Our Company Blog

The Benefits Of Refractory Mortar

Did you know your fireplace and chimney may be constructed using only standard bricks and mortar? However, today’s chimney professionals know that there are benefits to choosing refractory materials for fireplaces and chimneys. More than that, it’s required by the International Residential Code (IRC) and the International Building Code (IBC).Benefits Of Refractory Mortar - Suffolk NY - Chief Chimney Services

Safety First

If you choose an amateur to build or repair your firebox, he may cut corners and costs by failing to use the right materials! This is a dangerous hazard and will result in damage to the masonry and heat transfer to the structural materials of the home. It also lowers efficiency and increases fire risk. Whats else happens if refractory mortar isn’t used, along with fire bricks? There will be recurring damage, which an amateur or con artist may repeatedly repair. This can end up costing you a fortune. A certified chimney sweep who is trained in masonry construction and repair knows the necessary materials to help keep customers safe this winter.

Choosing the Right Professional

When you choose a professional to complete your chimney and fireplace rebuilds and repairs, you can rest assured that they know what they’re doing. A CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep® (CCS) will use the proper materials that will offer the safest and most efficient fireplace and chimney system. Chief Chimney Services has been operating in Suffolk County for over 20 years! We are aware of municipal codes and industry standards. In addition, we’ve acquainted with general contractors in the area who often work with us.

Using the Wrong Mortar

Using the wrong materials when building or repairing a chimney can mean a devastating fire. Don’t hire a chimney sweep who is inexperienced and uses incorrect materials! Doing so may result in your homeowners insurance having grounds to deny your claim in the event of a fire. Some professionals may cut corners by adding fire-clay to regular mortar. This is not recommended and does not get the same result. Only a refractory mortar, designed to be as strong as fire brick and flue tiles, can withstand the regular high temperatures and abuse of a fireplace and chimney.

Some professionals and homeowners alike think it’s okay to use standard mortar mix, if you only use the fireplace occasionally. This is precisely why it is against residential and building codes! If the home is sold or property is otherwise transferred, the new owner is stuck with the unsafe chimney. Perhaps they will want to light a fire every night, instead of only occasionally. This puts people at risk that can be avoided.

Do you think your fireplace or chimney was constructed or repaired improperly? There is still time to have it inspected by a CSIA certified professional before winter! A Chief Chimney technician can quickly assess your chimney system for problems and plan accordingly. Our sweeps are standing by to talk to you about refractory mortar and more. Call 631-863-2460 or request an appointment online.

By John Pilger on July 24th, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

Starting a cold fireplace

As the cold weather approaches, Chief Chimney Services in Long Island, New York wants to make sure that you are using your fireplace in an efficient and safe manner. We know there is nothing better than the sound, ambiance, and warmth from a crackling fire in your fireplace. And, there is nothing worse than a house full of smoke and toxic fumes caused by improperly starting a cold fireplace.

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There are very specific considerations you need to know and specific techniques to successfully light a fire in a cold fireplace:

Before the cold weather approaches, a thorough inspection and cleaning by a CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) certified chimney technician is a must to ensure your chimney, fireplace, and their components are fully operational and clean. If you avoid this step, you are putting your house and family at risk for a fire, explosion, and toxic gas poisoning. CSIA, in accordance with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), urges homeowners to have a yearly inspection and cleaning of their fireplaces and chimneys before using the fireplace for the first time each season. Your skilled CSIA certified chimney technician will identify and repair any potential hazards and remove any blockages from debris or critters so you will be ready for that first fire of the year.

Once you have done your due diligence and had the cleaning and inspection performed and repaired any problems then it’s time to prepare to light your first fire of the season. The first thing to do (and many times overlooked) is OPEN THE DAMPER. The setting for many romantic and utilitarian fires have been ruined as the room filled up with smoke because the damper was not opened before the wood was lit.

