Mr. Smokestack Blog

Protect Your Chimney with a Chimney Cap

Winter weather may have had a slow start, but it’s well underway now in Raleigh! From now until Christmas week, temperatures will be cold, periodically freezing, and wet. This time of year can be bothersome for homeowners who use wood heat as their sole source of heat, but it doesn’t have to be a problem. Whether you use your fireplace, stove, or appliance for home heating, zone heating, or simply the ambiance of it, you should do all you can to protect it from winter weather.

Make Sure Your Chimney is Capped Protect Your Chimney with a Chimney Cap Image - Raleigh NC - Mr. Smokestack

Of all the things that can go wrong with your chimney system during winter, you don’t want to let it go without a chimney cap. The cap is designed to protect your chimney from the top-down. It keeps critters and birds from making nests, carrying debris in, and scratching up the lining; it deflects rainwater, snow, and wind from going into the flue opening; and it keeps sparks from escaping the flue. Without a cap, water can damage the system, flammable debris can get into the system, and the risk of fire in the flue or on the roof is increased substantially.

Winter Damage

The biggest threat to your chimney system through the winter is water damage. If water is allowed into the system, it can wreak havoc on your masonry from the inside out. One small crack in the masonry at the onset of fall can become a crumbling joint or spalling chimney face by spring. Water flows freely into a small crack and freezes when the temperature drops. When it freezes, it expands, breaking the masonry further and causing more damage. The water melts when the chimney warms up, and flows further into the damaged masonry. This process, called the freeze/thaw effect, repeats throughout the winter months. Homeowners who don’t take the necessary precautions may be surprised when spring comes and the chimney system is damaged, possibly hazardous, and needing expensive repairs.

Water Damage

Without a cap, Raleigh’s winter precipitation may do more than damage your chimney’s masonry. Water causes damage to the interior and exterior of the home—not just the chimney.

  • Stained interior/exterior masonry
  • Rusted parts (including damper assemblies, fireplace doors, and accessories)
  • Deteriorated firebox assemblies, central heating system, and flue lining system
  • Stained and rotting ceilings, walls, wall coverings, flooring, and belongings
  • Structural collapse, leaning/tilted chimney, chimney settlement
  • Bacteria/mold growth

Chimney Cap Repair and Replacement

Whether you need a chimney cap for the first time or need a replacement, Mr. Smokestack Chimney Service has a chimney cap for you. We sell and install a wide range of caps in several styles that will work for your specific flue. If you need a specific style due to high winds at your home, draft problems, or odors, we can find a cap to solve that too. The best way to start looking for a chimney cap is to start by talking to a chimney expert.

Call Mr. Smokestack Chimney Service today at 919-747-1859 or schedule an appointment online.

By Robbie Markey on December 8th, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

Common Issues Found During Chimney Inspections

For a safe and efficient chimney, homeowners should schedule chimney inspections annually. These appointments may be the only time during the life of your chimney that a professional gets a look at it. Only a professional has the training and experience to evaluate the entire chimney system for safety and function.

Mr. Smokestack Chimney Service offers comprehensive chimney services, including CSIA inspections, year-round for the convenience of our customers. We know that it’s difficult to fit maintenance into the schedule, so we also allow forward-scheduling so that you’re on the books! It’s our goal to keep Raleigh and surrounding areas safer with each year. Depending on what time of year it is, and how long it’s been since a chimney has been inspected, there are common issues that we see.Common Issues Found During Inspections Image - Raleigh NC - Mr. Smokestack

Fire Damage

A large percentage of flue fires occur without the homeowner knowing it. The fire ignites, and then burns out when it burns up the available fuel and runs out of sufficient air. Even a small flue fire can damage a liner, however. Clay tile liners may break apart and create a void in the flue due to fire. A flue fire can also add damage to already spalling masonry.

Spalling Masonry

Homeowners can see spalling masonry if it is on the exterior and visible. However, there is a good portion of masonry that is hidden from a homeowner’s eye. A chimney inspection often results in the discovery of cracking and crumbling mortar within the chimney’s interior itself, as well as voids in the joints. Once this damage is discovered, Mr. Smokestack Chimney Service can repair it through a process called tuckpointing.

