Company Blog

Chimneys are NOT for the birds!

Keep these guys out of your chimney with a chimney cap!Chimneys are NOT for the birds!- Greenville SC- Blue Sky Chimney Sweep s

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.

 

Here we are again! Chimney fire “season”.

Two common causes for these fires occurring more often in late December and early January:

  • Burning of wrapping paper and old trees after Christmas.
    – Burning materials aside from the designated fuel can result in a devastating chimney fire, but in reality, even apparently safe burning can result in such an irritating inconvenience.
  • Lack of service (routine, regular chimney sweeping).
    – Our tendency for procrastination puts off annual service and then (at the last minute before the need for holiday fires) there’s no way to get an appointment and we think, “well, we really haven’t used it THAT much. It’ll probably be ok…..”

Chimney Fires Image - Greenville SC - Bless Your Hearth

Anatomy of a Chimney Fire

Anytime wood burns, it creates by-products of combustion. These materials include smoke, soot, carbon monoxide, and creosote. The build-up of creosote is responsible for chimney fires. Creosote can be black or brown in color and flakey or slick in texture. Any combination of traits is highly flammable. With every fire in the fireplace or stove, creosote condenses along the interior of the chimney, building to increasingly dangerous levels. A stray spark or ember, from burning wrapping paper for example, can easily ignite the creosote, turning an innocent, homely fire in your fireplace into a catastrophe.

Creosote burns at 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is four to five times hotter than traditional wood fires. This extreme heat and the other chemical traits of creosote make these fires very difficult to extinguish quickly. Resulting damage can include melted mortar, cracked bricks, cracked flue tiles and exposed woodwork in the house. Once the woodwork catches fire, the house could very well burn to the ground, costing thousands of dollars in damage and potentially injuring or killing people inside the house.

While chimney fires often create noteworthy displays of light and explosions, they can also be secretive and slow-burning, causing damage without alerting anyone. A chimney sweep will look for signs of a chimney fire, including smoke leaking through the masonry materials, honeycomb textured creosote, discolored chimney components, and heat damaged roofing. Generally, chimney fires will leave severe damage in their wake and require extensive repairs. Sometimes it could even require entire chimney rebuilds, in order for the chimney to function safely again. These are not inexpensive repairs, so avoiding chimney fires would be a worthy goal.

Fortunately, chimney fires are, for the most part, preventable.

  • First, current fire safety standards mandate an annual chimney sweep, which involves the removal of built-up creosote from the interior of the chimney.
    – For fireplaces and stoves that experience heavy use, experts recommend more frequent sweeps, if need is indicated.
  • Second, burning the proper fuel for the fireplace or stove goes a long way toward reducing creosote buildup in the first place.
    – Burning wood that has been properly seasoned cuts down on creosote buildup, as well as burning more hardwoods than softwoods. Avoid burning freshly cut wood – like an old Christmas tree – and any kind of papers or decorations, which burn very hot and can emit sparks and embers.

For more information on preventing chimney fires, visit our Company Blog page. In the search box on that page, type “chimney fire”. That will get you started.

To schedule a routine chimney sweep in Upstate South Carolina, contact Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps.

What’s the skinny on wood? Only burn hardwood? Fact or myth?

Everybody knows that dry hardwood is the only wood to burn.  Or do they?  Here’s another tidbit from SNEWS (Chimney Sweep News).

Click to Enlarge

Give Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps|Bless Your Hearth a call today to talk to us about servicing and maintaining your fireplace or woodstove and chimney.