Category Archives: Chimney Sweeps

6 signs your chimney needs to be swept

6 Signs That Your Chimney Needs To Be Swept

What’s better than the entire family sitting around the fireplace on a cold evening— swapping funny stories and sipping hot chocolate? The short answer is: no feeling really gets better than that. 

Now, we know that it’s springtime in April and that we’re a long way from the winter cold (most of us are concerned with booking our summer vacations and building those summer tans, that’s for sure). But isn’t it best to make sure that our heaters and chimneys are in tip-top shape for the winter ahead of time, instead of being met with any unpleasant surprises when December rolls around?

To get the most of our fireplace in the winter— or the fall— it’s important that we maintain and clean out our chimneys periodically, and we want to help guide you in all your chimney-sweeping needs. 

Here are 6 signs that your chimney needs to be swept: 

 

1. Weakly burning fire

If you felt like you were struggling to start a fire in your fireplace the last time it was cold, it might be because your chimney is clogged, or that there’s a problem with the fireplace damper. Both these issues can prevent a fire from receiving a sufficient oxygen supply in order to burn properly.

 

2. Oil spots on your fireplace walls

Those oily black spots on your fireplace’s walls are creosote— a tar-like substance. Creosote can build up all the way through the top of your chimney, ultimately blocking the flow of air to and from your fireplace. This lack of regular airflow over time can cause fires to burn irregularly.

 

3. Odors emanating from your fireplace

Creosote has a strong, potent odor similar to that of a campfire, that can be smelled in any area around the fireplace. You might enjoy this particular smell (who doesn’t enjoy the memories of the summer outdoors and s’mores associated with that nostalgic campfire smell?), but it is typically a sign that there is a deadly buildup of creosote in your chimney. This buildup can catch fire in the future, causing terrible damage to your home and all your belongings in it. 

 

4. Animals are inside your chimney

Animals nesting in your chimney (usually unbeknownst to you) can block the airflow and tragically catch on fire while you burn wood in your fireplace. The most commonly found in chimneys are bird nests, usually at the very top— covering the vents. Squirrels also sometimes build nests in chimneys. 

 

5. Smoke isn’t rising up 

If you find that smoke isn’t rising up your chimney the way in which it used to, it may very well be time for you to sweep your chimney. Air should always flow upward and out of the chimney top, but again, a layer of creosote can prevent this from happening. 

6. Soot is falling from the chimney 

Finding chunks of soot or creosote falling onto your wood from the chimney is another sign that there is a creosote buildup problem that needs to be addressed. 

 

These signs are generally quite easy to spot, but it is imperative for the safety of you, your family, and your home that you take the next step and hire a professional chimney sweeper to clean your chimney, ultimately alleviating the risk of potential fire damage in your home in the future. 

 

A Step in Time Chimney Sweeps has been offering chimney cleaning, chimney inspections, and chimney repairs for over 20 years. A Step in Time is currently offering NFPA level 1 chimney inspections at $85 and chimney sweep for open fireplaces at $159. For homeowners, we will come to your home, provide detailed inspection photos, and educate you on state building codes regarding the safety of your fireplace. This service is heavily discounted. We are so confident that you will be impressed with our professionalism, quality of service and knowledge we provide, that you will become our customer for life.

Best Times of the Year to Get Your Chimney Serviced

Best Times of the Year to Get Your Chimney Serviced

When the frigid temps, ice, and wind of winter arrive, you’re glad you have your chimney to keep you warm. However, in order to ensure the safety of your family and home, you need to make sure that your chimney is properly serviced. According to experts, chimneys, fireplaces, and vents should be inspected and cleaned at least once a year. Don’t wait until Old Man Winter arrives to have your chimney serviced! Calling in a professional well before the cold weather arrives is your best bet.

Why Have Your Chimney Serviced During the Spring or Summer

So, why is it better to have your chimney serviced when the weather is warm? There are several reasons, actually. Here’s a look at just a few.

To beat the traffic. Many homeowners wait until right before cold weather arrives – or when it has already blown in – to have their chimney serviced. As such, professional chimney servicing companies experience a lot of traffic during this time of the year. If you wait until then, too, you may have a hard time getting an appointment and may not be able to use your fireplace when you actually need it (or you could be tempted to use it before it’s serviced, creating an unsafe situation).