Water Damage

Like fire damage and spalling, chimney leaks may occur for months or years before it is noticed or causes noticeable damage to the outside of the chimney system. Much of the damage from chimney leaks occurs on the interior of the system, and water damage can be devastating.

When a chimney is built, it is built to last. The only reason for a chimney to become unusable is from neglect, and neglect means unsafe and inefficient. An annual inspection keeps the chimney system working safely, prevents major damage that costs you major money, and prevents injuries, death, and loss of property due to fire. Mr. Smokestack Chimney Service offers level one, two, and three chimney inspections by CSIA certified technicians and commonly discovers the following issues during video inspections:

  • Flue pipe cracks
  • Damage caused by chimney fires
  • Obstructions in the flue
  • Broken or missing flue pipe sections
  • Missing mortar or gaps in flue sections
  • Hidden breaches (gaps) in the chimney

Contact Us Now

You can talk to a chimney expert about video scanning when you schedule your inspection appointment. Do not put your family, your property, or your community at risk by using an unsafe chimney. Schedule your inspection annually.

Call us at Mr. Smokestack Chimney Service or start an appointment online at your convenience.

By Robbie Markey on November 24th, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment

Why is Creosote in Your Chimney Dangerous?

As your wood fire burns, chemical breakdown occurs, resulting in byproducts being released. What most people notice is the smoke, but it’s what’s hidden in the smoke that can cause a problem. When the fire burns the chimney helps to vent harmful gases such as carbon monoxide, particulate pollution, soot, and creosote. Carbon monoxide is a dangerous gas that can cause severe injury and death, and soot and creosote can cause chimney malfunction when they are not cleaned away.

What is Creosote? Why is Creosote Dangerous Image - Raleigh NC - Mr. Smokestack

Creosote is different than soot. It is made up mostly of tar and sticks to the sides of the chimney flue as it rises. Creosote is released every time wood is burned, but wood that is properly seasoned and burns completely will create less creosote. Similarly, a chimney that is maintained properly, and functioning correctly will result in less creosote left in the flue.

When creosote is not cleaned away, or when an excessive amount is released because of bad burning practices or maintenance, it builds up in the flue. When creosote buildup becomes extreme it’s called a level three buildup or “glazed creosote” because it has a glossy appearance and is hardened. This level of creosote is more difficult to remove and is extremely dangerous.

Glazed Creosote and Flue Fires

Glazed creosote is highly flammable because it is a concentrated fuel. It reaches this state through a distinct and preventable process:
1. Creosote builds up in the flue
2. Creosote is heated by the fire
3. Moisture evaporates, leaving behind concentrated fuel (tar)
4. Creosote hardens, obstructing airflow
5. As airflow slows, heated air and sparks stall in the flue, fuel can ignite
6. Resulting “creosote fire” is quick and devastating

The biggest risk to your chimney when it comes to creosote is fire. Many chimney fires go undetected, but a creosote fire has the potential to be devastating. To ignite, it must reach temperatures in excess of 1000 degrees, which is possible when airflow is compromised. Fire is the most devastating risk of creosote in the chimney, but a drop in efficiency can affect your home as well. Smoke unable to move out the chimney will move into your house. An inefficient chimney will also result in wasted wood, make it difficult to light and maintain a fire, and will need routine services more frequently.

Avoid these problems and make sure you schedule a chimney inspection and sweep to keep your chimney working for you. At Mr. Smokestack Chimney Service we offer chimney sweeps and inspections year-round so that our customers in Raleigh and surrounding areas can take care of their chimney maintenance when convenient for them. It’s our goal that every home with a chimney is safe and warm this winter, so call us for your chimney needs now.

Give us a call today or reach out to us online.

By Robbie Markey on November 9th, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , , | Leave a Comment

All About Top-Sealing Dampers

The traditional damper can be difficult to repair or replace because of its location. The throat damper is usually installed into the masonry itself, and can become rusted or broken over time, causing serious issues in ventilation. If the damper stops working it can be a recipe for disaster–pushing smoke and poisonous gases into your home, or allowing animals and cold drafts to come down the chimney. When it’s time to replace the damper, there is an option that will work better for you, and one we recommend to our customers in Raleigh and surrounding areas.

