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Don’t Forget Your Chimney This Summer — Have it Inspected Today!

When was the last time you thought about your chimney? With summer in full swing, the answer is probably not anytime recently. Taking the time to care for your chimney this summer pays dividends this fall. Here’s what you stand to gain by scheduling your chimney sweeping and inspection this summer.

Hassle-Free Scheduling

When summer turns to fall, most homeowners turn to their fireplace and chimney systems in anticipation of cooler days ahead. That leads to a fall rush for chimney sweeps, which can have you waiting weeks to have your chimney swept and inspected. When you schedule your chimney sweeping during the summer, you beat the fall rush. You won’t have to wait weeks for a chimney sweep. You will also have an easier time finding an appointment that fits best into your schedule.

Ample Time for Repairs and Improvements

Usually, chimney sweepings and inspections are quick, no-fuss affairs. However, sometimes inspections uncover problems. Or, sometimes homeowners take advantage of their chimney technician’s expertise to discuss the possibility of hearth improvements. Whether your chimney requires a necessary repair or you’d like to upgrade your fireplace or chimney, a summertime chimney sweeping and inspection provides you with all the time you need to have work done. By not waiting for fall, you have ample time to have a repair or an upgrade made to your fireplace or chimney.

Eliminate or Avoid Chimney Odors

Chimneys can be stinky places. The byproducts that accumulate in your chimney can cause unpleasant odors on their own. Sometimes, animals or debris find their way in and cause an entirely different array of smells to emanate from your chimney. Odors often intensify during the summer, when chimneys sit unused and warm temperatures embellish any trapped stenches. Having your chimney swept in the summer can remove the root causes of chimney odors. This will save you from the frustration and embarrassment of having chimney odors fill your home on hot summer days.

Protect Your Chimney

In addition to causing odors, buildup in your chimney can cause damage. If animals make home in your chimney, their nests and claws can damage your chimney liner. In addition, rotting debris can hold damaging moisture against your chimney flue. The byproducts of your fires alone are corrosive and can wear away at chimney liners if allowed to sit in place. Sweeping your chimney as soon as the fire-burning season ends removes any damaging buildup. This in turn extends the life of your chimney liner.

Caring for your chimney during the summer instead of waiting until the fall allows you to conveniently schedule your appointment, gives you time to make repairs or improvements, eliminates chimney odors, and protects your chimney liner. A to Z Chimney Services can clean and inspect your chimney this summer so your fireplace is ready for the fall. Don’t forget about your chimney this summer – schedule your sweeping with A to Z Chimney Services today!

Why you should install a top-sealing damper

Almost all fireplace dampers are the same, a cast-iron contraption located at the top of the firebox. Many homeowners assume that these dampers are the only type. However, there’s another option and you may want to consider it. Here’s what you need to know about chimney dampers and why you should install a top-sealing damper in your home.

The Problem With Traditional Chimney Dampers

Why you should install a top-sealing damper - Sacramento CA - A to Z ChimneyMost chimney dampers use a basic technology. A metal ring or exterior surrounds the opening of the chimney flue at the top of the firebox. A flap either folds or twists to fit into that damper when it is closed and your fireplace is not in use. The problem with these types of dampers is that they are highly inefficient, and they become burdensome over time.

Due to the extreme heat of the fireplace, metal fireplace dampers warp over time and fail to form a tight seal. The warping can also impact the mechanics of the damper, causes it to get stuck or make it difficult to open or close. Once your chimney damper fails, your chimney lose a significant amount of air when not in use. This also makes it easier for cold drafts to make their way down your chimney.

The Solution to Inefficient Dampers: Top-Sealing Dampers

If your traditional throat chimney damper has failed or is allowing cold drafts into your home, the best solution is to get a top-sealing chimney damper. A top-sealing damper is fitted to the top of your chimney, rather than placed inside. These dampers feature rubber gaskets to allow the damper to seal off the chimney entirely when your fireplace is not in use.

