Company Blog

Chimneys are NOT for the birds!

Keep these guys out of your chimney with a chimney cap!

The Daffodils and Judas Trees (also known as “love tree”) have popped; Azaleas are peeking out; soon the Dogwoods will bloom and Spring will be in full swing.   For those who have been using their fireplace or stove in the fall and winter, now, after you shut things down for the warm weather, is an excellent time to schedule the necessary regular maintenance.  And it’s almost too late (but not quite) to get that other necessary item, especially if you don’t want unwanted house guests this summer:   the chimney cap.

Remember:  if the chimney swifts take up residence, we cannot legally evict them.  They are protected and must be allowed to complete the nesting process over the summer.  We will not be able to put on a chimney cap until the nesting process is complete.

What is a chimney cap?

The chimney cap sits atop the chimney. Generally made with stainless steel or copper, it serves a few different purposes, not the least of which is keeping birds out of your chimney.   Examples of chimney caps can be seen at www.chimneycaps.net.

Birds return to our region every spring looking for a safe place to raise the next generation.   The interior of your chimney is as good a place as any and better than some.  However, it can cause some serious health hazards for you.

  • A blocked chimney is a broken chimney
    • The function of the chimney is to allow smoke and other toxic gases created by burning a fire to escape the home. If an animal builds a nest that blocks the chimney, the function of the structure is suddenly lost.  With the path of the fumes blocked by the animal and debris, the poisonous gases have no option except to flow back in your home. The debris can also catch fire and can lead to a damaging chimney fire.  You will most likely want to avoid nests in the chimney between now and next burning season.
  • Hidden dangers
    • Smoke produced by fire contains a wide range of dangerous chemicals; you may know something about  the two deadliest.
      • Carbon monoxide is an invisible, tasteless, odorless gas produced during combustion, or any type of fuel (wood, coal, kerosene and gas). If carbon monoxide cannot escape through the chimney because of a bird and its nest, the gas can enter and build up inside the home.  This can result in death and/or other harmful side-effects.
      • Creosote is another harmful chemical that results from burning fires. This tarlike substance is suspended in the smoke that exits the chimney as a by-product of burning fires and clings to nearly everything as it cools. If smoke spills back into your home due to a chimney obstruction, it will likely make a mess and you may inadvertently inhale it.   It could cause health problems.

All things considered, keeping birds (and the possible nesting messes) out of your chimney is in the best interest of you and your family’s health.

Hurry before it’s too late for this summer and install a chimney cap that can keep birds out.  This very sensible option is a very effective solution for blocking bird (and other varmint) access to your chimney.  If you live in upstate South Carolina, contact Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps today to discuss capping options.

 

Water and Your Brick Chimney

Keeping It Dry

If you are the proud owners of any kind of fireplace you probably are already aware of the need for regular service whether it is inspections or cleanings in order to keep risk levels as low as possible.  It is recommended by all

water-and-your-brick-chimney-greenville-sc-blue-sky-chimney-sweepsrecognized authorities that we get our chimneys inspected and swept every season to prevent dangerous creosote buildup and to make sure that there are no animals nesting inside the chimneys or terminations.  One area where many home-owners are not expecting to hear about possible issues when they call for a “cleaning” is the exterior of their chimney. It is a surprise that they have damage to their chimney caused simply by water intrusion.

Water is, in fact, one of the leading causes of damage to chimneys.  Keeping as much moisture out of a chimney as possible is critical to lengthening its life.  Conversely, if a chimney goes unprotected from the effects of water intrusion, its life will be shortened.

A chimney is a masonry structure that is mostly exposed to the elements. If the chimney is an exterior chimney, the part above the roof and at least 3 of the 4 walls below the roofline are exposed to a battery of wind, rain, sleet, snow.  These and other climate conditions can cause serious damage to brick and mortar structures. Moisture can get into cracks and holes in the masonry and freeze and thaw causing expansion and contraction which can do structural damage. This will cause more cracks to appear allowing more moisture to get into a chimney potentially compounding problems exponentially. Over time, problems can develop that create a chimney that is unsafe to use and may in fact be in danger of collapsing altogether. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to minimize this risk.