To ensure safety. By avoiding the traffic that’s associated with late-season chimney servicing, you’ll have a lot easier time getting an appointment with a professional. When your chimney is serviced, you’ll have confidence knowing that it’s safe and ready to use when the cold weather does arrive. Plus, it’s safer for the technicians who will be servicing your chimney to do the job when the weather is warm, as they won’t have to contend with the snow, ice, and other dangerous conditions.

To save costs. Another good reason to have your chimney serviced during the warm weather is the amount you’ll save. Professional chimney servicing companies tend to charge more during the cold-weather season, as the traffic for these services is a lot higher. During the spring and summer, when business is slower, these companies tend to charge significantly lower rates.

The Best Woods to Burn in Your Fireplace

The Best Woods to Burn in Your Fireplace

Whether you have recently bought a new home with a wood-burning fireplace, or you are only just beginning to explore the possibility of using the fireplace that’s been dormant since you moved in, there’s no doubt that wood-burning fireplaces are incredible. Not only will your fireplace allow you to enjoy cozy nights in of the kind central heating simply doesn’t offer, but using your fireplace regularly also leads to significant savings.

While any wood can catch fire, however, not all woods make for excellent fuel for your fireplace. Wet firewood won’t burn well, will create more smoke than you can comfortably handle, and also damages your chimney by producing nasty, tar-like, creosote in abundance. Hard and seasoned woods offer more heat without unwanted side effects, as well as burning for longer.

What, then, are the best woods to burn in your fireplace, and which woods should you steer well clear of?

Oak

Widely known as the best quality firewood, oak wood burns slowly and evenly while offering you plenty of that radiant heat. It is the perfect wood to burn in your fireplace during the colder winter months, when you need a fire you can rely on. Because oak does need to be well seasoned to burn properly, some advance planning is required. If you find it hard to ignite, combine your oak wood with less dense woods to get your fire going.

Maple

White maple, hard maple, and Norway maple are all examples of maple wood that are great for your wood-burning fireplace. Although it can be tricky to get a fire going with these dense woods, seasoned maple burns slowly and consistently, and as a bonus, this wood is easy to get your hands on in North America.

Douglas Fir

As far as softwoods go, Douglas fir is very high in density, burning more slowly than many other evergreens. Two further advantages are that it’s available almost anywhere and that it’s easy to start a fire with Douglas fir, making it a great choice for kindling. Some people will love the pine smell it produces, while others will not be fans. Because you do have to watch out for creosote buildup, it’s essential to have your chimney inspected every season if you choose to burn Douglas fir in your fireplace.

Birch

Birch is known to produce a stunning flame as well as provide a solid heat source, but because this wood does burn quickly, you are best off combining it with hardwoods for a lasting fire. Due to the fact that burning unseasoned birch produces significant amounts of creosote, it is crucial to make sure your birch is dried properly for at least a year.

Ashwood

Ashwood is another popular firewood choice, and that’s because it is safe to burn even when it is not seasoned, as this wood has very little moisture. Ash produces a reliable, uniform, burn even when you don’t mix it with other types of wood. This wood will not create too much smoke, and even beginners can successfully start fires with it. Although numerous species of ash are on offer, white ash is widely considered to be the absolute best for your fireplace.

Woods to Stay Away From

Chemically-treated woods, like leftover pallets, may be easy to come by as well as creating quite the pyrotechnics show in your fireplace, but watch out — these woods can be toxic and should be avoided. Driftwood is a bad choice for your fireplace for a similar reason; the salt found in these woods alone offers your local chimney technician a guarantee that they’ll have plenty of work to do, very soon. Green, unseasoned, wood is another category to steer well clear of. The tell-take crackling sound will warn you that it’s just not ready yet.

How Often You Should Service Your Chimney

How Often You Should Service Your Chimney

Chimneys are the best way to vent the smoke from your fireplace, but in order for them to do their job, they need to be serviceable. Your chimney is the main method that soot, smoke, ash, and other toxins are shuttled away from your home and funneled outside. Just like any other appliance or physical element in your home, it needs proper care and maintenance. If you are not sure when or how to service your chimney, we have some suggestions to help you get started.