The next step is to prime the flue. Here’s why that is so important. Consider that your chimney is located on the outside of your home and surrounded by the cold fall or winter temperatures. Remember, hot air rises and cold air sinks. So when you open the damper, cold air from outside is drawn down your chimney. The cold air forms a barrier as the warm air from inside your home begins to rise. This is called “air sink”. When air sink occurs and the smoke cannot escape out the chimney your house fills up with smoke. The way to avoid air sink is to prime the flue by lighting a rolled up newspaper or piece of seasoned wood and holding it to the damper for 3-4 minutes. You will actually be able to feel the warm and cold air exchange. Once that happens you can proceed to the next step in lighting your fire.

Place your wood atop a bed a couple inches thick of ashes.The ash bed will provide additional insulation to keep your fire burning hotter. Remember the hotter the fire, the more safe and efficient it is.

As the final step is to build what is known as an “upside down” fire:

Stack large or split logs next to one another tightly to form your bottom layer. Place slightly smaller logs/split logs perpendicular to the bottom layer to form the 2nd layer.
Repeat this process using smaller and smaller pieces to a reasonable height – usually 2-5 layers depending on:

  • The size of your fireplace
  • How much wood you have on hand
  • How long you want the fire to burn

At the top add strips or crumpled newspaper and dry kindling.
Light the newspaper/kindling at the top and watch that baby burn itself down.

By following these recommendations when you initially start your cold fireplace, you will be able to truly appreciate and enjoy romantic and utilitarian fires all season long.

By John Pilger on September 27th, 2015 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , , , | Leave a Comment

NFPA Chimney Inspections

Chimney inspections are important to identify any potential fire, health, and structure damage risks that may be present in your home. The certified chimney professionals from Chief Chimney Services in Long Island know how important annual inspections are for homeowners to receive. Unfortunately, Chief has also witnessed the consequences when homeowners rationalized that they don’t need an inspection or procrastinated at having the repair recommendations performed.

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Whether you live in Long Island or anywhere else, it is for your own protection that you follow the recommendations from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and have a professional inspect your chimney. The key word is “professional”. The worst case scenario is you to pay someone who just claims to be able to inspect your chimney and you think you are safe, and then experience the unthinkable because the person you did business with was not qualified to perform the inspection. How does a homeowner know what should be included in a proper inspection? The NFPA instituted guidelines for homeowners and inspectors.

When it came to determining what components were to be inspected and the appropriate inspection for the homeowner’s circumstances, prior to 2000, homeowners we left at the mercy and judgement of the person conducting their inspection. In January of 2000, the National Fire Protection Association defined and standardized what inspections should include. These standards can be found in code NFPA 211 (Standard for Chimneys, Fireplaces, Vents and Solid Fuel Burning Appliances). There are three levels of inspection and each has a very clear definition for the inspector and homeowner, alike.

The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) has included a detail explanation of each of the three levels of inspections along with guidelines when each is appropriate on their website. Click here to view those videos.

Both the CSIA and NFPA are very clear that homeowners have an annual chimney inspection by a CSIA certified technician performed every year before you begin to use your heating system. Inspections can be best performed in the summertime when the chimney and furnace are not in use and weather conditions make a visual inspection easier. However, inspections can be performed throughout the year weather permitting.

If your inspector does find an issue or issues that need to be addressed, it is important to take care of the repairs promptly. Inadequately functioning chimneys and their components can lead to fire hazards, toxic gas poisoning, as well as water damage to the interior and exterior of your home. And if there were ever a time to be proactive, it is when your family’s health and safety are at stake.

It is our recommendation to you that you review the three levels of inspections and discuss your need for a proper inspection with your CSIA certified chimney professional. If you live in Long Island, Chief Chimney Service is available to answer all your questions and perform the proper inspection following NFPA standards. If you don’t live in Chief’s service area consult the CSIA website, Angie’s List, and the BBB to find a qualified inspector.

Chimneys 101: All About Chimney Caps

Are you familiar with the multiple threats to your chimney and fireplace? From creosote to the deposit of moisture, invasion from animals and other issues, staying informed about what poses a threat to your investment is always a good idea.
A chimney cap is an easy way to minimize threats to your fireplace, chimney and the structure of your home, and offers many benefits for homeowners that you might not be aware of. Check out the information below to learn all about chimney caps.

What is a Chimney Cap?

