Pozzi Chimney Sweep Blog

How Often Should I Have My Chimney Cleaned?

It is the dream of most people to own their own home. Being able to decorate however you want, take out walls, put up new walls, and do your yard work. All of these things bring with them a certain sense of pride of ownership. Not to mention, the fact that owning your home can be a great investment. However, home ownership also brings many responsibilities.

How Often Should I Have My Chimney Cleaned Image - Aurora IL - Pozzi Chimney SweepIf something breaks, it is the homeowner’s responsibility to fix it. When the grass gets long, the homeowner is responsible to mow it. Also, if the home has a fireplace, it’s the homeowner’s responsibility to have that chimney inspected and cleaned to ensure the safety of the family. So, this brings up the question of how often that chimney needs to be inspected and swept. It would seem that if you don’t use the fireplace very often over the course of the winter, you probably won’t need to have it cleaned, right? Not necessarily.

What Do the Experts Say?

Do you have a question about something as important to the safety of your family as getting your chimney inspected and cleaned? If so, it’s best to ask the experts! In this case, that would be the Chimney Safety Institute of America. The CSIA website is very clear about this topic: “The simple answer is: The National Fire Protection Association Standard 211 says, ‘Chimneys, fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances. Cleaning, maintenance, and repairs shall be done if necessary.’ This is the national safety standard and is the correct way to approach the problem.” Even if you don’t use your chimney very often during the previous winter, you can experience blockages from birds or other animals. In addition, have debris that gets blown into your chimney. This must be removed to avoid a dangerous chimney fire!

Chimney Repairs

Even if you don’t use your chimney very often, there are other factors to consider. These include weathering and precipitation that can cause breakdowns to occur. Some of this wear and tear is easily observed, even by an untrained person. Other damages aren’t as easily detected, however. An annual inspection by a CSIA trained professional will give you peace of mind; knowing that any damages that might cause instability in the structure of your chimney have been discovered and repaired.

Creosote

Even if you didn’t use your fireplace very often over the past winter, creosote can still build up. In fact, there are some conditions that cause creosote to build up more quickly. If the temperature in your chimney is cooler than normal, or if you burn unseasoned firewood, creosote will build up more quickly. Also, if you don’t open your damper wide enough to allow for a good airflow, you will find that creosote will form more quickly.

Annual Inspection and Cleaning

Call Pozzi Chimney Sweep today to schedule your annual chimney inspection and cleaning. Even if your chimney didn’t receive much use over the past winter, you’ll want to make sure that everything is clean and in good working order so that it’s ready to go next winter. Give them a call today!

Tuckpoint or Rebuild: Which Does Your Chimney Need?

Your masonry chimney was built to last for years – 100 years or more! Unfortunately, the mortar that is holding the bricks together isn’t made to last quite that long, and it will, from time to time, need to be replaced. But if you wait too long, you may be in for a bigger repair job than you are asking for. So…to repair or rebuild – that’s the question.

Chimney Damage

As strange as it may seem, one thing that can really cause damage to your chimney is precipitation. Heavy rains can wear away at the mortar that holds the bricks or block together. In an Illinois winter, the freeze/thaw cycle can wreak havoc by causing larger cracks in the mortar as well. As stated by the Chimney Safety Institute of America website, “(M)asonry materials deteriorate quickly when exposed to the freeze/thaw process, in which moisture that has penetrated the materials periodically freezes and expands causing undue stress.”Tuckpoint or Rebuild Image - Aurora IL - Pozzi Chimney Sweep

Tuckpointing

Every homeowner knows that it’s very important to have your chimney inspected and cleaned on an annual basis. Your chimney inspector will have kept a close eye on the condition of your mortar. If this is the case, then you can be pretty confident in going with the tuckpointing procedure.

Tuckpointing is the process of taking out the old, crumbling mortar joints and replacing them with fresh mortar. The fresh mortar has to be pressed into the cracks between the bricks. The tools that are used to do this are called points, lending to the term “tuckpointing”.

This may not seem like too complicated of a process. However, the balance.com website is quite clear in stating that this is a job that needs to be left to the professionals.

Rebuild

Perhaps, you neglected to complete this repair job in a timely manner, you may be looking at a bigger repair job. One strong indication that you may need to go the rebuilding route rather than the tuckpointing route is if there are bricks that are actually loose. If this is the case, you’re looking at a rebuild rather than a tuckpointing procedure. This is a more complicated, more costly repair job which involves actually taking down the existing wall and rebuilding it back up.