Top-Sealing Dampers All About Top-Sealing Dampers Image - Raleigh NC - Mr. Smokestack Chimney

Instead of the traditional dampers placed at the throat of the chimney system, the top-sealing damper is installed at the top of the chimney. While the throat damper closes loosely, the top-sealing damper closes with a tight seal, closing the flue completely. This tight seal protects the flue from the top-down, keeping water, wind, and animals out of the flue year-round. Even though it is installed at the top of the chimney, it is still easy to engage and disengage with a cord that hangs near the hearth. It’s never been so easy to have a cap and a damper in one that is effective and saves you money.

Energy-Saving

Not only will the top-sealing damper save you money by serving as both the cap and the damper, but it will save you energy as well! Nearly 75 percent of heated air escapes the home by way of the chimney. When you have a top-sealing damper you can close the damper as soon as your fire goes out, keeping heated air from escaping. During the off-season the top-sealing damper will prevent warm drafts from coming into the house or letting conditioned air escape.

Money Saving Damper

The tight seal of the top-sealing damper is more effective at protecting the chimney system than a chimney cap. When the damper is engaged, it is closed and no water will get into the chimney and cause water damage. Closing off the flue from the top also prevents humidity from mingling with the soot and creosote in the chimney which can corrode the liner and cause foul odors.

Hire a Professional

If your chimney is smoking, you may have a damper problem. You should call a chimney expert as soon as possible and have it repaired. During your call or appointment, ask about top-sealing dampers. It is our goal at Mr. Smokestack Chimney Service to provide the best services to homeowners in Raleigh and surrounding areas. We don’t want our customers to just be warm, but safe as well. We want your chimneys to be efficient, and the products that we install to be the best. That is why we recommend top-sealing dampers. You can have yours installed in time for winter when you schedule an appointment today. Don’t forget to like us on Facebook for 10% off repairs or sweeps.

By Robbie Markey on October 23rd, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

Functions of a Chimney Crown

Of all the parts of the chimney system, the ones that prevent water damage may save you the most money. Water can destroy your masonry from the inside out, cause health issues, and raise fire risk all without your knowledge.

The Chimney Crown Functions of a Chimney Crown Image - Raleigh NC - Mr. Smokestack Chimney

The chimney crown is your chimney’s first defense against water damage. A properly constructed chimney crown will cover the chimney’s top from the flue pipe to the edge of the chimney. The flue opening is protected with a chimney cap, and the rest of the chimney is protected by the crown. The crown is basically a masonry roof to your chimney. It should be at least 4 inches thick on it’s outer most edge, should slant away from the center, allowing water to run off, and it should overhang the masonry by 2 inches. The chimney crown should direct water away from the flue, and away from the masonry–instead dripping onto the flashing below.

A Poorly Constructed Crown

An amateur might attempt to make a chimney crown out of the wrong material or in the wrong shape. If the crown isn’t made specifically with a slant, a certain thickness, and with the 2 inch overhang, it will not be an effective defense against water. It’s important that homeowners choose a certified chimney sweep for such constructions and installations. A poorly constructed chimney crown will become damaged quickly, and lead to water damage. The chimney crown should be custom made for each chimney. Placing an existing crown onto a chimney will most likely be ill-fitting and have the wrong dimensions for adequate water runoff.

A Damaged Crown

Chimney crowns can become damaged during a single harsh winter, especially if they weren’t constructed properly. The crown should be made of concrete, and ideally sealed with a water-resistant barrier before the job is done. A flat crown will not direct water off and without the overhang, water will run down the masonry, staining, and leaking. If water is allowed to sit on the crown instead of runoff, the water will erode the crown leading to cracks, gaps, and leaks.

Mr. Smokestack Chimney Service and Masonry Repair

Chimney crown repair is only one of many masonry repairs that we see often at Mr. Smokestack Chimney Service. When we inspect chimneys, we pay close attention to the condition of the chimney crown and make repairs if needed. If it is obvious that your chimney crown has been leaking, we will check for water damage and make repairs to fully restore your chimney system to functionality.

