Aaron Zambrana, Author at A to Z Chimney Services
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Lighting a Fireplace in Warm Weather

Some winters in Sacramento are milder than others. Despite being only halfway through winter, we’re experiencing some unprecedented highs and warmer than normal lows. Even though we’re having some mild weather here on the west coast, homeowners are still tempted to light their fireplace. The truth is that it can be done, but it can be difficult, and there’s no real use for lighting a fire during warm weather. If you think you can avoid using the furnace by lighting the fireplace to “take the edge off” during warmer weather, it may be costing you—and in more than one way.

How the Fireplace Works outdoor fireplace patio

When it comes to your fireplace, there is a lot more at play than just the wood, the match, and the chimney. The chimney system is made up of many important parts that keep it working safely and efficiently. If the efficiency suffers at all, the fire suffers. More creosote and carbon are produced, smoke will not vent properly, and the chimney system will be dangerous and more susceptible to damage.

For a fire to burn, three things must exist — fuel, oxygen, and heat. During warm weather, you can certainly light a fire, but the trouble is in managing to keep it going. Once the fire is lit, it depends on heat from the fireplace to drive the smoke and toxic fumes up the flue. During cold weather, this is simple science. The heat rises up the flue even if the fire isn’t all that hot, because it is warmer than the air outside the chimney. When temperatures are warmer, however, the fire has to be very hot in order to push air up through the flue.

Pressures and temperatures outside the house can cause many problems. These issues can include the air inside the flue to stall completely, the fire to burn fuel incompletely and improperly. This pushes smoke into the house. If you want a fire during warm weather, the heat that you need in order for the chimney to work properly will be too much heat for your house! After all, fireplaces are designed for home heating during cool weather months. During warmer periods your fireplace can be extinguished and your damper closed. During the off-season, you can take other measures to close up your system for spring and summer.

Fireplace Alternatives for Warm Weather

If what you’re looking for is the ambiance of a fire during warm months, you can still enjoy your home without building a fire in the hearth. Many homeowners who enjoy a fire, but don’t need the high-heat from a wood fire will convert a traditional wood-burning fireplace into gas with the simple addition of a gas log set. Log sets do not always depend on the chimney for ventilation. In fact, some models don’t need to be vented at all. Gas fireplaces offer serious benefits to the environment as well as ease of use for the homeowner. Gas fireplaces have precise temperature control and even instant shut-off features. They make it easier to burn a fire without excessive heat and without a drop in efficiency that can lead to damage and danger.

Enjoy a Fire Year-Round

You don’t have to shut down your fire as soon as the temperature rises. You can still enjoy a crackling fire and dancing—but it may be outside! The great thing about an outdoor fire is that they’re great in spring, summer, winter, or fall. You can enjoy an outdoor fire pit, fireplace, chimenea, or torch. A little light from a gas or wood-burning outdoor fireplace will make hosting a breeze.

Outdoor Fireplaces in Sacramento

The weather is nice here in Sacramento, albeit a little chilly for a few more weeks. However, you don’t have to let that cramp your style. At A to Z Chimneys, we build outdoor fireplaces for homeowners in Placer, Sacramento, and Yolo counties. Whether gas or wood-burning, our outdoor fireplaces are the most stylish, functional, and beautiful. Adding an outdoor fireplace is a great way to complement your landscape and your home, improve your property value, and enjoy your patio, poolside, or garden year-round. Don’t worry about lighting an indoor fireplace when the temperature warms up this spring. Head outside for a nice outdoor fire instead.

If you’re still trying to use your fireplace during warm weather, make sure you are using the fireplace properly. Only burn properly seasoned firewood in your fireplace, no matter when you light it. Your firewood should be cut and stored to dry for at least six months before it burns. In addition, make sure you only burn wood in your wood-burning fireplace. Do not burn trash, cloth, or paper in your fireplace. These things should never be burned in a fireplace, but when the fireplace is less efficient during warm weather, these things will not burn properly or completely and may result in a fire emergency.

When you need help with your fireplace this season, call on A to Z Chimneys for Sacramento’s best. Call 916-408-2496 today.

We can also help our customers prepare the fireplace for the off-season when it hasn’t been lit for some time.

Efflorescence and Other Signs of Chimney Leaks

The big problem with chimney water damage and leaks is that many of the signs and symptoms of a leak go unnoticed. Homeowners assume many things are due to “wear and tear” or time and use. In actuality, any change in the way your chimney system looks or works indicates a problem.

