Common Chimney Scams & How to Avoid Them

In over 17 years of service, we’ve unfortunately come across cases where homeowners have fallen victim to scammers.

a close-up of view of the word "scam" in a dictionarySome chimney scams are overt (e.g. people who aren’t even in the industry receiving payment for a product or service that isn’t delivered). Other scams take the form of overstated or deceptive claims about knowledge and credentials that lead to shoddy work.

In an industry that isn’t nationally regulated, this is a risk – and one we don’t want you to fall victim to. Either way, you aren’t getting what you deserve, and your chimney system can be compromised.

To avoid low-quality work, dangerous situations, and wasted money, it’s important for homeowners to be aware of common chimney scams and how to avoid them.

The Scam: Uninvited Fraudulent Sweeps

One scam involves the “chimney sweep” who shows up uninvited. The fraudulent sweep shows up at your door claiming they noticed a problem with your chimney while driving by. They may offer a low price for the work, but the resulting service is often subpar or even non-existent.

What’s the solution?

Never allow a chimney sweep to work on your chimney system without first verifying their identity, credentials, and insurance. The sweep you hire should work for a real company with a real, physical location. He should be able to show verification of his credentials and insurance if requested.

What do credentials demonstrate? If a sweep is CSIA certified, it means that they’ve been examined by a board of volunteer industry experts committed to the well-being of the trade by passing a rigorous exam. Sweeps must recertify every three years, so the knowledge and skill set required to do the job stays fresh. And the CSIA holds its certified sweeps to a high standard of ethical conduct. Additionally, memberships in professional associations show an established commitment to continuing education, knowledge of the most recent technology and safety standards, and customer service.

Why is validating insurance important? You should never hire a company that can’t prove they carry general liability insurance and worker’s comp. If they aren’t insured and someone is hurt while working at your home, or if damage to your home occurs, you may end up shouldering the cost and legal burden.

In addition to checking into certifications and insurance, never let someone work on your property without investigating online reviews to ensure the chimney sweep has a track record of quality work.

The Scam: Bargain-Priced Inspections

Another scam involves the “chimney inspection” that turns into a costly repair. Don’t get me wrong – one of the functions of a chimney inspection is to identify potential safety issues or maintenance needs as early as possible. But a common scam is offering a bargain-priced inspection… which leads to a claim that your chimney requires repairs that will cost far more. This can include unnecessary repairs, such as relining a chimney or replacing the entire chimney cap when the components still have plenty of life left in them.

What’s the solution?

a white masonry chimney against a blue skyFirst, verify what the chimney inspection will involve before it begins. Is it just a guy with a flashlight looking up, or will current technology, such as scanners or internal viewing cameras in the chimney, be employed? Will pictures be taken to evidence the necessity of the repairs being suggested? Will the sweep be getting on the roof to inspect all visible components?

Next, ask for a detailed report of the inspection findings and repairs needed. A qualified sweep will provide this information, answer questions about work and pricing transparently, and never pressure you into making a decision on the spot.If you are uncomfortable, go with your gut and do more research.

Remember that fraudsters often use heavy-handed techniques – claiming there’s imminent danger or pressuring you with too-good-to-be-true deals that expire quickly. But remember that claims should be verifiable. If a chimney sweep says that you have high levels of carbon monoxide, ask for a reading. If there’s extensive damage, there should be evidence.

The Scam: Unqualified Techs

The “chimney cleaning” that creates a mess. An inexperienced, unqualified sweep can yield a messy, incomplete sweeping or repair. The scammer may not use the correct tools or techniques, yielding a mess in your living space without significantly reducing creosote and debris in your chimney or properly completing repairs. This is not only a waste of your time, energy, and money, but also leaves behind a hazardous situation.

What’s the solution?

As with any service, check credentials of any sweep you’re planning to employ for the first time. Then, ask in advance what the sweeping process will entail. A reputable sweep will be well equipped for the task and attentive to detail.

We Provide Service You Can Trust

Some home care and maintenance needs are obvious to the naked eye, but it can be hard to know when there’s a problem with your chimney. Yet an issue fixed improperly – or left unfixed – can yield costly damages and create health and safety risks. If you want the peace of mind that comes from knowing your chimney work was done well by a qualified technician, be sure your sweep can back up his claims. 

Remember what you’re looking for: an established business in a physical location, certifications and professional memberships, satisfied customers, and sufficient, up-to-date insurance coverage. Don’t compromise because a reputable service provider is booked far out (that’s probably a good sign) or because an unproven sweep is offering a bottom-dollar deal (that’s probably a bad sign).