If you haven’t had your chimney inspection, or have a specific concern about your chimney crown, you can call Mr. Smokestack Chimney Service and talk to a chimney expert today. Reach a certified chimney sweep at 919-747-1859 or schedule an appointment online.

By Robbie Markey on October 9th, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

Have a Professional Chimney Inspection Done Before Your First Fire

The season is changing from summer to fall and the air is getting crisp. This is the time when homeowners light up their fireplace for a little extra heat before switching on the central heat system or furnace. It’s the time when reading a book by the fire is your favorite way to close out a long day, and gatherings are made cozier with a crackling fire. Don’t let a dirty or damaged chimney mess up your plans.

Importance of Routine Maintenance Have a Professional Chimney Inspection Image - Raleigh NC - Mr. Smokestack

You can never completely prevent a fire, but there are preventative measures you can take to bring down the fire risk this winter. Both the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommend routine maintenance for the safest and most efficient chimney system year-round. Routine chimney sweeps and annual chimney inspections are your first defense against chimney damage this year. Caring for and maintaining your chimney properly will lengthen its life and protect your investment at the same time.

Annual CSIA Inspections

What if you only use your fireplace periodically through winter and don’t notice any issues with its performance?

There is a chimney inspection for you. Because of the varying use of chimneys from house to house and climate to climate, the CSIA inspection is categorized into three levels.

  • Level 1 – Required annually when a chimney system is used the same as before and no changes are to be made. This inspection is an assessment of all the readily accessible portions of the chimney system and requires no special tools.
  • Level 2 – Required when there are changes made to the system (new installation or fuel change) or when a natural occurrence might have caused damage (tornado, earthquake, etc.). A level 2 inspection is also required when a property is sold or transferred. It involves the same consideration as a level 1 inspection as well as a more thorough assessment of other, hidden portions, including those accessible through attics and crawl spaces.
  • Level 3 – Recommended when a level 1 or 2 inspection suggests a hazard. This inspection requires special tools to remove components of the structure (walls, ceilings, masonry, etc.) in order to access the hazard.

Hire a Professional

When you hire a professional for a chimney inspection, you can rest assured knowing that your chimney is ready for burn season. Not only can you light the first fire when you want, but you will have the assurance that your chimney is safe from winter damage like water penetration. Additionally, your family is kept safe from smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning. If there is a danger in using your chimney system, your technician will find it. If you neglect your chimney system by failing to schedule this important appointment, however, you put your family and your property at risk.

Call Mr. Smokestack Chimney Service and schedule your chimney inspection today. You can reach us by calling 919-747-1859 or by using our online scheduling form.

By Robbie Markey on September 19th, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment

Address Your Last Minute Chimney Repairs

Did you remember to have your chimney inspected this summer? If you had your chimney sweep and inspection, your technician might have discovered an issue that raised an eyebrow. If you haven’t had the issue resolved yet, you should do so soon. When your chimney has a problem, major or minor, it should be addressed before it becomes a serious hazard.

Schedule Repairs ASAPAddress Your Last Minute Chimney Repairs Image - Raleigh NC - Mr. Smokestack

Letting your chimney sit with even a small amount of damage can lead to big problems. A small crack or gap can lead to water intrusion, which leads to major masonry damage. Once temperatures begin to drop, the water inside your masonry will freeze, expand, and bust the masonry apart further, repeating the process as the chimney heats and cools again. This freeze/thaw affect is the #1 cause of winter damage, especially to neglected chimneys.

Beat the Fall Rush

If you wait until the fall to schedule your chimney repairs, you may be disappointed to find that there are no openings with your trusted chimney sweep. This is because, during the time from October to January, chimney sweep companies are busy with emergency calls and scheduled maintenance. Scheduling a repair during this time may be a headache that you don’t want to deal with, and you may be tempted to light a fire despite your damaged chimney. This is not safe. Schedule your repairs in advance and avoid the hassle of the fall rush, and keep your family safe this fall.

Do You Need Repairs?

