Frequently asked questions about our services
Frequently asked questions about our services
A: There are many reasons why fireplaces and chimneys should be cleaned and inspected regularly. The most important is that a dirty chimney or one which has cracks and voids can result in a home fire. We chave seen homes where the homeowner thought the fire was out when they went to sleep, but the beams in their attics were on fire.
We have had new owners call us up for an inspection after they purchased an older home (over 20 years) to find out that there were major structural issues with the chimney or fireplace. In rare cases we had to advise them to have the chimney torn down. This greatly affects the value of the home and can make the home difficult to sell when buyers see that there is significant deferred maintenance.
Small cracks and voids can often be repaired fairly inexpensively, but if they are allow to deteriorate for years, the repairs can become very expensive, and sometimes impossible.
With gas fireplaces, sometimes there is a gas leak that the homeowners do not notice, and this can also result in fires and other toxic issues.
A: The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that a chimney that is used regularly be professionally cleaned about once a year. It is best if this cleaning and inspection is performed after the last fire you burn for the season to make sure there are no problems or blockages that have developed before you burn again. A chimney blocked by debris can cause major problems including inefficient heating, smoke buildup inside your home, deadly carbon monoxide buildup in your home and even a dangerous chimney fire.
A: Rampart General is the name of the manufacturer of these chimney systems, They were pre-cast in Santa Ana from a cast or mold with a combination of calcium aluminate cement and lightweight aggregate and then transported to various parts of California. They are found in homes constructed from the mid 1960’s to the early 1990’s. Often they are located in large neighborhoods with hundreds of these homes.
The chimneys usually look like an off-white or tan color brick and often homeowners think it is painted brick, but that is the color of the cement. Sometimes homeowners have painted the chimneys for various reasons including to cover the cracks. Sometimes it will look like an antenna has been added and this is sometimes to stabilize the chimney.
Almost all these chimneys are located on an exterior wall of the home and they stick out from the wall. In many cases, the exterior chimney is very narrow above the shoulders of the chimney, often much narrower than a standard masonry chimney. Rampart General is out of business so there is no recourse against the manufacturer.
There are three major problems with these systems:
• Cracks in the insulation (breast plate) which is located directly above the opening of the firebox. (pictures) *see before and after pictures below)
• Cracks in the chimney structure – these cracks often appear as long deep vertical cracks. They appear where the rebar steel is located. If repairs are not made before these cracks become substantial, the only thing that can usually be done is to tear down the entire chimney. If you see even hairline cracks, it is important to have the chimney inspected immediately and not wait until repairs are not possible as it will affect the value of your property.
• Damaged Flue Lining.
If you are buying a home with a Rampart General Pre-Cast Chimney, ask for a Level 2 (video inspection) of the chimney and fireplace so you know whether the chimney and fireplace are safe to use, or if there are any possible repairs.
A: When you burn wood in a fireplace some of the gases escape from the unburned wood and these unburned gases build up a solid residue inside the chimney. If this residue gets thick enough and hot enough, it can ignite, and the resulting “chimney fire” will burn very fast and hot. This chimney fire can become hot enough to destroy the inside of the
chimney and even set the house or roof on fire.
A: It is recommended that chimneys be inspected once a year by a professional chimney sweep and cleaned if needed. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) also recommends a thorough inspection of all chimneys and fireplaces after an earthquake to ensure there is no damage to your chimney that could cause a fire. Some “rules of thumb” that can help gauge how dirty your chimney is:
1. If you burn every day in the winter, sweep every year; if you burn every other day in the winter, sweep every other year.
2. Sweep after every two cords of oak firewood and after every cord for a wood-burning stove or insert.
3. Sweep after every 50 fires.
4. Look at your fireplace and determine how dirty it is. Shine a flashlight into the firebox and look upwards. If you see build up of 1/8″ or more, it is ready to be cleaned.
A: Overtime, lint from your clothes slips through the filter in your clothes dryer and gets into the pipe that leads out of the house. This lint builds up on the walls of the pipe until it blocks the air from getting through.
When this duct gets blocked the air can no longer circulate freely among the clothes you are trying to dry. This causes the drying cycle to take much longer than it should, sometimes one and a half hours or more, rather than 30 to 40 minutes. Needless to say, this is a waste of time and energy.
In addition, the dryer can overheat and become damaged and it can even cause a fire inside your dryer. We have had customers who had house fires due to clogged dryer
The solution is to have you dryer ducts cleaned. We use a long spinning tool that is capable of traveling through your duct for over 30 feet or more. This dislodges the lint and pulls it out. It is not uncommon to get whole bags full of lint from one duct!