And remember that we’re here to help! We have a wealth of industry knowledge and experience, and even if you don’t use our services, we want you to be equipped to make an informed decision that will serve you and your family well. Call today or book online to schedule an appointment.

10 Tips for Better Dryer Efficiency

Are you tired of your dryer taking forever to do its job? Are you running multiple loads to get your clothes dry? Are your energy bills higher than you’d like them to be? It may be time to take a look at your dryer’s efficiency levels.

Most assume that to improve dryer efficiency, an entirely new appliance is in order. What they don’t realize that there are actually some simple things they can do to increase their dryer’s efficiency – and decrease their own energy costs – without investing in an entirely new system.

Here are ten easy tips to help you get the most out of your dryer, and save money in the process

1. Clear the Lint Filter

A clogged lint filter can reduce the dryer’s efficiency by blocking airflow. This will cause the dryer to work harder to get the job done and take longer to dry the clothes. The longer your dryer runs and the harder it has to work to do its job, the more you spend on energy costs. It’ll also put more wear on the appliance, warranting a replacement sooner than you’d expect.

In addition to exhausting your dryer’s stamina, a dirty lint filter can also be a fire hazard. Cleaning the lint filter is a quick and easy task that can make a big difference in your dryer’s performance.

2. Make Sure the Dryer Vent Is Not Blocked

dryer vent cover with lint coming outThe dryer vent is the pipe that carries hot air and lint from the dryer to the outside of your home. If the vent is blocked, the hot air and lint can’t escape, causing the dryer to work harder and the clothes taking longer to dry.

In addition, like a full lint trap, a blocked vent can be a fire hazard, and it makes you more vulnerable to carbon monoxide leaks too. Make sure to check the vent regularly and remove any lint or debris that may have accumulated.

It is also worth checking where the vent exits your home to make sure that it is clear, free of debris, and unblocked by clutter. This is a simple step you can do anytime you’re outside.

3. Invest in Professional Vent Cleanings

In addition to checking the vent for blockages, it’s also important to have it regularly cleaned Lint and other debris can build up in the vent, reducing the airflow and making the dryer work harder. This also increases your risk of gas leaks and fire hazards significantly. In fact, dirty dryer vents a leading cause of dryer-related fires.

Be sure to trust a professional for your yearly dryer vent cleanings to avoid vent damage and ensure no areas are missed. Our experts will get the job done right.

4. Use the Correct Settings

Your dryer has different settings for different types of fabrics – take advantage of these. For example, use the “delicate” setting for delicate fabrics and the “heavy duty” setting for heavy fabrics. Using the correct setting can prevent damage to your clothes and save energy.

These settings are built into your dryer to help keep your dryer working for a long time by saving the energy spent in drying.

5. Dry Similar Items Together

Drying similar items together, such as all jeans or all towels, will help the dryer work more efficiently. This is because the dryer can dry similar items at the same time, rather than having to switch between different types of fabrics. The articles of fabric that are being dried will tend to finish drying at the same time if they are similar in weight, texture, and fabric type. This means that your dryer won’t have to continue working to dry a couple heavier articles of clothing or other fabric while the lighter ones are already dry.

6. Don’t Over-dry

a white front-load washer and dryer setOver-drying can cause shrinkage and damage to your clothes, and it’s a waste of energy. To prevent over-drying, pay close attention to the moisture sensor on your dryer or simply set the timer on your dryer for a shorter amount of time.

7. Dry Multiple Loads Consecutively

It takes time and energy to heat up a dryer. By drying multiple loads of laundry back to back you save on the time it takes for the dryer to warm up, which then ensures your clothes dry faster. When you cut back on drying time, you save money.

8. Use Dryer Balls

Using dryer balls keeps your laundry from clumping together while drying. This means that warm air can easily circulate around your clothing helping it to dry faster and more evenly. Say hello to shorter dryer times and lower energy bills.

9. Deep Clean the Lint Filter

Once a month, take out your lint trap, wash it with soap and water, then let it fully dry. While dryer sheets and dryer balls can be a great asset, they also contain chemicals that can clog the pores of the lint trap over time. Even if things look to be clear, trust us – they aren’t.

This is an easy step for maximizing efficiency – just make sure the lint trap is fully dry before putting it back into your dryer.

10. Have Your Dryer Serviced Regularly

A professional can check for any issues that may be reducing your dryer’s efficiency and fix them. This can include checking the vent, the drum, and the motor. Regular maintenance can help to extend the life of your dryer and save you money on energy costs in the long run.

