Why you should only used a licensed and insured chimney sweep

csiaMany chimney sweeps are not licensed, bonded or insured.  Sometimes companies hire “subcontractors” who also have no insurance or licenses.  It is not illegal for someone not to have a license if the work they do is under $500, however, there is a danger in having someone climb up on your roof with no insurance.  The danger is that if they fall and get hurt, they can sue you.

Today, a customer told me that he had a friend who had a chimney sweep fall from his roof and die. This was 15 years ago.  The homeowner was sued.

So before you let anyone climb on your roof, check if they have insurance.

Your chimney and earthquakes

Cracked fireplace earthquake damageToday parts of the San Gabriel Valley, the Inland Empire and Orange County felt a significant earthquake (7.1).  If you have an older masonry chimney and you felt a significant movement of your property, it is usually recommended that you do not use your fireplace until it is inspected with a video camera to make sure there are no hazardous cracks.

If the cracks are small, the cost to fix them is very reasonable.  If they are allowed to get larger with additional earthquakes, or rain coming into your chimney, or if you burn a lot of fires, you could have a house fire, or the chimney could deteriorate to a point where major repairs are needed. Continue reading

Masonry chimneys and fires

The pictures show the inside of a chimney which has cracks and also the outside and top with a cracked crown.

masonery chimney crown crackedSigns you have had a chimney fire:

You may have had a dangerous fire in your chimney which has compromised the structure of your chimney, and not even know it.  It is estimated that every year there are over 10,000 house fires caused by fires in a fireplace.  In the last two weeks, we have spoken to realtors in Orange County who reported they knew of homes that burnt down or were severely damaged due to undetected problems in their chimneys. Continue reading

Is your fireplace a fire hazard?

Rampart General FireplaceThis is the first in a series of articles to warn consumers about possible fire hazards in their homes.

Rampart fireplace crackIf your chimney looks similar to the one pictured, it is probably a Rampart General pre-cast cement fireplace.  These were manufactured in Santa Ana from the early 1960’s to the mid 1990’s.  There are whole communities of them in surrounding areas in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties.  Unfortunately, due to the way they were manufactured, there are often hazardous cracks in the firebox and/or chimney which can result in a house fire if they are used.   Continue reading

Why all pre-cast chimneys should be inspected prior to close of escrow

pre-cast chimney on roof

Here is a quote from a property inspection report done  by a property inspection company last week on a home in Lake Forest:

“Pre-cast concrete chimneys were built in factories and then trucked to a site and erected, as distinct from masonry chimneys that are built on site with individual bricks and mortar.  In this respect, pre-cast chimneys are unique.   However, like all masonry chimneys, they are vulnerable to seismic activity, but unlike masonry chimneys they are also subject to cracks that are induced by the interaction of moisture and a chemical additive that causes the reinforcing steel within the chimney to expand and crack  the chimney walls.  Such cracks can be small, but they are nonetheless subject to stringent repair methods.  However, if any crack penetrates the chimney wall it may be difficult to repair the chimney without costly repairs or replacement or possibly relining the chimney. For this reason, we recommend that all pre-cast chimneys be further inspected/video scanned or certified by a specialist before close of escrow.”

Continue reading

It pays to inspect your fireplace early

Dirty fireplace before repair

It’s recommended that chimney’s are inspected every year. Almost everyone waits until the fall, so it’s difficult for the chimney sweep to service everyone well.

It really makes a lot more sense to do them at the end of the burning season in the event there are any repairs that need to be made before the unit may be put back into operation.

The last thing you want to hear the week before the big holiday party is that there are repairs needed to your fireplace before you can use it.

Buying a Home? Three Reasons to Insist on a Fireplace Inspection

When choosing a home to purchase, today’s home buyers have many important decisions to make. When any home being considered has a fireplace, wood stove, or flue, insisting on a thorough inspection of these features is critical, especially when buyers intend to use these features as a supplemental or emergency heat source. If your are considering the purchase of a home with a fireplace, wood stove, or flue, here are three excellent reasons to get them professionally inspected by a certified inspector first.

1. Fire Safety

Because these features deal with heat and open flames, fire safety is the most important reason to insist upon a thorough inspection. Flues for wood stoves and fireplaces often have buildups of a substance called creosote.

Highly flammable, creosote results when there has been an incomplete combustion of the wood used to make a fire, and is a leading cause of chimney and flue fires. This can happen when the firewood has not been correctly seasoned before use, or when the fire has not received the proper amount of oxygen to allow it to burn hot enough to prevent creosote from forming.  Continue reading