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.

What Causes Chimney Fires?

If you’ve ever noticed any gummy-looking black stuff in your chimney, chances are it’s creosote. This dark residue is a byproduct of burning wood and it sticks to the inner walls of chimneys. It can be either flaky, shiny, or sticky.

And since creosote forms through burning wood, it is naturally prone to catching on fire. As such, the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) highlights its high combustibility as a primary safety concern.

Does Creosote Increase the Risk of a Chimney Fire?

Yes! Creosote is a combustible byproduct that can easily catch fire. And once it ignites, it can quickly spread through the chimney, causing the liner to break down and the masonry to crumble and crack. This means any future fires you light will be more prone to escape the chimney walls and enter your home.

an up-close shot of black gooey creosoteCreosote can also accumulate until it clogs the flue. This blocks the free flow of gases and smoke causing problems with drafting and airflow to develop. This hinders efficiency levels, and it puts you more at risk of being exposed to hazardous fumes, like smoke from your fires or even carbon monoxide – a deadly and extremely hard-to-detect gas.

Considering the health and safety hazards that creosote poses, regular chimney sweepings become a critical obligation. Professional chimney sweeps have the right equipment to assess any chimney’s condition and address creosote buildup before it becomes a problem. 

How To Prevent Creosote Buildup

While creosote isn’t unavoidable, there are ways to effectively reduce accumulation in your flue: 

  • Schedule Annual Chimney Inspections: It’s important to have a CSIA certified chimney sweep inspect your chimney once per year – before the fall burning season. This is where buildup can be spotted, along with any damages that need to be repaired. Your sweep can also note whether you’ve already experienced a chimney fire.
  • Don’t Neglect Sweepings: Regular service is the best way to prevent creosote buildup. If your sweep notes excess creosote deposits during their inspection, be sure to get a follow-up sweeping scheduled as soon as possible. Experts have the proper tools and can remove any buildup in your chimney walls or flue that boosts the chances of experiencing a chimney fire.
  • Burn Dry & Well-Seasoned Firewood: Be sure to only burn the correct type of wood in your system. Consider sourcing properly seasoned firewood and make sure it is sufficiently dried out before you toss it in the fireplace. If you put wet, unseasoned wood in your fireplace, you risk producing more residue that will eventually stick to chimney walls, greatly increasing your risk of experiencing a chimney fire.
  • Maintain Your Chimney Liner: Ensure that your chimney liner is in good shape and that the chimney is lined correctly. Properly installing a chimney liner improves its performance, but if the liner has been installed incorrectly, it will malfunction and even cause a bigger creosote problem. It can be confusing to determine whether your chimney liner is working correctly, so you it’s always best to rely on the eyes and knowledge of a pro.
  • Ensure Proper Chimney Airflow: Whenever you use your fireplace and chimney, be sure the structure gets enough air. Good draft helps fires burn at hotter temperatures, minimizing creosote production in the process. Be sure your damper is open wide enough, took, and get your inspection booked to ensure no blockages are present.

What Are the Signs of a Chimney Fire?

Most chimney fires move slowly and don’t produce a lot of noise, which means you may have had one without noticing. The CSIA identifies the following signs that your chimney could have survived fire before:

  • house burned to the ground with only the damaged chimney and fireplace standing, smoke is in the airBlack or dark-brown byproducts in chimney walls or fireplace
  • Honeycombed or puffy creosote
  • Exterior masonry cracks
  • Discoloration in the chimney cap
  • Damage to the roofing material due to hot byproducts
  • Warped damper metal
  • Heat-damaged TV antenna
  • Smoke escaping in areas other than the chimney, particularly through tile liners
  • Cracked and missing flue tiles

If you do notice that a chimney fire is currently occurring, exit the home immediately and get in touch with your local fire department as soon as possible. In addition, as you are leaving your home, the CSIA suggests closing the door behind you if you can. The goal is to prevent any more air from feeding the flames until the fire department arrives.

Invest in Professional Sweeping Services With Us Today

Even if you believe that your chimney is functioning correctly, there could be hazards hiding away, ready to cause issues. Scheduling a chimney inspection is one way to gain peace of mind, during which we can determine if you need a sweeping.

Creosote is a dangerous byproduct that you might fail to notice immediately. This material is combustible and can cause health and fire hazards in your home. To effectively avoid this issue, we suggest getting in touch with one of our CSIA certified chimney sweeping experts to inspect and clean your chimney. Schedule an inspection today!

