Our Company Blog

What Is a Chimney Spark Arrestor?

When it comes to the different parts of a chimney, it can be easy to get confused. Especially if you do not understand exactly what each part does. Also, it can be difficult when a part seems to do the same function as another part. Then you realize it ends up being called another name. Learning what each individual part actually does makes it much easier to see the importance of each part. You can also see the functions that make parts different from each other. Many people tend to confuse chimney caps with spark arrestors. This is because they both sit on top of the chimney. However, not all chimney caps are equipped with the mesh metal siding that spark arrestors must have. American Chimney & Masonry sells both of these chimney components. So now we would like to explain the differences to you.

What Is A Chimney Spark Arrestor Image - Portland OR - American Chimney and MasonryWhat exactly is a spark arrestor?

As defined by Wikipedia, a spark arrestor is “any device which prevents the emission of flammable debris from combustion sources.” They go on to say that spark arrestors are fitted to a chimney to keep sparks and embers from jumping out of the chimney. This is too keep them from landing on the roof or combustible material on the ground to start a fire. Spark arrestors generally consist of double layers of metal mesh. This mesh can catch embers, yet still allow gases and smoke to exit the chimney.

Do chimney spark arrestors have other functions?

The metal meshing is great to prevent birds, squirrels, raccoons, and other wild animals from being able to get into the chimney to nest. Without this type of protection, these critters can enter your flue to cause problems and could even become trapped.

What exactly is a chimney cap?

A chimney cap covers the top of the flue. This is to keep water from rain, ice, and snow out of your home. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends it as the most economical way of preventing chimney water leaks. A standard chimney cap typically does not have mesh metal sides. However, American Chimney & Masonry carries a wide variety of caps that do! They can also serve as spark arrestors as well. These caps will also keep out wild animals and birds. We can also show you chimney caps that are equipped with special vents that will direct the wind to improve your chimney draft.

Protect your home with a spark arrestor! Contact us at American Chimney & Masonry today. Find out more about this important chimney part, as well as about chimney caps to protect your chimney from water penetration.

By Steven Pietila on February 4th, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

Why Does My Fireplace Smoke?

You have been wanting to use your fireplace this winter! However, every time you try to light a fire, the entire room fills with smoke. American Chimney & Masonry knows how frustrating this can be. Not worry though, because it is a very common problem.  Customers ask us all the time how to keep this situation from happening. Sometimes, the solution is simple. Other times, it takes a bit of troubleshooting to solve this smoky issue. Here are some of the reasons why your fireplace could be blowing smoke back into your home, instead of up into the chimney.

Why Does My Fireplace Smoke Image - Portland OR - American Chimney and Masonry Check the damper.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the most common reason for a smoky fireplace is forgetting to open the damper completely. You have probably closed your damper to keep cold air out. However, for safety reasons, always make sure your damper is fully opened before you light a fire in your fireplace. Do you have a traditional throat damper? You may have to crouch down and look up into the fireplace with a flashlight. This allows you to see if the damper is open or closed. Is this a problem for you? We can talk to you about a top-mounted damper that is easier to open and close.

You may have negative air pressure.

When you weatherize your house, you seal up windows and doors to keep drafts out to save money on utilities. While this does help you save money, it can hurt your chimney draft by creating negative air pressure. Your chimney does not have the additional air it needs to pull out smoke and other byproducts from combustion because of the weatherization. Give your chimney the air it needs! Crack open a window in the same room as your fireplace to help the draft work properly.

You need to have your chimney professionally swept.

Another thing that could be causing your fireplace to blow smoke back into the room is a chimney blockage. Debris like leaves, sticks, creosote, broken bricks, and other things could be blocking the exit of the smoke. In other words, it has no other place to go than back into your home. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA)-certified chimney sweeps from American Chimney & Masonry can remove the blockage and sweep your chimney so that it works safely and efficiently.

