Frequently Asked Questions

Questions: There’s smoke coming in the house when I build a fire!
This is my most asked question and the most complex! There are many factors to the reason why there’s smoke getting into the house. The most common reasons are that the fireplace needs a good cleaning. Creosote, the byproduct of burned wood and what starts chimney fires, gets all over your firebox, flu and spark arrestor. This prevents the smoke from venting properly. When we perform a sweep, we eliminate the creosote and then the smoke can vent and “well-la” it works again. The other is using wood that is not split properly or aged and has too much moisture. That can be fixed easily with changing the wood you burn with a reputable dealer. There’s too many factors to list here and the best way to find out is to get a inspection/sweep!

Question: There’s a bird in my chimney!
I get this one a lot too! Most of the time it’s a bird that’s perched at the top of your chimney termination. Birds like to perch at the highest point and guess what…that’s usually the fireplace! The sound echo’s down the flu and into the house making it sound like a birds in there. Most of the time there isn’t. However, it does happen and if it’s alive, I refer them to Emergency Animal Rescue at 760-594-0751. This is an independent, non profit organization that DOE’S NOT CHARGE for their service. Pretty nice huh? Anyway, they’ll come out and safely remove the bird (or any animal). Also, you should have a chimney cap at the top to prevent birds from coming in. Many homes were built with masonry chimneys and no caps. This leaves a open hole in your roof and access for animals to get in (along with rain and sparks from burning wood). Call me to discuss getting a cap!
Question: How often should I have my chimney swept?
This a tougher question than it sounds. The simple answer is: The National Fire Protection Association Standard 211 says, “Chimneys, fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances. Cleaning, maintenance, and repairs shall be done if necessary.” This is the national safety standard and is the correct way to approach the problem. It takes into account the fact that even if you don’t use your chimney much, animals may build nests in the flue or there may be other types of deterioration that could make the chimney unsafe to use.

The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that open masonry fireplaces should be swept at 1/8″ of sooty buildup, and sooner if there is any glaze present in the system.  This is considered to be enough fuel buildup to cause a chimney fire capable of damaging the chimney or spreading to the home. Factory-built fireplaces should be swept when any appreciable buildup occurs. The logic is that the deposit is quite acidic and can shorten the life of the fireplace.

Question: My fireplace stinks!
The smell is due to creosote deposits in the chimney, a natural byproduct of woodburning. The odor is usually worse in the summer when the humidity is high and the air conditioner is turned on. A good sweeping will help but usually won’t solve the problem completely. There are commercial chimney deodorants that work pretty well, and many people have good results with baking soda or even kitty litter set in the fireplace. The real problem is the air being drawn down the chimney, a symptom of overall pressure problems in the house. Some make-up air should be introduced somewhere else in the house. A tight sealing, top mounted damper will also reduce this air flow coming down the chimney.

Question: Should I get my gas logs inspected and/or cleaned
Without a doubt! Although gas is generally a clean burning fuel, the chimney can become non-functional from bird nests or other debris blocking the flue. Modern furnaces can also cause many problems with the average flues intended to vent the older generation of furnaces. We suggest you check the areas on gas and carbon monoxide for more information.

Question: How do I use my damper? What is a damper?
This is a common question.  If the damper is not functioning correctly or if it’s closed, you’ve got a situation on your hands that may lead to a smoky room at best and a fire hazard at worst. The damper is a hinged metal plate or valve used to seal the fireplace when not in use. You want the damper to be fully open, and you want it to be in the open position before you light your fire, for obvious safety reasons.”