A chimney cap is a stainless steel, mesh or copper cap that fits to the top of your chimney, allowing the smoke and vapors from burning fires to escape through its vents, but preventing other elements from entering your chimney and making their way into your home.
Despite the necessity of a chimney cap in maintaining the safety and efficiency of your fireplace and chimney, many homeowners are unaware of the issues they face by letting their chimney remain uncapped. In short, a chimney cap is an essential and necessary part of protecting your chimney, fireplace and home from unwanted critters, moisture and weather elements.

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Why Do You Need a Chimney Cap?

In addition to its protective properties against wild animals, debris, the elements and excess moisture, a chimney cap serves as a protective barrier between your roof and any floating embers or ashes that might come out through your chimney as you enjoy a fire. Many home fires have been caused as a result of uncapped chimneys sending burning embers onto a home’s roof, causing combustion, structural damage and even home loss.

  • Similarly, moisture build-ups in your chimney can cause both structural damage and general deterioration, threating your investment and prompting costly repairs. In addition to inhibiting the amount of moisture that enters your chimney, caps are designed to help route rainwater away from your chimney and off of your roof.
  • Chimney caps also prevent non-animal or creosote-based blockages, such as those that result from a build-up of leaves, sticks and wind-borne debris, from creating havoc in your chimney.
  • Another benefit you can expect from your chimney cap is a reduction in drafts and excess air flow. During the wintertime, especially in New York, cold gusts of wind and downdrafts can travel through an uncapped chimney, causing heat loss and even blowing smoke and soot into your home. A chimney cap essentially eliminates the occurrence of drafts and gusts of wind coming in through your fireplace.

An uncapped-chimney allows all manner of debris into your home and could potentially cause blockages, damage to your chimney’s structure or issues with venting, any of which can lead to costly, dangerous issues with your investment.

Choosing the Right Chimney Cap for Your Home

So you know you need to invest in a chimney cap, but how can you find the right cap for your chimney and tastes? No matter what you’re looking for, a professional chimney and fireplace company can provide consultation and installation that can put your mind at ease and help you find the right cap for your home. Chief Chimney Services of Suffolk County has been providing superior chimney cap education and installation to satisfied customers for years. Check out our website to browse our services and set up an appointment.

What To Do About a Smelly Chimney

When you have a smelly chimney it’s easy to know what to do…CALL A PROFESSIONAL CHIMNEY SWEEP. Chief Chimney Services has been serving residents of Long Island and curing smelly chimney issues in Suffolk County since 1983.

On those oh so familiar hot humid summer days, when your nose connects with that foul pungent odor from your fireplace and chimney, hear warning bells in your mind alerting you that something needs attention. Just like the warning tone your ears hear when your fire and carbon monoxide alarms go off, when your nose detects that putrid smell it’s time to call your chimney professional.

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Stinking chimneys can be caused by a single problem or a combination of several. Most likely the cause of your smelly chimney won’t be apparent to the naked eye, and even if you forsook your own safety and climbed on the roof, you wouldn’t be able to see far enough into your chimney to locate the problem. Smelly chimneys occur when there is mold growing or water seeping in your chimney, a build-up of creosote, nesting and decaying animals and birds, all of which are complicated by negative air pressure in your home.

Mold remains one of the top health hazards and special care must be given not only to remove it, but also to prevent its re-occurrence. A common misconception is that bleach is a mold inhibitor, which it is not. Mold can exacerbate breathing and pulmonary issues and cause severe health issues. It spreads quickly and needs prompt attention. Seeping moisture breeds mold. A professional chimney sweep will locate the source of the moisture and correct the problem and remove the existing accumulation; both are necessary to solve mold issues and their subsequent odors.

Your chimney presents an attractive living space for birds and rodents as it is warm, dry, and protected from predators. The troubles occur for when the animal droppings build in the chimney and/or they die inside. Both the decaying bodies and parasites the carcasses attract linger inside your chimney. It is not only unhealthy, but it also blocks proper airflow and causes an awful stench. Adding further to the problem is the fact that in many communities, nesting birds cannot be disturbed. Part of the training professional and certified chimney sweeps receive is how to prevent wildlife from turning your chimney into public housing in the first place and what to do if they have while conforming to wildlife protection laws.

