Company Blog

What’s the big deal? It’s worked just fine for years this way!

Often folks think we are way too persnickety when we all something out that no one else has ever seen a problem with. Here’s just one of the things we’ve learned about that can be a hidden problem with serious consequences.

The following is reprinted, with permission, from the September-October 2017 issue of The Chimney Sweep News (SNEWS), an independent trade magazine for chimney service professionals. 541-882-5196. www.chimneysweepnews.com

PYROLYSIS CAUSES FIRES!
By Jay Hensley

Chemical breakdown of combustibles too close to a heat source is a major cause of structural fires in North America.What’s the big deal Image - Greenville SC - Blue Sky Chimney

Understanding the pyrolysis process is the first step towards keeping your house or place of business from burning down this winter, or next. Pyrolysis causes fire after fire, tragedy after tragedy, year after year. Yet how many people even know the meaning of the word?

Pyrolysis is defined as “chemical decomposition caused by heat.” It is the process by which a combustible material exposed to temperatures of approximately 212°F or more for a prolonged period of time (and that’s not really very not!) will dry out, break down and burn. It doesn’t need the presence of direct flame to ignite, either. It simply needs enough heat and oxygen.

Fire investigator and former chimney sweep Genevieve Bures in Berea, Ohio, says pyrolysis is the cause of over 85 percent of the solid fuel-related fires she investigates.

Sifting through ashes and studying burned-out or fire-damaged structures, Bures finds that only about 10 out of every 100 of these fires are caused by improper maintenance of the appliance, chimney, connector pipe, etc. Around 5 percent of the fires result from improper or careless operation of the appliance or heating system.

The overwhelming majority of these fires however are traced to the pyrolysis made virtually inevitable by the improper installation of fireplaces, solid-fuel stoves, fireplace inserts and furnaces.

Inadequate Clearances

Not leaving enough air space between a woodburning stove or stovepipe and unprotected walls, structural components or furnishings is what makes an installation dangerous.

The heater manufacturer specifies the minimum amount of air space, or clearance, after laboratory tests. Building codes specify minimum clearances when the manufacturer’s specifications are not available.

You ignore these minimum clearances at your peril, and at your children’s peril. It is the little kids, and the elderly, who are the ones most at risk in house fires.

Time, the Enemy

Because your heating system “has worked just fine” for years is of little comfort. Time is working against you! Pyrolysis accomplishes its destruction in a matter of years, months, weeks days or even just hours. In a test conducted by NFPA, a stack of wood fiberboards (1/8-inch thickness) was exposed to a heat source of only 228°F. The wood self-ignited in only 96 hours!

Ordinarily, a piece of 2 x 4 construction lumber has an ignition temperature of approximately 500°F. Exposed to moderate heat for a prolonged period, however, this ignition temperature may be reduced to 250°F and the wood is capable of self-ignition spontaneously.

Like the NFPA211 standard, both local and regional building codes designate minimum installation requirements. To use less than the minimum is to invite disaster.

Rᵪ for Safer Chimneys

Minimum clearances are also determined for chimneys, ductwork and other heating system components.

Where a chimney does not have the proper clearances to the structure of the house, flammable materials such as wood framing are subjected to pyrolysis and may eventually catch fire. Chimney fires generate excessive heat that speeds up the pyrolysis process. This is why a professional chimney sweep might shake his or her head after inspecting your chimney and say, “It’s just not good enough! We must line it from top to bottom to make your heating system safer.”

Pyrolysis is also caused by steam pipes too close to combustibles; over lamped light fixtures, overloaded branch circuit wiring inside walls, flimsy extension cords over-heated by use with electric space heaters, electric-outlet strips with too many things plugged in.

Could pyrolysis be happening in your home? Seek it out and head it off, now. Do not forget that TIME, the enemy, is working against you.

End of Reprint

Give Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps|Bless Your Hearth a call today to talk to us about inspecting your home hearth system.

How can I GUARANTEE to get my Chimney Serviced BEFORE Thanksgiving or Christmas?

Why is it SO HARD to get an appointment BEFORE Thanksgiving and Christmas?How can I GUARANTEE to get my Chimney Serviced BEFORE Thanksgiving or Christmas- Spartanburg SC- Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps

  1. I know it seems early to be talking about these Holidays in August, but that’s a REALLY good question for RIGHT NOW! Here’s a couple of REALLY good reasons what that happens.
    Supply and Demand: The demand for services during the Winter season usually exceeds the supply of qualified technicians to perform the needed services. Kinda like trying to get your air conditioner fixed in July.
  2. Quality: Premium companies usually have the longer wait lists. Word gets around.

