Our Company Blog
Your fireplace has most likely been out of commission this summer but hopefully has been cleaned and inspected already! During the offseason homeowners don’t have to worry about the fireplace unless there’s a problem, but fall is the hearth’s time to shine! Your fireplace is not only a valuable heat source but also the focal point of your entire home. When it’s time to light your fire, it’s also a great time to think about decorating your fireplace and mantel for the fall season and for the holidays.
It’s important to do all you can to keep your fireplace safe and free of clutter even when decorating. It’s not enough to have a safe and clean chimney system and know how to use it properly, you must also make sure that your decorations are safe as well. Coming into the fall and then the holiday season, homeowners will begin to decorate the fireplace. It’s a perfect backdrop for all of your family festivities but can quickly turn to disaster if certain precautions aren’t followed.
Things to Remember When Decorating the Mantel
1. Do not leave decorative items hanging above the fireplace. Garland and lights should be properly secured to the fireplace.
2. Freestanding decorations should be kept far enough away from the fireplace opening that if it falls, it will be a safe distance from the fire.
3. Nothing should be put inside or too near a fireplace, even when the fire is out. Debris left inside a fireplace can become a serious fire hazard when a fire is burning.
4. Anything attached to the chimney above the mantel should be installed properly and only if your certified chimney sweep deems it safe.
5. Always use decorations that are flame-retardant. Do not place dried branches, limbs, or any organic material near your fireplace or on your mantel.
Mantel Ideas from the Professionals
Melons and Fruits – Melons and apples are a beautiful decoration for the fall and are not flammable. You can pair pumpkins and gourds with vases full of turned leaves. Plastic leaves are not as flammable as dried leaves and placing them in vases keeps them contained. You can also fill large vases or bowls with the apples to keep them from rolling.
Photos – Family or fall photos are a great way to decorate the mantel. Include decorative photos of leaves, landscapes, and holiday combinations between family photos.
Metal – Some bronzed or buffed metal can be the perfect shade to compliment the changing seasons. Metal vases, pitchers, candleholders, and baskets can create a great look for your mantel and keep items safely contained and away from the fire.
Early Christmas – Let Christmas come early by bringing together rustic scenes, photos, silhouettes, and garland. The mantel and fireplace are exactly where the holiday spirit thrives in the house, and the magic will begin with the first spark of the fire.
For more ideas, check out MidwestLiving’s “28 Fall Mantel Ideas” and “50 Gorgeous Holiday Mantel Decorating Ideas”.
We want you to love your mantel and your holiday fireplace, but not at the expense of safety!
If you have any concerns with the safety of your fireplace, contact A to Z Chimney Services to schedule a chimney sweep or diagnostic inspection today Call us at 916-408-2496 or contact us online.
Who says you have to wait for fall to start to enjoy a bonfire? You can install a stylish outdoor fireplace this summer and enjoy it right now! Invite family and friends over for evenings for a bonfire and stargazing. If you can see it but you’re not sure where to start, we can help. At A to Z Chimney Services, we can help make your outdoor dream space come to life with top-brand products and exceptional service.
Outdoor Fireplaces and Fuel
When planning your outdoor fireplace, it’s important to choose the best fuel-type that will keep working for you year after year. A wood-burning fireplace may seem appealing right now, but after a year of buying or chopping firewood, difficult-to-light fires, and cleaning ashes, you may grow tired of it. Both gas and wood fires have their own benefits, but every household has to choose for themselves.
- Wood – Wood fireplaces are great for homeowners who have access to firewood. Some homeowners prefer the ambiance of a crackling yellow fire and the high heat output of a wood fire. Other homeowners may dislike wood fires because of the work that it takes to light and maintains a wood fire. Wood fires require wood, kindling, and lots of work. You also have to keep feeding a wood fire to reach and maintain the desired temperature. When you’re finished with the fire, you have to put it out and routinely clean the fireplace of ashes and debris.
