks with a 1-2 week period between hatchings. We recommend cleaning the chimney to remove the bird debris and any flammable material that may be in the chimney area. The next step is to install a chimney cap. This will prevent birds, squirrels, and other animals from entering the chimney along with rain and leaves. From then on your bird and the small animal problem are solved and you are the hero. So, make that call today to schedule your appointment.
By the way, after we install a chimney cap on your house be sure to tell your neighbors about us as the birds that were in your chimney, will head for the closest uncapped chimney. I have worked my way around cul-de-sacs installing caps as the bird moved from house to house. (I love my job!!)
What areas do you service?
We provide quality service in the following areas: Central Massachusetts, Eastern Connecticut, and Rhode Island.
These are just a few of the answers to the most commonly asked questions.
Feel free to call or contact us through this site with any questions not covered by our "Just the FAQ's" section. We pride ourselves in Customer Service and are standing by to answer your questions, or to schedule an appointment, please call us.
Call Jeffrey L. Decker today for all your chimney needs.
Working Together to
Protect Your Home and Family