Common Signs of Chimney Leaksold crumbling chimney with green cap

Efflorescence

The white powdery substance or stain on the outside of a masonry chimney is called efflorescence. This indicates a water leak because the white substance is leftover minerals from water passing through the masonry. This is a common occurrence on unprotected chimneys in areas where there are a lot of salts in the air such as coastal regions.

Rust Stains

Unlike efflorescence which is white, rust can leave red and dark staining on the chimney exterior. This usually happens at the top of the chimney beneath the flue cap and crown and means one or the other is damaged and allowing water into the system.

Dark Stains

Usually, these dark stains occur inside of the firebox and can be confused with carbon stains. Dark water stains are usually accompanied by odors of mildew and mold, and upon close inspection may have visible mold spores. This type of stain means that water has been dripping inside the chimney system.

Water Sounds

Whether you can see it or not, you may hear dripping in your chimney system. This water is not always visible from the fireplace opening. The water may be collecting on the smoke shelf or on some carbon or creosote deposit in the system. No matter where it falls, water is damaging something.

Spalling

This common sign of a chimney leak is actually a sign of damage caused by a leak. Spalling masonry is cracked, crumbling, and falling mortar and bricks which allows water to move through the masonry and into the system. It is a common occurrence in the winter when the chimney isn’t properly protected against water damage.

Chimney Odors

Any odor from the chimney indicates a problem, but chimney odors that smell like dirty laundry, mildew, or mold is a sign that a leak is occurring in the system—and that it’s been leaking long enough for mold to grow! Mold in the chimney system can lead to stains, odors, the spread of mold outside of the chimney, and even respiratory problems for family and guests.

Water Damage and Prevention

The chimney may be the way water enters your house, but once it is allowed inside it moves to all parts of the house, causing damage everywhere it goes. When water enters the chimney, it can move through walls, floors, and ceilings until it reaches the lowest point where it pools and forms a leak. Many homeowners assume a leak in a living room or bedroom is caused by a plumbing or roof problem and call a general contractor. A general contractor may be able to fix the damage, but they won’t be able to repair the chimney and correct the leak.

If you experience a leak in your home and you have a chimney system, your first call should be a chimney professional. Only a certified chimney sweep has the expertise, training, and proper tools to diagnose a chimney leak, repair water damage and correct the problem at its source. Scheduling routine maintenance with a professional can actually prevent all the damage that is caused by a chimney leak.

Sacramento’s Chimney Repair and Prevention

Home and business owners in Sacramento and the surrounding area depend on A to Z Chimneys for chimney leak prevention and repair. We know where to look to find the source of your leak, we know how to repair the damage without costing you a fortune (or compromising quality), and we can prevent recurrence with routine maintenance as well as waterproofing services.

A to Z Chimneys diagnoses and repairs the leak itself, checking the flashing, cap, crown, and masonry. Then, we diagnose and repair the damage which may include the liner, damper, masonry, and stains.

In order to prevent future leaks and other chimney damages, we offer the routine services and maintenance that will keep your system working longer, safer, and better. We agree with the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) who say that the safest and most efficient chimney systems are those which are cleaned regularly and inspected annually. A to Z Chimneys offers chimney sweeps and CSIA inspections year-round so that our customers can have a safe and efficient chimney no matter how busy their schedule or what their finances look like. Schedule your important services when it makes sense for your family and home. Don’t wait until winter weather arrives.

Schedule now by calling 916-408-2496 today.

How to Properly Put Out a Fire

As you’re bringing in firewood and lighting a fire this season, it’s important to know all you can about your fireplace so that you’re using it safely and properly. The number one thing people don’t realize is that, just like a campfire, you shouldn’t leave it unattended. Sure, there is no risk of high wind blowing sparks out of the fireplace and igniting dried foliage nearby as with a campfire, but the indoor fireplace has its own risks.

Extinguish the Fire for Safetyclose up of fire in firebox

It is important to make sure your fire is safely out before retreating to bed for the night or leaving the house. The only reason to leave a fire burning while you sleep is if your fire is the primary heat source for your home and your fire is in a closed unit such as a stove or insert. The closed unit will allow your fire to continue burning safely while heating your living space. However, an open fireplace should be extinguished so that there is no chance of accidental fire. In order to burn, a fire needs three key elements: fuel, heat, and oxygen. In order to properly extinguish your fire and prevent it from reigniting, you must remove one of the key elements a fire needs to burn.

Putting Out the Fire

1. First, use a long-handled shovel and poker to spread the wood, embers, and ashes in the fireplace, flattening it across the space.
2. Scoop up the ash with a long-handled shovel and cover the wood and embers. The ashes will suppress the fire from reigniting.
3. For stubborn embers and wood, pour baking soda over the heap of wood and ash. Baking soda contains the same ingredient found in a Class C fire extinguisher. Some homeowners prefer to use sand instead of baking soda as it’s easier to have on hand.
4. When the fire is completely out, you may leave it unattended. Close your custom glass doors but if your fireplace has no doors, do not shut the damper until there is no more smoke whatsoever.