- Gas – Many homeowners opt for gas when installing new appliances—even outdoor ones. Gas is the most eco-friendly option for fire products and offers many benefits that are unrivaled in other fuel-types. They are easy to install, use, and maintain. Many models have push-button ignition and shut off, consistent temperature settings, and even remote controls. Gas appliances are especially nice because you can enjoy the ambiance of a fire outside on warm nights without dealing with the high heat and smoke of a wood fire. You won’t even miss out on the look and feel of a wood fire either. Gas fireplaces are more realistic than ever, nowadays gas logs look just like real wood fireplaces.
Custom Outdoor Fireplaces
At A to Z Chimney Services, we employ masons that are creative and experienced with all types of stone and brick. When it comes to your outdoor fireplace, we can help bring it to life from the ground-up. Our techs can match your new outdoor fireplace for your architecture, landscaping, and the best features for your outdoor space. Your new fireplace can be freestanding, attached to your home’s exterior, or connected to an outdoor structure. The location is everything, and we can help with this too. Only a professional knows the best placement for the products that will bring value to your property. Our goal is warmth, comfort, safety, and lasting value.
If you live in the Sacramento area and would like to bring life to your patio, yard, garden, or deck, we can help. Call 916-408-2496 to talk about your outdoor fireplace with an expert today and check out these inspiring ideas!
When it comes to home fires, most homeowners prefer to not consider the possibility. Ignoring the risk of a home fire, however, could leave your home at risk. Instead of pushing aside the possibility of a fire in your home, look to prevention! Are you doing everything you can to keep your home safe from a fire? Here are several fire prevention elements that are often overlooked.
Many homeowners neglect their chimneys, especially if they don’t often use their fireplaces or heating stoves. This can be a major mistake when it comes to keeping your home safe from a chimney fire. Chimneys that are clogged from creosote can catch fire. Even if you don’t frequently use your chimney, an animal, bird or debris that finds its way in can create a blockage that could combust. To lower your home’s risk of a fire, the Chimney Safety Institute recommends having your chimney swept and inspected by a certified chimney sweep at least once per year, generally between fire-burning season.
During your annual chimney sweeping, your chimney sweep should be on the lookout for a breakdown of your chimney structure, particularly your chimney liner, that could lead to a chimney fire. If there are cracks, holes or weaknesses in the liner, heat and sparks could escape your chimney and gain access to your home’s structure, sparking a fire. Be sure to ask about the soundness of your chimney liner and fire bricks during your annual chimney inspection. If your sweep advises that your chimney or firebox need to be relined or repaired, don’t burn another fire until you have had the necessary work done.
Dryer vent cleaning
Just like chimneys, dryer vents can become clogged over time and cause a fire risk in your home. Like your fireplace chimney, your clothing dryer vents should be cleaned and inspected at least once per year. A professional cleaning will thoroughly remove any lint that leads to a fire. If you do a higher than average amount of laundry, you may need to have your dryer vents cleaned more often; know that it’s a warning sign of clogged vents if your dryer is taking longer to dry a load of laundry or if your dryer or laundry room becomes unusually hot when the dryer is in use.
Install smoke alarms throughout your home
A smoke alarm won’t prevent a fire, but they are your home’s best defense against complete destruction, and your family’s largest protector in case of a home fire. Smoke alarms should be installed on each floor of your home and in every sleeping area. Be sure to check your smoke alarms at least once every six months to be sure that they are still working properly.
Call A to Z Chimney Services!
For chimney sweeps, we know it is part of our responsibility to help lower our customers’ risk of home fires, and at A to Z Chimney Services, we take that responsibility seriously. Whether you need a chimney sweeping, dryer vent cleaning or chimney relining, call A to Z Chimney Services to schedule an appointment today!
What’s the biggest danger your chimney faces? Many people assume that a chimney fire is the biggest risk your chimney faces. In fact, chimney water damage is far more of a threat. Water damage to your chimney can cause cracks and leaks, and even deteriorate your chimney to the point of threatening its structural integrity. Water is so damaging to a chimney, in fact, that the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) has declared water chimney’s No. 1 enemy and cautions homeowners to do all they can to protect their chimney’s from water damage. Here are some things you can do to keep your chimney safe.
Put a cap on your chimney.