It can be difficult to watch for signs of chimney damage when your fire isn’t lit, but there are signs of an issue.

  • Moldy/mildewy odors mean there is water in the chimney system
  • Dripping noises in the chimney system
  • Drafts coming from the fireplace
  • Spalling, cracking, or stained bricks

If you are suspicious of a chimney problem, you should err on the side of caution and call a professional. Mr. Smokestack Chimney Service offers chimney inspections along with a full menu of chimney services–all of which are available year-round. Don’t wait until the last minute. Schedule now.

When you schedule your chimney repairs now, you’re able to rest easy knowing your chimney is ready for a fire at the first sign of cold weather. You don’t have to wait in the cold for your repair appointment. You can schedule an appointment with Raleigh’s #1 choice for chimney care now.

By Robbie Markey on September 5th, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

We Are Certified (And Why it Matters)

When it comes to chimneys, homeowners tend to overlook the standard and try to D-I-Y. This can lead to dangerous consequences, extreme repair costs, property value depreciation, and even health risks to your family. If you wouldn’t let your ten-year-old rebuild your transmission, don’t let an amateur repair your chimney. The chimney’s purpose is to vent harmful gases from the home. It’s not just there to look pretty. It has a job to do, and must do it well to keep your family and home safe.

CSIA Certified

At Mr. Smokestack Chimney Service, we make it a priority for our technicians to be CSIA certified in order to provide the best care for our customers in and around Raleigh. CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps (CCS) is the industry standard for chimney safety. CSIA certified sweeps have undergone intensive classroom and field training, and testing. They must adhere to a stringent code of ethics designed to protect homeowners from scams. If found in violation of this code of ethics, the chimney sweep’s certification can be revoked. While in good standing, a CSIA member must recertify every three years by way of examination or continuing education.

Why Certification Matters We Are Certified (And Why it Matters) Image - Raleigh NC - Mr. Smokestack

Certification and extensive training matters to us at Mr. Smokestack Chimney Service because our customers matter to us. We have the highest standard of customer safety and satisfaction, which is why we are CSIA certified, and maintain membership in the National Chimney Sweep Guild, the North Carolina Chimney Sweep Association, and the National Fire Protection Association. In an industry that is largely unregulated, it is up to the homeowner to vet service providers, making certain to hire the most qualified professionals for this important job. Your homeowner’s insurance providers, realtors, and municipal code officials look for the signature of a qualified professional on reports. Many agencies and officials trust the CSIA standard, and so should you.

Your Chimney, Your Investment

The housing market tells us that homeowners like fireplaces. First time homebuyers want fireplaces, and fireplaces often come with chimneys. When you add a fireplace and chimney to your home, or properly maintain or upgrade an existing chimney and fireplace, you are investing in your property. When you don’t properly maintain your investment, it depreciates your property value. Most people would not take their classic car to a summer sports team car wash where children might damage the paint or finish. Instead they go to a dealer and pay for a professional service detail. This is how best to protect your investment. Hire the best professional for the job, with the most thorough and extensive training, the most promising reviews, and comprehensive service. Mr. Smokestack Chimney Service has been Raleigh’s trusted comprehensive chimney and hearth service providers for over 10 years.

We strive not to be a success, but to be of value. Let us add to and preserve your chimney’s value today. Call 919-747-1859 or schedule an appointment online today. Concerned about cost? Ask us about financing!

Animals in the Chimney? Get Them Removed

After a long summer, you don’t know what might be in your chimney–especially if you didn’t take measures to close it to wildlife! You may not be certain if you have an animal intruder or not, but there are a few ways to tell. Some signs that you might have an animal in your flue are:Animals in the Chimney Get Them Removed Image - Raleigh NC - Mr. Smokestack Chimney

  • Chirping, scratching, or barking noises
  • Droppings in the bottom of the chimney or fireplace
  • Debris such as feathers and fur
  • Foul odors of decomposition

Catching the Culprit

If you find evidence that an animal has been in your chimney system, it may not be there presently. Even if the animal escaped, however, you still need to call your chimney sweep. Animals leave behind nesting materials, fur, and feathers that are flammable and may obstruct airflow. As these organic materials begin to decompose, they can also become stinky. A chimney sweep can clean all of this debris away in a simple chimney sweep. If the animal is still in the flue, however, whether alive or dead, Mr. Smokestack Chimney Service can remove it.