American Chimney & Masonry is here to help you with your smoky fireplace. Contact us to schedule an appointment for your annual chimney sweeping and inspection today!

By Steve Pietila on January 20th, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

Winter Heating Safety Tips

Safe Heating in Winter Image - Portland OR - American Chimney & MasonryNow that winter is in full swing, you should be ensuring you and your family are following the best safety practices when using the fireplace. Statistics show the dangers of ignoring fireplace safety recommendations. In 2014, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that US fire departments responded to 367,500 residential fires, which resulted in 2,745 deaths, 11.825 injuries, and $6.8 billion in property damage. One of the reasons the NFPA cited for these fires is failure to follow fireplace safety precautions. At American Chimney & Masonry, one of our top priorities is educating our customers about how to enjoy safe and warm fires, so we would like to share a few of the most important safety tips to remember when using the fireplace.

Double check the damper.

Before lighting a fire, you want to make sure the damper is completely open. This will help keep smoke going quickly out of the chimney as it should. When the damper is partially closed, you can have exhaust problems. To avoid the risk of carbon monoxide leaks, keep the damper open until the embers are totally out.

Only burn seasoned firewood.

You should make sure that your firewood has been allowed to dry for at least six months after being cut so that it is properly seasoned. This type of wood will give you longer lasting and clean burning fires. When you burn wet wood, more creosote is produced and builds up inside your chimney to become a fire hazard.

Keep the hearth area clear.

Make sure furniture, curtains, carpet, and any other combustible items are at least six feet away from your fireplace. To keep children and pets away from this area, you can set up a fireplace screen, which will also keep hot sparks and embers from jumping out of the fire to start an accidental fire.

Never leave a fire unattended.

Children and pets should always be supervised around a burning fire. If you must leave the room before the fire has been extinguished, you will need to bring any kids or pets with you. You should also be sure the fire is completely out before you leave your home or go to bed for the night.

Schedule an annual professional chimney sweeping and inspection.

This maintenance service is recommended by the NFPA, the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), and other national fire safety organizations because professional chimney sweeps will remove all fire hazards and ensure your fireplace will be safe to use.

Enjoy warm and safe fires all winter long around your fireplace. Contact American Chimney & Masonry for all of your chimney maintenance, repair, and installation needs.

By Steven Pietila on January 7th, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment

Improve Your Home’s Heating Efficiency with a New Fireplace Insert

Heating Efficiency & Fireplace Inserts Image - Portland OR - American Chimney & MasonryYou love your traditional open masonry fireplace, but you may have noticed that your heating bills have increased each winter because the heating efficiency of your older fireplace just is not as high as you would like. In fact, the average energy efficiency rating of open masonry fireplaces is about 15 percent. Most of the heat produced by the fire escapes out of your home through the chimney. If you want to heat your home more effectively and economically, American Chimney & Masonry has a solution: installing a new wood-burning or gas fireplace insert into the opening of your existing fireplace. We carry a large variety of both fuel types, and you can trust our certified and experienced technicians to professionally install this new heating appliance so that it will work safely and efficiently. To help you decide which fuel type is best for your home, we wanted to tell you a bit more about the pros and cons of each type of fireplace insert. No matter which fuel type you choose, you will vastly increase the energy efficiency of your home this winter with one of these heating appliances.

Wood-Burning Fireplace Inserts

If the scents, sights, and smells of burning wood are why you love your traditional masonry fireplace so much, a wood-burning fireplace insert is the perfect choice to increase the heating efficiency in your home this winter. According to HouseLogic, a new wood-burning fireplace insert has energy efficiency ratings that range from 60 to 80 percent. Even better, most models have been certified by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as heating appliances that burn cleanly with less energy. This type of insert has front doors with ceramic glass, which allow the heat to radiate into the room. Many units are also equipped with fans that circulate warm air throughout the living area. While a wood-burning fireplace insert can be wonderful for some, you will still have to bring firewood inside from storage and sweep up ashes after each fire, and you may not want the responsibility of these chores.

