Don’t Neglect Your Chimney!

October 7th, 2012 by affordablesweep No comments »

As you snuggle in front of a cozy fireplace or bask in the warmth of your wood stove

 you are taking part in a ritual of comfort and enjoyment handed down through the centuries. The last thing you are likely to be thinking about is the condition of your chimney. However, if you don’t give some thought to it before you light those winter fires, your enjoyment may be very short-lived. Why? Dirty chimneys can cause chimney fires, which damage structures, destroy homes and injure or kill people.

Chimney fires can burn explosively

noisy and dramatic enough to be detected by neighbors or passersby. Flames or dense smoke may shoot from the top of the chimney. Homeowners report being startled by a low rumbling sound that reminds them of a freight train or a low flying air plane. However, those are only the chimney fires you know about. Slow-burning chimney fires don’t get enough air or have enough fuel to be as dramatic or visible. But, the temperatures they reach are very high and can cause as much damage to the chimney structure – and nearby combustible parts of the house – as their more spectacular cousins. With proper chimney system care, chimney fires are entirely preventable

Call your local Chimney Sweep Today!

Why is the top of my chimney rusting?

September 2nd, 2012 by affordablesweep 12 comments »


Pre-fabricated fireplaces have a flat metal covering (chase cover or chase top) to prevent water from entering the interior of the chimney structure.

The chase top is usually made of galvanized sheet metal with a life expectancy of 7 to 10 years. Over time, the metal coating wears off from exposure to sun, rain, snow, ice and other environmental factors. Most tops also develop a low spot around the flue pipe that holds water as well. With time, the metal starts to rust and when water runs off the top during a rain it carries the rust down the side of your chimney causing unsightly staining of the siding. The rust stains on the outside of the chimney are the first clue that there is a problem. Left untreated, eventually the corrosion will eat through the metal allowing water to seep through. You may hear water dripping on the inside of the chase after it rains. This is an indication that the rust has pitted the metal allowing water into the chimney where it can cause damage to the interior components of the chimney.

The time to act is when you first notice rust stains not after you hear water dripping.

To correct the problem, the existing chase cover can either be resurfaced and resealed or replaced with a new stainless steel chase cover that will last a lifetime.

Heads Up! You never know what you’ll find on a chimney.

August 12th, 2012 by affordablesweep 30 comments »

I found myself eye to eye with this little guy!


A customer called me today and said the cap I had installed last year must not be doing its job. “Something has died in my chimney”.

When I stopped by to check on her, everything looked ok from the ground, the cap was still up there. But boy when you came into the house it sure smelt like a dead animal to me and the closer you got to the fireplace the worst it got.

There was nothing in the fireplace, up the flue or behind the damper. This was crazy. Where was that smell coming from?

I put my ladder up and when I climbed to the top of the chimney, this little guy was staring at me, well what was left of him that is.



Hawks and owls typically prey upon ground dwelling mammals such as mice, vole, rats, squirrels and rabbits.

Apparently this Hawk dined and dashed.

Is Water Running Down the Chimney?

July 19th, 2012 by affordablesweep 172 comments »

If you are having a problem with water running down the inside of your chimney and accumulating in the fireplace, then you need to read this post.

The problem probably stems from a bad crown on top of a masonry chimney.  Usually the crown is a top made from concrete that is angled to shed water (it overhangs the brick portion to keep drips from running down the chimney sides).  This structure surrounds but does not encase the clay flues.  The problem of water leaking usually comes in older homes.  Before the mid-1980s, chimney crowns were simply sloped washes put together with leftover mortar.  These crowns can crack and deteriorate, which leaves gaps around the flues.  This is what causes the leaking.  Some people believe adding chimney caps will solve the problem, but if you have a bad crown that might not be enough.

The solution?  If you are comfortable going up on your roof, head up and check the crown.  Use polyurethane to caulk any cracks or gaps you find.  If you’re n

ot comfortable on the roof, call a pro.  Check in the yellow pages under “Chimney Sweeps” and make sure he’s certified.


Are There Snakes In Your Chimney?

July 10th, 2012 by affordablesweep 141 comments »

To remove a snake already in your chimney, you must first find it.

 Your local chimney sweeps daily task, it seams, is to remove both dead and alive critters from chimneys. Sometimes all we find are the parts left behind, like a snake skin or a birds head.

Venomous snakes and snakes that are just really, really big. Venom, however, is transmitted by the direct action on the part of the predator. There are only about 20 types of venomous snakes in the US., out of over 110 species. Venom’s of the pit viper contain peptides and proteins. The venom leads to damage of vascular cells and red blood cells.

Viper bites can be deadly and normally are very painful. Elapid bites are extremely lethal and antivenin treatment is a must if bitten. Vipers, rattlesnakes, and other members of the family of snakes known as the ‘pit vipers’ have special pits located between their eyes and nostrils. The pits are used to sense minute temperature changes as infrared rays, as an aid in location warm blooded prey such as rodents.

