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Is Your Fireplace Safe?

Is Your Fireplace Safe?

When you have a fireplace in your home, ensuring that it works safely is one of the most important responsibilities you have as a homeowner. Making sure your fireplace and chimney are in good condition can help you fulfill this responsibility. Of course, the most important thing you can do to guarantee your chimney and fireplace work safely and efficiently is to schedule an annual professional chimney sweeping and inspection. Weststar Chimney Sweeps is proud to provide these maintenance services to the residents of the San Diego area, and we only employ chimney sweeps who have been trained and certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). Since safety is our top priority, we would like to share with you some other tips on how to be sure your fireplace is safe.

Outside The Homemasonry fireplace - san diego CA - weststar chimney sweeps

You need to check to see if there is a chimney cap installed at the top of your chimney as this prevents water leaks, keeps birds and animals out, and other important functions. If getting on your roof is too hazardous, you can use binoculars to get an up-close look at the condition of the cap to check for signs of damage and debris building up on the cap. While you are using the binoculars, check to see if the flashing system looks tight and shows no signs of corrosion damage, and then look to see if the flue liner is visible above the crown. You should also look for cracked or missing bricks from the chimney as well as any leaning or other signs of structural damage. Take a look at the trees near the chimney to see if any limbs are directly above the chimney. If you find any signs of damage or problems, contact us at Weststar Chimney Sweeps to ask us to come by to examine things further.

Inside The Home

Now you can check out your fireplace to see if anything looks like a potential problem or a safety hazard. According to HouseLogic, you will need a flashlight to look at the condition of the damper to be sure it opens, closes, and seals correctly. It is important that your damper works properly to keep air from leaking out the chimney. Then, open the damper completely and shine the flashlight up the chimney to look for any signs of animal invasions like nesting materials. To be sure nothing is blocking your flue, look up the flue, and if you can see sunlight at the top, your flue is clear with no blockage. Your next step is to look at the hearth to inspect the fireplace surround and firebox to be sure there are no cracked or missing masonry materials like bricks and mortar. This type of damage is very serious and can lead to dangerous hazards. The last thing you should look for any signs of moisture inside the firebox because this means you have a chimney leak somewhere in your chimney. As with any outside damage, any interior damage or possible issues deserves professional attention, so you need to call us as soon as possible to avoid any damage becoming worse.Ensuring the safety of your chimney and fireplace is extremely important. If you need professional assistance, contact us at Weststar Chimney Sweeps to ask us to come by to give your chimney an inspection from our CSIA-certified chimney technicians.

Selling Your Home? Get a Level 2 Chimney Inspection

Selling Your Home? Get a Level 2 Chimney Inspection

Selling Your Home? Get a Level 2 Chimney Inspection - San Diego CA - Weststar ChimneyOur staff at Weststar Chimney Sweeps has told you about the importance of having your chimney professionally inspected once a year to ensure your fireplace and chimney system functions properly and safely. Most likely, your annual chimney inspection will be a Level 1 inspection, which is the most basic level of the three levels of chimney inspections. However, when you are selling your home, you should request a Level 2 inspection when making your appointment. You will be able to provide prospective buyers more detailed information about the fireplace and chimney system, which can assure these buyers that everything is working correctly. Our chimney sweeps have all been certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and were trained on the three different levels of inspections that were established by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in its code NFPA 211, the Standard for Chimneys, Fireplaces, Vents, and Solid Fuel Burning Appliances. We can help you prepare to sell your home by providing you with the highest level of professional chimney inspection needed.

What are the differences between a Level 1 and a Level 2 chimney inspection?

When the CSIA-certified chimney technicians from Weststar Chimney Sweeps arrive at your home to perform a basic Level 1 chimney inspection, they will check out every accessible part of your chimney system, including the firebox, the flue, the chimney cap, and the chimney crown. Our chimney sweeps will be looking for problems, such as cracks and gaps, blockages, creosote accumulations, and rusted parts, that could cause your fireplace and chimney system to be unsafe or inefficient. All of this is included in a Level 2 sales transaction chimney inspection, along with an inspection of the chimney in the attic, basement, and crawl space. Proper clearances from combustible materials will also be addressed by our chimney sweeps in a Level 2 chimney inspection.

When would I need a Level 3 chimney inspection?

If our CSIA-certified chimney sweeps discover a potential hazard that needs a closer examination, we will then recommend a Level 3 chimney inspection. In this level, our sweeps will take a more in-depth look at the less accessible areas of your chimney, and this may require the removal of doors, drywall, and even parts of the chimney itself and the use of specialized tools and equipment. While it may seem destructive to have a Level 3 chimney inspection, remember that safety is the top priority. No one wants to buy a home with an unsafe fireplace and chimney system, so in order to solve safety issues and hazards, a Level 3 chimney inspection may be needed. If you’ve ever had a chimney fire before, a level 3 chimney inspection will also be required to pinpoint the exact cause of the fire.

If you are considering selling your home, call our Weststar Chimney Sweeps office at 619-338-8116 to schedule an appointment for a Level 2 chimney inspection.

How Earthquakes Affect Chimneys

California is known for having earthquakes that can damage your chimney

California is known for having earthquakes that can damage your chimney

As residents of California, we are familiar with dealing with earthquakes and the property damage they can cause. Did you know the most common earthquake property damage is chimney collapse? Not only is this true in our state, but also in other areas that suffer earthquakes in this country. The number of chimneys lost every year to earthquake damage is staggering. One reason for this great structural loss is chimneys are often ignored when preparing for earthquakes and the damage they can cause. Weststar Chimney Sweeps would like to tell you more about the effect of earthquakes on chimneys.

How do earthquakes cause a chimney to collapse?

It goes without saying that earthquakes cause the ground to shake resulting in buildings enduring forces to which they are not normally subjected toward. These forces lead to a deterioration of the brickwork and can cause a chimney to collapse. Even minor seismic events can cause this to happen to your chimney, so it’s important to have your chimney routinely checked – especially in seismic hotbeds.

What is the best prevention against chimney collapse during seismic activity?

The chimneys that are most commonly damaged are un-reinforced chimneys, according to InspectAPedia, an online encyclopedia of building and environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, and repair topics.

What are the dangers of a chimney collapse?

No one can predict which way a chimney will collapse. If a chimney were to collapse on the house, it could be deadly. People have even become trapped inside by a collapsed chimney. Even if the chimney does not fall onto the house, it could fall on a neighbor’s home or on someone outside.

What can I do to prepare my un-reinforced chimney for an earthquake?

You can have your chimney braced, but this does not guarantee it will not collapse. You can also remove the masonry and use a metal flue that is surrounded by a wooden box. This box can be covered with brick veneer above the roof line.

What is the best thing I can do to be sure my chimney is sturdy enough to withstand seismic activity?

The best way to ensure your chimney is safe from earthquake damage is to have it inspected every year by Weststar Chimney Sweeps. We have experience in knowing where earthquake damage can occur and exactly what to look for to be certain your chimney is safe during seismic activity.

Have any questions about how earthquakes can affect chimneys? Contact Weststar Chimney Sweeps to find out whatever you need to know.

Choosing the Best Chimney Cap to Prevent Water Leaks

One of your best defenses against water penetration and animal invasions of your chimney, a chimney cap sits on top of your chimney’s opening. With several different types of chimney caps available, how do you know which cap is the right fit for the flue of your chimney? At Weststar Chimney Sweeps, we are experienced with fitting all types of chimney caps, even customized caps, and we know the importance of proper installation. We would like to tell you a bit about the different kinds of chimney caps and what you should know about selecting the right kind for your chimney to prevent damaging water leaks.

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The main thing to consider when deciding which chimney cap is right for your chimney is the shape of your flue. Chimney caps come in different shapes to fit each type of flue. These shapes include:

ROUND FLUES

Whether you have a clay, masonry, or metal flue, you can find a round chimney cap that can either attach the the outside of the flue or slip inside the flue. Round chimney caps are made from an assortment of materials including copper, stainless steel, and galvanized steel. Some round flue liners require chimney caps that must be inserted inside the chimney flue, such as round flexible flue liners and round solid pack flue liners.

SQUARE AND RECTANGULAR FLUES

The most commonly shaped flue, square and rectangular chimney caps can be attached to the flue, or, if you have a chimney crown, there are chimney caps in these sizes that can attach to the crown. Made from the same metals as the round chimney caps, the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends you choose a chimney cap constructed from a sturdy, durable, and rust- and corrosion-resistant material to ensure a long-lasting cap. For chimney caps that attach to a chimney crown, you will need to choose from top mounted chimney caps.

OVAL FLUES

Unless you have a custom-shaped oval chimney cap made for you by our technicians at Weststar Chimney Sweeps, you will need to look at rectangular shaped chimney caps that will cover the exterior of your flue.. When you look inside this type of cap, you can see how the corner tabs or interior ledges will accommodate oval flues.

There are other considerations other than preventing water leaks to think about when choosing a chimney cap. These include:

MESH SPARK ARRESTOR

To prevent animals from entering your chimney to take up a new residence and to keep sparks from flying out of your chimney and possibly starting a fire, your chimney cap should be equipped with wire mesh sides. Be sure the mesh openings are between ¾ to ½ inches in size to keep animals out, to contain large pieces of hot debris and ashes, and to allow toxic gases to escape.

COMBINATION OF A CHIMNEY CAP AND DAMPER

You can now find top sealing chimney caps that do double duty as a protective cap and as a damper. Perfect for new home constructions and for older chimneys in need of numerous repairs, the damper is located on the cap. When it is sealed closed, the air loss from your home is reduced by 90%. When the damper is opened, the wire mesh on the chimney cap protects your chimney from invading animals and prevents stray sparks from exiting.

Want to know more about the different types of chimney caps? Contact Weststar Chimney Sweeps today to talk to our expert staff about your many options.

The Three Levels of Chimney Inspections

Three Levels of Chimney Inspection - San Diego CA - Weststar Chimney SweepsTo become Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA)-certified chimney sweeps, our chimney technicians at Weststar Chimney Sweeps must pass an examination on the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) standard code 211, the standard for chimneys, fireplaces, vents, and solid fuel burning appliances. In this code, the NFPA developed three different levels of chimney inspections that all chimney sweep certified by the CSIA must strictly follow. Since the CSIA recommends an annual chimney sweeping and inspection, the organization also strongly suggests you should ask for the appropriate level of inspection for your chimney and venting system. To inform you of what each level involves to help you know which level to request, we would like to share with you an explanation of what happens during each chimney inspection level.

LEVEL 1

The simplest of the three levels of chimney inspection, ask for a Level 1 if your appliance or venting system have not changed and you are planning on using it as you normally have in the past. In this level of inspection, Weststar Chimney Sweeps will inspect all readily accessible parts of your chimney’s exterior and interior and all accessible parts of your chimney’s connection to the appliance. Checking for the soundness of structure and proper installation, our chimney inspectors will also verify your chimney is free from blockages and combustible creosote deposits.

LEVEL 2

Required when any change is made to your system, a Level 2 inspection examines changes in fuel type, changes to the size and shape of your flue, and changes to the heating appliance, such as when you have a fireplace insert installed. You must also request a Level 2 if you are selling or transferring your home and after building fires, chimney fires, earthquakes and tremors, and any weather-related event. Including everything performed in a Level 1 inspection, a Level 2 also examines the accessible parts to your chimney’s exterior and interior, including attics, crawl spaces, and basements. This level of inspection also addresses clearance from combustibles.

LEVEL 3 

If a Level 1 or 2 inspection reveals a hidden hazard that cannot be evaluated without special tools to access concealed areas of your chimney or flue, Weststar Chimney Sweeps will recommend a Level 3 inspection, which is the most detailed of the three levels of inspection. When necessary, certain parts of the chimney must be removed for the evaluation to be complete. Parts that may be removed include the chimney crown or an interior wall of the chimney. This is only required when access is needed to areas that are subject to the inspection. Also, during a Level 1 or 2 inspection, if our chimney inspectors feel a serious hazard is present within your chimney or venting system, a Level 3 inspection may be required to examine the entire chimney or venting system.

Have questions about the three levels of chimney inspection? Contact Weststar Chimney Sweeps to find out more about each level.