Common Questions Asked by Sulco Customers on Sweep
Why should I have my chimney inspected?
- Keep you safe. A chimney inspection will identify creosote build-up that can lead to a fire. It will also identify safety violations that can cause your house to be at a greater risk for fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Keep you dry. Our customers often complain about moisture entering their chimney. An inspection can identify where the rain/snow/moisture is entering. Our technicians will take the information and provide an appropriate solution to your problem.
- Keep you satisfied. “A well maintained chimney will increase efficiency and give you a peace of mind.
How often should I have my chimney cleaned or inspected?
The National Fire Protection Agency (Standard 211) recommends that every year you should have your chimney, fireplaces, and vents inspected. The cleaning, maintenance, and repairs of your chimney should be done if necessary. Inspections should be done by a certified chimney sweep. Go to www.CSIA.org to locate someone with the appropriate credentials. Sulco has certified chimney sweeps.
The NFPA also recommends having your chimney inspected when the following circumstances occur:
- Sale or transfer of property
- After a malfunction or event likely to cause damage to chimney
- When replacing an appliance
How much wood is burnt “every year?”
Based on burning practices in Northeastern Ohio, a home burns about 1 quart of during a burning season. Be aware, the National Fire Protection Agency does not say how much wood is burned in one year. Even if you didn’t burn anything, your chimney could have undergone damage causing gaps inside your chimney and /or smoke chamber or animals could have made themselves a new home.
If I have a gas log set, do I need my chimney cleaned or inspected?
Yes, your gas log set needs to be inspected as recommended by the NFPA. Gas logs sets omit particles, especially when they get older. These particles make your house dusty and can block the flow of gas to the flame. If the oxygen to gas ration is incorrect, carbon monoxide could be entering your house. This gas has been known to cause flu-like symptoms and can lead to brain and heart damage. A camera inspection will identify any gap or cracks where the carbon monoxide could be leaking back into your house.
Why do I have a chimney?
Homes were built with chimney to allow for burning byproduct to exit the house from common appliances like hot water tanks, central heating and cooling units, wood stoves and fire place. Around 2005, some appliances like hot water tanks and Central air came out with high efficiency burning apparatuses that allow for side discharge, bypassing the use of the chimneys exits. This may have left your chimney without a purpose. Be warned; don’t take your eye off the needs of the chimney. Be sure it still has a cap and is maintained. Some customers are actually removing the chimney to below the roofline and capping the top off and roofing over the old chimney location. Give us a call and we can determine if that is the right decision for you.
Does my furnace vent chimney need cleaned?
For starters, your furnace should be exhausting through a liner made of aluminum or stainless steel to the top of your chimney. Those are good for the life of the unit. If your furnace vent is exhausting through your flue liners, then your chimney does need inspected. The byproduct of your gas furnace is water and hydrochloric acids that deteriorate the inside which can cause gaps where the gases can escape into your house. If you are not sure how your furnace vents, we can come inspect.
Can you eliminate the smell coming from my chimney?
Often, the smell is a result of moisture inside your chimney. To reduce water from entering your chimney, we can spray a water repellent on the exterior of your chimney or place a rain cap over the flue.
The smell may be entering the room via wind coming down your chimney. Closing your damper fully when the fireplace is not in use or installing a top mounted damper would stop the air from coming down your chimney. Cleaning the chimney may also help eliminate the problem but don’t believe someone if they claim that all the smell will go away.
My damper is broken, can you fix it?
Dampers often become stuck in the open position or don’t close fully leaving a gap. The gap allows hot air to escape from your house or cold air to enter. Take a flashlight and look inside your firebox up at the damper, the back track may have a lot of ash causing a jam or the closing mechanism may be off track. We can fix this problem for you.
Why does smoke fill my house when I light/start a fire?
After you have checked to see that your damper is open, investigate whether your fire is not hot enough. Anyone with an attic in the summer time knows that hot air rises. The same concept is true when thinking about your fire in your fireplace. If the fire isn’t hot enough to pull the smoke up and out of your chimney, the smoke is going to try and find an easier way out (aka, your living room).. Try the following for one minute each. Dry twigs, then 1” diameter sized twigs, then 2” inch diameter branches and then your burning logs. Make sure the damper is all the way open and crack a window near the fireplace to provide the fire with as much oxygen as possible.