All chimneys should be outfitted with a chimney cap. A chimney cap shelters your chimney’s flue from falling precipitation. Without a chimney cap in place, water can flow down into your chimney every time it rains, causing damage to your chimney flue and creating damaging puddles in the bottom of your chimney. Installing a chimney cap is the CSIA’s primary recommendation from protecting your chimney from water damage.
Check your chimney crown.
In addition to a chimney cap, a chimney crown helps to prevent water from entering your chimney flue. However, many chimney crowns are improperly constructed from the wrong materials. A chimney crown should slope downward away from the opening of the chimney flue to direct water down away from the chimney flue opening. Your certified chimney sweep can check your chimney crown to verify that it’s been properly constructed to protect your chimney.
Address chimney damage immediately.
Chimney damage leads to more chimney damage. Cracks in your chimney’s masonry or in your chimney crown allows water to gain further access to your chimney and cause more damage. If you notice cracks in your chimney or chimney crown, if you notice that mortar has become soft and begun to crumble away, or if you notice signs that water is leaking into your home in or around your chimney, have the chimney inspected and repaired as soon as possible to prevent water from damaging your chimney or your home further.
Have your chimney waterproofed.
One of the best preventative measures you can take to protect your chimney from water damage is to have your chimney waterproofed. Masonry materials are porous; they naturally absorb water, which can cause chimney damage. A chimney waterproofing solution can block 99 percent of water from entering your chimney while still allowing your chimney’s masonry to breath and exhaust the smoke and moisture created by your fireplace. Waterproofing your chimney can help keep your chimney protected from water damage for years.
Water can seriously damage your chimney. That damage can spread to your home, and it can compromise the integrity of your chimney, putting your home at risk for smoke or fire damage. A to Z Chimney Services can help keep your chimney and your home safe from water damage. Call today to schedule an appointment to have your chimney inspected to determine if it’s at risk for water damage!
Mantels get a lot of attention around Christmas. Everyone loves a mantel adorned with evergreen boughs, strung with lights and Christmas stockings. You don’t have to leave mantel decorating for wintertime only. Mantels can be decorated year round to reflect the season. Here are some Easter mantel decorating ideas to inspire you.
Spring is often associated with pastels. By utilizing a pastel color pallet on your mantel, this instantly transform your mantel into a beautiful Easter showpiece. You should look for candles, vases, tapestries, accents and decors with pastel colors. If pastels overwhelms you, consider decorating your mantel with primarily white décor and add a few sprigs of spring flowers.
Embrace the spring wreath
Wreathes are often thought of as wintertime décor, but you can find a wreath to fit just about any season now. Wreaths are a great winter accent and in the spring too for Easter. You should look for wreathes with lots of spring greenery, featuring springtime flowers or accents, or even made from decorative eggs. If you don’t want to commit to a wreath above your mantel for Easter, a seasonal wreath can also look elegant on the mantel for spring.
Everyone gets excited to see the first greenery and the first buds of spring. You should capitalize on that excitement as you decorate your mantel for Easter. By using flowers that are usually associated with spring such as daffodils, tulips and lilies, you mantel will be styling with a touch of spring. You can also add fake green grass sprinkled with Easter elements for added effects. Fresh cut flowers are always beautiful, but you can achieve a lovely effect with quality fake flowers from the craft store.
String fairy lights
Twinkling lights aren’t just for Christmas. Many people are incorporating string lights into their décor year round. By adding small, delicate string lights to your Easter mantel or look for lights in a pastel color just for this season can really spice up your mantel decor. Worried about unsightly cords between your mantel and outlet? You can look for battery-operated LED lights.
Add Easter accents
When it comes to your mantel, have fun with your Easter-themed by adding Easter accents such as colored eggs, bunny figurines, chicks and grass. You can go all out with lots of Easter accents, or add one eye-catching piece of Easter décor or a small Easter accents to be subtle. Don’t just enjoy the aesthetics of your mantel at Christmas. Mantels can be decorated to suit any season. Have fun with your mantel this Easter by decorating your mantel.
We hope you enjoyed these mantel decoration ideas. For any chimney and fireplace needs, don’t hesitate to give A to Z Chimney Services today!