The Importance of Level 2 Chimney Inspections When Buying/Selling a Home

Buying or selling a home can be an exciting endeavor, but it also comes with a long to-do list. And one of the most important parts of transferring property is scheduling the home inspection.

Home inspections help sellers or buyers find problems that need to be fixed before a property is finally sold. And once your home inspector sees that everything is clear, you’re good to go! …right?

Well, unless the home in question has a chimney. While home inspectors do complete a brief overview of the chimney, it isn’t nearly extensive enough to note everything that could be wrong. Because of this, scheduling a level 2 chimney inspection with a certified sweep is a must.

What Is a Home Inspection?

Home inspections are done by a qualified home inspector who checks both the interior and exterior parts of a home to see if any defects should be addressed. A home inspection is a non-invasive way of examining a residential property to check for any issues before the property is officially purchased. This allows the buyers the opportunity to either request that these issues be addressed before anything is finalized or to lower the price of the home to something more appropriate to its current state.

magnifying glass looking at a home

While this process does include the chimney, it doesn’t actually require an in-depth overview of the system. In fact, there could be some extensive interior damage that’s missed, leaving the new buyers to face some unpleasant surprises long after the sale is complete.

What Is a Chimney Inspection?

Chimney inspections are completed by professional chimney sweeps and are done to assess the condition and suitability for use of the chimney, flue and its connecting appliance. However – unlike home inspections that generally include the interior and exterior parts of the house – a chimney inspection solely focuses on the state of the home’s chimney.

There are three levels of chimney inspections. The first will be the most basic overview, and it’s typically what homeowners need to schedule for their regular annual maintenance.

If any major changes have been made to the appliance or – surprise – if you’re buying or selling a home, a level 2 inspection is a must. And level 3 inspections are left for situations where parts of the home or chimney may need to be removed or demoed to get the root of the problem (these are less common).

Home Inspection vs. Chimney Inspection: What’s the Difference?

Home Inspection

According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, home inspectors only inspect visible and readily accessible portions of the chimney. 

  • It’s not a home inspector’s job to check the flue, vent system, or interior system of the chimney and fireplace
  • Home inspectors don’t determine if a chimney needs to be cleaned.
  • Home inspectors won’t perform any tests or dismantle any components.
  • Homeowners aren’t required to ensure the system was properly installed to begin with.

Long story short – home inspectors aren’t chimney professionals. And while they do a necessary and important job in the home buying/selling process, when it comes to the chimney, only a qualified and knowledgeable sweep should be trusted to properly assess it.

Chimney Inspection

According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a level 2 chimney inspection is needed for all properties that are for sale.

  • A level 2 chimney inspection includes an examination of both the interior and exterior parts of a chimney or venting system.
  • Professional chimney sweeps will inspect the entire chimney – inside and out – to identify any safety issues or damaged/deteriorated areas of the chimney.
  • Sweeps evaluate performance problems, such as drafting and water leaks.
  • Special cameras will be inserted into your chimney’s flue system to providing digital views of those hard-to-see internal surfaces.

If there’s an issue in the chimney, a level 2 inspection is sure to spot it.

Why Are Chimney Inspections Important?

Inspections are important when buying or selling a home, but they’re something you should schedule annually too.  A chimney inspection gives your chimney company the opportunity to detect and fix issues within your chimney well before they get worse, so that your system can stand strong – and operate safely – for years to come.

You may also be experiencing excess buildup, which can be a fire hazard and will invite drafting and airflow issues. Chimney inspections reduce the risk of carbon monoxide exposure – a toxic gas that can pose a great threat to your whole household – as well as chimney fires.

Book With Us Now

The team here at Lords Chimney specializes in chimney, fireplace, and dryer vent services. For over 17 years, Lords Chimney has been providing the highest quality of service for homes and residents in the whole Houston area, and we would love to prove ourselves to you too. 

We are fully certified, experienced with a range of chimney and fireplace types, and know how to properly check, clean, and fix any chimney issue. If you have any questions, give us a call at 281-497-4000 or book online today.

Animals in Your Flue? We Can Help

Do you hear scratching sounds throughout your house or smell foul odors from the fireplace? If so, you just might have unwanted animals in your chimney. 

However, there’s no need to panic. With our experts on your side, you can prevent these unwelcome guests from causing bigger problems. The Lords Chimney crew is here to discuss the basics of animal removal, including signs to watch out for, the risks you face, and how to protect your home from a future intrusion.

