The Importance of CSIA Certification

When it comes to fireplace and chimney service, installation, and maintenance, finding the right company to work with can be hard to do. With so many businesses to choose from, it can be difficult to determine the seasoned professionals from the seasonal workers.

Although anyone with a brush and a truck might be able to call themselves a chimney sweep, few have earned the Chimney Safety Institute of America, or CSIA, certification. By hiring a certified chimney sweep, you can feel confident that you are working with a highly trained and educated professional.

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Are all chimney sweeps certified?

Many homeowners mistakenly believe that all chimney sweeps are created equally. Unfortunately, there are few regulations or restrictions on the industry. Because of this, any handyman with a couple of brushes can call themselves a chimney sweep. Oftentimes, these “chimney sweeps” do little more than push around the ash and soot in your chimney, making more of a mess than actually cleaning the chimney.

In order to get the best service possible for your fireplace and chimney system, it is important to work with a CSIA certified chimney sweep. The CSIA certification is recognized as the gold standard in the industry. Chimney sweeps that hold a CSIA certification have completed extensive education, training, and testing and represent the best in the industry in terms of skill and professionalism.

In order to earn their CSIA certification, chimney sweeps must study and be tested on topics such as:

  • Fireplace and chimney safety practices
  • Local and national building and fire codes
  • Fireplace and chimney building dynamics for wide range of units
  • Installation and maintenance practices for fireplaces, inserts, and stoves
  • Current EPA standards for fireplaces, inserts, and stoves

CSIA certified chimney sweeps must also stay up to date on current industry practices. Because they must retest every three years in order to maintain their certification, CSIA-certified sweeps have information on the most recent safety and technology developments and best practices in the industry.

Hiring a certified chimney sweep

Because chimney maintenance can directly impact the safety of you and your family, it is important to work with a professional that you trust. Before hiring a chimney sweep, consider asking them the following questions:

  • How long has your chimney sweeping company been in business?
  • Can you offer current references?
  • Do you have unresolved complaints filed with any consumer protection agencies or the Better Business Bureau?
  • Does the company or the individual chimney sweep carry business liability insurance policy to protect my home and furnishings against accidents?
  • Will the company guarantee that a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep will be on my job site?

Don’t trust your family’s safety to the cheapest company you can find. Instead, hire a CSIA certified chimney sweep to ensure that your chimney’s maintenance and repairs are done correctly – the first time. In the Houston area, contact Lords Chimney to schedule an appointment with our CSIA certified chimney sweeps!

Why Ivy is Damaging Your Chimney

Climbing vines such as ivy or wisteria have been used for years as a way to cover up unsightly exteriors or add a touch of whimsy to a home. While these vines may add curb appeal, they can also cause serious damage to your home’s exterior, especially if they are growing on or around your masonry chimney.

Why Is Ivy Bad for Chimney?

Many homeowners believe that ivy is no different from any plant growing in the garden. Unfortunately, while it can be a charming addition to the exterior of a home, it is can also cause significant damage. Below are three of the most common ways that ivy and climbing vines are bad for chimneys.

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1. Ivy causes cracks

Climbing vines such as ivy do not grow vertically on their own; they need a structure to hold onto in order to climb. When this happens on your chimney, the roots and tendrils of the ivy snake their way into the bricks and mortar in order to continue climbing. This can create cracks and holes in the masonry; at the plant continues to grow, so too does the size of the damage.

Even chimney chases covered by siding or shingles can be affected. Just like with masonry, ivy on a chimney chase can also cause cracks and holes to form. Likewise, on these building materials tendrils from climbing vines can cause staining and discoloration that is difficult to remove without damaging the siding itself.

2. Ivy traps moisture

Ivy’s lush, green foliage can create a cover of shade that is difficult for the sun to penetrate. Because of this, water from rain, snow, morning dew, and even sprinklers can become trapped against the masonry. Over time, the combination of water and the holes and cracks created by the ivy’s roots can cause significant cracking and spalling.

In addition to damaging the masonry, trapped moisture can also encourage the growth of mold or mildew. Exterior mold and mildew growth can cause odor both inside and outside your home, as well as affecting your home’s air quality. This can be particularly harmful to those with breathing condition such as asthma or allergies.