Inspect Your Chimney Once A Year

It is important to have your chimney inspected at least once per year. The best time to inspect it is during the early fall, or at the end of the summer. Those who use their chimney more often can have it inspected twice a year just ahead of a high usage season. Following the inspection, most homeowners schedule a cleaning by a chimney sweep. This ensures that the venting systems are clean and free from blockages or buildup. Regular cleanings can also prevent the need for costly repairs due to chimney fires or other preventable issues.

When To Schedule A Chimney Inspection

For homes that have not had a chimney inspection in more than a year, an inspection should be scheduled as soon as possible. Regardless of the date of your last imperfection, if your fireplace, chimney, or heating system show signs of performance issues, it is a good idea to have them inspected for faults. New homeowners or renters should also have the fireplace and the chimney inspected prior to its first use. Waiting until there is a problem will often result in costly repairs or even accidents in some cases.

If you upgrade any part of your venting system or change your heating elements, you should have your chimney inspected to ensure it is working properly. Unused fireplaces and vents are attractive targets for animals and pests. Their nest can clog up the chambers and flue which will result in smoke pouring into your home when you light your fireplace. Winter also takes a toll on the liner and bricks in the chimney; inspections can spot both issues while they are easy to repair.

What Does A Chimney Sweep Do?

A chimney sweep will get rid of blockages, built-up creosote, and soot from all areas of your chimney. They will also inspect your chimney for damage, cracks, or other problems that can negatively affect how well it performs. It is important to clean and maintain your chimney in order for your heating system to operate safely. Creosote glazing especially needs to be removed on a regular basis. This highly flammable buildup can lead to fire or worse.

How Often Should You Clean Your Chimney?

For homes that only use their stove or fireplace occasionally, annual inspections and cleanings twice a year are usually enough. If you use them more often, inspections should occur once or twice a year. It is a good idea to have the furnace flues, stove systems, heating venting systems, and chimneys cleaned once per season or once every four months. This will ensure that there is no dangerous build-up and that your system remains clear and in proper working order.

What Is The Best Time For Chimney Cleaning?

The best time to clean or service your chimney will depend on the typical burning season in your area. Mid-spring or even early fall is ideal because it is close enough to the time that you will use your fireplace, but far enough away that you have time to fix any problems.

The Anatomy Of Your Average Chimney

The Anatomy of Your Average Chimney

Your chimney is an important part of your home. It is a structure that has a purpose and serves a specific function, but do you really understand how it works? Most people think that you just toss wood on the fire and gather around on a cold day. While this is certainly true, your chimney is working overtime to process the smoke as the fire is burning down below. In addition to providing heat, fireplaces offer a great deal of aesthetic appeal. In order to keep your fireplace and chimney in good working order, it is important to understand its anatomy.

Anatomy of Your Chimney

Before we talk about your chimney, it is a good idea to identify which fireplace you have installed in your home. There are factory fireplaces and masonry fireplaces. Masonry fireplaces are crafted out of brick and mortar while factory fireplaces are made from a metal firebox attached to a pre-built chimney. Depending on the model there may be additional features, but for now, we are going to stick to standard models.

Chase Top

While this may look like the cap, but is not, it is actually the part that encompasses and covers the top of the chimney. This part of the chimney is tasked with draining water and condensation away from the top so that it doesn’t pool.

Damper

This is the part that connects the chimney with the fireplace. They are in the top part of the firebox and will close when there is no smoke to vent to the outside. You can activate it with a pulley or lever, and keeping them closed correctly will prevent energy loss.

Chimney Cap

This is most often found in prefabricated chimneys. This attachment sits at the top of the opening of the flue. It helps to keep the rest of the chimney safe from water damage. It will stop rain and other moisture from settling into the cracks and it will also keep nosey critters from climbing down the chimney. In mason work, this is referred to as the chimney crown.

Smoke Chamber

Commonly found on masonry fireplaces, this helps to shuttle gas from the firebox into the flue. The slop is crafted in a way that will ensure the gas is gently compressed to prevent a backdraft.

Flue

This part of the chimney is on the inside. It is a duct that takes the products of combustion and transfers them outside of the home. It is critical that your flue liners are structurally sound to keep your substrate safe from corrosion and heat.