The single most important thing you can do is to have a certified chimney sweep come out and inspect your chimney. Trained technicians are trained to look for signs of present or impending water damage.  Upon evaluation, they may suggest that your chimney needs a new waterproofing treatment.  The good news is, that unless you are seeing evidence of water entry into the home, there is usually time to budget for these recommendations.

While these treatments do not actually make the chimney entirely waterproof, they render it water repellant.   As smoke rises through the chimney, it cools and can produce creosote and moisture. If the chimney were to be rendered completely waterproof, there would be no way for the moisture to escape the chimney and the chimney would be left with a similar problem to water intrusion from the outside — due to the moisture collecting on the INSIDE of the chimney.   A proper chimney waterproofing treatment actually involves the application of a vapor-permeable sealant that allows moist air to escape the chimney but keeps rain and other forms of exterior moisture out. Again, it is very important to allow someone trained regarding chimney maintenance to apply the recommended products. Improper application could cause complications that may be costly to correct.

Another important step to maintaining a safe and dry chimney is to have a properly designed chimney cap installed. Chimney caps perform a variety of jobs.

  • Keeps rain and other precipitation from going into the hole at the top of your chimney.
  • Helps keep animals and debris from entering the chimney.
  • Over-sized lid directs water away from the sides of the chimney directly down the roof.

Another important way to in prevent costly water damage is to make sure that water drainage systems direct the water away from the chimney. If your roof slope directs water towards the chimney or traps in in pools around the base of the chimney, it is much harder to prevent that water from seeping into your chimney. If your roof does channel water toward your chimney

  • Look into gutter systems that can carry that water to another point and off your roof. This is a great opportunity to direct the water into rainwater buckets that can be used to water plants or wash cars.
  • Make sure that your chimney has a cricket (or saddle) if the size of your chimney and its configuration in relation to the roof.

The single most important thing to take away from all of this is to have your chimney inspected by a certified chimney sweep at least once a year.  It is much better to catch problems like these early to prevent a costly repair on down the line. If you take the proper preventative steps it could be the difference between having a safe and functional fireplace and having a pile of bricks on the roof or on the ground beside the house.

Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps|Bless Your Hearth can provide excellent service to insure preserving the wellness of your chimney. Our chimney sweep inspection services are just one of many useful services we provide. We have been serving SC’s Upstate Area for nearly 37 years now. It is our sincere pleasure to continue to help you keep fire in its place in your home.

Chimney Swifts! Well, that’s just “for the birds”!

You’ve been hearing strange sounds from your chimney.  Not big sounds, but consistent and maybe a little disturbing.  The good news is that it’s not forever.  The Chimney Swifts! Well, that's for the birds!- Spartanburg, SC- Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps-w800-h597bad news is that it will likely get worse before it gets better.

Most likely what you have are Chimney Swifts.  And these birds are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  If there is an active nest, (one being built, one with eggs, or one with live babies) it cannot be touched – on pain of death.  No, it will not really lead to death, but there are stiff fines that can be imposed that ARE very painful.

Protection of Chimney Swifts

The Chimney Swift Conservation Association is passionate about promoting education regarding these birds that resemble bats when in flight. The chimney swift is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and they should be handled with respect and care. As mentioned, once a chimney swift nests, it is illegal to remove it. So if it does nest in your chimney, you will have to wait until the bird leaves on its own.  Proper handling and rehabilitation of these birds is of the utmost importance to ensure they continue to thrive in North America. Whether you choose to let chimney swifts in your chimney or would prefer they made a home elsewhere, there are humane ways of handling both.

What to do?

In most cases, if the birds haven’t found your chimney yet, a simple cleaning of your chimney and making sure your chimney is capped (fitted with an animal guard) will humanely protect them and your chimney.

There are also options to deal with this issue if the birds have already taken up residence:

  1. You can wait until the birds are gone for the season (September/October). When they leave for the year, the chimney can be swept to remove nesting material, droppings, etc.  After that, it would be a good idea to install a cap with an animal guard so they can’t return to your chimney next Spring when they come back.  Historically, it seems that once they find your chimney, they tend to come back every year.
  1. If you want to address it before then, an effort can be made to resolve the situation once the birds have completed the nesting process. The nesting process cannot be disturbed, so all hands are tied until the birds fledge (are able to fly out on their own) and they vacate the chimney.

It is crucial to pinpoint when they first began to chatter (sounds sort of like shaking maracas). Can you remember when you began to hear them make the chattering noise?