Gas Fireplace Inserts

How does starting a fire by pressing a button on a remote control from the comfort of your couch or favorite chair sound to you? This is possible with a new gas fireplace insert. If convenience and ease are important to you, you will want to consider installing this type of heating appliance to improve your home’s energy efficiency this winter. With energy efficiency ratings of 58 to 85 percent, gas fireplace inserts produce a very small amount of creosote, smoke, and other pollutants because they burn very cleanly. However, if you love the sensory experience of a wood fire, you may be disappointed with the aesthetics of a gas flame, even though you can find models with realistic-looking fires.

Whether you decide to go with a wood-burning or a gas fireplace insert, you will be greatly improving the heating efficiency in your home. Contact us at American Chimney & Masonry to learn more about your options for a new energy-efficient heating appliance this winter.

By Steven Pietila on November 9th, 2016 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment

Prepare Your Fall Home Maintenance Checklist

Home Upkeep Fall Image - Portland OR - American Chimney & MasonryPreparing your home for colder weather is an important task for homeowners, and making a fall home maintenance checklist is a great way to organize what you need to do. Ensuring you are taking care of everything you should is much easier when you have a checklist to follow. To help you with this checklist, American Chimney & Masonry would like to share with you some of the most crucial tasks to include.

Have your chimney professionally swept and inspected.

Before you light the first fire of the year, you need to schedule an appointment with American Chimney & Masonry for our professional chimney sweeping and inspection services. Our Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA)-certified chimney sweeps take great care in preparing the chimneys of the Portland area for safe, warm fires during the winter. We will make sure to remove all of the creosote from the inner walls of your chimney to reduce your risk of a chimney fire. Creosote is so highly flammable that the CSIA has named it a leading cause of chimney fires. We will also look for possible problems when we inspect your chimney to be sure you can use your fireplace safely.

Clean your gutters.

After the leaves have fallen from the trees, you should have your gutters cleaned to avoid problems like ice dams forming on your roof. You will also want to check to see if your gutters are sagging anywhere as this can trap water. Tightening gutter hangers and downspout brackets is important in keeping your gutter system in good shape for the winter.
Store your grill and your lawnmower.

Since you will not be using these items during the colder months, you need to properly put them away for the winter. If you do not have a garage or other covered storage area, you should invest in covers that will protect them from cold temperatures. Before storing your grill, you should give it a good cleaning. As for your lawnmower, you should either add fuel stabilizer to its tank or run your mower dry to keep any leftover gas from deteriorating and damaging internal engine parts.

Prepare outdoor faucets.

You will want to remove any outdoor hoses from these faucets to keep water from backing up in the faucets and the pipes just inside your interior walls. The reason for doing this is that freezing temperatures can cause that water to freeze, expand, and burst those pipes. You should also turn off the shutoff valves on any water supply lines that lead to exterior faucets.
Get your home ready for winter by preparing a fall home maintenance checklist. To get started on these tasks, contact us at American Chimney & Masonry to schedule an appointment for a professional chimney sweeping and inspection.

By Steven Pietila on October 24th, 2016 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment

It’s Not Too Late to Have Your Masonry Repairs Done

Masonry Repair Not Late Image - Portland OR - American Chimney & MasonryNow that fall has arrived, you are most likely getting your home ready for colder weather and making sure your fireplace and chimney are ready for winter. Damaged bricks and mortar joints can further deteriorate during the winter, so it is very important to have this type of masonry damage repaired. American Chimney & Masonry would like to tell you that it is not too late to have these masonry repairs done, and you can trust our experienced and certified chimney technicians to properly replace damaged and missing bricks and mortar joints to prevent water leaks and structural deterioration. We would like to tell you more about how masonry damage worsens over the winter and how we can protect your chimney from suffering from extensive and expensive water problems.

How does colder weather worsen masonry damage?

