Gas fireplaces make a beautiful addition to any home and are an increasingly sought after feature for homebuyers. Valued for their beauty, functionality, and ease of use, more and more homeowners are converting their existing open hearth fireplaces to gas. However, what many may not realize is that their new gas fireplace is missing a required component – the damper stop.
Although many homeowners may not know what a damper stop is, they are a necessary part of a gas fireplace. Unfortunately, many homes with gas fireplaces – especially those that were not professionally installed – may be missing this important piece.
What is a damper stop?
A damper stop is a piece of metal designed to ensure that the flue of a gas fireplace always remains partially open. With a traditional hearth fireplace, the damper is opened or closed when the fireplace is in use.
While gas fireplaces also need the flue to be open while in use, there is often no mechanism to close it; instead, the damper is simply left partially or fully open when the gas insert is installed. However, leaving the damper open at installation does not ensure that the damper will stay open forever. Strong winds, house settling, or other damage to the flue or damper can cause the damper to close.
Because of this, damper stops were designed to be installed as a way to keep the damper permanently open. Although they are required, some homes with gas fireplaces – especially those that were self-installed by previous homeowners or untrained installers – may not have them.
Dangers of a missing damper stop
A damper stop may seem like an insignificant piece of the gas fireplace. However, it is a specially designed safety precaution that can help protect your family, namely against carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, colorless gas that is often called the “silent killer” because it is so difficult to detect. When the damper is open, carbon monoxide is able to safely travel up the chimney and out of your home. However, if the damper is closed this deadly gas can back up into your room, affecting the health and safety of you, your family, and your friends.
How to identify a damper stop
With a traditional hearth fireplace, it is easy to tell if the damper is open or closed; if smoke back flows into a room when the fireplace is in use, the damper is closed. Gas fireplaces, however, do not produce smoke, making it much more difficult to tell if the damper is open or closed.
Missing damper stops are most frequently identified during home inspections; however, they can be easily missed, leading homeowners to believe that there is nothing wrong with their gas insert or fireplace.
To make sure that your gas fireplace has a damper stop that is correctly installed, contact Lord’s Chimney to schedule a chimney inspection. Our trained chimney sweeps will be able to inspect your chimney and fireplace to determine whether or not your gas fireplace has a damper stop; if it is missing, one can be installed. To make sure your chimney is up to current safety standards, contact us today!
If you walk down the aisles of your neighborhood big box home improvement store, you are bound to see a wide variety of products designed to help homeowners clean and maintain their fireplaces. While some of these products can be useful, they should not be used to replace regular annual chimney maintenance by a certified chimney sweep.
One such product that our customers regularly ask about are “chimney cleaning logs”. Sold for less than $20 at many home improvement stores, chimney sweeping logs advertise their ability to significantly reduce creosote buildup in the chimney. Because of this, some homeowners purchase and burn these products as their only form of chimney maintenance, patting themselves on the back for saving money on a chimney sweep.
Despite their advertising claims, these logs are no replacement for a professional chimney cleaning. Although they may be able to remove some creosote buildup, there are a number of ways that they are deficient at maintaining the health and safety of your fireplace system.
Why loosening creosote is just part of the job
The primary purpose of a chimney cleaning log is the removal of creosote; the smoke from the log loosens the creosote and causes it to fall down the flue and into the firebox, where it can be safely swept up and removed.
In theory, this is an excellent system. Unfortunately, the reality leaves much to be desired.
Most flues are not a straight vertical line between your firebox and the top of the chimney. Depending on your fireplace’s location, your flue may have one of more curves and bends in it. When this happens, the loosening of creosote by the chimney cleaning log merely causes it to fall and accumulate in the bends of the flue. This may not only block the flue, but can also create a significant fire hazard. Even fireplaces without curved flues may wind up with the majority of the creosote trapped on the smoke shelf, which can be difficult to access and clean without proper training.
A chimney cleaning log is no substitute for a chimney sweep
While a chimney cleaning log may be useful in loosening creosote, it is no substitute for the services performed by a certified chimney sweep.