When you install a top-sealing chimney damper, a cable runs down the interior of the chimney. The damper is opened or closed with the pull of a chain or a lever. You’ll also notice that warm air is sealed inside your home, while water and cold drafts will never find their way in again. It will also help your chimney flue to block off wild animals and debris!

Call A to Z Chimney Services to learn more about Top-sealing Chimney Dampers!

If cold drafts is coming down your chimney or your throat damper has failed, call our experts at A to Z Chimney Services to schedule an appointment right now. We can answer all your questions about top-sealing chimney dampers, and we can also assess your chimney to find the best one for you!

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What is a ChimScan video inspection?

How do you know what’s going on inside your chimney? During a routine chimney inspection, a chimney sweep usually just shine a flashlight up and down from your chimney. However, the limited view can’t reveal any obstructions or deficiencies in the interior that are potential hazards. The only way to really know the condition of your chimney’s interior is to hire an expert to perform a ChimScan video inspection.

What is ChimScan?

What is a ChimScan video inspection - Sacramento CA - A to Z Chimney ServicesChimScan chimney inspection cameras are designed specifically to look for blockages, excessive creosote, cracks or other dangerous flaws in your chimney flue. These closed-circuit cameras thoroughly examine the inside of a chimney flue after the chimney is cleaned. As the cameras travel up the chimney, your chimney technician get a real-time view of the interior. ChimScan chimney inspection cameras can get into all the nooks and crannies that otherwise would be impossible to see.

When are ChimScan inspections performed?

According to Chimney Safety Institute of America, ChimScan video inspections are performed in Level 2 and Level 3 chimney inspections. Level 2 inspections are required when you purchase a new home. It’s also required when changes are made to your fireplace and chimney system. Or if there has been a malfunction in the system or suspected damages. Level 3 chimney inspections are required when a Level 2 inspection reveals that there are likely dangers lurking within the chimney’s interior. It’s also required if  your chimney has been improperly constructed. However, some chimney sweeps believe that ChimScan inspections are a valuable tool for every chimney inspection.

When does A to Z Chimney use ChimScan?

At A to Z Chimney Services, we believe ChimScan video inspections are a crucial tool for our customers. That’s why we perform a ChimScan video inspection with every chimney inspection! With the ChimScan cameras, our technicians have the ability to show our customers that their chimneys are fully clean and free from potential dangers. If there are problems found during the chimney inspection, our ChimScan chimney cameras provide a clear view of the issue. Once your repairs are completed, our ChimScan chimney camera can show the difference, and we can ensure that your chimney is once again safe for use.

If you’re overdue for your annual chimney inspection, call A to Z Chimney Services to schedule an appointment today. We use the ChimScan chimney camera on every cleaning and inspection, you can rest assured that your chimney is safe and ready to use!

Can I have a chimney added onto my home?

Fireplaces are a highly sought-after amenity for homebuyers. In a recent survey, 78 percent of homebuyers reported that a fireplace was a top feature they were looking for in a new home. So what do you do if you own a home with no chimney, but you still love fireplaces? Can you have a chimney added onto your home? The answer is most likely yes. You’ll just need to take several things into consideration when planning and installing a new chimney.

Research local building codes.

Can I have a chimney added onto my home - Lincoln CA - A to Z Chimney ServicesOne of the first things you’ll need to do when planning for a fireplace and chimney installation is research your local building codes. All jurisdictions have safety codes that dictate the infrastructure needed to support a fireplace, the clearances a chimney must have from the rust of a building’s structure, and the height a chimney must be. An increasing number of municipalities and states also are setting standards for fireplace emissions, which might affect the type of fireplace you’re able to install. Knowing your local codes for fireplaces and chimneys can help you begin to determine what type of fireplace and chimney will be right for your home.

Determine the location of your fireplace and chimney.