Your room is negatively pressured: This can cause air to flow down the chimney, not up. Think of negative pressure like a vacuum and positive pressure like a blower. If you burn popcorn in your microwave and in the adjacent room, you were pulling a vacuum, you would smell the burnt popcorn faster then if you were blowing air into your kitchen.
The same air movement is occurring within your house. Sometimes your fireplace room has a “Blower” in it that causes the smoke to be pushed toward adjacent rooms. Opening a window or installing a “make-up” air intake may solve your problem.
Your chimney is not in the right place. Unfortunately, your chimney may not function properly because the architect of your house didn’t know that chimneys have needs. The needs include warmth, free from nearby abstractions and an easy way for smoke to exit..
Warmth – A chimney is designed to take the hot air from the firebox and move it to the top of your house using the philosophy that “hot air rises.” If you chimney is cold from being on the exterior of your house, then the hot air will cool down as its warmth is being absorb by the cool walls of the chimney and it loses it rising power . One solution is to install a top-mounted fan that artificially draws the air up through your chimney and out the top.
Obstructions – Even the slightest obstructions around your home could cause a downdraft problem. In Northeaster Ohio, most wind travels from west to East. Imagine the air coming from the west is water. It is crashing around trying to get past your house, nearby trees and other obstructions. Would the water be crashing down onto your chimney causing a down draft or rising as it went past. This visualization can help you determine if you have a draft problem. Some downdraft problems can be eliminated with the installation of a flue extender.
Easy exit – Improperly located dampers, rough jagged unparged smoke chambers and significantly size-reduced flue lines are just a few common building mistakes when constructing masonry chimneys. These mistakes will cause the smoke from your fireplace to have a difficult time exiting your house.
Do I need a chimney liner?
There are times when chimneys do need a liner. Lining is usually made of aluminum of stainless steal tube that goes down your chimney and attaches to an appliance. The appliance could be a typical fire box, a gas, wood, or pellet insert, HVAC unit, etc.
Lining a chimney is needed when but not limited to
- Attaching a new appliance that requires a certain size exhaust to the top of the chimney (This is common for 1980 – 1200 HVAC units)
- Installing a new insert (wood, coal, gas, pellet)
- 3.If you currently have a firebox and your flue tile are cracked or missing mortar in between or non-existent, lining may be necessary to make your burning safe.
If your chimney does need lined, make sure it is done by a CSIA certified (www.CSIA.org) professional like Sulco.. Unfortunately, I often see liners improperly installed. When liners are not properly installed, more damage and increase risk to safety can be a result. This can cause additional problems and money for the homeowner.
Do smoke chambers need parged?
Yes, the smoke chamber needs to be parged based on the building practice of the International Residential Code (IRC) which is adopted by most cities building codes. Parging is a smoothing over of the inside bricks. The purpose for this smoothing is to reduce turbulence in the smoke chamber so the air can calmly and quickly rise up through the chimney to the top. It also eliminates crevices where creosote can build and become ignitable, especially when the brick have holes in them.
Will you use a camera to inspect my chimney?
Cameras have become a wide-spread tool in the industry over the last decade. Cameras are used to see cracks in flue tiles, missing mortar between flue tiles, presence of animals and any additional detective work for your specific situation. If Sulco has any reason to believe that you have any of the conditions mentioned above then we will inspect your chimney with a camera. Also, level 2 inspections (as defined by NFPA 211) require using a camera to inspect your chimney and fireplace. Most reputable companies have and use cameras because they are the only way to accurately see inside an angled chimney.
Are you going to clean the chimney from the roof?
No, not usually. Typical cleaning procedures are done from the inside pushing the brush up the chimney. About 10 years ago most everyone was cleaning from the top because they had stiff rods. Advancements in brush and rod technology have allowed chimney sweeps to stay safe by getting off the roofs and staying inside. If for some reason you would like us to sweep for the top down, we can try and accommodate your request.
Do I need a chimney cap?
Chimney Caps are required by code. Chimney Cap Benefits include:
- Eliminate moisture damage – Moisture entering your chimney erodes chimney liner, mortar joints, fireboxes, and dampers that will lead to expensive repairs.
- Prevent bird and animal invasion – Protects your chimney from nesting birds, squirrels, raccoons, and other disease-carrying animals
- Reduce airborne embers and sparks from escaping your chimney.
- Guard against flue blockage – Leaves and debris entering a chimney may cause a flue blockage. This can lead to fire, smoke damage, and even carbon monoxide poisoning