 Snakes are actually responsible for keeping crop yields at an acceptable level and preventing spreading of diseases by killing rats. Snakes such as the non-venomous rat snakes are excellent at doing this. Snakes are found in a huge range of colors, form bright to dull. Brightly colored snakes are usually venomous, their coloration serving as a warning to predators, while dull colored snakes use their coloration for camouflage. Snakes are generally solitary creatures and have little to no interest in humans. In fact, most of the truly venomous snakes do not even make their homes in the United States.

Snakes are beneficial in that they eat pest insects and rodents, helping to control the populations of animals that can be nuisances to humans. Only about one-tenth of all snakes are venomous, and not all of the venomous snakes are dangerous, or even deadly to humans. Snakes are ectotherm, which means they regulate their body temperature by taking heat from their environment or by giving off heat. Because their body temperature is affected by environmental temperatures and varies with surrounding conditions, snakes are inactive during hot seasons (aestivation) and cold season (hibernation). Snakes are an integral part of the food web in any environment. As a predator, they are important in maintaining the fitness of the animals they prey on.

Your best defense from wild animals in your chimney is a quality chimney cap. Call your certified chimney sweep for details.



Is This The Best Chimney Cap For You?

June 29th, 2012 by affordablesweep 120 comments »

A very good investment in chimney protection and performance.

The best investment you can make to protect your home and chimney is a good quality chimney cap. A cap prevents entry of rain and animals and helps contain sparks. In some of the western states a spark arrester is required.


The number one cause of chimney damage is rain and weather. Rain is absorbed into the brick and mortar and weather changes cause expansion and contraction which deteriorates the masonry, compromising your chimney’s structural stability. This can make your chimney unsafe to use.


Birds and small animals are attracted to chimneys. Chimneys offer a nice, tall place to live with secure protection. However, animal and bird nests are highly flammable, baby birds make incessant noises that will nearly drive you mad, and if she can’t exit through the top of the chimney, she and her babies will try and exit through the bottom and right into your home! Raccoon’s and squirrels can get into the house and cause thousands of dollars in damage to furnishing, rugs, curtains and everything in reach in their desperate attemt to escape from your home. They also harbor lice, fleas, rabies and other diseases that can put your family at risk.

Most folks figure that the baby animals will grow up and leave the nest, exit the chimney top, and then you’re safe to use the chimney again. NOT SO! First of all, far too many babies cannot escape the chimney and will die in there, creating horrible odors and maggot infestations. Second, the remaining nesting materials can block the chimney so that fumes and smoke cannot escape, as well as providing fuel for a raging chimney fire.

keep in mind that migratory birds are considered endangered and cannot be removed by law. Chimney sweeps are not even allowed to remove a nest that’s being used by chimney swifts for example. After the animal or bird evacuates your chimney, on its own or through forced eviction, you must have the chimney cleaned to remove the nesting materials, then install a chimney cap to prevent their return. The screening built into the cap is carefully designed to allow proper drafting yet keep out uninvited wildlife guests.


A good chimney cap also includes a screen that helps control sparks. On windy days, chimney draft can be affected and if sparks exit the chimney they can ignite nearby trees, leaves and other flammables. If your home is located within a wooded area, a chimney cap with a spark arrestor is strongly recommended.

Please contact you local certified chimney sweep for additional information.

The Perfect Wood Stove Installation?

June 24th, 2012 by affordablesweep 167 comments »

The metal is touching the wood surround.

Minimum firebox clearances for noncombustible’s. 16″ from firebox opening all around. Hearth (floor) minimum 20″ forward of firebox and 8″ minimum out from sides of firebox

Unlined chimney

The first building code in 1927 required a liner in all chimneys. Virtually all combustion appliance mfrs. state in their manuals their appliance can only be vented into an “approved” chimney or get even more specific stating it must comply with a certain code or standard such as the local state building code or NFPA 211.

Allot of glazed creosote buildup after only one year.

Everyone knows that when you hire a chimney sweep, one of his most important jobs is to clean the creosote out of the chimney so you don’t have a chimney fire. Most often, the creosote that needs to be removed from your flue is light and fluffy or a little crusty and flaky, but with the right tools and a little bit of elbow grease, normal creosote can be removed with professional chimney brushes.“Glazed” or “3rd Stage Creosote”, however, is a different story altogether! Consult with your certified chimney sweep for the right technique for you situation.


My customer even knocked out some of the bricks in the firebox so that his stove would fit. Ain’t that special?


A year ago I had advised this customer not to use the fireplace for any reason especially not for a wood stove application. Perhaps removing the stove and placing a plant in it’s place would be the best coarse of action.

Our Friends In High Places

June 21st, 2012 by affordablesweep 139 comments »


There are a lot of animal lovers out there who enjoy watching the birds and squirrels play around in their back yards.

  Then, there are those who like animals but curse the squirrel that keeps getting into the bird feeder.  There are also those who would rather not have anything at all to do with these critters.  No matter how much a person likes or dislikes animals, no one wants those animals to make their way into their chimney.  That is where a chimney cap comes in handy.


Of coarse if you’ve had as many of these little guys looking up at you when your looking down the flue as I have you might not think that the’re very cute.

If you hear a critter shuffling about within your chimney, then evicting the animal should take place as soon as possible.  Small animals such as squirrels may be trapped in a metal chimney liner by accident.  Once they crawl, or fall, down the chimney, they will be trapped because the chimney liner is not made for animals to grab on to with their claws.  If this happens, then getting the animals out can be a little tricky.  You will have to provide a way for the animal to crawl out.  For small animals, this can be accomplished by feeding a piece of thick rope down the chimney liner and attaching it to something at the top of the chimney.  Wait a little while and, hopefully, the squirrel will makes its way out.  Once you are certain that the critter is gone and you no longer hear the scuffling within the chimney, be sure to replace or install a chimney cap with wire netting around it to prevent further problems.

Installing a chimney cap is your best defense against unwanted guest in the chimney!


Some animals, such as raccoons can climb in and out of your chimney with no problems for they are big enough to use their bodies as leverage.  More than likely, if you have an animal like a raccoon in your chimney, then you may have a nest and there may be some babies involved as well.  There are odor-deterrents such as predator urine that can help get rid of some pests.  However, you will more than likely have to smell these as well.  There are also special traps that will trap an animal as it exits the chimney liner as well.  Once the mother is caught, you can usually reach up through your fireplace to remove the babies and nest, which will probably be on the smoke shelf.  Also, you can scare the mother out and then grab the babies.  Then, you can use the babies as bait for the mother in a live trapping device.  Be sure to check the laws in your area, for in some areas, it is illegal in some areas to trap animals such as raccoons.

Contact Your Certified Chimney Sweep For Answers To Your Questions.

Suit up! Let’s Go Sweeping…

June 14th, 2012 by affordablesweep 143 comments »

 Our first stop is a masonry repair job.

Loose or crumbling mortar and cracked or splitting mortar joints are caused by weathering or settling in the foundation. Like many home repair tasks, damaged brickwork should be fixed sooner rather than later to prevent further damage. I took out a dozen bricks with an air chisel. That’s the  right tool for this type of job, it’s light and works fast.

Until about 1930, the mortar used in masonry construction was composed almost entirely of lime putty and sand. It was relatively soft and worked very well with the softer, more porous bricks of the time. Unfortunately, over time the exposed area of lime putty mortar can be eroded and pointing, refilling the mortar joint with new mortar, may be required.

After removing the damaged bricks its time to lay in some new ones.

 Once all of the pieces of the damaged brick are removed we carefully remove the cement which had bound the old brick to the adjacent ones. In most cases the old cement can be easily removed with slight pressure from the air chisel. We place bricks equal in number to those being replaced into the water filled bucket.(This will allow the brick to better absorb the cement). I insert a brick into the opening allowing and excess cement to be squeezed out and fall away (excess cement ensures adequate surface coverage in the joints). If there are gaps or cement voids in the joints use trowel to insert and push additional cement into the gap.

Last task is to pour a new crown

The top surface of the chimney crown should slope away from the flue wall towards the crown exterior edge at a 3:12 pitch (3” rise for every 12” of the crown surface width). It would be ideal to have a crown shaped this way when it is created, because mortar added on top of the flat crown will always separate, crack and fall apart.

I use a special mix to do this job so that it will last and last. That’s It!

Ok let’s go on to the next stop.


Suit Up! Let’s Go Sweeping…

June 10th, 2012 by affordablesweep 192 comments »

Our first stop is a Level II Chimney Inspection.

We get to the house about thirty minutes early, which is great! Because it gives me a chance to chat with the current homeowner (seller) and find out how the fireplace has performed in the past. And with their permission we can set up the ladders and camera equipment.

Ok now Jane the realtor has arrived and we’re ready to get started.

First things first, let’s take our shoes off at the front door and lay out a tarp in front of the fireplace opening. Now let’s check the clearances at the fireplace surround and look for proper hearth dimensions. Next we remove the damper and check the angle of the sides in the smoke chamber. And  always, always looking for cracked bricks and missing mortar joints.



Now let’s go up on the roof.

We need to check the flashing, brick chase, crown and to make sure the chimney has a proper fitting flue cap.  This is a good time to send the spider camera down the flue to check the condition of the liner and to make sure the flue joints are properly mortared.

Down to the crawl space and up into the attic.

We need to check the clearances and look for obvious problems.

 It’s time to render a report.

The back of my van is a mobile office, there’s a computer, two printers and a binding machine. First we’ll imput the images and write the comments along side. When the report is complete we’ll go over it with the realtor and answer her question. This evening she’ll get a copy in PDF form with an accompanying flash movie of me going over the deatails and recommendations. That’s It!

Ok let’s go on to the next stop.

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