3. Ivy invites insects

The same leafy coverage that prevents water from evaporating also provides the perfect home for all kinds of insects. Protection from predators and an abundant food source are just two of the reasons why climbing vines such as ivy can easily become host to insect infestations. Termites in particular have been known to take up residence in ivy; the network of branches, roots, and leaves often give these insects direct access to wood siding or trim around your home.

While ivy might add character or curb appeal to your home, it can also cause significant damage to the exterior. Chimneys, whether they are made of masonry or covered with a chimney chase, are particular susceptible to damage from climbing vines. If your home has ivy growing on the chimney structure, contact Lords Chimney today to learn more about removing the ivy and repairing the damage it may have caused.

Spotting Masonry Damage In Need Of Repairs

Your chimney does more than just decorate your roofline; it protects your entire fireplace system and helps keep you and your family safe. While chimneys are built to last and to withstand the elements, they can deteriorate due to damage, poor construction, or age.

In order to keep your chimney working well and in good condition it is important to be able to spot the signs of masonry damage. By knowing when your chimney is damaged, you can quickly enlist the help of a chimney professional to get it repaired and back in good working condition.

How masonry gets damaged

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Masonry is one of the strongest building materials available, which is what allows well-built fireplaces and chimneys to stand the test of time. However, even the most well maintained masonry structures need repairs over time. Below are some of the most common causes of masonry damage, as well as what repairs can fix them.

Water: Water and moisture from rain, ice, and snow can be some of the most damaging forces that affect your chimney. Because bricks are naturally porous, they may absorb small amounts of water. As the water absorbed by the bricks freezes, it expands and creates progressively larger and larger cracks and holes. This freeze-thaw can cause significant damage to the masonry in as little as one year, causing bricks to crack, chip, and spall.

In addition to affecting the bricks and mortar of the chimney, water can affect many other parts of your chimney system. The chimney cap and crown are also particularly susceptible to water damage due to their location; many chimney leaks are caused by damaged chimney caps and crowns. Chimney leaks can lead to damage to the flue and firebox, as well as damage to the walls and ceilings surrounding your chimney.

One of the best ways to prevent water damage is by having your masonry waterproofed. The waterproofing process involves coating bricks and mortar with a specially designed chimney sealant. Made for porous bricks, it keeps water out while still allowing gasses to pass through. Waterproofing products can also be applied to chimneys with existing water damage to slow or stop the deterioration process.

Settling: Over time, all homes are prone to settling. Settling can affect many different parts of your home, including your fireplace and chimney. Masonry fireplaces that are not built on proper bases may become damaged due to settling; this often shows up as cracks in the firebox or chimney.

Chimney or fireplace cracks caused by settling can be repaired using the detailed tuckpointing process. Tuckpointing involves the removal of the existing damaged mortar, replacing it with new mortar that matches the color and consistency of the original. This strengthens the masonry and prevents further damage.

Subpar materials: Sometimes, chimney damage can be caused by the wrong materials. If subpar materials were used in the construction of your fireplace or chimney, it may be more prone to damage. Likewise, mistakes made during installation can also affect your fireplace system. This is often seen in fireplaces or chimneys that are built by general contractors rather than skilled masons.

No matter what is causing your masonry damage, it is important to have it repaired as soon as possible. Contact Lords Chimney today to schedule your masonry repair appointment!

Troubleshooting A Smelly Chimney

A smelly chimney can do more than just create an unpleasant odor in your home; it is often the sign of a much more serious chimney issues. Unfortunately, chimney odors rarely resolve themselves on their own and often need professionals to find and fix the underlying cause of the chimney odor.

Our trained technicians at Lord’s Chimney are experts at troubleshooting smelly chimneys. We can uncover the cause of your chimney odor and get you back to enjoying your fireplace!

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Causes of Chimney Odor

There are a number of common causes for smelly chimneys. Finding the cause of your chimney odor can help fix the problem and keep it from coming back. The following are a few of the causes of chimney odor.