A large percentage of masonry damage occurs during the coldest months of the year due to the freeze/thaw process. Since bricks and mortar joints are naturally porous, they absorb water. When the temperature falls below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, any moisture that is trapped inside the bricks and mortar will freeze and expand. As the weather warms back up, the force of the water thawing can be strong enough to cause the bricks and mortar joints to crack and break apart. Repeated freeze/thaw cycles can lead to serious deterioration, and you can end up with major water leaks into your home through the chimney. This is why it is crucial to take care of any chimney masonry repairs before winter arrives. If the bricks and mortar are already damaged, even more water can be absorbed, which will cause even more damage.

How can American Chimney & Masonry take care of my chimney masonry damage?

Our chimney technicians have been trained in the best masonry repair techniques, including tuckpointing and chimney crown restoration. We use specialized tools to remove damaged bricks and mortar and to replace the missing masonry with materials that match as closely as possible. We have been told that it can be impossible to tell the difference between the original chimney and our repair jobs, and we are proud to show you pictures of examples of our masonry repair work. After we have repaired the damaged masonry, we will then make recommendations on how you can best prevent this type of damage from occurring again with water penetration prevention services. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), water is the biggest enemy of masonry chimneys, and keeping water out of your chimney is one of the most important things you can do to prolong the life of your chimney. We strongly recommend waterproofing your chimney for the ultimate protection against water penetration. We will apply a waterproofing agent to your chimney that will keep water from rain and melted snow from getting absorbed into the bricks and mortar joints. Waterproofing your chimney is one of the best ways to prevent water penetration.

You still have time to have your chimney masonry repairs done. Contact us today at American Chimney & Masonry to schedule an appointment for our masonry repair services to protect your chimney this winter.

By Steven Pietila on October 12th, 2016 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment

What Is Zone Heating?

Grasping Zone Heating Image - Portland OR - American Chimney As the colder months of the year are approaching, it is time to start thinking about heating your home this winter. If you are looking for a way to reduce your heating costs, you may be interested in learning more about zone heating. This type of heating can save you up to 30 percent on your utility bills, according to the US Department of Energy. To utilize zone heating, you keep your thermostat turned down while heating the rooms you use the most often with a supplemental heat source, such as your fireplace or gas logs. American Chimney & Masonry loves to help our customers learn more about zone heating, so we would like to tell you more about this economical way of heating your home.

What are the benefits of zone heating?

Think about the amount of time you and your family spend in each room of your home. More than likely, you spend the majority of your time in only a few rooms. When you only heat the rooms you use instead of the whole house, you are able to save both money and energy. When you set the thermostat for your furnace to heat the entire house, it can be expensive, especially when you realize you are heating rooms that are rarely used. You can also be more comfortable with zone heating because you can provide as much heat as you wish with your supplemental heating appliances.

How can American Chimney & Masonry help me with zone heating?

We are proud to offer sales and installation services for different types of heating appliances that can be used for zone heating. One of the most popular appliances used in zone heating is gas logs. This can be the best option for adding supplemental heat to a room without a chimney because we sell both vented and ventless gas logs. Ventless gas logs do not need to be vented through a chimney, so they make a great source of supplemental heat to use for zone heating. We also sell and install a wide variety of wood-burning and gas stove inserts that can be installed into your existing masonry fireplace to update its energy efficiency. Our staff is very knowledgeable about the best heating appliances to use in zone heating, and we would be happy to help you get your home set up to save money and energy this winter.

Want to learn more about zone heating? Contact us at American Chimney & Masonry to find out how this way of heating your home will reduce your heating costs this winter.

By Steven Pietila on September 28th, 2016 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

Are You Ready to Light a Fire This Winter?

