Our Company Blog

Proper Ash Removal

A roaring fire can be a welcome sight during the cold months of winter. To keep their fireplaces running properly, homeowners know to have their chimneys swept and inspected each year. However, few pay much attention to what they do with the byproducts of their wood burning fires – the ashes.

Regular ash disposal can improve the efficiency of your fireplace, and properly disposing of ashes can prevent accidental fires. Rather than seeing the measures needed to properly remove ashes as an inconvenience, homeowners should instead see it as taking steps to ensure their family’s safety.

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How can ashes be dangerous?

While ashes themselves pose little to no threat to you or your family’s safety, it’s what they can keep hidden that are the real danger. Small coals and embers can lay dormant when surrounded by ash, only to ignite later on. According to forestry officials, “Wood ashes retain enough heat to ignite other combustible materials for several days.” Because of this, all ashes should be treated with caution, especially those from recently extinguished fires.

Improper ash removal methods

Unfortunately, many of the most common methods of ash removal are also the most unsafe. Ashes should never be mixed with garbage or trash; this even includes putting cold ashes into regular trash cans or dumpsters. Likewise, ashes should never be transported in cardboard boxes, paper bags, or other combustible containers. Lastly, vacuums should not be used to clean up ashes unless they have a HEPA filter. Without an appropriate filter to prevent dust particles from becoming airborne, even shop vacuums may leave carpets, walls, and other furnishings coated with a fine layer of dust.

Proper ash removal

The first and most important step in ash removal is ensuring that there are no remaining hot coals or embers in the ashes. This can often be achieved by letting a fire extinguish naturally overnight and stirring the ashes the next morning to ensure there are no remaining hot spots or pockets of heat. Ashes can then be transferred into a specially designed metal ash container that has a tight fitting lid. Ash containers should never be stored indoors, in garages or sheds, or near combustible materials in case there any remaining coals or embers.

Alternative uses of ashes

After using your wood burning fireplace all winter long, you may find yourself with a surplus of ashes. Luckily, there are several alternative ways that ashes can be used around the home. Two of the most popular uses for ashes are in the garden: as a fertilizer or as a bug repellant.

As a fertilizer, small amounts of ash can be used on garden plots or in compost piles. Ash “improves root health and strengthens the very cellular structure of plants, helping them resist all kinds of stresses,” says Julia Gaskin. Likewise, when sprinkled around the edges of a garden plot or flower bed ashes can serve as a natural repellent for slugs and snails.

Lastly, ashes can be sprinkled on icy driveways or sidewalks as an alternative to salt or gravel to prevent slipping. However, homeowners and their guests should take special care to wipe the soles of their shoes off after walking on an ashy path. If not, you may accidentally track dirty footprints throughout the house!

Properly removing and disposing of ashes can protect your family against accidental accidents or fires, and ashes can also have a surprising number of uses around the home. If you have questions about ash disposal or how to help your wood burning fireplace burn more efficiently, contact Lord’s Chimney today!

Water Damage and Your Chimney

While a faint dripping sound or a little dampness in the firebox after it rains might not seem like a big deal, these seemingly minor issues can cause major problems if left untreated. Because chimneys are constantly exposed to the elements, including rain, ice, and snow, they sometimes deteriorate at a higher rate than the masonry in the rest of a fireplace system. Fortunately, almost all water-related issues are entirely preventable through proper upkeep and maintenance of the chimney structure.

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How is the water getting in?

Although a chimney might seem like a straightforward structure, there are actually many different parts that work together to prevent water from entering the fireplace. Because of this, it is important to have any leaks evaluated by a professional who can determine the exact cause of the water entry. With the latest technology, including closed-circuit cameras, the experts at Lords Chimney can find and repair any leaks.

While chimney leaks may be caused by a number of different issues, below are some of the most common causes of water entry.

Masonry damage: Because both bricks and mortar are naturally porous, they absorb a certain amount of moisture. This absorption, combined with the expanding and contracting caused by changing temperatures, can lead to the accelerated deterioration of a masonry chimney. Left unrepaired, what started out as small cracks may progress to the point of bricks falling off and even damage to the chimney liner itself.

Chimney cap: Because they are not visible without being on the roof, chimney cap damage is often not found until an annual sweep or inspection is performed. In addition to keeping water out of the chimney and fireplace, chimney caps also prevent squirrels, birds, raccoons, and other animals from entering and nesting in the chimney.

Flashing: Flashing is the metal band that protects the gap where your roof and chimney meet. While it is meant to create a watertight seal, it can be damaged by nail holes, falling debris, and exposure to the elements.

How to prevent water damage

The best way to protect your home, chimney, and fireplace against water damage is to take the proactive steps to prevent it. One of the most beneficial and long-lasting repairs a homeowner can have done is to have a waterproofing solution applied to their masonry. These specially designed compounds are intended to still allow harmful gasses out without letting moisture in.

An annual chimney cleaning and inspection is another way to prevent small, easily-fixable problems from turning into costly repairs. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends “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.”

By spotting a problem early, it can be repaired before it causes major damage to the chimney structure or home. The expert technicians at Lords Chimney are highly skilled and knowledgeable professionals who have been trained to identify the source of a leak as well as to repair it. Call them today to schedule an appointment to discover the root cause of your leaky chimney or to ensure that water damage never happens.