Chimney Chase

This is the most visible part of a chimney. You can cover it in a variety of materials to make it visually pleasing or even to match the decor of a home. It is tasked with concealing the flue in the chimney.

How A Chimney Works

The purpose of your chimney is to vent smoke from the combustibles used in your stove or fireplace. The gas and smoke will rise up through the draft and flow process. The more flame in your fireplace, the higher the warm gas will rise in the flue and cold air outside will be pulled down to encourage combustion. The pressure in your chimney on the inside of your house needs to be monitored to prevent improper flow.

The main things that affect the draft and flow process, specifically the pressure is the air movement in the home, the amount of air in the space, and how much competition there is for cold air outside the chimney. If you have windows open, or if your home is not properly insulated, it can lead to poor chimney performance. This can be as simple as a fireplace that doesn’t produce much heat to copious amounts of smoke blowing back into the house instead of venting outside. Understanding the anatomy of your chimney is the best way to ensure that you operate your fireplace in a way that allows it to work efficiently.

Here’s What To Expect When Getting Your Chimney Inspected

Here’s What To Expect When Getting Your Chimney Inspected

If you are busy, do not use your fireplace all the time, or you are simply not sure about what you are supposed to do, it is quite easy to fall behind on maintaining your fireplace. Unfortunately, not keeping your fireplace properly maintained can be dangerous.

With use, the gases, smoke, and particles from each fire that you burn will create buildup within the chimney. The residue left behind is creosote and it is a very flammable substance. When this builds up, it can cause the chimney to catch on fire.

When the buildup of creosote starts, it is easy to remove with a brush. However, if it builds up over time, it can be very difficult to remove. If it goes on for too long, the only way to remove it might be to have the liner completely replaced.

How Often Should You Have Your Chimney Inspected?

According to NFPA and CSIA, you should have your chimney inspected at least once per year. This can help detect possible issues and help to keep your family safe.

What Does a Chimney Inspection Consist of?

When you schedule an inspection for your chimney, the professional inspector will look over your chimney and note any obstructions, buildup, or structural issues. Additionally, they will typically sweep through the chimney to make sure that they have an accurate view of your system. The inspector will then recommend any work that they feel is necessary.

Inspection Levels

Depending on the chimney’s condition, there are three levels of inspection. The first level involves examining all of the portions of the chimney that can be easily accessed to make sure that they are all working properly. If you have not had any issues with your chimney, this will likely be the level of your yearly inspections.

The second level of the inspection typically involves the inspector using equipment such as a camera in order to look at the inside of your chimney. This allows them to look over all of the areas. This type of inspection is recommended if there have been any types of changes made to your chimney. If you are going to sell your home, you will have to have at least a level two inspection is done on your chimney before selling.

The final level is the most thorough inspection of every part of the chimney. This includes hidden or covered areas that require special tools to reach. In some cases, demolition and rebuilding areas of the chimney are required, depending on the type of work that needs to be done.

Choose a Qualified Professional

Many people feel like they can maintain their chimneys on their own and do not need to call in a professional. However, when it comes to a proper inspection, only a professional is qualified to fully clean and inspect a chimney to ensure that it remains safe for use. These professional chimney sweeps understand what to look for and often use cameras that are specifically designed to inspect chimneys.

Basic cleaning and inspection will typically cost anywhere from $79 to $200. A higher level inspection is going to be more. Level 2 inspections typically range from $100 to $500. A level 3 inspection is going to cost anywhere from $1000 to $5000.

It is important to make sure that you use a certified chimney sweep for your cleaning and inspection. Ask for credentials and how long they have been in business. If you are quoted a price that seems too good to be true, chances are that it is.

Things You Should Know About Getting Your Chimney Serviced

5 Things You Should Know About Getting Your Chimney Serviced

There is something wonderful about having a fireplace in your home. It offers a great place to snuggle up on a cold winter night. A fireplace also provides warmth throughout your home, which helps to cut costs on your heating bills during those really cold nights. If you have a fireplace in your home, it is important to make sure that you are keeping the chimney clean. Dirty chimneys can be quite dangerous as they pose a great fire risk.