  • 1 week old – chattering begins
  • 3-4 weeks later adolescent birds can fly

You will need to schedule an appointment with your chimney sweep for about 4 weeks after the chattering begins.  If all birds vacate the chimney after the nesting process is complete, your chimney sweep can service the chimney and install a cap.

Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps|Bless Your Hearth are your chimney sweeping professionals.  Our certified and experienced technicians can sweep your chimney and cap it so no birds or other animals can call it home.  Click here to contact us.

3 Ways Water Ruins Your Chimney

Chimneys sure are high, but they are not necessarily dry. As one of Upstate South Carolina’s premier chimney service companies, those of us at Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps see water as your chimney’s biggest adversary.

3-Ways-Water-Ruins-Your-Chimney-Spartanburg-Greenville-SC-Blue-Sky-Chimney

You might be able to leave a leaky faucet alone for a while, but a leaky chimney is another story. Small chimney leaks can very quickly lead to big chimney leaks, and big, expensive problems.

Unfortunately, it’s not at all difficult for water to find its way into a chimney that has not been adequately protected from the elements.

While we can certainly find resolutions for your leaking chimney, your best bet will always be to prevent leaks from the beginning. Water intrusion left unmanaged, can cause significant damage to the chimney structure as well as areas adjacent to your chimney. This damage is often expensive to repair.

Here are just a few ways that water can harm your chimney:

  • Water weakens your chimney’s masonry. There are a number of ways that your chimney brick and mortar may react to rainwater.
    Crumbling, cracking, or bricks falling apart altogether.
    Spalling (when the face of the bricks appears to have popped off).
    Holes in header joints
    The more your masonry breaks down in this way the more easily water will be able
    to get into your chimney and, possibly, into your home.Water creates cracks and/or voids inside and out.
  • Water creates cracks and/or voids inside and out. Water can cause both on the inside and the outside of your chimney.
    The relentless freeze/thaw cycle can also cause the bond to break between the brick and the mortar.
    Water washing over the exterior surface of the brick can erode out thin mortar joints.
    Water washing over the inside of your chimney can cause gaps to develop between the flue tiles. This would allow toxic gases attack the brick and mortar of your chimney from the inside out. In some cases it could cause the gases to leak through into your living space instead of venting safely outside.
    In some cases the damage may permit water to get inside your home, where it can stain the walls, ceilings, and floors around the chimney.
  • Water can cause mold, mildew, and lichen to grow on the exterior of the chimney.

If you find yourself dealing with water issues with your chimney, call Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps|Bless Your Hearth at (864) 682-5422 or fill out our online form to make an appointment with us today. We can help!

We are proud members of the South Carolina Chimney Sweep Guild, the North Carolina Chimney Sweep Association, and the National Chimney Sweep Guild. We are certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America and the National Fireplace Institute.

 

How Does Extended Wet Weather Impact Your Chimney?

Many people are drawn to our overall mild weather here in SC’s Upstate Region.   However, if your home has a chimney, the rain and humidity can play havoc with its structural integrity.  In Summertime we are prone to lots of afternoon thunderstorms, and in Wintertime, we can get a frigid cold snap that is often aligned with rain, snow or ice — all of which can do “a number” your chimney.How Wet Weather Impacts Your Chimney - Greenville SC - Blue Sky Chimney

Moisture absorption can impact the state and structure of your chimney, most notably if the water intrusion is combined with very high or very low temperatures and for an extended period of time. Common results of water intrusion in masonry or metal chimneys include:

Leaking:  

The most obvious result of excessive water absorption would be a leak.  If you hear water dripping, see water trails or have water actively dripping in your firebox, or smell musty air coming out of your chimney during warm, humid days, you may be dealing with water getting in and staying in your chimney longer than it should.  When it comes to water absorption, sooner is better than later if you want to interrupt the deterioration process that water entry often creates.

Masonry damage:

 If your chimney is brick-built or has a brick or rock veneer, water is your chimney’s worst adversary.  Water exposure can cause the bond between courses (rows of bricks) or mortar and stone to break (cracking between the brick/stone and the mortar).  It can cause bricks to crack or spall (the face of the brick pops off), or even cause bricks fall off the chimney altogether. Once damaged, brickwork becomes even more vulnerable to water intrusion.  Addressing the problem sooner rather than later can go a long way towards preventing further damage and ultimately extending the life of your chimney.