Where, in your home, are you looking to install your new fireplace and chimney? Are you looking for a stunning statement and a source of heat in your main living space? Are you looking to add a bit of ambiance to a den or master bedroom? Is your goal to bring heat to a portion of your home that doesn’t seem to get enough heat from the furnace? Depending on where you plan to install a fireplace and chimney in your home and how you plan to use that fireplace, it will all be influential factors for the type of fireplace and chimney you install. A stunning masonry hearth will require adequate support from your home’s structure, while an efficient closed gas unit can be installed on nearly any exterior wall or vented vertically where there is sufficient roof access.

Choose your fuel type.

Some homeowners know exactly what type of fireplace they’d like to install, while others are open to do some research to determine what type of fireplace is right for them. The good news is that it does not matter if you prefer the convenience of a gas fireplace, the efficiency of a pellet stove or the traditional ambiance of a wood-burning fireplace, you will most likely be able to find a fireplace for your home that burns your preferred fuel type. However, it is still a great idea to know your local building codes and the location of your fireplace within your home, because this might impact the type of fireplace you’ll be able to install.

Even though there are a lot of considerations when it comes to picking out the right fireplace and chimney you can install. The good news is that you will be able to install a fireplace and chimney onto your home, alongside the help from our fireplace and chimney experts. A to Z Chimney Services would love to help make your dream of adding a fireplace to your home a reality, call today to schedule a consultation!

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How to Clean Your Gas Fireplace or Insert

After a season’s worth of fires, your gas fireplace or gas fireplace insert is probably showing signs of wear. Glass doors can get grimy, logs can collect dust, and dirt and debris can block blowers and burners. Left unchecked, this can begin to inhibit the function of your fireplace. To keep your gas fireplace looking great and working efficiently, you should be cleaning your fireplace regularly. Here’s a step-by-step guide to keeping your gas fireplace or insert in tip-top shape. For more details on your specific fireplace or fireplace insert, be sure to check your owner’s manual before you proceed.

Step 1: Turn off the gas.

Turn off the gas to your fireplace or insert to keep yourself safe and avoid any gas leaks during cleaning.

Step 2: Remove the ceramic logs.

If your gas fireplace or insert is fitted with ceramic logs, they likely can be removed and cleaned separately. This will make it much easier to clean the burners and other portions of your fireplace’s interior. To be sure that the logs are removable, and to discover how to remove them properly, consult your fireplace’s manual.

Step 3: Vacuum debris out of the firebox.

The first step to a clean fireplace is using your vacuum hose to clear away any obvious dust and debris. Be sure to get into the nooks and crannies of your fireplace with the hose to ensure that debris doesn’t have a chance to build up in the hard-to-reach portions of your fireplace.

Step 4: Scrub any difficult debris.

If there are any portions of your gas fireplace that are caked with more stubborn stains, you can gently scrub the stain with a soft cleaning brush.

Step 5: Clean fireplace doors.

The doors to your gas fireplace are often to show a buildup of dirt. You should be regularly cleaning the exterior glass doors with a non-ammonia cleaner, or preferably a cleaner that’s specifically made for fireplace maintenance. While you’re cleaning the interior of the fireplace, take the time to clean dirt away from the interior of the glass doors.

Step 6: Give the burners one additional cleaning.

For your gas fireplace to function properly, the burners have to be clean and clear of dirt or debris. That’s why you should end your fireplace cleaning with one final vacuuming of the burners, just in case any dust or debris has landed on or near the burners during your cleaning.

Once you’ve finished cleaning your gas fireplace or gas fireplace insert, put the logs back in place, close the doors and turn the gas back on. On top of your DIY gas fireplace cleaning, your gas fireplace or gas fireplace insert should be cleaned and inspected at least once per year by a certified chimney sweep. If your gas fireplace is due for a professional cleaning, or if you’re not daring enough to clean it yourself, you can call A to Z Chimney Services to schedule your gas fireplace cleaning and inspection today!

Why We Recommend Stainless Steel Chimney Liners

Your chimney liner protects your home and chimney structure from the heat, gases, and corrosive byproducts of your fireplace. With all the abuse that chimney liners take, they do require eventually replacement. In the event that your chimney liner needs to be replaced, A to Z Chimney Services recommends a stainless steel chimney liner. Here’s why.

