Posts Tagged ‘chimney cleaning’

Don’t Neglect Your Chimney!

October 7th, 2012

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!

Chimney Sweep Festivities in England

May 13th, 2012

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!

 

 

 

Chimney sweep likely prevents house fire in Kansas City

April 30th, 2012

Wood framing inside chimney

On January 19, 2010 local chimney sweep Gene Padgitt found something odd while getting ready to install a woodburning insert in a 1920′s Kansas City, Missouri home. Something that would likely have caused a house fire. The original builder of the home constructed an unlined chimney (a chimney without a clay tile flue liner) and put structural wood members inside the flue.

After Padgitt saw the wood inside the chimney he told the homeowner he had to open up the brick chimney in the attic area to remove the combustibles. There, he found double 2 x 4′s on one side and a header on the other side inside the chimney with brick built underneath and on top of the wood. Some of the wood had already been burned away by previous fires unknown to the homeowner, which probably smoldered but did not ignite due to lack of oxygen.

“We see crazy things like this more often than most people realize,” said Padgitt, who is also a State Certified Fire Investigator. “People don’t think about the inside of their chimney, and unless a professional chimney sweep inspects it, there is no way of knowing what the condition is. In this case, the house had been standing for 90 years without burning down, but the hazard was there and eventually would have been a serious problem.

Wood chemically changes when exposed to heat over a period of time, allowing it to ignite at a much lower temperature than normal without direct flame. The ignition point of wood is normally 500 degrees, but pyrolized wood can ignite at temperatures as low as 180 degrees. Internal flue gas temperatures of fireplaces can reach up to 400 degrees, but if a chimney fire occurs the temperature will be much higher. Some chimney fires in field testing by the Midwest Chimney Safety Council have caused temperature readings of 2,100 – 2,800 degrees. A masonry chimney will continue to heat up after a chimney fire is out, causing a secondary fire hazard. Often, fire departments are called back to a house several hours after leaving due to combustibles igniting after they extinguished the fire.

Note: Chris Brown warns that most chimney fires go unnoticed by homeowners and damages by fire are found later by a chimney inspector.

Padgitt says that most of the fire hazards he sees having to do with the structure is wood framing placed right next to the exterior of the chimney chase. Code requires 1” clearance for exterior chimneys, and 2” clearance for interior chimneys, but this is often ignored, even in newer homes. The location where it is the biggest problem is right above the opening of the fireplace in front of the smoke chamber, where the facial wall may hide internal combustible wood framing. Most of the house fires he sees start in this area.

Your Chimney Sweep recommends that a Level II internal camera inspection be performed for new homeowners by a  NCCSA  Certified Chimney Sweep.

 

Chimney Swift

April 4th, 2012

chimney-swift

A “flying cigar,” 

the Chimney Swift is rarely seen perched. Its high-pitched twittering is a familiar sound during summertime in the city as it flies high above, catching small flying insects.

Cool Facts

  • Before European settlement of North America, the Chimney Swift probably nested in caves and hollow trees. The swift benefited greatly by the construction of chimneys and the increased availability of new nest sites. Recent changes in chimney design, with covered, narrow flues, have decreased the available nest sites and may be a factor in declining population numbers. For information about a Chimney Swift tower made specifically for nesting swifts, go to the North American Chimney Swift Nest Site Research Project.
  • Chimney Swifts do not sit on perches like most birds, but instead use their long claws to cling to the walls of chimneys and other vertical surfaces.
  • Swifts are among the most aerial of birds, flying almost constantly except when at the nest or roosting at night. The Chimney Swift bathes in flight, gliding down to water, smacking the surface with its breast, then bouncing up and shaking the water from its plumage as it flies away.
  • The Chimney Swift is gregarious, with large numbers of swifts roosting together in a single chimney or air shaft during the nonbreeding season. Nonbreeding swifts will roost together in the summer too, and this behavior has fooled people into thinking that the Chimney Swift nests in colonies. In fact, only one pair nests in a single chimney. The pair may tolerate other swifts roosting in their chimney, though, further confusing people watching the swifts from the ground.
  • The fast, erratic flight of the Chimney Swift is characteristic of small swifts. It gives the very distinct impression that the swift is beating only one wing at a time, alternating wings. Careful investigation has shown, though, that a swift beats both its wings at the same time just like all other birds. The illusion comes at least in part from the frequent banking and turning.