Signals that Repair is Needed

If you are an observant home owner, it may be apparent by looking at your mortar is in need of repair. If your mortar looks soft and crumbly, it’s a pretty sure bet that some tuckpointing is required. However, it’s a good idea to bring in the experts to determine exactly how much work needs to be done. If you’re looking for expert advice, give Pozzi Chimney Sweep a call. Their technicians are CSIA certified and will be able to give an honest, expert assessment of the repairs that are necessary to get your chimney up and running. Spring is the perfect time to get this assessment done, so you have the summer to make any necessary repairs.

Old Houses And Chimney Issues

Old houses present unique challenges for chimneys

Old houses present unique challenges for chimneys

Buying an old home (built in the 1950s or older) is appealing for many homeowners shopping around. Old homes have a lot of charm and are built with characteristics newer, more modular homes simply are not. A lot of people are drawn to older homes because of the look and feel homes built sixty years ago have. However, purchasing a home that wasn’t built with modern concepts is not without its challenges. Many older houses have chimney issues among other damages that should be considered upon inspection.

What Are The Dangers Of Old Chimneys?

Older chimneys account for many chimney fires. In fact, in 2010, chimneys, flues and other confined fires accounted for 87 percent of residential fires in America. Not only do older chimneys cause fires, they can also produce creosote, a residue left behind by wood burning fires, as well as carbon monoxide, which is a dangerous gas left behind from fires not burning hot enough.

Beyond the health hazards of old chimneys, many older chimneys do not burn efficiently, which causes heat to escape from your home. The result is a higher energy bill during cold winter months when you expect and need your home to be heated thoroughly.

Deterioration

The most common chimney issue is deterioration. After decades of weather exposure, lack of repairs and wear and tear many chimneys simply don’t hold up. This often results in masonry damage to the bricks and/or mortar of the chimney and can lead to leaks or collapsed chimneys.

Moisture

As with chimneys of any age, moisture is a major culprit of damage. If not properly capped or sealed, or if not repaired properly, a leaky chimney can allow moisture to enter. This can result in build-up inside the chimney, which can cause your chimney to run inefficiently. In order for a chimney to properly heat the home it needs to burn as hot as possible. When a chimney is full of moisture it doesn’t burn hot enough.

Additional Types Of Chimney Issues
Damaged lining or no lining
Rusted Flue and/or Rusted Damper
Pyrolysis (the process of the wood around a chimney being exposed to heat, making it combustible)

If you are considering purchasing an older home, the best thing to do is have a thorough inspection done on the home. If you want a second opinion, hire a professional chimney repair and sweeping company in addition to your home inspector to thoroughly look around and inside your chimney. Pozzi Chimney Sweep in Hinckley, Illinois offers premium chimney cleaning, sweeping and inspection services you can trust. A professional chimney expert will come to your home (or the home you are considering purchasing) and inspect the chimney from top to bottom.

Once your chimney is inspected, repairs should be done as soon as possible. As with all large appliances, the key to maintaining any chimney is to inspect it regularly and make appropriate repairs in a timely manner. Owning a home, especially an old home built with character and charm, is truly rewarding. Enjoy your home and your wood burning fireplace or stove by maintaining it and repairing damages before they get out of hand.

Faulty Chimney Liners and Carbon Monoxide

Chimney Liner Damage and Carbon Monoxide - Aurora IL - Pozzi Chimney SweepWith weather experts forecasting an upcoming winter just as brutal as last year’s, everyone has started thinking about the best ways to stay warm. Some homeowners turn to their fireplaces and wood stoves as the primary heat source for the home, and even more have started using the fireplace as an added heat source to supplement the primary source. As with any type of heating, but especially those involving combustion, safety is of the essence. Part of keeping the fireplace and chimney safe is having an annual inspection done. This helps identify problems like faulty liners, which can create devastating problems.

The chimney liner covers the inside of the chimney, separating the hot gases from the chimney and home. Generally made of clay or steel, it has several jobs, including protecting combustible materials in the house from the heat of the fire, protecting the chimney structure from damage caused by the acidic smoke, and protecting the home’s inhabitants by directing toxic fumes out of the living space. When the chimney liner fails at the last job, the consequences are fast and devastating.