Easy Installation

Why We Recommend Stainless Steel Chimney Liners - Sacramento CA - A to Z Chimney ServicesNewly constructed chimneys most often include a liner made from clay flue tiles. Clay flue tiles are cheap and durable, but they do a poor job of redistributing the heat of the fireplace, and they can crack and fail to contain the extreme heat of a chimney fire. When it comes time to replace a clay tile chimney liner, it’s almost never feasible to remove and replace the clay tiles, as it that would mean deconstructing and reconstructing the entire chimney. Stainless steel liners can be quickly and easily inserted into an existing chimney.

Safety

Stainless steel chimney liners are among the safest options for chimney liners. They evenly absorb the heat from your fireplace, and in the event of a chimney fire, a stainless steel chimney liner can help contain the fire to keep it from spreading to your home. As opposed to clay tile liners, stainless steel liners can completely block the gases from your fireplace, preventing carbon monoxide from leeching into your home. For wood-burning fireplaces, stainless steel chimney liners are easily cleaned of highly flammable creosote. There are even CSIA-approved stainless steel chimney liners.

Durability

In addition, stainless steel chimney liners last a lifetime. They are more durabile and reliable than their aluminum counterparts.

Versatility

Stainless steel chimney liners can work in nearly any chimney. They can be used for all fuel types, including wood-burning, pellet-burning and gas fireplaces, as well as for oil furnaces. Stainless steel chimney liners also come in a variety of sizes. Stainless steel chimney liners can also change the flue size of an improperly drafting chimney.

When the existing liner fails, the chimney needs relined. Liners fail due to a chimney fire and cracks or deterioration with age. The chimney liner could also be missing altogether. A new chimney liner also resizes an improperly sized chimney liner to correct chimney draft. If you have been told that your chimney needs a new liner, call A to Z Chimney Services to schedule a consultation! We can assess your chimney and let you know how you could improve your chimney with a stainless steel chimney liner.

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The Freeze-Thaw Cycle and Your Chimney

California is known for its hot, sunny days and sandy beaches. For those of us who live in this much-idealized state, however, we know that hot, sunny summer days give way to cold, wet, rainy winters. Here in Sacramento, it’s not unheard of to see freezing overnight temperatures December through February. If you have a masonry chimney, that means you need to be on the lookout for damage caused by the freeze-thaw cycle.

What is the freeze-thaw cycle? The Freeze-Thaw Cycle Chimneys Image - Sacramento CA - A to Z Chimney

As the name suggests, the freeze-thaw cycle has to do with constantly changing temperatures. Wet, rainy weather, or even thawing ice, can flood porous surfaces like roadways, parking lots, sidewalks and your chimney with water. The water that makes its way into the cracks and crevices of masonry material freezes when temperatures drop. As the water turns to ice, it expands, leading to cracks or holes in the masonry material. This is the process that’s credited with creating potholes in snowy, northern climates.

How can the freeze-thaw cycle affect your chimney?

If you have a masonry chimney, Sacramento’s wet winter days and freezing winter nights can lead to big problems. As water trapped within the brick, stone or mortar of your chimney freezes and expands, it can cause the mortar and brick to crumble away, or even cause the faces of individual bricks to pop off. Not only does this gradual crumbling away of your chimney cause it to look unsightly, it can prove a hazard! A chimney affected regularly by the freeze-thaw cycle can develop a leak that gives water access to the interior of the chimney and fireplace, or to the interior of your home. This will cause major water damage and rot. A continued breakdown of the chimney’s masonry due to the freeze-thaw cycle also can lead to a weakening of the overall chimney structure, eventually rendering it completely unsafe.

How can you protect your chimney from the freeze-thaw cycle?