One of the most common problems with fireplace is a smoky chimney. As the fire burns in your fireplace, you find your home filling with smoke. If your chimney is drafting properly, you should not notice any smoke in your home. However, if your fireplace does fill your home with smoke, it’s time to evaluate and resolve the issue. Smokey fireplaces are a nuisance, and they can degrade your indoor air quality. Here are some of the most common causes of chimney draft issues. At A to Z Chimney Services, we are here to troubleshoot any smoky issues for you!
Stuck or damaged damper
Your chimney’s damper regulates the air flow of your chimney. If your home is filling with smoke when a fire is burning, the chimney damper often is to blame. The chimney damper could be stuck closed, preventing smoke from rising out of the chimney altogether, or it may not be opened fully. A partially closed damper can restrict the air exchange through your chimney, causing improper draft and filling your chimney and home with smoke.
A dirty chimney can also be a culprit of causing smoke to enter your home. If the chimney flue is restricted because of a buildup of creosote, the chimney won’t draft properly and smoke can fill your home. If your chimney has been recently cleaned, and your fireplace is suddenly smoking without another explanation, it’s still important to call a sweep. This often means an animal or debris could have made its way into your chimney, creating a blockage that prevents smoke from exiting your home properly.
Missing chimney cap
Your chimney cap plays a role in keeping smoke from entering your home when a fire is burning. The chimney cap prevents bursts of air from flowing down your chimney, blowing smoke back into your home. Sometimes, solving chimney draft issues are as simple as installing or replacing a chimney cap.
Cold chimney flue
If your fireplace smokes when a fire is first lit, but the smoking seems to subside once the fire gets going, your chimney might just be too cold. When dense, cold air fills the chimney, it can block smoke from drafting up and out of the chimney. This is often a problem for homes whose chimneys are on an exterior wall. You can solve this problem by warming your chimney before lighting a fire. Twist tight logs of newspaper and light one end. Hold the burning newspaper in your fireplace at the base of the chimney flue. Repeat this with two or three pieces of newspaper, and your flue should be adequately warm to allow proper drafting.
Improperly sized chimney
In some cases, chimney draft issues have to do with the chimney construction itself. If the chimney flue is too wide or narrow for your firebox, or if it is too tall or short for your fireplace, your chimney won’t draft properly and your home will fill with smoke. The only way to restore a proper chimney draft is with professional intervention. Most of the time, we can resolve the draft with a new chimney liner or a chimney extension.
If chimney draft issues left your home unpleasantly smoke this winter, get the issues resolved before you burn another fire! Contact A to Z Chimney Service to schedule an appointment today!
When was the last time you gave thought to your clothing dryer vents? If you can’t remember — or if you have never given thought to your clothing dryer vents — the time has come to think about them. Ignoring your clothing dryer vents can cause you serious problems, and put your home and your family in danger.
You know that your clothing dryer creates lint every time you dry a load of laundry. What you might not realize is that the lint you clean out of your lint trap isn’t the entirety of the lint. With each load of laundry, damp lint bypasses the dryer and sticks to the edges of your dryer vents, then to itself. If dryer vents aren’t cleaned regularly, they will become clogged with lint. Clogged dryer vents can cause the dryer’s heating element to overheat and ignite, leading to a serious fire. In fact, firefighters in the United States respond to nearly 15,000 clothing dryer fires each year.
If your clothing dryer vents have become clogged, it’s likely your dryer will be sending you signs of a pending problem. As you think about your clothing dryer vents, ask yourself these questions:
• Are loads of laundry taking longer to dry than normal? When dryer vents are clogged, your dryer won’t work efficiently, and clothes will take longer to dry than normal. A regular load of clothes should dry within a 40-minute cycle, and a heavier load of blankets or towels should dry within an hour if dryer vents are cleared and the dryer is working efficiently.
• Is your clothing dryer hot to the touch when it’s running? Does your laundry room heat up noticeably when the dryer is running? When the vents are clogged, the dryer vent’s heating element is prone to overheating. Clogged dryer vents can cause the dryer to feel hot to the touch, the laundry room to heat up noticeable and clothes to feel unusually hot to the touch when they come out of the dryer.