Book With Us Today

By following these tips, you can help your dryer work more efficiently and save money on energy costs. And if you ever have any issues with your dryer, don’t hesitate to call our experts at Lords Chimney in Houston – we’re always happy to help.

Happy drying!

Can a Fireplace Benefit Mental Health?

Books and movies have often depicted the trance-like state that people can find themselves in while staring at a flickering fire. Perhaps you have even experienced this sensation yourself. The longer you stare, the more it seems like you can’t stop staring – your mind quiets, your breathing slows, and your muscles relax.

Turns out, this experience is more common than you’d think. And, in fact, science is showing us that it can have many positive benefits for both your physical and mental health.

The Science Behind It

a cut out of a side profile of a head with "mental health" written inside the brainDr. Christopher D. Lynn, a medical and psychological anthropologist at the University of Alabama, did a three-year long study that showed the effects of fire on human physical and mental health. His study observed hundreds of people as they watched and listened to a burning fire.

Participants in the study went through a series of biological measurements that included blood pressure, as well as psychological data. The participants then watched a video of a fire, first without sound, then with the crackling sound of the fire added to the video. And the results yield some interesting info…

  • Dr. Lynn and his team observed a slight, yet varied, degree of decrease in blood pressure while the participants watched the fire.
  • When sound was added, though, nearly all participants saw a dramatic decrease in blood pressure, as well as an increase in relaxation and feelings of calm.
  • It was also determined that the longer a person gazed at flame and listened to the natural crackling sound that comes from burning wood, the healthier their blood pressure levels seemed to be.

Healthy blood pressure can indicate low anxiety, and lower risk of heart attack and stroke. People who suffer from chronic high blood pressure, or hypertension, run the risk of their heart overworking as it tries to maintain appropriate levels of oxygen and other necessities in the body.

Feelings of anxiety and depression have also been linked with high blood pressure. When blood pressure is lowered it is possible, if not likely, that anxiety and stress will decrease as well.

There’s no denying a correlation – and it’s one reason to take the plunge and invest in that new fireplace today.

Any Other Mental Health Benefits?

That study revealed some telling things, but what other benefits can a fireplace provide for mental health?

🧠 Reduced Anxiety.
When watching a fire our natural reaction is feelings of calm and peace. The mind is able to relax and slow down which allows thoughts to order themselves – and allows you to focus. Regular exposure to safely burning in-home fires in a fireplace is a proven way to relax and slow down – causing long lasting mental health benefits.

🧠 Desire to Socialize.
Another benefit that the study noted was a higher desire among participants to socialize and engage with other people. One of the symptoms of poor mental health is isolation, even as feelings of loneliness are present. Experiencing community with others has been linked to positive moods and strong mental health.

🧠 Positive Reflections.
Different smells can have different effects on people. The right scent has the power to mentally transport a person to specific times and places that they have connected to various feelings. The soothing aroma of burning wood is almost always linked with feelings of comfort, warmth, and relaxation.

The “Why” Behind the Benefits

two feet with cozy socks propped up near a burning fireplaceAs it often does, science has shown us what was already assumed to be true – that the presence of a safely burning fire provides benefits of relaxation and a better mood. It is no wonder streaming services, like Netflix, provide customers with the option to stream fireplace fires on the television.

But, what is it exactly about fire that triggers this ease of anxiety and increase in positive feelings?

Well, it seems there are some historical links. Humans have a long relationship with fire. Theories suggest that these positive reactions we have to the sound, light, and warmth of a fire are innate, instilled in us from our species first mastery over fire.

As the human species developed, fire allowed various advantages, such as seeing in the dark, warding off danger, and keeping warm in cold climates. Fire provided comfort, allowing our bodies and senses to relax. In addition to that, food consumption became safer as we were able to cook it.

Basically, fire allowed communities to eat together, serve each other, and fellowship with one another – all while gaining the peace of mind that comes with light, warmth, and safety. All of those things still show themselves to be true as we spend time around the fire today.

Reap the Benefits by Relying on Us

Lords Chimney specializes in designing and installing fireplaces that fit perfectly into the aesthetic of your home. Whatever your vision is for your fireplace, our team can help you decide on what type of fireplace would fit your needs – and we can install it too. Already own a fireplace? We are fully equipped to help you maintain it.

Call Lords Chimney or reach out to us online today to begin your fireplace ownership journey today.

