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.

 

Why do Gas Logs and Appliances Need Annual Check-Ups?

Most folks won’t argue that wood-burning fireplaces need regular inspections and sweepings. The presence of creosote buildup exponentially increases the potential for chimney fires and other hazards. However, many folks think that having gas logs eliminates the need for having any kind of annual service. It is quite common that there isn’t any kind of appliance check until the unit causes a problem. This is not the case, as they also need regular maintenance.

Gas Fireplaces and Their Chimneys Need Attention

Why do Gas Logs and Appliances Need Annual Check-Ups - Greenville SC - Blue Sky Chimney SweepsA properly operating gas log appliance has less potential for sooty buildup than a wood burning appliance. However, with the passage of time, as dust or/or animal dander builds up in the working parts, the appliance can become less and less efficient. With lowered efficiency, there is potential for sooting and even failure.

The following are some examples of complications that can arise from not having regular check-ups:

  • Deterioration of ceramic components
  • Leaky valves
  • Faulty thermopiles/thermocouples
  • Glass doors may need cleaning, repair, or replacement
  • Birds, squirrels or other critters may take up residence in an uncovered chimney
  • Cracked crowns, eroded mortar joints, and porous bricks may allow moisture to chronically enter the chimney and cause damage

It’s true that it is relatively easy to see when wood burning appliances require cleaning, as there can be plenty of debris visible. With gas fireplaces, the need for service may not be as immediately obvious. However, that doesn’t mean the need doesn’t exist. The necessity for service may not become apparent until your gas fireplace has problems. Proactively opting for regular inspection/service is a great way to avoid interruption of use.

What To Expect with a Gas Fireplace Inspection/Service?

When our well trained technician arrives to check out and clean your gas fireplace, you can expect a thorough inspection of every aspect of the appliance and the chimney. The following are a few of the most critical elements of a gas fireplace inspection:

  • We examine the fireplace/chimney structure to determine if it is in appropriate working condition. For example, is it in compliance with appliance manufacturer’s specifications for installation? This is determined via a courtesy fireplace/chimney inspection.
  • We check the appliance ignition system to determine if it lights correctly.
  • Some portion of the face of the unit may be taken apart to provide access to interior parts. We check the pilot, connections, thermopile/thermocouple, and other various mechanical parts.
  • We clean dust and debris from the unit. In addition, we refresh the medium around gas log burner if it is dirty beyond practicality of further use.
  • A condition report noting any remaining problems that may require attention will be provided along with recommendations for resolution of issues and prices for those resolutions, if desired.

Keep Your Home Hearth Fires Burning Brightly

You value the comfort, beauty, and enjoyment your gas fireplace provides for your family. Timely care and attention can keep your fireplace in good working order for years and years. Professional chimney sweeps like the ones at Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps | Bless Your Hearth strive to keep every aspect your home hearth fire always in tip-top condition. We can help determine overall condition, need for maintenance, issues with functionality, and even project long-term issues before they become costly problems. Regular inspections/maintenance can insure there is no interruption in your family’s enjoyment of your fireplace.

What is the Difference Between Chimney Inspections and Chimney Sweepings?

Sometimes there’s a big difference between the two, and sometimes there’s not. Inspections alone are evaluations of the fireplace/chimney structure (if its masonry built), fireplace/chimney installation (if its prefab manufactured) and the overall condition of either system. Sweeping removes any creosote deposits that have built up from use. Many chimney sweep professionals include a basic Level 1 inspection as part of the chimney sweep service. Chimney inspections and chimney sweeping each have their purpose and are both important to managing the risk of building a fire in the middle of your home.

How Often Should I Schedule a Chimney Inspection or Sweeping?

What is the Difference Between Chimney Inspections and Chimney Sweepings - Greenville SC - Blue Sky Chimney SweepsAccording to the National Fire Protection Association Standard 211 (NFPA211), all fireplaces, chimneys, and vents should be “inspected annually and cleaned as needed” to monitor their condition in regards to operation, efficiency and safety factors. Inspectors are looking for cracks, leaks, creosote deposits, or any other potentially hazardous development since the last inspection. If the attached appliance (fireplace/stove/gas logs/dryer) has been heavily used, it should be monitored regularly. Heavy use is generally going to create more buildup of soot and/or creosote.

OK…so What Happens with Inspections and/or Sweepings?

Most professionals will protect your home with drop cloths in their work area and document what they find. After the inspection/sweeping, the homeowner should be provided with a condition report outlining any issues and recommendations for resolution of said issues. In addition, they will receive estimates for any recommended work that the service provider themselves can provide.

Inspections

According to NFPA 211 Standard, there are 3 different levels of chimney inspection:

  • Level 1 Inspections verify structural soundness and basic usability of the chimney. Many companies include a full Level 1 inspection as a courtesy when performing a sweeping. This inspection will identify any issues related to safety, usability, functionality and maintenance.
  • Level 2 Inspections include everything that is part of a Level 1 and more. It is more in-depth and includes a video scan, attic and foundation inspection, if those areas are accessible. NFPA says it must be part of a real estate transaction, whenever changing fuel types, installing a new appliance, or after a major weather event. Most home inspectors do not have the skills, tools, training or inclination to thoroughly inspect a chimney and fireplace. As a result, a buyer will want to hire a CSIA Certified chimney professional to check the chimney.
  • Level 3 Inspections are usually recommended after observing something “unexplained.” Therefore, there is a need to go into concealed areas to get an “explanation”. It may require removing chase covers or opening walls adjacent to the chimney. We also check for improper installation, structural defects or damage contributing to potentially hazardous conditions. We recommend this inspection if there are serious safety concerns.

Sweepings

  • Our considerate and efficient team will use drop cloths in the work area and traffic area to protect your home.
  • During the sweeping, our commercial, industry-specific, and professional vacuum system controls all of the dust.
  • We remove creosote deposits and debris from the flue system and fireplace with special tools.
  • Completion of a level 1 inspection.
  • If minor repairs are recommended and can be done at the time of sweeping, they will be done on the same visit – only with your authorization. Sometimes this can even provide savings. Otherwise, we leave an estimate for any recommended repairs with you on the spot or via email or post.
  • Our well-trained, professional chimney sweeps should leave your home looking and feeling like they haven’t even been there, except for the fact that the chimney is now swept and ready for use.

How Do I Know if I Need a Simple Inspection, Sweeping, or Both?

Well, the “experts” at the National Fire Protection Association and the Chimney Institute of America, both recommend an annual inspection of your chimney and appliances (fireplace, gas logs, wood stoves, furnaces, etc). After two to three years of annual inspections, we can recommend how often your system will need full service. We base this on your historical usage and the resulting condition of your chimney. Following the advice of your experienced CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep/technician is probably a good way to go. Annual inspections and regular sweepings as directed can help prevent costly repairs.

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 project solutions for long-term issues. Regular inspections/maintenance guarantee your family’s enjoyment of your fireplace!