• Does your laundry room smell smoky, musty or overwhelmingly like fabric softener? If dryer vents are clogged, the air won’t be exhausting fully from your dryer, which can cause an overwhelming smell of fabric softener. An overheated heating element can cause a smoky, burning smell, and if clothes aren’t drying fully with each dryer cycle, a musty smell can result.
• Do you have a smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in or near your laundry room? Even if you routinely have your clothing dryer vents cleaned, your laundry room should be outfitted with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to alert you and your family of a fire or buildup of carbon monoxide caused by clogged dryer vents or a faulty dryer.
The only way to protect your home from the dangers of clogged dryer vents is with a professional dryer vent cleaning. A professional dryer vent cleaning scrubs the lint from vent walls with high-powered rotating brushes and vacuums it away to keep vents clear. Think about your clothing dryer vents — if they are due for a cleaning, call to schedule an appointment with A to Z Chimney Services today!
In just a few days, the man with all the toys will make his way down the chimney to fill stockings and leave presents under the tree. Don’t make Santa come down a dirty chimney — call A to Z Chimney Sweep to have your chimney swept and inspected before Santa Claus comes to town! Here’s why you need to have your chimney swept this holiday season.
Get rid of dangerous creosote
To lower your home’s risk of a chimney fire, the National Fire Protection Association recommends having your chimney swept and inspected at least once per year. Every time you burn a fire in your fireplace, creosote forms on the inside of the chimney walls. This creosote is highly flammable; if it builds up to too high of a level on the chimney walls, a stray ember or excessive heat from your fireplace can cause it to ignite. Having your chimney swept before Christmas won’t just keep Santa’s suit from getting sooty, it also can help protect your home from a fire!
Be sure that your chimney is free from blockages
Santa needs to be able to get down the chimney on Christmas Eve. Are you sure that your chimney is blockage free? When temperatures drop outside, chimneys seem like a warm and inviting place, and animals often will seek shelter inside. Or, high winds can blow leaves and other debris down the chimney that can cause the clogs. Blockages in the chimney won’t just prevent Santa’s passage. It also can ignite in the fireplace, and prevent smoke and carbon monoxide from exiting your home. A pre-Christmas chimney sweep ensures Santa can come down the chimney and helps save your home from smoke, carbon monoxide and a potential chimney fire.
Don’t let foul chimney smells ruin your holidays
Dirty chimneys can be stinky. When your chimney isn’t in use, negative pressure in your home, caused by air-tight windows and other vented appliances, can pull air down the chimney and into your home. That can lead to foul smells that interfere with your enjoyment of the holidays. On top of that, you don’t want to make Santa come down a stinky chimney! Santa hates going down stinky chimneys; the smell is hard to get out of the Santa suit!
Don’t let a dirty chimney ruin your holiday season. A dirty chimney can cause a host of problems for Santa Claus, and it can be a danger or inconvenience from your home. A dirty chimney poses a fire hazard, it can cause smoke or carbon dioxide to flow back into your home, or it can fill your home with embarrassing odors during holiday gatherings. Call A to Z Chimney Services to schedule your pre-Christmas chimney sweeping today!
Clothing dryer vents, just like any other appliance vents, requires regular, professional cleaning to keep your appliance running safely and efficiently. When clothing dryer vents become clogged with lint, obstructed by outside debris or damaged, they can pose a serious fire hazard in your home. Clogged dryer vents can cause the appliances heating element to overheat and catch fire. If you have a gas clothing dryer, clogged dryer vents can lead to a dangerous buildup of carbon monoxide in your home. At the very least, clogged dryer vents can cause your machine to work inefficiently, costing you time and money every time you dry a load of laundry.
How To Avoid Dryer Vent Buildup
To avoid the dangers of clogged clothing dryer vents and to keep your clothing dryer running efficiently, it’s recommended that you have your dryer vents cleaned and inspected by a professional at least once per year. If you do a higher than normal amount of laundry in your home, you might even need to have your dryer vents cleaned more frequently. To determine whether it’s time to have your dryer vents cleaned and inspected, look for these signs that your clothing dryer vents are clogged:
• Drying time is longer than normal. The first sign that dryer vents are becoming clogged is that loads of laundry will begin taking longer to dry. Generally speaking, a load of clothing should not take more than 35 to 40 minutes, or one dryer cycle, to dry completely.
• Clothes smell musty when they come out of the dryer. Because clothes aren’t drying as quickly as they should be, your clothes might come out of the dryer with a musty smell when dryer vents are clogged.
• A burning smell. If your dryer vents are clogged, your laundry room might become filled with a burning smell when the dryer is running.
• Excessive heat. Because your dryer is working over time to dry clothes when dryer vents are clogged, you might notice an increase in heat in and around your dryer. The dryer itself might become very hot to the touch when it’s running, the laundry room might heat up noticeably when the dryer is running or clothes might come out of the dryer feeling abnormally hot to the touch.
• A strong smell of dryer sheets. Clogged dryer vents meant the air doesn’t exhaust from your dryer as it should. Because the air is trapped in the dryer, you might notice a very strong smell of fabric softer in the laundry room or in your clothes.
• A buildup of lint in and around the dryer. When dryer vents are clogged, lint that’s newly generated by your clothes and linens has nowhere to go. As a result, when dryer vents are clogged, you might notice a buildup of lint around your dryer’s lint trap, on the floor behind your dryer when the dryer vent attaches or outside your home underneath your dryer’s exhaust vent.
If you notice any of these signs that your dryer vents are clogged, don’t wait to have your dryer vents cleaned — You have a serious fire hazard in your home! Call A to Z Chimney Services to schedule a dryer vent cleaning and inspection to restore your dryer’s safety and efficiency.
Fireplaces, space heaters, Christmas trees and holiday candles: It’s easy to see why home fires are more common during the fall and winter months. To help keep homes and families safe, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has declared Oct. 7 through Oct. 13 its annual Fire Prevention Week. This year’s Fire Prevention Week is encouraging people across the county to “Look. Listen. Learn. Be Aware. Fire Can Happen Anywhere.”
The first step in decreasing your home’s winter safety risk is: Look. Look around your home for potential fire hazards. Hazards include overloaded extension cords or electrical outlets; fireplaces or chimneys that have not been swept or inspected before being used for the season; clothing dryer vents that haven’t been cleaned within a year; appliances like irons and curling irons that are left plugged in and unattended; and candles that are too close to combustible and that could be knocked over by a pet or a small child. Also take a look at your home’s heating appliances. There should be a minimum of a 3-foot “safety zone” around fireplaces, heating stoves, furnaces and space heaters that are left free of flammable items such as furniture, books, pillows, blankets, curtains or other items that could catch fire and spread.
Know to listen for the sound of smoke alarms in your home. According to the NFPA, a working smoke alarm can cut your risk of dying in home fire by half. Make sure any children in your home know what your smoke alarms sound like and what they should do if they hear smoke alarms going off. Check your home to be sure it’s equipped with enough smoke alarms; there should be a smoke alarm on every level of your home and in every sleeping area. Each fall, test your smoke alarm to be sure they are in working condition. Get help when you test your smoke alarms; have someone stand at the opposite end of your home while you push the test button to be sure that they can hear the alarm going off. You should be able to hear at least one smoke alarm sounding from every area of your home and sounding loud enough to wake you up or alert you to a problem.
Just having smoke detectors and listening for the sound of your smoke detectors isn’t enough. You and your family should have a plan of action for what to do when the smoke detectors sound. Your plan should include at least two ways out of every room in your home, a meeting place a safe distance from your home and a plan for calling 911 in the event of a fire. Make sure everyone in your home knows the plan well enough to execute it in an emergency; that might include practicing your fire exit plan, especially if you have small children in your home.
If you need help keeping your home safe from a home fire this winter, A to Z Chimney Services can help! We can sweep and inspect your chimney; service your fireplace or heating stove; or clean your clothing dryer vents to be sure that these appliances aren’t posing a risk in your home.