Call Affordable Chimney Service For Chimney Service Needs (704)526-6348

Woman Chimney Sweepers

March 23rd, 2012

Growing up, Gina Somerton, 42, of Wells-Next-the-Sea, Norfolk, had dreamed of becoming a hairdresser and went on to work as a shop assistant and in restaurants.

But a conversation about possible alternative careers with her partner’s mother got the mum-of-three thinking that chimneys might be an ideal source of income; six years on, her business, Lady Sweep, is thriving.

“I wanted to be my own boss, I wanted to be able to spend time with my children during the summer,” she says. “It might sound strange to some people, but to me it’s perfect.

“It’s true that I get dirty. But I can come home and have a shower afterwards, can’t I?”

Photograph by Horace Nicholls of a woman chimney sweep in wartime Kent, undated.

Horace Nicholls was one of two professional photographers who were commissioned in 1917 by the Women’s Work Committee of the newly founded Imperial War Museum to take photographs of women at work during the First World War. This photograph shows a woman chimney sweep in Kent, ‘carrying on the business of her husband who was a sweep before the war’ – one of the many examples of women stepping into previously male-dominated professions during the period between 1914 and 1918.

FORMER call center worker Dawn Peters gave her old job the brush off — to become one of only three women chimney sweeps in Britain.


She started last October and now cleans up to four chimneys a day.

The ex-BT worker said: “I had to change careers because I can’t use a computer after I developed medical problems.

“My partner said I could do a better job than our sweep so I gave it a go. It’s a fantastic business if you don’t mind getting a bit dirty.”

Dawn, 36, of Exeter, Devon, added: “There are only three women registered with the Institute of Chimney Sweeps.

“You have to be fit — but there’s no reason why a woman can’t do it.”

Chimney Sweep History

March 23rd, 2012

Chimney Sweep History
By Theresa Leschmann, eHow Contributor

Chimney Sweep History
Chimney sweeps are often associated with England, particularly the Victorian period. Our popular collective perception of chimney sweeps compares favorably with Dick Van Dyke’s portrayal of Burt the chimney sweep in the classic Disney film “Mary Poppins.” Chimney sweeps have been around much longer than that and are still with us today. Most of the work was done by children, until child labor laws came into being.
Other People Ar

Read more: Chimney Sweep History | eHow.co.uk http://www.ehow.co.uk/about_5085073_chimney-sweep-history.html#ixzz1pvy7qxFL

Wood Burning and the Carbon Footprint

March 20th, 2012

Wood Burning and the Carbon Footprint

How can you help save the environment, save money and still heat your home completely all winter long? Wood burning stoves use a replenishable and inexpensive fuel that is extremely efficient especially when modern appliances are used. Wood burning stoves may seem old fashioned, but the rustic, old fashioned look and feel comes with modern efficiency and capabilities these days. You don’t have to choose one or the other, the romantic blaze from a woodburnig stove or fireplace insert can also heat your home and save you money.

Is burning wood really a “greener” way to heat or supplement the heating of your home? Well, to begin with burning wood for heat does not add to your individual carbon footprint. Wood gives off the same amount of carbon whether it is burned up or decays naturally and is considered Carbon Neutral. Next point to consider is that wood is a “renewable” resource. Unlike oil, coal, or gas – when we run out of those fuel sources, they’ll be gone for good. Wood harvesting techniques are based on a sustainable model, so wood will be there for us in the future. We can’t grow oil, but we can (and do) grow more trees. Another point to consider is the cost of production and transportation associated with the non-renewables. Over all, wood comes out looking good from a “green” perspective.

As compared with fossil fuels and other energy sources, the benefits of wood far surpass its competition. New wood burning stoves and fireplace inserts are engineered with fuel economy in mind and health and environmental concerns kept as the highest priority. While fossil fuels contaminate the environment and then are used up and cannot be replaced, wood burning has made drastic improvements in burning efficiency and without emissions and can be easily used sustainably.

Still need more convincing?

Low Cost – Wood burning stoves and fireplace inserts are the most cost effective source of energy. Wood is abundantly available and homeowners can often find a source of wood to burn for free! Even without the extra effort of finding wood for free, wood is still a relatively inexpensive option. Wood costs roughly a third the cost of natural gas, electricity or oil. Coal, gas and oil are fossil-based, non-renewable resources. And in the last year, costs for these commodities have soared along with the electricity prices. Don’t get caught in these traps. A wood burning stove is your way out.