There are steps you can take to make sure that your chimney doesn’t fall victim to the freeze-thaw cycle! A waterproofing treatment can prevent water from entering the chimney’s masonry while preserving the chimney’s ability to exhale smoke and fireplace gases. You also want to remain on the lookout for signs of freeze-thaw damage in your masonry chimney. If you notice crackled bricks or crumbling mortar, call in the professionals so that repairs can be made before minor damage develops into a major problem.

If you have noticed signs of freeze-thaw damage in your chimney, or if you would like to protect your chimney from water damage with a waterproofing treatment, call A to Z Chimney Services today! We can waterproof your chimney to keep it safe from water absorption and the freeze-thaw cycle. Additionally, we can repair any damage your chimney has already suffered. Call to schedule your appointment with A to Z Chimney Services today!

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New Year’s Spring Cleaning Resolution: Dryer Vent Cleaning

Many homeowners ramp up their home maintenance routine after the new year. Spurred by resolutions for a cleaner home, driven inside by winter weather and gearing up for full-blown spring cleaning, countless homeowners are tackling big jobs this time of year. For homeowners tackling home maintenance tasks that are often neglected, the new year is a perfect time for a dryer vent cleaning.

Why You Need to Have Your Dryer Vents Cleaned

Many homeowners don’t realize that they’re clothing dryer vents need to be cleaned and inspected just like their chimneys! That’s because every time you dry a load of clothes, damp lint bypasses the lint screen and enters the vent. That damp, sticky lint sticks to the walls of the vent and then to more lint. Over time, all of that sticky lint can form dangerous clogs in the dryer vent. When your dryer vents are clogged, the heat and exhaust can’t exit the dryer. This causes the dryer to overheat, which is a major fire hazard.

Because of the fire danger posed by clogged dryer vents, home maintenance professionals recommend having your dryer vents professionally cleaned at least once per year. If you dry a lot of clothing and linens, you might need to have your dryer vents cleaned more frequently! During your professional dryer vent cleaning, your dryer vents will not only be cleared from dangerous lint, but they also will be inspected to ensure that they are unobstructed from outside plants or debris, that they are the proper size and recommended material and that they are damage free.

How to Tell if Your Dryer Vents Need to be Cleaned

If you’re not sure if your dryer vent needs cleaned, look for the signs! Clogged dryer vents inhibit the proper function of your dryer. That’s why you might notice these signs if your dryer vents are overdue for a cleaning:

• Loads of clothing take longer to dry than usual,

• A burning smell when the dryer is running,

• The dryer or laundry room feeling hot when the dryer is running, and

• An overly strong small of fabric softer or must when the dryer is running.

Who to Call for Dryer Vent Cleaning

If you’re ready to start your year off with a properly cleaned home and clean clothing dryer vents,  call A to Z Chimney Services and Dryer Vent Cleaning to schedule an appointment today! Not only will you lower your home’s fire risk and make your home cleaner, but you’ll enjoy shorter laundry drying time and lower home energy bills, and you’ll extend the life of your dryer.

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Start Thinking About Chimney Repairs

Your fireplace might still be in peek use, but now is the time to start thinking about chimney repairs! While it might be months until the warmer, sunnier weather allows for repairs, planning now allows you to be ahead of the curve. You’ll know the scope of your repairs and how much they’re likely to cost, and you’ll be first in line on your chimney sweep’s schedule so you won’t be left waiting for repairs, and you’ll be able to schedule repairs at your convenience.Start Thinking About Chimney Repairs Image - Sacramento CA - A to Z Chimney

The first step in planning your chimney repairs is determining if you require repairs and what repairs are needed. Like any appliance or home structure, chimneys and fireplaces breakdown over time and need to be repaired or replaced. Ignoring chimney and fireplace problems can lead to a dramatic and expensive deterioration of the chimney structure. It can put your home at risk for a chimney fire, smoke damage or water damage. Some common signs of damage you should be on the lookout for include:

How to tell if your chimney needs to be repaired.