SUGGESTIONS TO EASE THE PAIN:

Regular users (weekly fires throughout the Winter season):
If it’s already Mid to Late Summer, GO AHEAD and get your service appointment set RIGHT NOW! You may still have a short wait, if you choose to book with a company that has a good reputation and has been around long enough to have a solid repeat clientele base. However, it’s a cinch that getting it done at the END of summer will have you ready to go when you want to use it for your special occasions – no waiting.

Holiday (Thanksgiving/Christmas) users:
Call to make your appointment NO LATER THAN Labor Day. The longer you wait to call for an appointment, the longer you will wait for an appointment. It’s a fact of life in the chimney service world. With the premium companies, their procrastinator clients (the ones who don’t remember to get it done in the Spring) start calling in AUGUST because they know the drill. Truth is: by October you likely can’t get a definite appointment until close to Christmas – if you’re lucky.

Home Sales/Houses under Contract:
This is a hard one. There’s ALWAYS a limited window for the inspections to take place. The best thing to do is call AS SOON AS THE CONTRACT IS SIGNED and get on the waiting list and be as flexible as possible. Most professional companies will work hard to take advantage of any schedule changes that will allow them to get you worked in as quickly as possible — if you give them enough lead time. I know we do. It helps tremendously if we can have 2 to 3 weeks lead time during the Winter season.

  •  Note to Buyers: It’s important to get the recommended Level 2 inspection done if your purchase is contingent on having a working fireplace. This is especially important if there has EVER been a wood stove vented though a fireplace or into a masonry chimney.
  • Note to Sellers: Be as flexible as possible in providing access. While it might be scary, not knowing what will show up, professional companies know the difference between normal wear and tear and actual damage or construction defects that can impact usability.

Worst Case Scenario for everyone:
Pick the company you prefer to work with based on quality, training and experience. Take their first available appointment. Professional companies will work hard to get you moved sooner when they have pop-up openings due to schedule shifts. These companies are usually worth the wait.

Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps|Bless Your Hearth is proud to be one of those premium professional companies. Call our friendly office staff (864-682-5422) or email (bluesky@sweepstuff.com) to set an appointment for your annual chimney service.

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.

 

Winter is coming! Who knew?

Well, of course, we all did, but human nature is such that most of us will “put off until tomorrow” what we could do today. That’s just the way it is. You know it; we know it, and it’s ok.

So here we are staring cold weather in the face and we still haven’t done the deed. We haven’t gotten the chimney, fireplace, wood stove or gas logs ready for the burning season. What to do?

Just breathe.Winter is coming Image - Greenville SC - Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps

First thing is — know that short of a miracle or somebody’s sick family (causing them to have to reschedule), you’ll be waiting a few weeks for an appointment if you want your service taken care of by more than a seasonal part-timer. Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because the good companies will have a plan for this. They will work to move you forward to a sooner spot with the first schedule change that allows an opportunity to do so. We certainly do!

Next thing is – if a company is what you want in a service company, take their first available appointment spot. Even though it’s a longer wait than you want, just “bite the bullet” and take it. You might get a call the same day to move you up. It’s been known to happen. Schedules are notoriously fluid. Things happen all the time that make folks change their appointments around. We moved one fine fellow 3 times in one day!

Last thing to remember – It rains. Yep — with cold Winter weather come dreary, rainy days. Along with that rain — there are complications.

  • Rain and metal roofs don’t mix. It’s dangerous.
  • Thunderstorms and roof work don’t mix. That’s dangerous, too.
  • Rain in SC makes mud. We don’t do mud in your house.

Now if the rain is a slight on-and-off drizzle, we can handle that (unless you have a metal roof). We have procedures (and equipment) to handle a bit of damp (booties for our feet and runners & dropcloths for our stuff). But if it’s gullywashing, we will likely need to reschedule your appointment. And if we have to reschedule, we do everything we can (even work longer days and maybe an occasional Saturday) to get you rescheduled ASAP!

Extended Hours

Speaking of Saturdays – no, we don’t usually work Saturdays. Right now, the CSIA certified techs we have (and we like our techs because they are really good and we like to keep them happy) prefer not to work Saturdays. They have families and that’s where they usually are on Saturdays – with their wives and children — making their families strong. However, as mentioned, they will make exceptions when we absolutely have no other choice than a Saturday to get our weather-disrupted appointments managed.

So make a note –

  • Call now – the sooner you book an appointment, the sooner we can move you forward.
  • Secure a spot on our schedule – with that appointment comes a promise to get your service done as soon as we possibly can.
  • Try to be patient — Please know that we will be working as hard as we can to get your hearthside ready.

We know that life in the Winter is better with fire and we are striving to help you keep it in its rightful place in your home! We sincerely wish you and your family a Great Winter Season!
~the Staff of Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps|Bless Your Hearth!