Having your chimney serviced yearly is recommended. Here are 5 things that you should know and ask about before you hire someone to service your chimney for you.

1. How Much Does it Cost and How Long Will it Take?

One of the biggest questions that you might have about having your chimney serviced is the amount of money that it is going to cost. When you are contacting a professional chimney service, it is important to be direct about the costs. You want to make sure to ask if they are going to do a full inspection along with the cleaning or if they are just going to clean it out. It is important to know the types of services that you are getting for the estimate that you are given.

You will also want to make sure that you ask them how long it will take to service the chimney. Each flue is different, but a thorough cleaning of a chimney should take around an hour. If there is creosote present in your flue, the amount of time can increase. Blockages and damages to any part of the flue can also increase the amount of time it takes to service the chimney.

Most companies will recommend having a chimney cleaned about once per year. However, a professional will be able to estimate how long you can go between cleanings based on your particular uses.

2. How Will You Clean the Chimney?

A chimney professional should be able to provide you with the steps that they are going to take in order to clean the chimney. In addition, you should be given information about how your home will be protected during the entire service project.

3. Is Creosote Present?

When you are having your chimney serviced it is important to make sure that you ask if there is any creosote present. Creosote is a very flammable substance and if it is present in your chimney it could be indicative of poor burning practices. It also could mean that there is damage to your flue or chimney. You should be aware of creosote presence, how it will be removed, and what you need to do to help limit or prevent it from happening again.

4. Servicing other Flues

If you have other flues in your home, you might want to ask if the professionals can service these as well. You might be able to get a break in pricing for having more than one chimney/flue serviced at once.

5. Certifications

A person may be very skilled at servicing chimneys and not have any type of certification. However, it can be comforting to know that when you hire a professional service, they are backed by certifications from F.I.R.E., CSIA, and NFI. These are all national institutes that will guarantee that the person servicing your chimney has been through proper training. There are also regional organizations that offer training and certifications as well.

Asking how long the company has been in business is another way to establish the type of experience the professional has.

New Chimney Sweep Reports

New Chimney Sweep Reports

Colder months are coming in quick, which means it’s crucial to get your chimney inspected. This is much more than your annual sweep and can help prevent your home from being the one in over 20,000 house fires a year caused by a faulty chimney or fireplace.

There’s different levels of chimney inspections you can get – level 1, 2 or 3. We outline the importance of each and what every level covers in this blog post. With a fire that’s sure to be burning a lot in the cold months, we recommend a level 2 chimney inspection. 

We may use scanning and video equipment to inspect the flue and interior parts of the chimney. These measures guarantee a more thorough and in-depth inspection to ensure that everything is functioning properly before lighting a fire. You will need a level 2 inspection if you’ve recently had a chimney fire. If you’re not sure whether or not you had a chimney fire, and inspection should be able to determine this. 

Before revving your fireplace up for your first fire of the winter, there are a few steps you should take along with the inspection:

  • Check for damages: Look for any cracks, loose bricks, or deterioration. Take a look and see if the chimney is properly attached to the home also. Water damage is crucial as well, as this can cause bigger issues for the entire house
  • Note any abnormalities: let your inspector know about any oddities you may have found in your initial walkthrough. While we’ll usually catch these issues, knowing what to keep an eye our for will allow us to inspect your specific concerns more thoroughly. 
  • Cap the chimney: make sure your chimney cap is on and secure; our inspections will double-check your handiwork for you
  • Take care of your gasket: Check that the gasket sealing the door and ensure it’s not worn or too old. Our inspectors can tell you for sure, but getting ahead of this can prevent excess oxygen from getting into your fire and creating a problematically larger fire.
  • Check your alarms: replace the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. If you don’t have both of these in your home, you might want to get a few for rooms around the fireplace. 
  • Watch your wood: when your inspection is done and your chimney is swept, be mindful of how much wood you build and how it’s oriented in your fireplace. Add just enough for kindling and build up from there without overloading your chimney. 
Your Most Asked Chimney Sweep Questions Answered

Your Most Asked Chimney Sweep Questions Answered

When is the best time to get a chimney sweep?