“I usually tell people using one of those logs instead of having your chimney cleaned manually is like chewing Dentyne instead of brushing your teeth,” said Allan Bopp of Bald Eagle Enterprises. “It may help a little, but it’s a poor substitute for the real thing.”
Likewise, a chimney cleaning log has no way to know or tell you if your chimney is damaged in any way. There are a number of hidden issues such as cracked flue liners, decaying masonry, or damaged chimney caps or crowns that can only be spotted by a sweep during a chimney inspection. Because many of these chimney issues do not affect performance, you may have no idea there is even an existing issue.
Don’t trust the health of your chimney or the safety of your family to a $20 log bought at a big box store. Instead, have an annual chimney sweeping and rest assured that you can safely use your fireplace for the rest of the year. Contact Lord’s Chimney today to schedule an appointment!
Chimney sweepings and inspections are an important part of chimney maintenance. However, they are just one of the many services we can offer our customers!
Many of our customers are surprised to find that, after discovering an issue during an inspection, we can repair the damage we discovered. We can offer our customers much more than just cleanings. Our wide range of chimney, masonry, and vent services allows us to better serve our customers and meet all of their chimney and fireplace needs.
Fireplace rebuilding and restoration
If your fireplace or chimney is worn down after years of use, we can help restore it to its former glory. Our fireplace restoration services can fix every part of your chimney, from the chimney cap at the top all the way to the firebox at the bottom.
In addition to our range of repairs for masonry chimneys, we also repair prefabricated chimneys and fireplaces. Our staff can help ensure that your prefabricated fireplace maintains Underwriter’s Laboratory tested parts so that it can maintain its UL safety listing.
When animals find a way into a chimney, it can be extremely frustrating for the homeowners and potentially deadly for the animals themselves. At Lord’s Chimney, we are experts at safely removing animals along with their nesting materials. We can also prevent the animals from coming back by repairing or replacing a faulty chimney cap, which is most often the site of animal entry.
Gas fireplaces and inserts
For homeowners looking to make the transition from wood to gas as their fuel source, we sell and install a wide variety of high quality gas inserts and logs. Gas fireplaces offer homeowners the look and feel of a wood burning fire with the added convenience of being able to start a fire with the push of a button.
In addition to our chimney services, we can also clean and install dryer vents. Even if you regularly clean your lint trap, lint can still accumulate in your dryer vents and hoses over time. This lint is extremely flammable and can be accidentally ignited by the heat from your dryer. Clogged dryer vents cause thousands of house fires each year, leading to millions of dollars in property damage.
Having your dryer vents cleaned is the best way to prevent these kinds of house fires from starting. Clean dryer vents can also help your dryer run more efficiently, wasting less energy and resulting in dryer clothes after each load. In addition to cleaning dryer vents, we are also experts at dryer vent installation and rerouting.
We can do it all!
At Lord’s Chimney, we have been proudly providing the greater Houston area with chimney, fireplace, masonry, and vent services for the past decade. If you are experiencing chimney issues, rest assured that the same company you trust to clean your chimney can also repair it. Contact us today and let us tell you all the ways we can fix your fireplace!
As the weather grows cold, more and more people turn to fireplaces, stoves, and other heating appliances to keep themselves, their families, and their homes warm. What many fail to realize is that these same appliances may create a health and safety risk if they are not properly maintained. One major concern, especially during the heavy use months of winter, is carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide poisoning kills as many as 400 people each year in the United States. Homeowners should be aware of what causes it, the symptoms of poisoning, and the simple steps they can take to prevent it.
What is carbon monoxide gas?
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and extremely toxic gas that is produced by burning fuels. Carbon monoxide is often called the “silent killer” because due to its properties, it is impossible to detect without specific equipment.
Its many sources include burning coal, wood, charcoal, oil, natural gas, kerosene, and propane. This means that most fireplaces, stoves, grills, space heaters, water heaters, furnaces, and even vehicles produce carbon monoxide gas. However, these appliances are normally either properly vented or located outdoors so they pose little to no risk to homeowners and their families.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning
When exposed to small quantities of the gas, people suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning will begin to develop flu-like symptoms. This will include a feeling of sleepiness accompanied by headache and nausea. In medium concentrations or with prolonged exposure, these symptoms will continue to worsen in addition to impaired coordination and vision, shortness of breath, and dizziness. In extremely high concentrations, carbon monoxide poisoning can even lead to coma or death.