Downdrafts present their own issues and causes of smelly chimneys. The Professional Home Inspection Service wants homeowners to recognize, “While a mild smoke odor is a minor problem, the issue can be very serious if the same thing occurs with naturally drafting gas appliances. The same negative pressure could be drawing combustion gases including carbon monoxide back down the utility chimney, posing a very unhealthy situation. If this problem is a possibility in your house, make sure your carbon monoxide detector is in good working order, and call in a professional for further assessment.”

Professional chimney technicians will pro-actively troubleshoot the potential causes of a smelly chimney and remedy them during their annual inspections. Built up creosote, along with all of these causes of smelly chimneys can be identified and corrected by following the guidelines recommended by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) for annual chimney inspections and cleaning.

Remember a smelly chimney is a warning for you to call your chimney professional! Chief Chimney Services is here for homeowners on Long Island.

We Serve Suffolk County

There is no better place in the county for us to provide comprehensive chimney services than in Suffolk County, New York. Chief Chimney Services has been part of the Suffolk Country business community for over 30 years. Over that time we have seen a lot of changes to our area; however, nothing can offset the rich history and the spirit of past and current residents.

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For those who have never been to Suffolk County, let us introduce you. Long Island is in Suffolk County. The peninsula extends into the Atlantic Ocean. The world renowned Hamptons is also part of Suffolk County. The area is characterized by its beaches, wharfs, farmlands, seaside villages, rolling hills, and farmlands. Long Island was named one of the Top Ten Wine Regions in the World by Wine Enthusiast magazine. Dr. Beach, a noted, beach expert, named Main Beach in East Hampton the Best Beach in America.

The first inhabitants of Long Island were the Algonquin Indians. The Algonquins and others who came to settle in the area were attracted by the waterways, local game, rich farmland, and native nuts, berries, and grains. Those interested in the development and chronological history of Suffolk County can click here.

There are almost 300 places in Suffolk County currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places which preserve the area’s rich history. Click here for a complete list.

The Vanderbilt name is synonymous with Suffolk County. Visitors and residents enjoy visiting the mansion, museum, and planetarium on the Vanderbilt estate. For more information click here.

It’s the local nuances of an area that gives it its character. Here are a few bits of information to enlighten and amuse you.

  • You can never get really lost on Long Island.All you have to do is drive until you come to water and then turn around, “re-routing re-routing”.Suffolk County is described as an “epicurean’s dream”.
  • “The word “fresh” takes on a different meaning. Here, the menu’s ‘catch of the day’ was likely hauled in that morning from the waters off our Island shores, prepared and served with vegetables – picked from a nearby farm – seasoned with herbs from the garden then paired with a Pinot Grigio from a vineyard just down the road.” Click here for more information on great dining experiences.

Suffolk County has several aviation museums and places to explore science, mathematics, history, energy, astronomy, and technology. To learn more click here.

Those interested in live entertainment will not be disappointed. The theatres and auditoriums in the North Shore area have performances for all entertainment genres and audiences. Click here for more information.

New York City is close enough to visit when you want to participate in all that one of the world’s most dynamic cities offer, yet far enough away not to interfere with the tranquility and charm and quaintness this historic county offers.

Quality of life is important to residents visiting in Suffolk County. Chief Chimney Services is proud to maintain chimneys and fireplaces and offer comprehensive and related service to new residents of Suffolk County as well as those whose ancestors are part of the area’s history.

What Is Creosote?

What Is Creosote? The term creosote in relation to fireplaces and chimney occurs when the by-products of wood are not totally burned off and the residue travels in the smoke as a vapor. When it is cooled to a liquid it coats whatever it encounters. The wood-tar substance is a blackish brown sticky gooey oil mixture that builds up on the interior surfaces of your chimney and fireplace. It is extremely combustible. Due to the hazardous nature of creosote and its offensive odor, Chief Chimney Services takes special care to remove it and protect homeowners from fire and toxic gas risks associated with creosote.

The Hearth.com website explains, “Creosote buildup is pretty sneaky. You may not notice it at first but it tends to feed on itself. As it builds up, it restricts the flow in the chimney and/or stove pipes. This slows the smoke on its way out, allowing more time for it to cool and for the creosote to condense and deposit on itself thus further restricting the flow.”.

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The fire hazard occurs when it is ignited by a hot fire. Pieces of the built up creosote can also become loose and flake and travel upwards to your roof, or down your chimney into your fireplace and into your home. No matter the direction, the result of burning creosote is no good. A traveling piece of burning creosote can bring on a dangerous and expansive fire.

The inspectapedia website lists these considerations about creosote build up:

  • The temperature of the chimney. Consider long low smoldering fires make more creosote that hotter roaring fires
  • The wood to sap ratio of the wood you burn, the greener the wood the more moisture and the more creosote
  • The moisture content of the wood, wet wood burns more slowly and produces more creosote
  • The chimney size, height, location, and construction materials also influence the buildup of creosote.

There are important things for homeowners to understand about creosote that you need to know if you are even considering to attempt to remove creosote buildup yourself. First, without the professional equipment and cameras a chimney professional uses, you are not able to view the entire length of your chimney and therefore you may not be aware of the buildup that occurs out of sight which still puts you at risk. There are two other considerations as well as access. Dislodging the creosote is extremely dangerous for several reasons. First, as you chip away at the creosote you may do damage to the underlying chimney structure. Worse you will be breathing the extremely toxic materials even if you wear a mask. Worst yet, if you dislodge the creosote it may travel in the smoke and downdrafts of future fires and ignite whatever it lands upon.

Creosote inspection and removal is critical to the safety and security of your home and best done by a technician certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. CSIA certified technicians know the proper methods, cleaning agent, and tools to keep your chimney unblocked. Chief Chimney Services, Inc.wants to be your chimney professional. Contact us today!

Troubleshooting Fireplace Draft Problems

When you need your heating appliances, you expect them to work and it can be frustrating when things aren’t operating properly. If you notice your fireplace is drafty, it could be a simple fix, or it could mean you need to make some repairs. Troubleshooting fireplace draft problems involves understanding how your fireplace and chimney work, and how to prevent your warm air from escaping. No matter what the issue may be, it is best to start with a professional chimney sweeping and inspection.

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Has Your Fireplace Been Swept?

Make sure your chimney has been properly swept and inspected. A certified and reputable chimney sweeping company like Chief Chimney Services, Inc in Suffolk can help make sure your chimney is cleaned and inspected before troubleshooting additional problems. Once your chimney has been properly inspected and swept you can move on to troubleshooting additional causes for a draft.

A thorough chimney cleaning can also remove excess build-up of creosote, which can coat the flue. When the flue can’t open and close effectively, it can lead to a draft in your fireplace. Again, a regular sweeping of your chimney and fireplace can remove creosote and other debris to make sure all the moving parts of your chimney are working.

Using Your Fireplace Correctly

Many fireplace issues are corrected with some simple knowledge on how to operate your wood-burning appliance. Make sure your damper is closed when not in use to prevent cold air from pushing down your chimney. During the colder winter months, it may be necessary to prime the flue by lighting some newspaper and holding it up to the damper to warm it up before you start your fire. In other cases, you may need to clean and replace any connectors that go from the fireplace or woodstove to the chimney. Once you seal all the leaks, you can move on to other possible causes of your chimney draft.

Preventing Downdrafting

During colder weather, the most common cause of a drafty fireplace is a downdraft. A downdraft occurs when cold air blows across your chimney and eventually down your chimney and through your fireplace. Counteract the downdraft by replacing your chimney cap and making sure it is installed properly. Similarly, a chimney cap and proper damper use can prevent The Stack Effect, when the warm air from inside your home battles with the cold external air, which can cause a draft.

A professional chimney inspection company will help determine other causes of drafts including whether or not your chimney is leaky, which may mean you need some masonry repair. Your certified chimney inspection company can also inspect your damper and any stovepipe connectors that may need to be replaced. Many newer homes are built airtight, which makes fixing a drafty fireplace as easy as installing a chimney cap or closing the damper. However, in older homes masonry repair may be required. In either case, hiring a professional chimney inspector can alleviate your worries and fix your draft problem in on easy step. Contact Chief Chimney Services to fix your drafty fireplace today.