  • Cracks or holes in the chimney.
    Masonry chimney structures are prone to cracking or crumbling over time, due primarily to water absorption. Cracks or crumbles in the chimney can allow water to seep into the chimney or into your home, and it can weaken your entire chimney structure.
  • Discoloration on the chimney.
    Discoloration of the chimney structure, whether it’s white, black, blue or green, can be an indication that water is entering the chimney masonry and causing damage.
  • Moisture or debris in the firebox.
    When determining if your chimney needs repairs, don’t forget to check your firebox! Moisture at the base of your firebox is a sure sign that water is getting into your chimney. Chunks of debris or flue tile can indicate that your chimney liner is deteriorating.
  • Rusted or stuck damper.
    Most dampers are metal-on-metal construction, and they are one of the first chimney elements to break down from age. They can warp and fail to seal or even become stuck due to exposure to moisture or exposure to the extreme heat from your fireplace.
  • Smoke or odors entering your home.
    Your chimney could have underlying damage or improper construction if you’re getting smoke back in your home when you light a fire, or if your chimney is letting a foul odor into your home.

What to do if your chimney needs to be repaired.

If your chimney is showing one of the above signs of damage, or if your chimney sweep told you that it needs to be repaired during your annual inspection, act now! Prepare for your chimney repairs by calling A to Z Chimney Service to schedule an appointment today. One of our certified chimney technicians can assess the scope of your chimney damage. They will also give you a quote for repairs and even get repairs scheduled as soon as possible.

Common Issues Found During a Chimney Sweep


While the primary goal of your annual chimney sweeping may be to clear your chimney of soot, obstructions and flammable creosote, your chimney sweeping serves one more important function: checking your chimney for damage or defects that could pose a hazard. There are some common issues chimney sweeps find during chimney inspections.

Missing or Damaged Chimney Cap

A chimney cap plays a vital role in keeping water from pouring down your chimney, sudden burst of air from blowing down the chimney and animals from finding their way into the flue. Some chimneys were never capped, while for other chimneys, the caps were blown off, damaged by trees or debris or rusted or cracked. Missing or damaged chimney caps are a common finding during chimney inspections, and a missing or damaged cap should be immediately replaced to prevent water damage or downdrafts in your chimney.  Common Chimney Issues - Sacramento CA - A to Z Chimney Services

Cracked or Crumbling Chimney Crown

Like your chimney cap, your chimney crown sits above your roof, subjected to gusts of wind and precipitation. On top of that, many chimney crowns were improperly constructed from the wrong materials. For these reasons, cracked or crumbling chimney crowns are a common issue turned up during chimney inspections. A failing chimney crown can give water access to the interior of your chimney, subjecting the chimney structure and the surrounding home structure to water damage.

Spalling Masonry

Because of the elements, the masonry exterior of your chimney is susceptible to spalling. That is, water enters the porous masonry materials and causes the masonry to degrade. That damage can manifest as spalling, the cracking and crumbling away of brick facing and mortar. If not addressed, spalling can allow water to gain entry to the interior of your chimney, and it can jeopardize the structural integrity of your chimney.

Damaged Flashing

Flashing seals the base of your chimney where it meets your rooftop. Either due to improper construction or age, flashing can begin to allow water to leak into your home around your chimney. Failing flashing can allow water damage in your roof structure and in the walls and ceiling around your chimney. A chimney inspection can identify failing flashing early, so you can have it repaired before it can cause major water damage in your home.

Fire Damage

Most chimney fires go unnoticed. They smolder, contained by the chimney liner. While your home might escape the initial fire unscathed, the now-damaged chimney puts your home at risk. The damaged chimney could fail to contain future fires, or it could give embers or smoke access to your home’s structure. A chimney inspection can spot that chimney fire damage before it puts your home at risk.

Your chimney inspection is crucial for spotting chimney damage before they become significant problems that endanger your home. Many common chimney problems can be easily remedied to prevent major problems down the road. To keep your chimney safe from common chimney problems, call A to Z Chimney Services to schedule your sweeping and inspection today!

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