Signs of Wildlife Invasion

Having small creatures in your flue might seem harmless, but it’s best to hire wildlife removal services as soon as possible to protect the health and safety of everyone in your home. Let’s go through some of the common signs of animals in your chimney.

  • Droppings: When animals build nests, they usually leave droppings around them. As soon as you notice animal waste in your fireplace, it’s almost a sure sign that you have critters living in your chimney.
  • Animals in Your Flue - Houston TX - Lords Chimney squirrelFur & Feathers: In addition to droppings, you might also notice fur and feathers on your roof or fireplace. Once you see these signs, it’s a safe bet that they’re living in your flue. Birds, squirrels, and raccoons are the most popular chimney dwellers.
  • Strange Sounds: Hear chirping, squeaking, or clawing sounds come from somewhere in your home? Don’t rule out the chimney – you might have a house guest on your hands.
  • Foul Odors: When animals live in your flue, it can take on a distinct and unpleasant odor. You might get a whiff of urine, droppings, or the food they bring in. Worst of all, if a creature dies in your chimney, it will emit the pungent smell of decay – and attract pests too.
  • Stressed or Excitable Pets: If you notice your dog or cat become agitated around the fireplace, your house might have an infestation. Pets are more receptive to other creatures than humans, so they’re likely to notice signs before you do.

If you notice any of the signs above, schedule a chimney evaluation immediately. 

Negative Effects of Animals in Your Chimney

Animal removal services are the only way to remove your uninvited guests and restore your home to the calm and clean state it was in before. We’ll walk you through the ways in which these intruders can threaten your peace and damage your home.

  • Increased Risk of Fire: Animal nests can cause blockages and poor ventilation. They can easily catch fire and allow smoke to back into your home. If you’ve noticed signs of birds or other creatures seeking refuge in your flue, it’s best to call a professional as soon as possible to keep your loved ones and your home safe from harm.
  • Potential Spread of Disease: Seeing animals in forests and gardens may be cute, but they can be dangerous when they enter your home. While they don’t typically hurt people directly, their droppings, dander, and any pests they bring along with them can make people sick. They are particularly dangerous for people with compromised immune systems and severe allergies.
  • Flue Damage: Even the littlest creatures can cause big issues throughout your chimney system. When they get into your chimney, they leave your flue vulnerable to damage from debris, water, and other pest. This can eventually expose surrounding materials to heat or flue gases, creating a home hazard – and may require your chimney liner to be repaired too.
  • Clogging & Poor Airflow: Animal nesting materials are known to clog your flue quickly, and if the animals pass away inside your system, this can also cause blockages. Drafting problems not only cause your system to operate inefficiently, but can cause smoke back-up and fire hazards too.
  • Inconvenience: Some animals, like chimney swifts, are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act so, once they nest, you’re stuck with them until they leave again. You can then install chimney caps to keep them from coming back, but you can’t forcefully remove them from your home.

Ways to Protect Your Home from Wildlife Invasion

So, how do you keep animals out of your chimney? We recommend the strategies below. 

  • Animals in Your Flue - Houston TX - Lords Chimney raccoonSeal Your Home: The easiest and most convenient way to keep animals out of your property is to seal your home. We recommend installing a quality and properly-sized chimney cap to achieve this. It’s also ideal to close any other openings in your home, including roof vents and any small gaps and cracks in your roof or walls.
  • Keep Your Yard Tidy: Animals typically look for the same things that humans do in a home — protection from the elements, safety from predators, and a reliable source of food and water. When your lawn offers all of the above, it will attract various animals that might eventually find their way into your chimney. That said, things like raking leaves, picking up loose debris, and disposing of food scraps properly can make a big difference in keeping them away. It’ll also helps to make sure tree limbs are trimmed back at least 10 feet from the chimney structure.
  • Schedule Regular Chimney Inspections: Homeowners are responsible for keeping wildlife away from their property, but nobody expects you to know everything about removing animals from your flue. If you suspect an animal has entered, call in a professional for an inspection right away. In these cases, the sooner you act, the better.

Book a Houston Chimney Sweeping Session Now

Trust us on this – when it comes to unwanted animal guests, prevention is better than cure. If you’re interested in putting up some safeguards to prevent creatures from entering your home, we’re here to help.

At Lords Chimney, our technicians boast unmatched experience, and we use the latest  technology to keep our customers’ chimneys, fireplaces, and dryer vents in peak condition all year long.

Call us now at 832-280-9233 or reach out online to request a free, no-obligation quotation.