Light a Fire This Winter Image - Portland OR - American Chimney & MasonryYou know that summer is coming to an end when it is time to get your kids ready to go back to school. The arrival of fall also means you need to start preparing your home for cooler temperatures. One home maintenance task that should be on your fall to-do list is scheduling your appointment for your annual professional chimney sweeping and inspection. It is very important to make sure your chimney and fireplace system is ready to use and will work safely and efficiently all winter long. In fact, many national fire safety organizations like the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommend having your chimney professionally swept and inspected before you light the first fire of fireplace season. American Chimney & Masonry has been providing this essential chimney maintenance service to the residents of the Portland area for over 20 years, so you can feel confident about the safety and efficiency of your fireplace and chimney after our CSIA-certified chimney sweeps have cleaned and checked out your chimney. We would like to tell you about one of the main reasons you need to schedule your appointment with us now as well as what you can expect from our service.

Why do I need to have my chimney professionally swept before lighting my first fire this winter?

As the CSIA warns, dirty chimneys can cause chimney fires. When you have a wood-burning fireplace, creosote is a fact of life. This natural compound develops during the combustion process of burning wood and sticks to the inner walls of your chimney. After a long, cold winter, creosote can accumulate into large deposits, which can be very hazardous. If the internal temperature of your chimney gets hot enough, these deposits can quickly ignite into flames. Creosote is so highly flammable that the CSIA names it as a leading cause of chimney fires. Neglecting to have your chimney swept before the next fireplace season begins could be dangerous. American Chimney & Masonry takes great care to remove all of the creosote deposits from the inside of your chimney by using rotating brushes on rods and other specialized tools. Our chimney sweeping service greatly reduces your risk of a chimney fire.

What can I expect from a chimney sweeping and inspection from American Chimney & Masonry?

We begin by going the extra mile to ensure a no-mess chimney sweeping by laying down drop cloths around the hearth area and by setting up a high powered vacuum to collect dust and debris. Whether you have a masonry or prefabricated chimney, we use the tools that are specifically made for your system to brush loose the creosote and remove it from the chimney walls. After we have cleaned your chimney, we will check out the interior and exterior of your chimney to make sure there are no blockages or other problems that could cause your chimney to be unsafe. If we find any damage, we will provide you with photos and/or video evidence and a written estimate of the necessary repairs.

You can trust us to make sure your chimney and fireplace system will work smoothly and safely this winter. Contact us at American Chimney & Masonry to schedule your annual chimney sweeping and inspection today.

By Steven Pietila on September 8th, 2016 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment

Why a Gas Fireplace Insert Might Be Right for You

Gas Fireplace Inserts Image - Portland OR - American Chimney & MasonryIf you have been disappointed by the heating efficiency of your old masonry fireplace, you may want to consider updating it with a gas fireplace insert. As much as you may love your open wood-burning fireplace, it can have an efficiency rating as low as 10 percent because so much of the heat produced by the fire exits out of the chimney. According to HouseLogic, gas fireplace inserts have efficiency ratings from 65 to 99 percent, so you can see how much a new gas insert can increase the warmth in your home as well as decrease the amount of your heating costs. American Chimney & Masonry offers sales and installation services for several types of gas heating appliances, including fireplace inserts. We would like to tell you more about the benefits of gas fireplace inserts and why this might be the right update for your home this winter.

Convenience

One of our favorite things about gas fireplace inserts is being able to start a fire from the couch by pressing a button on the remote control. If you have ever had trouble getting a wood fire going, you will love the ease of igniting a fire in your gas fireplace insert. You also will be free from the chores involved with burning wood. No more bringing in firewood from outside in the freezing cold, and no more sweeping up ashes after each fire. Even better, you will not have to wait until the fire dies completely out before leaving the house or going to bed since all you have to do to stop a fire in a gas fireplace insert is to turn it off.

No extra construction costs

Gas fireplace inserts are designed to be installed into an existing fireplace to vent through the existing chimney. This makes these inserts an excellent choice if you would rather not rebuild your hearth or add another chimney. Additionally, installing a new gas fireplace insert is an easy way to upgrade the appearance of your hearth. American Chimney & Masonry can show you a wide variety of styles of gas fireplace inserts. No matter if your decor is contemporary or traditional, you will be able to find the right design for your home.