Fireplace Holiday Safety Tips

Peaceful ambiance? Cozy comfort? Festiveness? Warmth?

A fire flickering in the fireplace checks all these boxes. 

A home fireplace is an inviting asset, but it should always be used with proper caution so it’s a source of enjoyment, rather than worry. Thankfully, armed with a little knowledge and awareness, this is no problem.

Create Fires That Burn Cleanly

Not all fires are equal. Incomplete combustion or inadequate air supply can generate a smoky fire, causing creosote and soot to build up in your chimney.  Here are ways to avoid this:

  • Avoid using damp, diseased, or green (newly cut) wood. Good firewood is seasoned, which means it’s been aged or dried to burn as completely as possible. When seasoned, firewood will have visible checking (splits and cracks) and feel relatively lightweight.
  • Use local firewood. This is for regional environmental health, which does indirectly affect your home. Using local firewood helps avoid the spread of tree diseases and pests from region to region, keeping them out of your neighborhood.
  • Properly store firewood. Store chopped wood long enough for it to give a reading of 15-25% on a moisture meter. This will likely take at least six months if it’s freshly cut and split. Keeping the bottom of the woodpile off the ground with the top covered and the sides exposed to sun and air is ideal practice.
  • Start well. Don’t use gasoline, charcoal starter, or other chemicals or accelerants to get your fire moving.
  • Keep garbage out. Construction scraps, treated or painted wood, and household waste should never make their way into the fireplace. Some of these items release toxic chemicals, dark smoke, or lightweight particles when burned.
  • Clear ash. Ash from previous fires should be cleared when it gets to about an inch thick. Otherwise, it can restrict airflow to the logs during your next fire.
  • Open the damper. Be sure your damper is open so smoke can escape before you start a fire – and don’t close it until the fire is completely out.

Keep Your Fires Contained

You want your fire to be controlled and contained. This means taking measures to keep all embers in the fireplace and avoiding putting any combustible items where they could get too hot or be exposed to sparks.

  • a clear mug of cider sitting in front of a lit fireplaceUse small pieces of wood. This will help ensure your wood is well-seasoned and burning cleanly, but also minimize chances of embers escaping as wood breaks down during a fire. Along these same lines, don’t overfill your fireplace.
  • Maintain proper clearances. Rugs, curtains, and other flammable objects should be at least three feet away from your fireplace. Be vigilant about clearing away books or other items that may have accumulated too near before beginning each fire. And when you deck the halls, remember to keep the garlands and stockings a safe distance away.
  • Use a firescreen. A metal firescreen helps contain sparks and prevent embers from rolling out onto furniture or rugs.
  • Protect carpeting with a fireproof mat. If your fireplace is in a carpeted area, a fireproof rug can protect your carpet from burns if a spark does reach it.

Maintain Your System

Brick and mortar are durable, and chimney systems are built for longevity. With proper care and maintenance, they should serve you for a long time.

  • Inspect your chimney annually. Your chimney should be checked over by a Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) certified chimney sweep every year, without fail.
  • Have your chimney swept. Your chimney sweep should also clean your chimney, removing any obstructions and accumulation of creosote or soot, annually – or more, if you’re a frequent user of your fireplace. If you notice dark flakes of creosote, you’re overdue for a sweep and shouldn’t use your fireplace until it’s been done.
  • Cut back limbs. Branches that overhang your chimney can be a fire hazard or can cause physical system damage to your chimney during high winds, storms, or if they break.
  • Be observant. Say you had your chimney inspected in the spring, but have recently noticed new cracks or discoloration in your masonry or warping on your chimney cap. Have it checked out – these can be signs you’ve had a chimney fire. Also check for nests or debris that should be removed.
  • Ask about a chimney cap. If you don’t have one, you should – a chimney cap has a metal top to prevent critters and leaves from entering your chimney and metal mesh sides that arrest sparks while venting smoke and flue gases.

Be Equipped for Safety

There are some basic safety tips everyone should know before lighting a fire in their home.

  • a red fire extinguisher set in a cornerInvest in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Check them monthly and replace batteries annually or if they fail a monthly check. Also, be sure your family knows how to exit the home and where to meet if they do ever go off.
  • Crack a window. If possible, when the fireplace is going keep a window open a bit to increase ventilation.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy. Know where your fire extinguisher is stored and how to use it.
  • Be present. Your presence with the fire is a big component of safety. Be sure your fire is either attended or out. This is the case even if you’re home (i.e. your fire should be out before you head to bed).
  • Protect children and pets. Keep fireplace tools out of reach and away from children and pets. Install fireplace doors or hearth gates to protect your loved ones from hot surfaces.

