This week, we’re talking about chimneys and fireplaces with Mitchell Lovell, a second-generation certified chimney sweep with Coastal Chimney Sweeps.
In 2009, Mitchell started working at Coastal Chimney Sweeps, the company his father founded in 1979. Like his father, Thomas, he is dedicated to doing the best work to keep customers safe.
Cleaning and Inspection
What all’s involved in cleaning a chimney?
Mitchell: First, we move all the furniture out of the way and lay down a drop cloth around the chimney.
Then clean the chimney with a specially made vacuum with a three-stage filter and HEPA filter. This contains the soot and keeps the inside air clean.
We can get anywhere from five to 10 gallons of soot out of some chimneys!
At Coastal Chimney Sweeps, we perform a certified inspection for every scheduled cleaning. If needed, we’ll do an inspection with a Chim-Scan Video. This is a camera inspection system that scans every joint and connection to make sure everything is functioning properly.
Relining a Chimney
What’s involved in relining a chimney?
Mitchell: A chimney liner prevents the transfer of heat to combustible parts that surround a chimney. Over time, the liner deteriorates, and this increases your risk of a house fire.
Basically, there are two types of chimney lining: masonry and stainless steel.
For a masonry liner, we use a bladder (chimney balloon) to block the bottom of the chimney, then spray firebrick cement inside to line it. Once the cement is dry, we deflate the bladder.
With a stainless steel liner, we run a flex-pipe metal liner through the chimney and connect it to block-off plates on the bottom and the top.
Stainless steel liners work well in older houses with multiple chimneys or chimneys with a lot of offsets.
What are some general rules for preventative maintenance?
Mitchell: Most importantly, have your chimney inspected once or twice a year if you use it frequently.
Next, make sure your wood is dry and don’t use pressure-treated wood. Burning green wood, or wood that has a lot of moisture, creates a lot of smoke. Not only will it ruin your indoor air quality, but it will also clog up your chimney faster.
Also, sparingly burn lighter knot wood, also known as fatwood. This type of firewood comes from the heartwood of pine trees and is saturated in sap, so it burns easily. However, it has a strong smell and will clog up your chimney with a creosote coating very quickly.
What about gas fireplaces?
Mitchell: Gas fireplaces need to be inspected just like wood-burning fireplaces.
The embers and filter sand will burn up eventually and clog the gas lines and block the heat sensors.
If your gas fireplace isn’t lighting, the heat sensor is probably blocked.
Dealing With Animals
What about animals nesting in fireplaces?
Mitchell: Squirrels and birds will often build nests on top of a chimney if the screen is broken, which could then lead to a build-up of a lot of combustible material inside.
I’ve seen one chimney with eight feet of twigs built up inside it from squirrels.
Also, these nests can fall down on top of the damper and block the whole chimney.
Have your chimney inspected regularly to make sure nothing is hiding in it and the screen is still doing its job.
Best Time for a Chimney Inspection
When’s the best time to have your chimney inspected?
Mitchell: Spring is the best time for a certified chimney sweep to inspect your chimney.
Business at Coastal Chimney Sweeps usually picks up at the end of summer, and by November, we book appointments three to four weeks out. So, by the time you notice the problem, you’re waiting for almost another month.
Dryer Vent Cleaning
What about dryer vent cleaning?
Mitchell: If your clothes take longer than one cycle to dry, you need to clean your dryer vent most likely.
Some dryer vents run 20 or 30 feet underneath a home’s slab foundation, which makes it easier for the vents to clog with not only lint but also water.
Also, if you don’t clean your vent out for years, the lint can solidify and completely block the pipe.
We use air pressure and agitation tools along with a vacuum to clean the entire vent. Dryer vent cleaning cleans the line that travels through the walls and ceilings to the outside vent of your home.
Once cleaned, we will clean out the connection piece, re-attach your dryer and re-check the vent while your dryer is operating.
Cleaning out your dryer vent extends the life of your dryer, reduces operation costs and makes your home safer for your you and family.