Animal entry: Animals in the chimney system can create a whole host of chimney issues. In addition to damaging the chimney system, animals can create extremely unpleasant odors. For animals that are using the chimney as a nesting ground, food, droppings, or wet nesting materials can all create unpleasant odors. Likewise, if an animal becomes trapped and dies the decomposing body can create an unbearable smell, expose your family to bacteria and bugs, and affect your home’s air supply.

Creosote: Creosote is created by incomplete combustion, such as when logs smolder for a long period of time or a stove or fireplace is kept at a low temperature. In addition to being highly flammable, creosote can also create a strong odor. A dirty or smoky smell that gets worse during the summertime is often the result of creosote buildup. A thorough chimney sweeping can get rid of creosote and the odor it causes as well as make your fireplace safer to use!

Drafting: Wood fires are supposed to fill your home with a subtle smoky smell. However, if using your fireplace fills your home with an unpleasant burning smell or blows smoke back into the room you may have a drafting issue. Drafting issues are most commonly caused by improperly sized flues or error with usage. Many drafting problems can be easily resolved by resizing the flue, using only seasoned firewood, and ensuring that the damper remains open the entire time the fireplace is in use.

Mold: Undiagnosed or unrepaired chimney leaks often lead to mold or mildew growth in the chimney. This is also made worse by the presence of leaves, nesting materials, or other debris. Mold in the chimney can create extremely unpleasant odors that can affect the smell in the entire home. Left unremoved, mold growth can also impact the air quality as well as create breathing issues for those with asthma or other respiratory problems.

Chimney odor troubleshooting

Finding the source of a chimney odor can sometimes be challenging. At Lord’s Chimney, our highly trained technicians are experts at troubleshooting potential causes of chimney odor. Once the source of the odor is found, we can repair it as well as create a plan to prevent the odor from returning.

If you are dealing with a smelly chimney, don’t delay – contact the experts at Lord’s Chimney to have your smelly chimney repaired!

Chimney Swifts

Spring has officially arrived, and with the warmer temperatures and longer days come new babies for many different kinds of animals. Unfortunately, many birds and small mammals may view your chimney as the perfect place to build a nest and raise their young. While many animals and their nests can be safely and humanely removed if they get into your chimney, one cannot: the chimney swift.

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About chimney swifts

A chimney swift can be recognized by their size, color, movements, and sounds. Chimney swifts are small birds with narrow bodies and long wings. While up close they are a brown-gray color, they may appear black when backlit against the sky. Swifts fly and twist side to side erratically, and have a distinct high pitched chirp.

Although chimney swifts spend their winters in South America, they migrate north to the eastern United States and Canada each spring to nest and raise their young. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “Their ability to travel over long distances and through a variety of habitats exposes them to a wide range of microorganisms.”

Chimney swifts got their name because of their unique ability to build nests that stick to the side of slippery flue tiles. While swifts traditionally prefer to nest in hollow or dead trees, the increase in size of cities, suburbs, and agricultural areas has forced them to adapt.

Removing chimney swifts

If birds take up residence in your chimney, your first reaction may be to have them removed as soon as possible. Unfortunately for many homeowners, chimney swifts and several other species of migratory bird are protected under the Federal Migratory Birth Treaty Act. This law makes it illegal for anyone to remove or destroy chimney swift nests, eggs, or hatchlings, with severe fines and penalties for anyone who violates the law.

Luckily for those dealing with an unexpected nest of chimney swifts, the birds have a relatively short nesting period. Chimney swifts can lay, hatch, and raise their young in about six weeks. Likewise, as they nest in the spring and summer when fireplaces are not typically in use, the presence of a chimney swift nest of often little more than a minor inconvenience.

Keeping chimney swifts out

Because chimney swifts cannot be removed once they have taken up residence in your chimney, the best thing homeowners can do to prevent them is to have their chimney regularly inspected. A chimney inspection can ensure that there are no areas for chimney swifts to enter through, such as a damaged chimney cap.

Likewise, because chimney swifts are migratory they tend to return to the same nesting ground each year. Because of this, if you have chimney swifts find their way into your chimney it is extremely important to have the chimney inspected and repaired after they leave. If not, you may find that your chimney becomes an annual summer home for a family of chimney swifts.

If you think you have birds in your chimney, contact Lord’s Chimney today. Our expert technicians will be able to find out if they can be removed as well as help prevent them from getting in again.