After that, we blow your duct out with moving air to get any remaining lint from your duct.
We sometimes find that the dryer duct is getting clogged due to incorrect installation in the first place which causes kinks in the hose.
A: It is a competitive alternative to gas logs. Fire On IceTM is:
• Easy to assemble and install
• Environmentally safe
• No popping cinders
• No soot or dirt
• No pollution
• Burns clean
• No mess ever
• Lasts a lifetime
• Instant ambiance
• Interchangeable colors
• Specially formulated glass
We are an approved retailer and installer for the Fire On IceTM system and can provide very competitive pricing. We will also make sure that your chimney is thoroughly cleaned and inspected prior to the installation.
Visit the Fire On IceTM photo gallery for before and after photos. Fire On IceTM comes in over 50 colors and two sizes. We will be glad to bring over samples for you to review. We are a genuine Fire On IceTM and only use their glass product so you get the highest quality product available.
A: When we clean your chimney and fireplace, we also look for anything that could represent possible dangers to you and your family.
In the LA, Orange County, Riverside and San Bernardino area we still find many chimneys that have been damaged by past earthquakes. We check for structural integrity of your chimney for cracks, loose martar or bricks or flashing that might leak water.
We also check your chimney system from top to bottom for cracked flue tiles, areas that show damage from water penetration or general wear and tear, correct damper function, or any other points that might make your chimney unsafe to use.
Our sweeps are also trained to do repairs and make recommendations on how you can get more use and satisfaction from your fireplace. Be sure to ask any questions you have while the sweep is there; we are only too happy to help you learn as much as possible about your fireplace.
A: Some fireplace have problems. Most of these can be resolved. While the following is not a complete list, it describes some of the more common problem areas.
There are many functions that seem to smoke back into the house no matter what is done. In our experience, the most common cause is that the fireplace simply needs to be cleaned. This is especially likely if the smoking has gotten worse over time.
Several other possibilities of smoking back are problems with the damper, chimney cap, grate, firewood, or structural problems with the chimney itself. At Lucky
Sully, we do a full inspection with every cleaning, or we can just do the inspection if the chimney does not need to be cleaned. This inspection is designed to reveal any causes for excessive smoke.
2. Broken chimneys
Earthquakes are a major cause of broken chimneys. Usually, these chimneys are broken at or near the roof line, although sometimes they can be broken further down, we may be able to fix crack. In some cases, the fireplace may need to be rebuilt. We provide these services as we
3. Missing mortar or damaged bricks
Over time, many chimneys develop places that are missing mortar between the bricks, or damaged bricks, either inside the firebox or on the outside of the chimney. These areas can usually be repaired, either by replacing the missing mortar or replacing the bricks themselves. Missing mortar and damaged bricks can cause fires since they allow flames and sparks.
A: No. We have had some customers who wanted their chimneys cleaned as the result of a home inspection, and they have specifically requested that we not inspect their chimney. The reason for this is that they do not want to have to reveal that there are problems with their chimney/fireplace to prospective buyers. We have also been asked not to include hazards in reports we write. Again, the answer is No. If we do not report hazards, and do not check for them, we would be negligent and putting people at risk.
A: In most cities in southern California, spark arrestors are required on all wood burning fireplaces. They are not required on gas only fireplaces. However, all chimneys should have caps or spark arrestors on them to prevent water damage during rains, and to keep out animals (birds, bees, rodents, racoons, etc.). Some summers we have had dozens of calls from people who had birds or bees in their chimneys. It can very expensive to get a beehive out of your chimney. We have had customers who allowed beehives to grow for over 20 years. Removing these hives can be very expensive. If the bees are still alive we recommend contacting someone who can remove the hive without killing the bees. Cleaning a 200 pound beehive out of a chimney can take a day or more. We used to do that work, but basically it is not a pleasant job and it ruined our equipment, so we now pass on beehive removal.
A: A chimney cap is a black, stainless steel or copper manufactured box that sits on the top of your chimney. It has four major purposes.
It prevents sparks and burning debris from getting out of your chimney onto the roof or surrounding areas. Chimney caps are sometimes called “spark arrestors”.
It keeps rain from entering your chimney. Water is very destructive to the inside of your chimney. It mixes the creosote (residue from burning wood), and eats away at the mortar inside your flue and firebox. Also, rain causes the metal parts inside your fireplace, such as the damper, to rust. The chimney cap acts like an umbrella on top of your chimney to keep out the rain.
It keeps out birds, squirrels, bees, and other animals.
It keeps out leaves and branches.
Lucky Sully sells and installs caps from several manufacturers. The caps come in black painted steel, stainless steel and copper. Many cities have ordinances which require a cap to be installed.