Wildlife Removal Services

Because we have such a wide variety of wild animals here is North Carolina, our technicians are trained in humane animal removal. At Mr. Smokestack Chimney Service, we know chimneys. We know where animals can best hide, where they might have died if they become stuck or suffocated, and how best to gain access. Our wildlife removal services start with a free consultation to offer expert advice, and then a removal plan.

Prevention

If you need wild animals removed from your home, Mr. Smokestack Chimney Service is here to help, as well as plan for next year. If you are diligent to prevent animal intrusion, you can likely avoid the nuisance and damages they can cause. There is a certain breed of bird, the chimney swift, that nests inside chimneys across North America every spring. This bird is federally protected, so it cannot be removed or killed. That means, you cannot light a fire while it nests in your flue, and even a professional cannot remove it. This can be quite a nuisance. It can mean waiting longer than you’d like to sweep and inspect your chimney, and these birds can be loud. Other animals, small critters that might come into the chimney, and then leave on their own accord–these guys use claws to climb out of the flue, leaving scratches in the flue liner. Scratches become weak spots, which deteriorates faster, collects more creosote and soot, and can result in a hole in the liner.

A simple cap installation can keep animals out of your chimney, and Mr. Smokestack Chimney Service has the best caps for you. If you’re concerned that an animal has been bunking in your chimney, call us today or request an appointment online now.

By Robbie Markey on August 8th, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment

Take Care of Chimney Repairs Before Fall

Fireplace lovers are ready to light the first fire of the season as soon as the weather starts getting cooler in the fall. However, if your chimney has suffered from damage or other problems over the past year, you will have to wait until the repairs have been made to safely use your fireplace again.

Although summer can be a busy season filled with vacations, camps, and ball games, it is important to remember to schedule your annual chimney sweeping and inspection with Mr. Smokestack Chimney Service before fall arrives. This way our Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA)-certified chimney sweeps can make sure your chimney and fireplace system is ready to use. You will also have time to take care of any necessary repairs before September. We would like to tell you more about the different chimney repair services we provide to the residents of Raleigh and surrounding areas.

Chimney ReliningTake Care of Chimney Repairs Before Fall Image - Raleigh NC - Mr. Smokestack

According to the CSIA, you need a good chimney liner to keep the combustible parts of your home safe from high temperatures. The liner will protect the bricks and mortar from the corrosive byproducts of combustion, and provide a properly sized flue to your heating appliance. Over the years, your chimney liner can suffer from water exposure damage. Mr. Smokestack Chimney Service can check out the condition of your liner to see if it needs to be replaced. We can then reline your chimney with the best liner for your particular system.

Crown Repair

Sitting at the very top of your chimney, the crown is constructed from mortar and can be damaged by erosion over time. When the crown becomes cracked and spalled, it cannot do its job of protecting your chimney from water leaks. Mr. Smokestack Chimney Service provides chimney crown repair and construction services to keep your chimney dry. We also repair and install chimney caps to give your chimney ultimate protection from water leaks and animal invasions.

Firebox Repair

If you have noticed cracks, gaps, and missing bricks and mortar joints in your firebox, you are in need of our firebox repair services. These gaps leave the combustible parts of your home exposed to the fireplace and greatly increase the risk of an accidental house fire. Mr. Smokestack Chimney Service has seen a lot of damaged fireboxes because the original builders did not use refractory mortar when constructing the firebox. Regular mortar cannot stand up very well to the extremely high temperatures produced in the firebox, which cause the mortar to deteriorate. You can trust our experience chimney technicians to only use the best quality of high-temperature bricks and refractory mortar when repairing and constructing fireboxes.
Make sure your fireplace will be ready to use this fall. Contact us at Mr. Smokestack Chimney Service today to schedule your appointment for your annual chimney sweeping and inspection this summer.

By Robbie Markey on July 20th, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment