Why You Should Not Paint Your Chimney!

May 29th, 2012 by affordablesweep 188 comments »

Many people think a painted chimney looks beautiful, modern, or sleek, but just like a lovely bronze tan, it looks good on the outside, but the inside is another story.Many people hire a remodeler, handy man, or builder to paint their chimney, or apply a thick coating of tar or sealer to the chimney.  Although it may seem like a great idea, in reality it can ruin your chimney.Why?



The answer is simple.  Your chimney is a different temperature inside than it is on the outside, and because of this, moisture can build up within your chimney.  Gas appliances can also release high amounts of moisture into your old masonry chimney.  This exhaust condenses in improperly sizes flues.

This moisture must be allowed to evaporate, or leave, the inside of the chimney or it will destroy it.  In other words, the chimney must be allowed to breathe.  If it is sealed with tar, sealer, or paint, the mortar and brick inside your chimney will deteriorate very quickly.  Moisture can wick into the brickwork and stay there, destroying the mortar from the inside out.

The good news is, if this problem is identified early enough, I can rectify it, allowing your chimney to work properly for many years.

I have seen this happen many times.  Quite often I receive a call after a client has made several (failed) attempts to patch or repair their chimney with tar or sealant.  My clients who have chimneys that have been painted for many years are some of the worst in terms of structural integrity.  Unfortunately, I am unable to offer a simple, economical solution if a chimney has been painted, tarred, or sealed on the outside to cover a severe problem.

What’s the Solution?  Call Chris at Affordable Chimney Service (704)526-6348!

Remember:  your chimney is a safety device that must be capable of containing water, steam, heat, condensation, and possibly fire.  A typical handy man, roofer, or builder does not have the proper education or specialty equipment needed to diagnose your chimney’s underlying problem.

Veteran Chimney Sweep

May 27th, 2012 by affordablesweep 214 comments »


Few who are newly established in the chimney sweeping business have four tours in the Middle East listed on their resumes, but such is the case for Michael J. Baum, a Merrimack native who recently returned home after a nine-year enlistment in the Navy.

Baum, 30, a graduate of Merrimack High School and recent founder of Veteran Chimney, not long ago was part of a border patrol team in Kuwait and Iraq. His specialty was jet mechanics.

Baum said after graduating from high school in 2000 he worked for a chimney service company. He excelled in the trade but hankered for something more challenging. He was athletic and good in academics. He had played high school tennis and enjoyed football, but he craved something more.

“I always had an interest in aviation, so I called my dad and asked for advice,” Baum said. “My dad was in the Navy for nine years, just like me. He was a jet mechanic, among other things, and served in Vietnam. So, I enlisted at age 20, after two years of chimney sweeping.”

Baum, whose parents divorced when he was a teen, soon was trained and then stationed in Virginia. It was from there he was deployed – four times – to the Middle East.

“There, you saw a lot of sand – that’s it, sand,” Baum said. “It could reach 130 degrees or go down to 50 during the year. We’d be in fully armored vehicles, going on patrol looking for suspicious activity.”

When Baum and his fellow patrol members were assigned to more populated areas, the concerns for their safety escalated. Patrolling was activity loaded with dangers, he said.

“We were always on the lookout for illegal contraband – live rounds, ammunition and explosive devices,” Baum said. “We’d also inspect crates and machinery in transit. We never knew what we’d find.”

Baum said he encountered not only Iraqi citizens but many people from other nations who oftentimes had come into Iraq because of wars or famines in their own countries.

“There were lots of people who were nationals from India and Somalia,” Baum said. “They were all mixed in with locals wearing the traditional, long, white garb. The Iraqi women, they were head-to-toe covered up mostly in black, at all times of year.”

He said constant vigilance was needed. While traveling, the team used extreme caution, as roads might be planted with explosive devices.

“The kids were the most friendly,” Baum said. “They’d run around freely, always kicking a ball around. Soccer – what they call football – is really big over there.”

Baum nevertheless stayed on guard. He said he never forgot about Timothy Mark Gibson, a Merrimack High School friend with whom he had played youth baseball. Gibson joined the Marines and was killed in 2005 in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.

Now that Baum is back home in Merrimack, he often lights a votive candle whose flame reflects off the glass of a military-style portrait of smartly uniformed Timmy Gibson, a Marine Corps corporal.

The portrait occupies a place of honor in Baum’s home-based office, headquarters of his newly launched business, Veteran Chimney. The fully equipped chimney-sweeping service, fully licensed and insured, opened in August.

Baum gives nods to Brian Tenhave, a friend since sixth grade with whom he played high school tennis and soccer, for helping with the new company’s advertising and publicity. Thus far, the efforts have been rewarded with requests for chimney sweeping, inspections and pellet-stove cleaning and repair, along with jobs related to mortar repair on weathered or damaged chimneys.

Baum said he intends to give great service and discounts for veterans. He credits as an inspiration to a solid work ethic his mother, Helene Baum, a registered nurse for some 25 years at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Manchester. Baum’s stepfather, Robert Walsh, another of Michael’s mentors, also was a longtime employee there before passing on last year.

Baum mused that it is the experience of his own military service, his many visits to the V.A., and his dad’s inspirations that have given him such a deep respect for fellow veterans. Now, his mission is to continue to grow his business and be a part of the Merrimack community.



May 24th, 2012 by affordablesweep 215 comments »

Is There A Time Bomb In Your CHIMNEY



Fireplaces and wood-stoves are designed to safely contain wood fueled fires, while providing heat for a home.  The chimneys that serve them have the job of expelling the by-products of combustion (substances given off when the wood burns).  These substances include smoke, water vapor, gases, unburned wood particles, hydrocarbon volatiles, tar fog and assorted minerals.  As these substances exit the fireplace, wood-stove, or furnace and flow up into the relatively cooler chimney, condensation occurs.  The resulting residue that sticks to the inner walls of the chimney is called creosote.

The buildup of creosote in your fireplace, wood-stove, and chimney is unavoidable.  A natural byproduct of the wood burning process, creosote forms a black/brown crusty, powdery, flaky, tar like, drippy and sticky or hard and shiny glazed coating on the inside of your chimney.  It is not uncommon to see all forms of creosote in one flue system.  What ever form it presents itself, creosote is highly combustible and a potential fire hazard: it’s the primary fuel in most chimney fires.

During a  chimney fire, the outside surface of the chimney can become hot enough to ignite the surrounding walls, floor joists, rafters, insulation, or roofing materials.  Suddenly, this can develop into an uncontrolled structure fire.

Even without a chimney fire, creosote and soot can reduce the draft and diminish the efficiency of your heating system.

Certain conditions encourage the buildup of creosote.  Restricted air supply, unseasoned/wet wood and cooler than normal chimney temperatures are all factors that can accelerate the buildup of creosote on flue walls.  Air supply on fireplaces may be restricted by closed glass doors or by failure to open the damper wide enough to move heated smoke up the chimney rapidly.  [The longer the smoke lingers in the chimney, the more likely it is that creosote will build up in the flue]

Burning dry, seasoned, wood allows for higher burning temperatures.  If the wood is not seasoned, energy is used to initially drive off the water trapped in the cells of the (unseasoned) logs, which also results in cooler smoke temperatures.

Burning hot fires with dry, seasoned, wood can ultimately help lower the amounts of creosote accumulation.

Call your Chimney Sweep for more information (704)526-6348


How We Got A Bird Out Of Our Wood Stove Chimney, by VivBounty

May 23rd, 2012 by affordablesweep 205 comments »

Last spring, our second one living out in the country, we heard something fluttering about in the chimney. From the second floor outside my bathroom door where the chimney runs up to the roof I heard it. Because there was no chirping, just scratching, knocking and fluttering, I assumed it was a bat, but that’s subject for another hub.

I came downstairs to the main level and walked past the wood stove hearing the cafuffle again. Not knowing much about physics, I assumed this little creature was fluttering up and down the chimney trying to fly vertically out the top. I did what any wife would do, called my husband and told him there’s something in the chimney and to please get it out. He looked at me aghast and said that would involve dismantling chimney and once you do that “these things never seal again…what about carbon monoxide…” and waffled on trying to disuade me with logistics.

I was not to be put off. I went upstairs again and heard it this fluttering thinking it could hear me go to each level and was following me up and down to plead its case for release. My husband logically and patronizingly said that basic physics states that sound travels further and better through anything heavier than air so the density of the chimney caused the fluttering to echo up through it. whatever is in there, he added likely could not fly vertically. He surmised that eventually it would die in there and we’d clean it out in the fall. I was mortified at something dying anywhere, nevermind in my chimney, if I could help it.

As our wood stove has a glass door, we guessed that it was probably attracted by the light. On the morning of day 3 I couldn’t stand it any more. I opened the glass door and looked up into the stove seeing only narrow vents through which I was convinced not even a mouse would fit. Closing the door I got a dark coloured towel to cover it blocking the light hoping that would cease to attract our trapped friend and went through the den to make breakfast in the adjoining kitchen. I then heard a small thud and scratching in the cold ashes on the floor of the stove. I immediately ran to get a flashlight, lifted the towel, shone the light into the stove to see a little bird so black as it was covered in soot about the size and shape of a sparrow. The air flow from the opening of the stove door must’ve enticed it to fight its way through those tiny vents in search of an escape route.

Squealing, I called out to my husband, “Oh look Honey, it’s a little birdie, poor thing. Go get a bag so we can catch it and let it out!”. Now it was his turn be mortified. He thought he was going to get off without having to get involved in this process. NOT. I went to find a large garbage bag, but found it did not fit over the door of the stove. Having just moved to Canada from Spain we had a trunk full of linens which did not fit our Canadian beds To my surprise the opening of the single bed duvet cover was too small to fit over the stove door. There was much toing and froing up and down the stairs to the linen trunk until finally the double duvet cover’s opening was just large enough to cover the whole front of the stove.

Finally engaged and convinced we could actually free this bird, my hubby agreed to hold one side of the sheet over the stove while I held the other side tightly so that it didn’t escape to fly around the house making a sooty mess. With the fron of the stove covered I opened the door for the bird to fly into the huge duvet cover. It headed for a little space near my husband’s hand as he, being the gentle giant that he is, wasn’t holding his side as tightly as mine. We twisted ends until the opening was sealed and fanned the rest of the duvet cover about enticing the bird to fly into it which it did right to the bottom of the sewed end. This allowed us to remove the open end from over the stove, twist it closed like you would to wring your laundry and carried the bird in the duvet cover outside to set it free. It took some doing to coax it all the way back from inside the closed end towards the opening. Rolling the sewed end up as it panicked and fluttered trying to escape it finally worked its way out through the opening uninjured flying skyward with no effort at all.

We often wonder if the little bird chirping in our huge maple outside our bedroom window each morning is our freed friend saying “good morning” and thanking us for its freedom sometimes even imitating the sound of our wake up call on the cell phone. Ironically, it is I who is thankful for the honour of being in harmony with nature around us.

Don’t Let a Leaky Chimney Damper Your Spring Season

May 21st, 2012 by affordablesweep 1,051 comments »

Leaky chimneys pose quite a headache for households in North and South Carolina. Whether it’s in Charlotte, Rock Hill or Fort Mill, home owners are plagued with this inconvenience and not to mention a toll on their pocketbooks.  It is a problem that has to be dealt with and cannot be avoided.

A lack of maintenance can also be a factor in chimney leaks. The number one cause of leaky chimneys is the degradation of the flashing. The flashing is the material applied around the chimney where it meets the roof to prevent run off from entering through any cracks. Another common cause of leaky chimneys is the use of porous bricks. This type of brick leads to the absorption of water into the chimney and during the winter, the freeze thaw cycle causes the brick to break apart from the mortar joint. This causes a gap where water enters the chimney structure. This moisture in turn is grabbed by gravity and pulled downward behind the flashing at the roof line. It then enters the attic, and then into the walls of the home.Chimney leak problems occur frequently in North and South Carolina, where a good deal of precipitation is accumulated in part due to the close proximity to the Lake Wylie. Most home owners assume the roof is the cause of leakage when in fact there is a greater chance it may be the chimney. This is due to the difference in construction methods. Chimneys are made of different materials compared to the roofing of a house. This can cause a variety of problems to occur.

Chimney leakage usually occurs during the late fall through the rainy spring season. In order to prevent a leaking chimney, the best course of action is to take preventative measures. Regular maintenance and check-ups for your chimney will ensure that leaks do not occur.

If you are experiencing a leaky roof, remember it could be your chimney that is leaking. Contact me at 704.724-1424 immediately, and make an appointment for me to  come out and inspect your leaky chimney, and solve your problem. A leaky chimney in North and South Carolina is no way to spend this Springtime season.


Skeleton Found in Chimney 27 Years After Man Disappeared

May 18th, 2012 by affordablesweep 197 comments »

The remains of Joseph Schexnider, missing for 27 years, were finally discovered lodged in a brick chimney at the Abbeville National Bank in Louisiana.

The bones were found in May when the bank was renovating the second floor, which had long been used for storage, to make more office space.

The identity of the body was confirmed this week through DNA.

“This was absolutely the first chimney recovery we had ever had,” said Mary Manhein, head of FACES, the lab at Louisiana State University that identified Schexnider’s bones.

There weren’t any dental records available so the lab relied on DNA evidence after police obtained a reference sample from Schexnider’s family, who live in the area.

“I would submit he died within a few days maximum of when he went into that chimney,” said Manhein.

But as to how he died, or why he was in the chimney to begin with, Manhein says, “Nobody will ever know.”

Police discovered a pair of gloves among the remains, but can only speculate as to the significance.

Joseph Schexnider Found in Chimney After 27 Years


They don’t suspect foul play, Manhein said. The bones showed no signs of trauma.

The chimney at Abbeville National Bank opens on the second floor, a space the bank had been using for storage.

In May the bank was in the process of renovating that floor to create additional offices. A contractor installing plywood first found the bones in the chimney while removing a metal shield covering the face of the fireplace. It was then that he discovered small bones and clothing at the base of the fireplace. The majority of the body appeared to have gotten stuck just above the fireplace in the narrow flue.


The interior of the fireplace at Abbeville Bank where Schexnider’s body was found.

The bank called the district attorney’s office, and they notified police.

“We went out there and we were in awe actually. It’s not your typical case,” said Abbeville police spokesman David Hardy.

A spokesman from the bank declined comment.

Schexnider, who was 26 when he disappeared, had served in the National Guard and also worked in the circus for several months until the circus left the country.

“Periodically he had been known to leave town,” said Hardy.

When he disappeared in January 1984 the family reportedly thought he might be running from the law because he had failed to appear in court for possession of a stolen vehicle.

His mother didn’t file a missing persons report, Hardy said, assuming her son was on one of his “rendezvous.”

When Schexnider’s mother was first notified earlier this week, Hardy said, she “took it really rough.”

“Now that his mother knows her son is deceased I guess it gives her some kind of closure,” Hardy said.

Chimney sweep discovers bomb

May 16th, 2012 by affordablesweep 439 comments »

A German chimney sweep discovered an unexploded World War Two bomb stashed in the fireplace of a house.


Houses were evacuated and Surbiton Hill Park in Berrylands was closed when the missile-looking package was discovered on Friday, December 3.

The owner

 of the house felt so guilty she bought a round of drinks at a nearby pub for neighbours who had been forced out of their houses.

Chimney sweep Carsten Bergmann, 40, from Sutton, reached inside the disused chimney, which he estimated had not been cleaned for about 30 years, and found the bomb.

He said: “This is the oddest thing I have ever found.

“I was sweeping inside the chimney and felt something loose. I pulled it out and got a big surprise.

“It was about 20cm long but was big enough to blow up a tank.

“I was scared but I knew without a weapon you cannot explode them. Normally on bombs you have a firing switch that is broken if it has already gone off. It was unused so it could have been live.”

Louise Ridout, a 30-year-old marketing manager, hired 1-2-C Chimney Sweep after moving into the house with her partner a few weeks ago.


She said: “I have no idea how long it had been here.

“Most of my neighbours said it was better to know now than for our houses to blow up.”

She said the bomb had been found in a compartment of the chimney, not down the flue, suggesting it had been put there, rather than having fallen down the chimney.

The Metropolitan Police’s specialist bomb squad checked the bomb to see if it was live, after being called at 4.44pm.

Ten minutes later the Chilterns, Surbiton Hill Park and the Royston were closed, diverting traffic including the K2 bus. The road was re-opened at 5.42pm.

Chimney Sweep Festivities in England

May 13th, 2012 by affordablesweep 226 comments »

Your Chimney Sweep

In Rochester, England, real life chimney sweeps have about as much fun as they do in Mary Poppins! Part of the traditions with the chimney sweep profession include a celebration that takes place once a year and goes on for 3 days straight.

Hundreds of years ago when chimneys were cleaned by young boys, the profession had one day off each year! This was on May 1st. To celebrate, the boys ran through the streets singing and dancing with excitement. Today, the celebration continues in a very similar fashion. The modern day festival which will mark its 32nd year in 2012 reenacts this tradition with more and more extravagance every year. Think Mardi Gras, Chimney Sweep Style.

In May of each year, over the national bank holiday, a huge festival for chimney sweeps in Rochester, England called the Rochester Sweeps Festival takes place. This year the festival will be held from Saturday, May 5th through Monday, May 7th, 2012. The festival has many attractions ranging from traditional folk music, elaborate dancing, parades, group performances and other festive entertainment.

One of the most important parts of this holiday tradition is the awakening of the Jack-in-the-Green during the festival. The Jack-in-the-Green is a 7 foot tall leafy man that starts the parade celebrations each year alongside traditional Morris dancers and the chimney sweeps. The concept came about from the elaborate costumes people used to wear during the May festival to celebrate the coming of spring. People used to dress up by layering strands of flowers and leaves all over themselves. Some people got so into the leafy costumes that they began to take on the form of a tree rather than a person. This look later became recognized as the Jack-in-the-Green at every May Festival. Now the Jack-in-the-Green has a prominent role in the Rochester Sweeps Festival.

A few songs have been written about the Jack-in-the-Green, including a track by the same name by Magpie Lane that is written in the traditional style of folk music and projects the spirit of the festivities.

The Morris dancers that take part in the parades at the festivals are traditional English folk dancers. Each group of these dancers consist of about 6-10 people dressed up in various costumes. The costumes vary greatly depending on where each group is from. Some Morris dancers wear tattered clothing and paint their faces black, while others dress up in lively colors with detailed belts. Traditional Morris dancing is performed on specific holidays, such as May Day, Whitsunday, and Christmas.

After all of the excitement during the day with the parades and dances, the festivities continue at night in the many local pubs where local beer flows and local bands play all night for the lively audience. This is a weekend filled with tradition and new things to see so it brings in a lot of tourism to the various businesses throughout town. Somehow we thought that these sweeps might end the day in the pub!

Even though the date carries much of the tradition of the festival, and the current level of tourism is already very high, this year there is controversy surrounding the May Day holiday. The English Parliament is thinking about moving the festivities to October or April to extend the tourism season and ultimately make the holiday more profitable for participating businesses. The proposal came from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) tourism who believes that the change in date will have a dramatic increase in tourism to the area. Already 3,000 people have signed a petition against this proposal, and a decision has not yet been reached.

This festival is a great way to celebrate the tradition and history of the chimney sweep profession. Tourists literally come from all over the world to be part of the excitement of the festival, celebrate the coming of Spring and of course, for the good luck kisses from all of the local sweeps and Morris men.

Who knows maybe one of these years North Carolina Chimney Sweeps Association will throw our own festival!





May 4th, 2012 by affordablesweep 1,916 comments »

Lady Gaga claims she spends hours coordinating her attire? Or hours coordinating her face to go with her ridiculous outfits? This outfit looks like she spent the afternoon cleaning my chimney. On her way out of my chimney apparently her pants got snagged on a brick and ripped off. I don’t exactly know how to explain her bra being on the outside of her clothes. Is this girl for real? The cotton ball for hair and mask of black lace make this coordinated outfit just that more ridiculous. Can you believe she wore this to the Ace Awards?

These children lived in deplorable conditions

May 2nd, 2012 by affordablesweep 1,956 comments »

Being a chimney sweep was not lucky for the little girls and boys

 who had this job in the 1700′s to 1800′s. They were a type of indentured servant, bought by the chimney sweep master. The master was to teach them the trade while being responsible for housing them. Their job was to actually climb up, inside the chimney, brushing the flue as they went, and they weren’t done til their heads poked out of the chimney top. This, of course, was a scary job for these children and they were often reluctant to perform as expected. Many masters used a dangerous punishment: the child was forced up the flue then a fire was lit. Since he couldn’t come down, they had no choice but to climb up the flue. We think this is where the term “light a fire under you” originated.

These children lived in deplorable conditions. They carried a large sack with them, into which they dumped the soot they swept from the chimneys. They used this same sack as a blanket to sleep in at night, and only bathed infrequently. They were often sickly, and learned to beg handouts of food and clothing from their customers as all the money they earned went to their masters. The soot they collected was sold to farmers for fertilizer.

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