If you believe that you are experiencing the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, immediately move to a fresh air location. Ideally this is outside, but can also be next to an open door or window. Call Poison Control and local emergency services before reentering the building.
How to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
Carbon monoxide poisoning is entirely preventable by taking a number of common sense steps to avoid exposure. The primary – and easiest – way homeowners can protect themselves and their families against carbon monoxide poisoning is to install carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of the house and in areas near fuel burning appliances such as fireplaces, stoves, or furnaces.
Next, homeowners should have all heating or fuel burning appliances in the home annually maintained. This ensures that anything that could cause carbon monoxide poisoning is still in good working condition and has not been damaged in any way. Doing this also ensures that all venting and ductwork is clean and free from blockages, allowing carbon monoxide to safely exit the home.
Generators and grills should never be used indoors or in enclosed spaces such as garages or sheds. Likewise, they should be kept away from open windows as this may allow the carbon monoxide they produce to enter a home. In addition, stoves and ovens should never be used for heat. Finally, vehicles should never be left running to “warm up” in garages, even if the door is open. The large amounts of carbon monoxide exhaust that is produced can quickly fill the small space.
With regular maintenance of heating appliances and a few preventative measures, homeowners can easily protect their families against carbon monoxide. For questions about carbon monoxide and your fireplace or stove, contact Lords Chimney today!
During the cold winter months, many families use their fireplaces as a gathering place, sitting together and enjoying the warm flames. But even as your fireplace is keeping you warm inside, the cold temperatures and winter weather could be damaging your chimney outside.
Winter weather conditions are notorious for destroying chimneys and causing existing damage to deteriorate even faster. Snow, ice, and freezing rain can wreak havoc on a chimney system, even one that is in seemingly good condition. Because of this, it is extremely important get a chimney sweep and inspection before the weather gets any colder. This ensures that your fireplace and chimney are safe to use and have not been damaged during the past year.
The main way that chimneys are damaged during the winter months is due to water damage. If water is able to enter a chimney structure, it can cause a multitude of issues including rusting pieces of the flue to damaging the masonry. Pinpointing how water is entering a chimney can often be difficult as there are many different places that can cause leaks. The trained technicians at Lord’s Chimney are leak resolution experts who can find and fix the water entry before it causes further damage.
Below are three of the most common causes of water entry in a chimney system:
Damaged chimney cap: Chimney caps cover the top of the chimney itself, keeping the water from rain, sleet, and snow from getting into a chimney. Improperly installed, ill-fitting chimney caps, or damaged chimney caps can allow water to enter the fireplace system. Damage to the chimney cap is often difficult to spot because they cannot be seen from the street.
Leaky flashing: Flashing is the metal band that connects the chimney to the roof structure. Nail holes, loose caulking, poor materials, or general wear and tear can all cause flashing to lose its waterproof seal. Damaged flashing can cause damage to both the chimney and the roof, which is why it is vital that it is properly installed and maintained.
Masonry damage: Although bricks are made to be porous, absorbing too much water can be detrimental. During the freeze/thaw cycle, water in the brick expands as it freezes, causing additional cracks and damage. As it thaws, this creates more space for additional water entry and the cycle continues, eventually causing the brick to break apart and crumble.
Preventing chimney damage
The best way to prevent damage to your chimney during the winter months is through preventative maintenance. An annual sweep and inspection allows any issues to be spotted and resolved before they become major problems. This can save both time and money as well as preserve the safety and structure of your safety.
Lord’s chimney can also apply a special waterproofing to bricks and mortar. The ChimneySaver sealant retains the porous quality of the bricks, letting toxic gasses pass through without letting moisture in. ChimneySaver also allows trapped moisture to evaporate, preventing deterioration, freeze/thaw damage, and the need for expensive masonry reconstruction.
If you have questions about the health of your chimney system, need to schedule an annual sweep and inspection, or would like more information on ChimneySaver waterproofing, contact Lord’s Chimney today!