The best time to get a chimney sweep is when heating season is over. Spring is the best time to schedule a chimney sweep. A Step In Time will remove the creosote buildup to prevent deterioration of your chimney’s flue from the inside out. This also helps to remove the odor from the creosote buildup that commonly occurs throughout the humid months. 

Doing an inspection during the springtime ensures that you have plenty of time to make any necessary repairs prior to next heating season.

How frequently should I clean my chimney?

An annual inspection of all the chimneys in your home should be a regular part of your yearly maintenance plan. This will determine the extent of further cleaning you need. No matter what type of fuel you use in your chimney, all chimneys are exposed to drastic weather conditions. For wood-burning fireplaces, we tend to recommend the general rule of thumb: cleaning after every cord of seasoned wood is burned. 

Even homeowners who no longer use their fireplace or may only burn it once in a while should not overlook the importance of this step in their home’s maintenance – even an occasional fire can cause buildup in your chimney.

Will there be a mess after I get a chimney sweep?

No, we take every precaution to ensure your house is as clean when we leave as it was when we came in. Before getting started, we set down protective drop cloths and if necessary, we will mask off the area. Once we’ve finished the chimney sweep, we use a powerful vacuum specially designed for chimney sweep cleanup to ensure we’ve picked up all of the dust that results from an effective chimney sweep. 

What is a chimney inspection and when should I get one?

An annual chimney inspection is required by the National Fire Protection Association and is a more in-depth evaluation of the interior and exterior. Your chimney will be examined and evaluated from top to bottom. We’ll check for deterioration of mortar joints or the chimney flue. We’ll check for cracks in the crown and also examine the firebox area which includes the damper and smoke chamber. 

Do I need chimney caps?

Yes, all chimneys should be capped. Caps prevent natural elements and animals from getting inside your chimney. While chimney fires can do lots of damage to the inside of your chimney, water and moisture can too. Waterproofing, crown sealer, and caps are going to be a vital part of preserving your chimney. 

 

If you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to give us a call!

Chimney Repair

The 5 Most Common Chimney Repairs

Common Chimney Repair #1: Creosote Buildup

Creosote buildup is an inevitable result of burning wood in your fireplace. If you leave that soot unremoved for too long, this can lead to a lot of problems with your fireplace and chimney later on. These problems not only include the inefficient burning of wood but also pose a fire hazard to your family and home. Chimney fires are caused almost entirely by creosote built up over time. This is one of the most important reasons that chimney repair is needed in homes before and after the winter season and why we highly recommend annual chimney cleaning.

Common Chimney Repair #2: Broken Capping

 Your chimney cap is an integral part of your chimney and needs to be  maintained regularly and properly. If a broken chimney cap is not immediately addressed, it can result in much more costly damages down the road. For example, a broken chimney cap may allow rainwater to fill the flue during heavy rains and then when winter rolls around, that water could freeze and severely damage your chimney. You are then forced to get this professionally fixed and, inevitably, at a steep price. In order to avoid this unnecessary expenditure, you should have a chimney repair specialist buy and install the proper cap replacement for you  before further damages can occur. 

Common Chimney Repair #3: A Cracked Flue

The flue is located at the inside of your chimney and is prone to a number of issues that can occur over time. Because it is the most exposed portion of your chimney, it is also one of the first places that a chimney repair specialist will inspect. A cracked flue could mean that there is significantly more damage beneath the surface which can only be seen when a chimney specialist digs beneath the surface. 

Common Chimney Repair #4: Unsecured Masonry

The most popular chimney material is masonry and is often the reason a property will get more market value. But over time, masonry will likely develop problems and is left unattended, these problems can become a very expensive hassle. The bricks and mortar will eventually start giving in after repeated exposure to heat, fumes, and the harmful agents that fire contains. The best way to address any issues before they can even arise is to ask a professional to inspect your chimney before and after each winter.

Common Chimney Repair #5: Blockage

While creosote is the most common cause of blockages in chimneys, they can also arise from other sources like animals making their nest in your flue or debris like straw and leaves from the fall season.  In order for your chimney to function at its highest efficiency and avoid any chances of carbon monoxide poisoning, it is imperative to have a chimney repair professional clear any blockages using the right tools for the job. This will allow you to enjoy your warm cozy fireplace all winter long.