Low Emissions – Today, high efficiency wood burning stoves and fireplace inserts can maximize the heat dispersed from a burning log and these stoves leave behind little evidence of the wood burning as it is almost completely burned besides minor amounts of ash. The new stoves produce only about 2-5 grams of smoke per hour of burning. And even less ash. For this reason, some modern stoves are so completely clean burning that they are approved for use in smokeless areas indoors. A wood burning stove is designed to burn at much higher temperatures. This means gases present in the smoke are fully burned and not released back into the atmosphere. This results in a thermal efficiency of around 80%. Which means that a log burnt in a modern wood stove can get around 4 times more heat than one log in an open fire.

Carbon Neutral - The process of burning wood also does not emit any additional carbon dioxide than the natural biodegradation of the wood if it were left to rot on the forest floor. Over the course of a tree’s life it absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and then releases this carbon dioxide when it either decomposes naturally or is burned. For this reason, no CO2 is added to the atmosphere, it simply releases the carbon dioxide that was previously accumulated back into the environment. Wood is a very environmentally friendly source of fuel because it is carbon neutral. Fossil fuels on the other hand, are not carbon neutral. Fossil fuels have stored and accumulated carbon over hundreds of years and then, all at once, this carbon is released in its entirety when the fossil fuels are burned. This process adds substantial amounts of carbon dioxide to the environment.

Sustainable – Wood is an abundant resource in North America and unlike many of the alternatives, a renewable one too. Today we have more wooded acres than we did 100 years ago and the balance is carefully managed to preserve our wooded lands. To keep the wood supply at a sustainable state, there needs to be some maintenance that goes along with the wood harvesting.


Sustainable forests are the key to wood as a heat resource. The days where clear cutting was acceptable are over and the concept of planting more than you harvest is alive and well. Wood is an entirely renewable source of energy only when handled correctly, but the great news is that it is very simple to maintain a sustainable forest! The US Forest Service helps control the excess timber that is harvested and they work to ensure the companies are utilizing sustainable cutting practices. Another important factor in eco-friendly wood burning is using local wood. The costs associated with preparing wood to burn goes up when transportation is involved, so the best way to receive wood is from a local forest or producer. This local purchasing reduces the pollution emitted during the transportation process and ensures the entire process is sustainable.

With the energy crisis always on the upswing, any and every use of fuel is under high scrutiny. Overall, a timber-fueled system provides a great all around solution to a home heating fuel source. Avoid the stress. Go green and reduce energy costs at the same time!

Give me a call if you have any questions at Affordable Chimney Service / 704.526.6348.

Calif. Teen Gets Stuck In Chimney

March 19th, 2012

 

The California teenager who got stuck in the chimney of his family’s home was no Santa Claus trying to deliver holiday gifts.

Instead, 18-year-old Jorge Herrera was trying to get around his parents’ curfew, authorities say, by entering his home through the fireplace in his bedroom.

“He was going to miss his curfew, and then he had climbed down the chimney in an attempt to avoid the wrath of his parents,” said Van Riviere, battalion chief with the Stockton Fire Department.

Fire department officials responded to a call for help placed by Herrera’s family around 10 a.m. Thursday after they heard sounds coming from the chimney of their Stockton, Calif., home.

Firefighters found Herrera stuck inside.  An hour later, Herrera was freed from the chimney, but not before firefighters had to first break the chimney apart and then use ropes, and a little soap, to pull him out of the narrow chimney.  He was not hurt.

“He’s dirty and embarrassed and it remains to be seen what his parents will do with him,” said Battalion Chief Van Riviere.

 

A History of Chimney Sweeping

March 18th, 2012

The chimney sweep has been around for hundreds of years and still today is a necessary and important profession. The early Romans first made the switch from a single fire in the center of a room to an isolated fireplace to heat buildings and cook indoors, but it was not until 16th century England that the trend of fireplaces and chimneys really caught on. It was not long before people built fireplaces in each room of their home to use as a heat source. In 17th century England, along with all of the new fireplaces came a hearth tax, based on the size of the house and the number of chimneys the house had. To avoid these high taxes, builders would connect the flues of new fireplaces with those of an existing chimney, creating a complex maze of pitch black narrow tunnels inside the home.