Partner With Us

We’re proud to be your partners in bringing the warmth and ambiance of a fireplace into your home and maintaining it for years of enjoyment. If you have questions about fireplace care, safety, or upgrades, give us a call today!

Reach out to our Houston location at 281-786-0507, our Beaumont location at 409-240-0013, or you can contact us online. We’d love to hear from you soon.

What Is a Witches Crook? Will It Hurt My Chimney?

Halloween is coming and with it stories of monsters, ghosts, goblins, and witches. What’s the best way to keep this creatures away? Well, we’re not so sure about most things, but when it comes to witches, we might have some good news for those with a bend in their chimney. This slanted design is called a witches crook and, legend has it, if you have one, the witches will stay away.

What’s the Purpose of a Witches Crook?

Many fireplaces are located in a place that doesn’t line up to where the chimney is built on the roof.  The reason for this is typically because a chimney tends to look best on the highest point of the roof – and that doesn’t always mean it is directly above the fireplace. To keep everything looking great, a witches crook was built to help the smoke in the fireplace reach the end of your chimney.

What’s in a name?

silhouette of a witch flying over a full, bright moonSo, where does the witch come into play? For as long as there have been fireplaces built into homes, there have been stories and legends associated with them. When the fire is lit, the smoke has to be able to get outside and, of course, if smoke can get out, then it’s up to the imagination to decide what can get in. Cultures around the world have all come up with different ideas and stories of what these things might be.

In the Hebrides Islands off of Scotland, they were evil fairy demons that could be appeased with treats left for them by the fire. In Greece, India, and many other places, babies were delivered through the chimney by storks. In much of the world, Santa comes through the chimney bearing gifts for good little boys and girls.

And, like the stories above, the name witches crook comes from similar origins.Stories were told about witches that would make their way into homes through the chimney. Many people in history believed that the bend in the masonry of the chimney was put there to keep witches from being able to fly down directly into the chimney and terrorize the home.

Now, not every chimney has a witches crook but just because you don’t see one straight away doesn’t mean that there isn’t one built into an area that isn’t immediately visible. Often, the part of the chimney located in the attic will contain the witches crook. This is simply to keep everything looking tidy.

Will My Witches Crook Invite Issues?

If you have a witches crook in your chimney, fear not! A witches crook almost never is the cause of problems for a chimney. 

A witches crook almost never is the cause of problems for a chimney. 

However there are things you should always be looking for when examining your chimney.  Here are five things to watch for:

  • masonry chimney viewed from the bottom with smoke coming out of itCreosote: Creosote is a thick, sticky, oily liquid that is the primary substance in preserving wood. It can be toxic, and because it is made up of many different elements, like salt and water, it can build up in your chimney  It is highly combustible. so buildup is likely to catch fire, which can be a big danger to your home. This is why scheduling regular sweepings is so imperative.
  • Clogs: If smoke can escape your chimney, then other things must be able to get in, right? Over time things may drop into your chimney. Depending on the area you live and its natural surroundings, you may be susceptible to debris falling into your flue and creating clogs – which then leads to smoke backup and other hazards.
  • Animals: Every once in a while, wandering wildlife find their way into chimneys. Sometimes it’s to escape the elements, sometimes they want to nest, and other times they are just curious. It’s best to find them early, get them out, then have a cap installed to prevent further entry down the line.
  • Cracks & Deterioration: Over time, mortar can crack, which can lead to bigger problems later on. If not dealt with, real structural damage can occur, which is both dangerous and can lead to serious inefficiency. Fortunately, most problems can be fixed with a little professional help.
  • Leaks and Water Damage: Houston can be wet year round. Water is called a universal solvent because it deteriorates more chemicals than any other substance. If it is able to get in and pool up throughout your chimney and fireplace, it can trigger all types of decay, rust, and deterioration.

Trust Our Team of Professionals This Halloween

As the heat gives way to winter’s cooler weather, we are reminded that the witches are coming – and that it might be time to get some professional eyes on our chimney. Lords Chimney is made up of a team of highly trained individuals that can help you identify creosote, clogs, invasive animals, cracks, and leaks, as well as other invisible problems that might lead to potentially devastating effects down the road.

Lords Chimney is certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and part of the National Chimney Sweep Guild (NCSG) which means that they are among the most knowledgeable and professional chimney technicians in America.

Call or book your next service online today.