Rust:

 Rust can take place on any metal part of your chimney unless it is stainless steel or copper.  With extended exposure, rust can run rampant, if not addressed in a timely manner. Regular inspections can detect rust beginning on your chimney’s metal parts. A manufactured prefabricated chimney’s chase cover and flashing are vulnerable.  A masonry chimney’s metal cap or flashing should be monitored regularly. Also check for rust within the chimney (the damper plate) or on gas log components. Some fireboxes are metal. If water entry has been chronic, a metal firebox could be severely undermined by rust and no longer functional (safe to use).  If you think there are parts of your chimney or fireplace that are beginning to rust, a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep can verify if your issue needs attention and can provide suggestions for resolution.

Creosote buildup:

This is one that is not commonly thought about.  Creosote is a brownish-black, sometimes tar-like substance that often builds up inside a chimney used to vent a woodburning appliance.  This buildup is worsened with increased exposure to moisture. Cold air outside of your chimney, dropping its overall temperature, creates condensation within the chimney when warm air from your fire is released through the flue.  This is worse with uninsulated and exterior chimneys. Factor in that a wet chimney is a cooler chimney and you can see how water absorption can increase creosote build-up. Similar to how your warm breath creates condensation in cold air, the hot flue air condenses and the creosote particles stick to the insides of your chimney.  Keeping the chimney as dry as possible can positively impact this process. Regular inspections will also make sure your flue is as clean as possible and will lessen the chance of a chimney fire that can result from creosote build-up.

Let our trained professionals here at Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps|Bless Your Hearth help determine overall condition, need for maintenance, issues with functionality, and even offer solutions for long-term issues.  Regular inspections/maintenance can help insure there are no issues related to moisture exposure.

What Are Those Ugly Stains On Your Chimney?

Staining on your chimney may be one home improvement project that can prove to be difficult to figure out by yourself. Discoloration on a What Are Those Ugly Stains On Your Chimney - Greenville SC - Blue Sky Chimneychimney doesn’t usually happen because of old age or use. It’s typically a warning that there is an underlying problem. The color of the staining on your chimney can give you a clue as to what the problem is.

So…what color are the stains?

Black, Brown or Green Stains

These stains are usually located closer to the top of the chimney or around “shoulders.” At times they may extend top to bottom over just part of the surface of the chimney. While it’s possible that some black or brownish stains at the very top can be from condensate dripping off a cap, it is more likely (especially where there is no cap) these stains are a sign that mold, mildew and/or algae is growing in the chimney. Mold, mildew, and moss growing on the chimney surface are caused by excess moisture in the chimney structure. It could be growing on the chimney because of a water entry problem due to a clogged gutter causing overflow to run down the chimney. Or it may also be growing on the chimney because of excessive water absorbing into the chimney due to soft brick or mortar or holes in the mortar joints. This along with slow evaporation will lead to vegetative growth that will eventually undermine the mortar of the brick structure. If you notice these dark stains, it is a smart idea to call on a trained professional to evaluate your chimney to identify the source of the problem and recommend
resolutions.

Reddish Rust-like Stains

Rusty reddish stains on the chimney are a sign that a metal chimney component, like a chimney cap or chase cover, is rusting. Rusting of these components will produce pitting and flaking of the metal and will eventually develop holes that will allow damaging water to get into your
chimney.

White Stains (Efflorescence)

White powdery staining is called efflorescence. When water evaporates out of masonry, it leaves behind whitish salt deposits. The staining itself can sometimes be removed, but it is a sign of a more serious condensation or water absorption problem and will likely return if the
problems causing it are not corrected. Water absorption/intrusion of some kind is the root problem and eventually deteriorates bricks and mortar or causes other damage, if it is not stopped. Along with weakening the structure of your chimney, water damage can spread to
your home ruining walls, ceilings and floors.

Pretty much any of the stains can be traced back to a water problem of some kind. Regular inspections to determine necessary maintenance and replacement of deteriorating products will protect your investment and help avoid unexpected costly repairs. Let our trained professionals here at Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps|Bless Your Hearth help determine how water is getting into the chimney and solve the problems before things escalate.