In this same time period, coal became a popular substitute for burning wood in fireplaces. As a result of this switch from wood to coal, the need for regular cleaning became increasingly necessary. The use of coal left large sticky soot deposits on the walls of the fireplace that had to be cleaned off regularly for the chimney to remain cleared. If the fireplace was left uncared for, the coal residue would cause the chimney to back up and pollute the home with harmful fumes. At this point the profession of the chimney grew rapidly. With the rise in coal use, regular chimney sweep visits became a safety necessity. In London at this time, Queen Victoria mandated that all chimneys be cleaned regularly. At this time, chimney sweeps became known for bringing clean and fresh air back to the home and they became associated with good hearth and good health.

Many times in literature, movies and artwork child sweeps were portrayed as having fun and the cheerful young apprentices of accomplished older sweeps. The truth was a bit different of course. Many orphans were forced into child labor and treated poorly as they worked long, hard hours as chimney boys.

Cleaning the inside of the soot-filled chimney flues was a difficult and dangerous job because of the narrow chimney flues and the amount of soot the sweepers were exposed to. For this reason, the job was left to poor orphan boys brought in by the chimney master or children sold by their parents into the trade. The children served as indentured servants to their master; in exchange for a home and food and water the children were taught the trade. The children climbed into the chimneys to scrape off the coal deposits and brush the walls with little scrubber brushes. The conditions were harsh and the work was hard. Children were often scared to climb into the narrow passageways, so to give them a little extra encouragement the chimney masters would light a small fire under the child to coax him up the interior walls, hence the start of the expression, “to light a fire under you”. The life of a ‘climbing boy’ was not just undesirable but dangerous as well. Because they worked and lived in the soot and grime of the chimneys, the children often developed respiratory problems and other related issues. Fatal falls from rotting chimneys were not uncommon either. William Blake, an English poet, illustrates the difficult life of a chimney sweep boy in his poem, “The Chimney Sweeper”.

Finally, in 1864, Parliament passed the “Act for the Regulation of Chimney Sweepers” which ended the use of young boys to clean the chimneys. At this time, various cleaning devices were invented to aid the chimney sweep in cleaning and bushing the walls from one end of the chimney. One method of chimney cleaning invented around this time used a heavy lead or iron ball and rope system used to clean the chimney from the top all the way down to the fireplace. And, in the 18th century, a man named Joseph Glass invented chimney cleaning equipment consisting of a set of canes and brushes that could be used from the fireplace to clean all the way up to the top of the chimney. More modern variations of both of these inventions are still used today.

In the 1960s, gas and electricity have replaced coal and fireplaces as the main heating source for homes. This change in fuel type has mandated a revision to the role of the chimney sweep. In the 1970s though, when the price of fossil fuels rose dramatically, people went back to burning wood in their fireplaces rather than to use other more costly methods of heating. But when people used fireplaces that had been left unused for a long period of time without proper cleaning and care, house fires and carbon monoxide poisonings from clogged chimneys became commonplace. This switch back to the use of fireplaces after years of non-use was very dangerous if the proper provisions were not taken care of beforehand. Presently, the professional chimney sweep has made a comeback with fireplaces getting regular use rather than just used for a decoration and this old profession is still growing today.

Although the life of the early chimney sweeps including children has often been dramatized and romanticized as being cheery and fun in stories, movies and artwork, the reality was quite different and the sweep’s life many times was one of toil and hardship.

One of the most famous literary works about Chimney Sweeps is William Blake’s poem, “The Chimney Sweeper.”

The chimney sweep today has come a long way from sending children armed with brushes up the chimney flues. Professional chimney sweeps are educated in the codes and science behind chimneys and fireplaces. Chimney sweeps now do more than simply clean a chimney; they diagnose and service problems, repair all types of chimneys and install fireplaces and hearths. Through it all, the chimney sweep remains an important profession that will continue to grow and bring good health and good hearth to every home they service.

Today, the chimney sweep is a well respected professional that helps to provide homeowners and businesses to maintain safe operation of heating systems, fireplaces, stoves, flues and chimneys of all kinds. Organizations like the North Carolina Chimney Sweeps Association  hold members to very high ethical and educational standards of performance as well

 

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