What NOT to Do

When it’s time to head to bed for the night, ignore your temptation to skip any of the steps necessary to put your fire out safely and completely.
DO NOT close your damper when any ember is still burning. This will prevent smoke from rising up the flue and force it into your living space.
DO NOT cover your fire with blankets or other materials to suffocate your fire. The only thing that can safely suffocate the fire is sand (which may make a mess of your ash cleanup later.
DO NOT pour water on a hot fire. This can stop proper ventilation and push smoke and particulate pollution into the home. This method of fire extinguishment also leads to serious steam burns. Water is the last resort for an emergency situation.
DO NOT smother your fire by closing your damper and your fireplace vents. This may keep your coals burning until you’re ready to feed the fire in the morning, but it allows your fuel to burn incompletely all night long. This puts more creosote into your flue than necessary and leads to buildup and safety hazards.

Banking the Fire for Morning

In closed fireplace units only (inserts and stoves) homeowners like to save coals for the morning, conserving firewood and preventing the need to build a fire again in the morning. This is only safe when the doors are closed and the damper remains open. Many homeowners swear by a process called “banking the coals” in which hot coals are piled together and then covered over by ashes which insulate them, keeping them warm until morning. When done well the fire will be ready to burn again when the ashes are removed and wood is placed on the coals in the morning. Ask a chimney professional about banking fires, building fires, and extinguishing them. If you live in the Sacramento area and would like to find out the best way to use your fireplace, A to Z Chimney Services can help you.

Not surprisingly, many homeowners end up with fireplace and chimney systems when they acquire a new home, and they really don’t know anything about using them. Sometimes you might not even know what type of fireplace you have! The best way to find out is to contact a professional. We can identify, service, and repair any fire appliance or chimney no matter how big or how old. Our goal is that our customers are safe and warm all winter long and a huge part of meeting this need in our communities is to educate homeowners in our area.

Call A to Z Chimney Services at 916-408-2496 or contact us online. For important information about fireplace safety, click here. Make sure that all of your family and all of your guests this season know the rules for your fireplace so that everyone has a safe holiday season.

Holiday Mantel Ideas

The hearth is likely the focal point of your entire home and during the holidays it becomes the backdrop of every family gathering as well. It’s important to only use your fireplace properly during this time and to make sure all holiday decorations are placed safely around the hearth. One of the greatest joys a homeowner may have is to decorate the fireplace mantel for Halloween, then Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Here are our favorite tips and tricks for safe and stylish holiday hearth decorations.

Safety Firstholiday mantel decor

Make sure your holiday hearth is decorated safely. All freestanding decorations such as trees and figures should be placed far enough away from the fireplace opening so that it will not reach the flame if it falls over.
DÉCOR TIP: Add a fireplace screen, gate, or custom glass door set that will prevent anything from entering your fireplace.

Any hanging decorations should be secured with nails and staples. Commonly used adhesives such as command strips and tape can detach when heat or cold temperatures arise (such as the heat from a fire). If the decorations detach from the mantel, it could fall into the fir. This can result in an accidental fire that can cause costly damage to your home and injury or even death to your family. No decoration or specific look is worth risking your property or your life. Only decorate with proper connectors and attachments that will stay put.
DÉCOR TIP: Install hooks that stay year-round and you won’t have to worry about adhesives that will fail you.

Purchase and use decorations that are non-flammable for your mantel. Using dried flowers, grasses, and other organic materials such as pine cones, branches, and corn can result in disaster if ignited by a stray spark. If you choose to decorate with organic and natural materials, place them in containers such as vases, baskets, and bowls.
DÉCOR TIP: Use vases as well as bowls on the mantel to add height to your display.

Functional Decorations

Photos –

Your mantel may be cluttered with picture frames and to-do lists, but you can make it fabulous for the holidays with a little adjustment here and there. Instead of a mish-mash of photo frames of all sizes and styles, choose a few large frames in the colors of your choice, fill the frame with chicken wire or string with twine and clip a variety of photos to the wire of twine.

Calendars –

Instead of the boring and cluttered calendar and to-do list, put a calendar on your mantel that will make you smile as you pass it. A chalkboard sign that features the day’s to-dos, the countdown to Christmas, a note to Santa, and more. There are also desk calendars that are durable and stylish available each year.