Environmentally friendly

The high energy efficiency ratings of gas fireplace inserts not only mean that you will save money on heating costs while enjoying a warmer home. These ratings also mean that very little smoke and other pollutants are produced when a fire is burning. In addition, gas fires do not produce ash or creosote, so you will have a cleaner firebox and chimney and a lower risk for chimney fires. While gas fireplace inserts can be very safe, we do stress the importance of professional installation of these inserts to be sure they will work as safely and efficiently as possible.

If these benefits sound good to you, a gas fireplace insert may be the best choice to update your old fireplace this winter. Contact us at American Chimney & Masonry to learn more about our gas heating appliance options.

By Steven Pietila on August 31st, 2016 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

Fall Is Right Around the Corner – Has Your Chimney Been Inspected?

Summer Chimney Inspection - Portland OR - American Chimney & Masonry The last days of summer are here, and you are probably trying to fit as much summer fun for you and your family as possible before fall arrives. This can be a very busy time of the year as you are getting your kids prepared to go back to school with new clothes and school supplies. One task you should add to your to-do list for the end of summer is scheduling your annual chimney sweeping and inspection with American Chimney & Masonry. If you procrastinate on making this appointment now, you could find yourself having to wait even longer to light the first fire of the year. Our Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA)-certified chimney sweeps are booked solid from September through December to sweep and inspect the chimneys of the residents of the Portland area, and it can be difficult to find an open appointment time that is the most convenient for you. Someone will have to be at your home when we come to perform this annual chimney maintenance task, so finding that date that works the best for you can be challenging. Even though you think your fireplace and chimney look clean with no obvious problems, your safety could be at risk if you decide to go ahead and light a fire before having it swept and inspected by chimney professionals. The CSIA, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and other fire safety organizations recommend having your chimney professionally maintained at least once a year to prevent some dangerous situations. We would like to tell you why it is so important to have your chimney swept and inspected before using it this fall.

A chimney inspection prevents chimney fires.

Before American Chimney & Masonry inspects your chimney, our CSIA-certified sweeps will scrub your chimney from top to bottom with rotating brushes on rods to remove every bit of creosote from the inner walls of your chimney. When your chimney contains creosote deposits on the inside, you are at a much greater risk of a chimney fire. The CSIA even names this natural compound as a leading cause of chimney fires. Creosote forms naturally during the combustion process of burning wood and can build up into large deposits on the inner chimney walls. The reason why creosote is such a chimney fire hazard has to do with the fact that it is highly flammable. If the inside of your chimney gets hot enough, creosote deposits can easily and quickly ignite into a chimney fire that could spread to the combustible parts of your home that surround the chimney. During our chimney inspections, we ensure that all of the creosote has been removed from the chimney, which makes you much safer.

A chimney inspection prevents carbon monoxide leaks.

When American Chimney & Masonry inspects your chimney, we will be looking for any damage or other potential problems that could lead to hazardous situations. We check to see if any debris has formed a blockage of the flue, and we will remove that blockage to prevent a carbon monoxide leak. If the flue is blocked, toxic combustion gases like carbon monoxide are unable to exit through the chimney and can be forced back into your home. Another problem that could cause a carbon monoxide leak is a damaged chimney liner. We will look to be sure there are no gaps or cracks in the liner that could allow a leak. Since carbon monoxide is invisible and odorless, you could get very sick from breathing it. You could even die from carbon monoxide poisoning if the problem is neglected. You can count on us to find and repair damage that could allow a leak of this poisonous gas.
Beat the fall rush! Contact us at American Chimney & Masonry to schedule an appointment today for your annual chimney sweeping and inspection.

By Steven Pietila on August 25th, 2016 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment