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Chimney & Fireplace Cleaning Services

Don't put you and your family at risk. Chimney fires are a dangerous and serious problem to have, but the good news is that they are preventable.

CHIMNEY FIRES can burn explosively. Flames or dense smoke may shoot from the top of the chimney and produce a loud sound like a freight train running at high speeds. Slow-burning chimney fires may not be as dramatic or visible. But, the high temperatures cause damage to the chimney structure and parts of the house. Expensive and deadly risks.

The latest statistics released by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission as of April 22, 2015, estimated in 2006 there were an 26,400 fireplace/chimney fires responsible for over $125 million dollars in property damage. Public awareness and professional chimney sweepers have reduced this threat by 14% (22,700).

The most sobering statistics relate to deaths and injuries that can result from chimney fires that result in house fires. Built up creosote is responsible for many of those fires, along with deficiencies in chimney linings and structures that allow high temperatures, embers and sparks to reach combustible areas that are adjacent to your chimney or fireplace. While the efforts of America's professional chimney sweepers have reduced the threats of chimney fires, Chimney Masters has been educating homeowners the value of an annual chimney and fireplace cleaning since 1991.

Chimney fires typically can be caused in three ways:

1. Creosote deposits build up, eventually ignite and burn at very high temperatures.

2. Pyrolysis, a chemical composition of the home framing that is changed by the heat and is capable of spontaneously igniting. Sometimes chimney fires burn unnoticed by the occupants of your home because they as they smolder, they are slow burning fires and sometimes spread into the home. Slow-burning chimney fires don't get enough air or have enough fuel to be as dramatic or visible. But, the temperatures they reach are very high and can cause as much damage both to chimney structures and ignite other structural or flammable sections close to the house.

3. Clearance from combustibles is not adequate. Other factors such as bird's nest, inadequate clearance to combustibles contribute to structural chimney related fires.

Some Facts About Chimney Fires.

Fireplaces and wood stoves are designed to safely contain wood-fueled fires, while providing heat for a home. The chimneys that serve them have the job of expelling the by-products of combustion - the substances given off when wood burns.

As these substances exit the fireplace or wood stove, and flow up into the relatively cooler chimney, condensation occurs. The resulting residue that sticks to the inner walls of the chimney is called creosote. Creosote is black or brown in appearance. It can be crusty and flaky ... tar-like, drippy and sticky ... or shiny and hardened. Often, all forms will occur in one chimney system.

Whatever form it takes, creosote is highly combustible. If it builds up in sufficient quantities - and catches fire inside the chimney flue- the result will be a chimney fire. Although any amount of creosote can burn, sweeps are concerned when creosote builds up in sufficient quantities to sustain a long, hot, destructive chimney fire. Certain conditions encourage the buildup of creosote, restricted air supply, unseasoned wood and cooler-than-normal chimney temperatures are all factors that can accelerate the buildup of creosote on chimney flue walls.

Air supply Closed glass doors may restrict the air supply on fireplaces or by failure to open the damper wide enough to move heated smoke up the chimney rapidly (the longer the smoke's "residence time" in the flue, the more likely is it that creosote will form). A wood stove's air supply can be limited by closing down the stove damper or air inlets too soon and too much, and by improperly using the stovepipe damper to restrict air movement.

Burning unseasoned firewood Because so much energy is used initially just to drive off the water trapped in the cells of the logs - burning green wood keeps the resulting smoke cooler, as it moves through the system, than if dried, seasoned wood is used.

Cool flue temperatures In the case of wood stoves, fully packed loads of wood (that give large cool fires and eight or 10 hour burn times) contribute to creosote buildup. Condensation of the unburned by-products of combustion also occurs more rapidly in an exterior chimney, for example, than in a chimney that runs through the center of a house and exposes only the upper reaches of the flue to the elements.

Masonry chimneys. When chimney fires occur in masonry chimneys - whether the flues are an older, unlined type or are tile lined to meet current safety codes - the high temperatures at which they burn (around 2000' F) can "melt" mortar, crack tiles, cause liners to collapse and damage the outer masonry material. Most often, tiles crack and mortar is displaced, which provides a pathway for flames to reach the combustible wood frame of the house. One chimney fire may not harm a home. A second can burn it down. Enough heat can also conduct through a perfectly sound chimney to ignite nearby combustibles.

How you can check your chimney to see if you had a chimney fire?

  • Does the creosote have a puffy or a honeycomb appearance?
  • Are there warped metal parts or accessories inside your chimney?
  • Do you see cracked or collapsed flue tiles or tiles with sections missing?
  • Check your chimney rain cap. Is it discolored or distorted ?
  • Is your TV antenna attached to the chimney and heat damaged?
  • Are there creosote flakes and pieces found on the roof or the ground ?
  • Check and do you see roofing materials that look damaged from hot creosote ?
  • Do you see cracks in the exterior masonry?
  • Do you see any smoke escaping through mortar joints or tile liners ?
  • Chimney fires don't have to happen. Here are some ways to avoid them. Use seasoned woods only (dryness is more important than hard wood versus soft wood), build smaller, hotter fires that burn more completely and produce less smoke, never burn cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, trash or christmas trees because these can spark a chimney fire, install stovepipe thermometers to help monitor flue temperatures where wood stoves are in use, so you can adjust burning practices as needed.

    Most importantly, please have your chimney inspected and cleaned (based on your usage) on a regular basis. Safety First !

    Chimney Repair

    Over years of environmental and weather conditions, your chimney will deteriorate which will need repairs. One common problem due to wear and tear is leaking. When a chimney leaks, it can cause damage to the exterior and interior of the chimney and house.

    We care about our customers and never try to sell them work or products they do not need but it is inherent on every job we check for you any other area's that may need your attention and explain to you why.

    The chimney repair work that our technicians will repair or replace for you include:

    • Masonry
    • Cap or damper
    • Flashing
    • Crown
    • Leaking
    • Defective bricks and mortar joints
    • Improper construction
    • Defective Chase Covers 
    • Remove blockages including bird, squirrel or raccoon nests

    Chimney Inspection

    Buying a home? A home purchase is a large investment. Once you have settled on a home that you want to purchase and agreed on a price, the deal is still not final. Before purchasing a new home we recommend that every home buyer have a professional inspection to evaluate the structure of the fireplace and chimney before closing. A broken chimney can be costly to repair but more importantly can be a fire hazard!

    Here are some tips that you can look for during your initial walk-through:

  • Check the mortar to ensure it’s not crumbling and loose.
  • Look for an undamaged secured rain cap on top of the chimney.
  • Examine the chimney for evidence of smoke and creosote staining the exterior.
  • Check the fireplace hearth that it is sound and has no loose brick and the mantel is secure.
  • Check the firebox to make sure it has no cracked or damaged bricks.
  • Check the chimney liner
  • Check the damper to make sure it is operational.
  • If you are purchasing a home with a gas fireplace, we recommend that the damper have a damper clip installed to allow gas to dissipate form the fireplace while the pilot is lit.
  • Avoid Buyers Regret. The bottom line is that any or all defects will have elevated levels of repair costs attached to them. The prospective buyer should know their existence before signing on the dotted line. An inspection of your chimney will determine if there any key defects or dangers that can have safety or repair impacts on you. Our chimney and fireplace inspections include a full disclosure of the condition of all the components of your chimney and provide you with the necessary estimated costs of repairs for your price negotiations.

    Fireplace Odors

    There are many reasons that your chimney and fireplace may be giving off an unpleasant odor throughout your home.

    Other reasons may include fallen leaves and rotting animals or animal scat could part of the problem be found as a cause for the smell. Your chimney may have a buildup of soot, which also can have a very strong bad smell. Even after a professional sweeping, this smell can remain in the brick and mortar, which are porous by nature. Water penetration is also another one of the main causes of fireplace odor. For issues with creosote, it is difficult to completely remove the build up as it seeps into the stone masonry. Also, moisture problems and air pressure issues may still remain. Therefore other actions must be taken to rid the home of the smell all together. If your fireplace and chimney has not been cleaned in some time, the built up creosote and soot when combined with humid, summer heat and moisture from rain will produce an unpleasant odor as well.

    There are commercial chimney deodorants and some people have temporary results with baking soda, fresh coffee grounds or even kitty litter set in the fireplace. The best solution is to have an annual fireplace inspection and chimney sweep as a good first step to avoid any smell issues. It will also remove excess creosote and rule out other common problems that may cause these smells.

    Our Service Area's:

    Montgomery County, Maryland:

    Bethesda MD, Chevy Chase MD, Clinton MD, Gaithersburg MD, Germantown MD, Olney MD, Potomac MD, Rockville MD, Silver Spring MD, Sandy Spring MD, Burtonsville MD, Damascus MD, Wheaton MD.

    Frederick County, Maryland: Dickerson MD, Frederick MD, Braddock Heights MD, Ijamsville MD, Middletown MD, New Market MD, Walkersville MD, Mount Airy MD, and more.

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