Wood –

You can incorporate firewood into your holiday hearth decorations. Fill a vase with kindling, stow some seasoned firewood at the fireplace opening, and even a decorative fireplace screen can bring the whole look together.

Mirrors –

If you like to look in the mirror when you pass through the bedroom or bathroom, consider putting a mirror or two on the mantel. Choose a decorative one with a frame, or just use the glass. Pair with some traditional decorations, photos, or art.

Books –

Part of the spirit of the upcoming season involves literature. Whether your holiday traditions include reading The Bible or if you prefer Charles Dickens or even Dr. Seuss, your books can bring together a beautiful mantel decoration. Choose your favorite few Christmas books and incorporate colors and themes from their covers or their text.

Lights –

Candles are not the only lights that can bring life and light to your mantel. A kerosene lamp adds height and style to your mantel. If you’re uncertain about putting kerosene in the lamp, don’t. It will still be a beautiful addition to your mantel.

Fruits –

Who said fruit bowls are only for the kitchen? People buy fake fruit to decorate mantels and shelves all the time. Why not use the real thing? Find a bowl that you can’t live without and compliments your mantel and your living space, then fill it with all of the fresh fruits that you love.

Entertainment –

Though some may disagree, the mantel is a great place for the television. To prevent falls and accidents that can cause injury and break your television in the process, mount your television above the mantel. In order to safely mount a flat-screen onto the chimney, have a professional chimney sweep check out the chimney and install a mount. If you’re interested in surround sound or smart device streaming, you can hide a speaker in your mantel decorations as well.

Clean Chimneys for Christmas

When it’s time to decorate for the holidays, consider cleaning it! Scheduling a chimney sweep now will mean a chimney system that works more safely and efficiently, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Additionally, your chimney will not stink of soot and creosote and your fireplace will be free of stains and ash. If you have glass doors on your fireplace, make sure they’re clean for those holiday family festivities. Schedule a chimney sweep with A to Z Chimney Services.

If you reside in the Sacramento area and own or rent a home with a fireplace and mantel, call 916-408-2496 to talk to a chimney and fireplace expert today.

Waterproofing

While many regions of the country can experience high amounts of precipitation some times during the year, and low amounts at other times, the average remains consistent. There will be precipitation, whether in the form of drizzle, showers, storms, ice, snow, and even humidity. Make sure your masonry is protected!

Waterproofing A to Z

new red metal roof with skylights and chimneys

new red metal roof with skylights and chimneys

Water in any form is bad for your chimney. It’s our goal to keep water on the outside of your chimney, and we do that with an A to Z philosophy. Our waterproofing services will keep your chimney covered from top to bottom, beginning to end. Your chimney doesn’t just need waterproofed masonry, but also coverage from the top, down. It also requires protection year round, not for just one season. Waterproofing with A to Z Chimneys means protection from beginning to end and from top to bottom. Scheduling now can save you from excessive repair costs, extra maintenance, and unnecessary water damages that affect much more than just your chimney.

What to Expect

When you call on A to Z Chimney for waterproofing services, we will treat your masonry with a waterproofing agent, but your masonry is only one entry point of the water. We will make sure the entire system is protected.

  • Chimney Cap – Your chimney needs a chimney cap. This is the roof of your chimney, protecting the flue opening from water from above. The cap also prevents other damage like that caused by animal intrusion.
  • Chimney Crown – Your chimney crown is the ceiling of your chimney, protecting the chimney from the flue to the edge of the chimney. When made properly, it should be at a slope to shed water away and off the chimney. It should also have an overhang of at least two inches with a drip edge that makes the water drop from the crown instead of running down the masonry.
  • Flashing – The flashing protects the most vulnerable part of the entire chimney system. Many chimney leaks occur at the intersection of the roof and chimney, and this is because the area isn’t protected with flashing. The flashing is made up of thin sheets of metal that are placed in a specific way that sheds water away from intersections and seems. There may be flashing at other places on your roof that your roofer has installed. This works in the same way. However, your chimney flashing should only be installed by a certified chimney sweep. The flashing should show no exposed nails and should require no sealant or roofing tar.
  • Water-repellent – We use an industrial-grade water repellent to protect chimney masonry. Unlike other products that seal in the chimney and create dangerous pressure problems, our waterproofing agent allows the chimney to breathe and vent heat and air WITHOUT allowing water molecules in. It penetrates deeply into the masonry and lasts up to 8 years.

Trust A to Z Chimney

When it comes to chimney leak prevention, A to Z Chimneys has you covered. Just give us a call today so that your chimney can be protected from water damage this winter, made worse by freezing temperatures.

Schedule waterproofing today by calling 916-408-2496.