Sunday, December 17, 2017
Home and Garden

Call in a pro to clean a dirty chimney

People are drawn to a fire, whether they're roasting marshmallows around a campfire during the summer or cuddling up near a fireplace in the dead of winter.

And just as you take precautions outdoors, there are things you should do to make sure your fireplace and chimney are safe.

Fires built in fireplaces or wood stoves leave a gummy residue, called creosote, that can stick to the lining of your chimney. Creosote — created by soot, smoke, gases and other particles — is flammable and can be the source of a dangerous chimney fire.

Between 2005 and 2008, an average 26,900 fires annually were blamed on fireplaces, chimneys or chimney connectors, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Experts recommend that chimneys be inspected every year by a certified chimney sweep and then cleaned if necessary. The cost can range from $100 to $300 or higher.

Cleaning a chimney is not a do-it-yourself project, said Kit Selzer, a senior editor at Better Homes and Gardens. It's a dirty job, and it also can be risky, especially if you have to climb onto the roof.

Chimney sweeps are trained to determine whether chimneys are structurally sound and whether they need to be cleaned, said Ashley Eldridge, education director for the Chimney Safety Institute of America. They also will make sure the chimney is up to code, especially important in older houses.

Selzer recommends that homeowners use the institute's website, www.csia.org, to select a certified chimney sweep. To become certified, a sweep must pass two tests: one on the inspection process and tools, and the other on the international residential code, as it applies to chimneys, Eldridge said.

"Each job is different," said Christina El-Hagen, a certified sweep with Pride Clean Chimney Sweeps in Bethesda, Md., but there are some basics.

"We're looking to make sure the flue is fully safe," she said. "We're making sure there are no third-degree burns of creosote on the lining."

Cleaning the chimney involves removing creosote.

When thinking of chimneys, El-Hagen said, many people focus on the one attached to the fireplace. "Yes, they can catch on fire, but we're not dealing with a deadly gas, carbon monoxide," she said, as is the case with chimneys leading from furnaces. Whether they burn oil or gas, furnaces vent carbon monoxide outside into the atmosphere, and those chimneys, too, need to be inspected.

"It's the No. 1 reason why we are in business," El-Hagen said. You can choose to use a fireplace, she said, but "you have to use your heat."

There are steps you can take at home to reduce creosote buildup and the risk of a chimney fire.

Foremost is picking dry wood to burn, Eldridge said. To determine whether wood is sufficiently dry, "take two pieces and bang them together. You get almost a ring as an indication it's ready. If not, it's a dull thud," he said.

Dry wood also will appear gray on the surface and have cracks on the end.

Don't throw trash into the fireplace, El-Hagen said, because it causes a thicker smoke, which lowers the temperature in the chimney. "The hotter the fire, the better the burn," she said.

While many people use a newspaper to start a fire, she recommends a fire log or fire starter instead.

And to reduce the risk of a spark flying out of the fireplace, use a screen and stay in the room while the fire is burning.

Also needed: a smoke detector, a carbon monoxide detector and a fire extinguisher.

   
Comments
Hometown Pasco for Dec. 15

Hometown Pasco for Dec. 15

We want your news!Hometown Pasco is devoted to everyday life in our county, whether itís snapshots from your family reunion, recreational sporting event, news from your last club meeting or just a few lines thanking someone for a job well done. You ...
Published: 12/13/17
Hometown Hernando for Dec. 15

Hometown Hernando for Dec. 15

We want your news!Hometown Hernando is devoted to everyday life in our county, whether itís snapshots from your family reunion, recreational sporting event, news from your last club meeting or just a few lines thanking someone for a job well done. Y...
Published: 12/13/17
Timely Tendings: Beware of buying or gifting invasive plant species

Timely Tendings: Beware of buying or gifting invasive plant species

Beware of buying or gifting invasive plant speciesPlants make great gifts to give and receive. But .?.?. beware invasive species lurking in local garden centers or nurseries. Many invasive species are still commonly sold and if you plant them in your...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/12/17
Review: Amazon wants a key to your house. I did it. I regretted it.

Review: Amazon wants a key to your house. I did it. I regretted it.

I gave Amazon.com a key to go into my house and drop off packages when Iím not around. After two weeks, it turns out letting strangers in has been the least-troubling part of the experience.Once Amazon owned my door, I was the one locked into an all-...
Published: 12/08/17
Want the perfect Christmas tree? We asked an expert for help

Want the perfect Christmas tree? We asked an expert for help

Lights, ribbons, tinsel, flowers — how do you get that perfect look? We asked designer Ken Neddo of Classic Florals in St. Petersburg to help with this yearly decorating event. † * What do you see as the general trends in Christmas tree deco...
Published: 12/05/17
Timely Tendings: As holidays approach, find the right plants; keep an eye on edibles in the garden

Timely Tendings: As holidays approach, find the right plants; keep an eye on edibles in the garden

Get holiday plants: trees, poinsettias and cactiLiving Christmas trees are a fun, lasting way to celebrate the holiday season that can then be planted to provide a lifetime of enjoyment. Unfortunately a commonly sold plant for this is the Norfolk Isl...
Published: 12/01/17
Updated: 12/05/17
5 first-time homebuyer mistakes to avoid

5 first-time homebuyer mistakes to avoid

Thinking about buying your first home? Before you can unlock the door to homeownership, you have to take some important first steps. From finding the perfect location to financing your purchase, shopping for your first home has challenges that go bey...
Published: 11/30/17
Updated: 12/05/17
Hometown Hernando for Dec. 8

Hometown Hernando for Dec. 8

We want your news!Hometown Hernando is devoted to everyday life in our county, whether itís snapshots from your family reunion, recreational sporting event, news from your last club meeting or just a few lines thanking someone for a job well done. Y...
Published: 11/29/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Plan and budget for a good return on your garden investment

Plan and budget for a good return on your garden investment

The first of the 2018 seed catalogs will be arriving soon in the mail, signaling the start of another growing season. Savvy vegetable gardeners pore over the pages while choosing plants and drafting budgets. Planning ahead provides healthier returns ...
Published: 11/28/17
Updated: 12/05/17
Digginí Florida Dirt: Gardeners share suggestions for holiday gifts

Digginí Florida Dirt: Gardeners share suggestions for holiday gifts

If I had to choose just one garden tool to be shipwrecked with on an uninhabited island, it would be my Felco 2 pruners. They clip anything up to about a half-inch diameter ó even thicker when I push it, which I do.Even my daughter marveled when I qu...
Updated one month ago