This page lists commonly asked questions with regard to chimney sweeping, chimney repair, fireplace drafting, chimney height, smoke problems, fireplace smoke guards and other questions of interest. The solutions to these problems can be addressed by the Weller’s Chimney Professional’s located in your area.
A. If you burn for heat, or have frequent fires (3-4 times a week during the burning season) your chimney should be swept yearly. If you burn a half a cord of wood or more your chimney should be inspected on a yearly basis and swept when necessary. Even if you do not burn very often , NFPA 211 states that all chimneys should be inspected annually.
Inspections are done to check for creosote build-up, blockage, cracks, and any deterioration of the chimney that can be a potential hazard.
Q. How is a chimney swept and is it messy?
A. The chimney cleaning can be done from the top or from the bottom (depending on the access and height of the chimney) your sweep may choose which ever is the safest most practical method. If it is a furnace, coal or wood stove chimney to be serviced, your sweep will disconnect the connector pipe and stuff the hole with foam, A fire place differs and your sweep will shut the damper door while sweeping and a vacuum is set up at the bottom to collect all the dust and debris before it enters your home. Weller’s offers a No Mess Guarantee!
Q. What should and should not be burned in a chimney?
A. Creosote becomes more of a problem in unseasoned wet and sappy woods like pine and spruce, so these should be avoided. Burning hardwood like oak, hickory, cherry or maple is best. Birch or pine can be used to get the fire going and should be split into smaller kindling. Use only wood that has been split, stacked properly, covered and drying out at least six months — if the ends are not cracked, the wood is not dry enough. A wood moisture meter can be very useful in telling if wood is dry enough and are available at hardware stores like Sears® and Harbor Frieght®. The maximum recommended moisture content for burning is 18%-20%
Never burn any type of painted wood that would give off toxic fumes. Avoid wood like plywood that is put together with glue. A minimal amount of paper is OK to start a fire, but avoid glossy paper or paper with color print. Large amounts of paper like Christmas wrapping should not be burned because it creates a large flame that can reach creosote deposits and start a chimney fire. *The top of the flame should always be visible.
Q. Why do I need a chimney cap?
A. Chimney caps are vital for several reasons including:
Keeping out the weather – The Chimney Cap prevents rain and snow from entering the chimney, causing damper and firebox rust leading to expensive repairs. Moisture is also the chimney’s enemy, when mixed with the sulfur laden soot that is already in your chimney, it becomes sulfuric acid and attacks the inner walls of the flue and mortar joints again leading to expensive repairs.
Keeping out Birds & Animals – The Chimney Cap will not allow birds, bats, squirrels or other animals to enter the chimney where they sometimes make nests blocking the flow of the chimney which could result in CO2 leakage into the home. (a very common problem)
To Discourage Back Draft – Where certain wind conditions exist, the Chimney Cap can discourage downdrafts.
A Spark Arrestor – The wire mesh reduces the amount of sparks and large ash that is normally blown into the air and onto rooftops which could catch a roof on fire.
Q. How do I know what type of chimney cap to get?
A. Insist on a Stainless Steel or copper professional grade cap, the caps that are available at your local home improvement store are not considered professional grade and in short do not pass the test of time, aluminum or galvanized caps can be ripped off by animals and will rust over time leaving ugly stains on the chimney.
All Weller’s Professional grade stainless steel or copper caps come with a life-time warranty. Your Weller’s chimney professional will be able to properly size and install a chimney cap for you that will best suit your needs.
Q. With the rising cost of fuel prices, is there anything I can do to make my fireplace more efficient?
A. There are a few options you have to increase the heat output of your fireplace. The first and best option is to install a wood burning insert by doing this you are getting the most BTU’s( usually about 70,000+ or -) you can out of the wood you are burning. However, if you do not have the money to do this, your next option would be to install a Big Woods Hearth Warmer™. You simply place your logs on the grate and the thermostatically controlled blower circulates the warm air into your living space at a maximum rate of 40,000 BTU’s of heat per hour. This is a very cost effective way to bring more heat into your home. Feel free to call us for more information and a free quote.
Q. I’ve been noticing that there is a strong odor of soot and ashes coming from my fireplace on hot, humid days. Sometimes the odor is also strong after it rains. What’s causing this and how can I get rid of it?
A. The first thing to do is have your chimney and fireplace swept if you haven’t had it done in a while. If you have recently had it swept, then there could be some underlying issues causing the smell. These include: making sure your damper is closed, lack of a rain cap at the top of your chimney, moisture problems within the chimney, your smoke chamber may have corbelled brick (which allows creosote to build up), or your chimney could be too short, which doesn’t allow enough draft to draw smoke and odors up and out. Weller’s sells a special fireplace deodorant that actually absorbs the smell and gives off a pleasant bubble gum odor to help with this problem just ask your technician at time of service.
Q. With the rising cost of heating, is there anything I can do to minimize heat loss in the area of my fireplace?
A. Most fireplaces/chimneys were originally built with a cast iron damper. Unfortunately, these types of dampers do not seal well plus they warp and rust over time, making an even worse seal. Installing a top-sealing damper can dramatically cut your energy costs by preventing cold air from ever entering your chimney because it’s sealed off from the top and will no longer allow heat to rise up and out of your house. A good test to do is to have the damper closed on a cold day while the fireplace is not in use and feel if it is cold and drafty around the fireplace opening, if so you are wasting money that would easily pay for a top sealing damper in a very short time.
Q. Why does my fireplace smoke so much upon starting?
A. There are many reasons for this, number one being because the chimney and flue are cold. Try warming up the flue first before starting the fire with a lit piece of rolled up newspaper, this usually starts an upward flow in the flue and prevents smoke spillage into the home. If this does not work try opening up a window or door just a crack this will allow extra air into the home and help with the upward flow of the smoke. If you continue to have smoke spillage into the home even after the fire is lit you may have other issues, it could be a poorly designed fireplace(flue size to fireplace opening ratio wrong) in this case a smoke guard can be installed making the fireplace opening smaller correcting the improper ratio, or a pressure problem in the home causing the issue which can be corrected by installing a fresh air intake. All of these problems when diagnosed can usually be corrected in a fairly short time by a Weller’s Professional trained technician.
Q. Does my Chimney Liner need to be insulated?
A. Insulation is always a good idea when relining a chimney but most don’t want to spend the money if it isn’t necessary. As a general rule an outside chimney will always be much colder than an inside chimney, therefore if there is a severe condensation or moisture problem on an outside chimney, it’s a good idea to insulate the liner to keep the flue gasses warm and evaporate that moisture. if the fuel serving that flue is solid such as wood or coal then most liner manufacturer’s require that the liner be insulated for it to be UL Listed® UL 1777.
Q. Does my Chimney Need a Liner?
A. YES! NFPA states that chimney’s MUST have a liner that is able to contain the materials of combustion. A lot of people have flue liners but are in such poor shape they are serving no purpose, this is why NFPA recommends annual inspections of chimneys. When Sweeping a chimney We also conduct a Level One Inspection, this sometimes leads to finding hidden defects and possible hazards within the chimney, like broken or spalling flue tiles, that the homeowner was not aware of.