Clay flue liners can crack and break after too much exposure to extreme heat. Steel liners can rust after exposure to water leaking in the chimney. Either way, the chimney liner can no longer effectively do its job. Not all of the smoke and other gases escape up the chimney. Some enters the slips through the cracks and rust holes in the flue liner, which leaves the house susceptible to the gases as well. This means everyone in the home becomes a potential victim of carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide is a small molecule formed in high concentrations as a product of combustion. Essentially, every time something burns, carbon monoxide results as a product. Burning occurs in many appliances and machines, meaning carbon monoxide is produced in many instances, including in car exhaust, charcoal grills, gas ranges, and propane lanterns. This is why health experts discourage starting the car engine in a closed garage or barbecuing anywhere indoors. Depending on the size of the fire and the room, an enclosed space may take only minutes to fill with carbon monoxide, and you may never know. The gas has no smell, taste or color, making it impossible to detect without the aid of a specialized detector.

Once the concentration of carbon monoxide hits a certain point, the signs of poisoning can become evident very quickly. Inhaling carbon monoxide prevents oxygen from traveling around the body, which results in asphyxiation. Early signs of poisoning include dizziness, shortness of breath and nausea, but it can quickly turn into unconsciousness, organ failure and death if the victim does not move to clean, outdoor air.

When burning fires beneath faulty chimney liners, you risk your family’s safety with numerous dangers, not the least of which being carbon monoxide poisoning. To protect everyone from these dangers, have an inspection done to determine the condition of the chimney liner. If it is cracked, filled with holes, or missing completely, do not burn any more fires before having a chimney specialist address the problem. If you live in the area of Aurora, Illinois, contact Pozzi Chimney Sweep for a professional consultation.

Legend of Chimney Sweeps’ Good Luck

Dating back several hundred years, the chimney sweep has been considered a symbol of good luck, particularly to brides and grooms on their wedding days. As more people learn of the luck associated with chimney sweeps, more and more chimney sweeps appear at weddings and other occasions where luck is desired. The reason behind the chimney sweep’s good luck is still debated but seems to have been narrowed down to three legends.

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The most common legend involves King George II back in the 18th century. As told by this legend, the King was riding his horse in a procession when a growling dog appeared. His horse, spooked by dog, became unruly, and the King lost control. Out of the crowd walked a chimney sweep that caught the horse and calmed it down, essentially saving the King from falling to the ground. Thankful for being saved, the King declared all chimney sweeps to be good luck. Allegedly, this message spread across Europe and has stuck around ever since.

Another legend proposed to be the origin of the chimney sweep’s good luck takes place in 1066 with King William of Britain. Peacefully walking down a quiet road, the King fell into the path of a runaway carriage, which put him in grave danger. A chimney sweep happened to foresee the accident and pushed the King out of harm’s way. In return for saving his life, King William invited the chimney sweep to his daughter’s wedding. He wanted his daughter to experience the luck of the chimney sweep as well. The King also declared chimney sweeps were good luck and allowed them to wear top hats while working. Reserved for the distinguished, permitting the top hats was a sign of great respect. Ever since, chimney sweeps at weddings have been considered lucky, and their presence could even negate bad luck.

The third legend is not linked to a specific date or person, but it contains an entertaining story. While working one day, a chimney sweep fell from the roof. Fortunately, the chimney sweep was saved from falling to the ground when his foot became caught in the gutter. Dangling from the gutter, the chimney sweep was completely helpless. Upon hearing the ruckus, the maiden who lived in the house came to the window to investigate. Seeing the poor chimney sweep in such a sad state, she quickly pulled him inside through the window. They quickly fell in love with each other, resulting in the maiden breaking off her engagement to a man she disliked. She and the chimney sweep married and lived happily ever after.

Whether you believe one of these legends or choose to believe a different story, history has shown that generation after generation believes in the good luck brought by chimney sweeps.

Solving a Chimney Draft Problem

With the official start of winter just a few days away, most homeowners with fireplaces or wood stoves have at least burned a couple logs. Fireplaces are not all fun for everyone though. Perhaps you do everything right – the annual sweep and inspection, asking all the right questions, burning all the best wood – and you still cannot seem to build a strong fire. Stop feeling bad because it may not be you. Your chimney may have draft problems.

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Chimneys work because hot air rises. The hot air produced by the fire has a low density, so it moves upward through the chimney. Most fires are burned during the colder months of fall and winter, so the hot air from the fire usually meets comparably cold air from the outside sitting in the chimney. When the hot air meets the cold air, the difference in pressure between the two portions of air creates a vertical pull that draws air up the chimney. This movement of air is known as the “draft,” and it pulls air rich in oxygen from the house to help fuel the fire, and then the smoke and other harmful gases safely escape through the chimney. If the air fails to flow this way, the issue is called a draft problem.

The most common draft problem homeowners experience is a chimney that is too large for the firebox. Old fireplaces in particular often have oversized chimneys that result in draft problems. A wide chimney gives the hot air more room to spread vertically, which then slows its vertical progress. When the hot air moves more slowly up the chimney, the upward pull becomes weaker. Thus, the draft weakens and the air moves inefficiently through the system. Creosote also condenses easier when the flue is too large and the draft is too weak. This can be deadly as creosote is highly flammable and can cause a chimney (or house) fire. Signs of this problem include a small, cool fire or even a fire that refuses to stay lit. Fortunately, this problem can be easily remedied with the help of a chimney specialist. With a few measurements, the specialist can determine the proper flue width the fireplace requires and install a flue lining with the corresponding size.

Another cause of draft problems is a short chimney because the draft is more powerful in a taller chimney. Short chimneys are common in aged bungalows and ranch style houses, and they can lead to cold, smoky, or inconsistent fires. Although adding height to the chimney is not a welcomed expense, it can save money in the long run by preventing a reverse draft in which the cold air from the outside actually flows into the house.

You should not have to worry about draft problems while you simply want to enjoy your home and fireplace. If you live in the area of Aurora, Illinois, get in touch with Pozzi Chimney Sweep for a professional consultation. These experts can diagnose your draft problem and guide you in making the most informed decisions when addressing it.

A Spring Checklist for Your Chimney

Give your chimney some much needed care. Don't forget to include you chimney in your spring home maintenance checklist.

Give your chimney some much needed care. Don’t forget to include you chimney in your spring home maintenance checklist.

Spring is finally here, and that means spring cleaning is on your mind. It’s time to rid your home from that dusty, winter air, and your fireplace and your chimney should not be left out. After using your fireplace all winter to warm your home from the chilling winter air, spring is the best time to schedule your annual chimney sweep and chimney inspection, and Pozzi Chimney Sweep is ready to take on your spring checklist for your chimney because you only have one step to check off: contact us today to schedule an appointment for a chimney cleaning.

When Pozzi Chimney Sweep arrives at your home for your chimney sweep and inspection, we have a spring checklist for your chimney that we follow in our modern chimney sweep with state-of-the-art tools:

  • Clean the chimney with powerful tools. We use a long-handled chimney brush and rotary cleaning rods, all powered by a cordless drill and equipped with vacuums to keep your house free from any debris or dust.
  • Video the entire cleaning process. With a “Chim-Scan” video camera attached to a rod, we can video and take still images up close of your chimney, allowing us to find problems like cracks in the mortar, creosote buildup, or broken tile. You can also see for yourself exactly what your chimney interior looks like, so you know for certain when we tell you that you have a problem.
  • Decide if your chimney needs maintenance. After cleaning and inspecting your chimney and watching the footage from the “Chim-Scan,” we then evaluate whether your chimney needs any repairs.

The Chimney Safety Institute of America lists three obvious signs that your chimney is in need of maintenance sooner than later:

  1. A strong odor. Your fireplace should not put off any smell at all, so if it does smell smoky, this means you may be having problems with your damper or issues with air ventilation.
  2. A stained-black or discolored fireplace opening. This is an obvious sign smoke is escaping through your fireplace. You need to have your venting replaced immediately before using your fireplace again.
  3. Loose bricks or cracks in the mortar. This means water is getting into your chimney and causing structural damage, leading to all kinds of nightmares. This also should be repaired immediately, as in tomorrow.

There are other things you as a homeowner can look for to see if your chimney needs repairing, so add these to the Chimney Safety Institute of America’s signs:

  • a dripping noise coming from your chimney
  • soot on your furniture or smoke in your home
  • a campfire smell coming from your chimney
  • a dead animal smell coming from your chimney
  • a powdery white substance on the bricks and mortar on the exterior of your chimney, indicating water damage.

With proper chimney maintenance, you can enjoy your fireplace inexpensively for years. The importance of an annual chimney sweeping and inspection is stressed highly by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. Ignoring this step on your spring cleaning list can be dangerous. Schedule an appointment today with Pozzi Chimney Sweep, and let us handle all of your chimney maintenance this spring.