Waterproofing to Avoid Efflorescence

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What is Efflorescence?

Efflorescence comes from a French word meaning “to flower out.” In chemistry, and in the real world, efflorescence is the loss of water (or a solvent) of crystallization from a hydrated or solvated salt to the atmosphere on exposure to air.

Where does it happen? 

While efflorescence can occur in natural settings it is most commonly seen on built structures. It is especially visible on porous materials like brick. If you do not know what efflorescence is, you may think that it is purely cosmetic. It will appear as a chalky residue on the outside of the brick structure.

What causes efflorescence?

Simply put, if you see efflorescence you have water intrusion. Once water penetrates the brick it will “flower out,” (remember the French definition?) Once water has entered your structure it will freeze and expand causes the integrity of the structure to come into question

What can you do to protect against efflorescence?

Although brick is very durable, extreme weather can have an adverse effect on it over time. Waterproofing your brick/veneer structure will help ensure that your brick work lasts as long as possible. Your brick and your home can benefit tremendously from waterproofing.

“Most sealants are made with siloxane, which chemically bonds to the material and prevents water from passing through it. This type of brick waterproofing sealant is clear, so it does not change the appearance of the building. In fact, rather than staying on the surface of the structure, brick sealant penetrates the material. It will need to be reapplied to older brick structures about every four to seven years, and newer buildings approximately every five to ten years.”

How to Start a Fire

Steps to Start a Fire in your Fireplace

How to start fire steps

1. Before you doing anything else and start fire, be sure to open the damper! You don’t want to accidentally fill up your house with smoke. Hold up a piece of burning, rolled up newspaper in the open damper for about 10 to 15 seconds by using the poker tool. Then light the tinder.

2. You’ll need three things to start your fire: Tinder, Kindling, and Fuel.

You can use small twigs, pine needles or pine cones as tinder. However, old crumbled up newspaper makes the very best tinder when starting a fire in your fireplace.

Kindling such as large twigs, small branches and splits of wood that range from 1/4″ to 1″ in thickness will do.

When fueling your fireplace only use well-seasoned hardwood such as ash, hickory or oak. If you really need to burn soft wood (cedar, fir or red pine) make sure that they are well-seasoned. Signs of seasoned wood are loose bark and cracks at the end of the wood. If you see bubbling liquids in the burning logs, DO NOT BURN!

3. To start the fire begin by arranging 2 (small to medium sized) pieces of firewood on the grate. Between the logs, place the tinder of your choice and cover it with several pieces of kindling.

Don’t be afraid to be generous with the kindling. Place two more pieces of firewood on top of the kindling and two more pieces of firewood at a right angle. Leave some spaces in between for air circulation.

Now you should have a nice burning fire, warming up your home!

Warm Fire Fireplace
 

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Why Should You Clean Your Pellet Stove Annually?

pelletPellet stoves are extremely efficient and can be plugged into a standard electrical outlet. Fans inside them maximize their efficiency. The fans deliver warm air back into the home, but also present a problem on the other side. Pellet stoves require more maintenance than traditional fireplaces and insert wood burning stoves because the fans push air and soot around to all of the nooks and crannies of your pellet stove. There are several parts to a Pellet stove which makes it prone to malfunction if not cleaned annually. The parts include: A hopper, an auger system, blower fans, main control box and a firebox. Pellets are loaded into the hopper and then the auger system moves them to the firebox where they are burned. Blower fans take in the cool air from the room to provide fuel for the fire, while another fan blows the warm back out into the room. An exhaust fan pushes the soot out of the back to a vent system known as a T-connection. This T-connection has a built in safety feature called the “catch can.” While this safety feature is a good thing (short term), the soot piles up and will eventually present a problem. Soot will clog the vent (T-connection) and will burn out the fan. Fan motors cause costly repairs for homeowners.

Having your Pellet stove serviced each year by a chimney professional is important and will ensure efficient operation. This kind of consumer vigilance will result in being able to enjoy the efficiency of your pellet stove for years.

How Do I Know If I Really Had My Chimney Cleaned Properly?

proper chimney cleaningProper chimney cleaning is very important. Mike’s Mobile Screen & Chimney Service trains our technicians to adhere by CSIA standards when cleaning your chimney. This means you, as the homeowner, will get unmatched service and a thorough cleaning and inspection. All of our chimney cleanings come with a Level I inspection. Our technicians start from the inside and inspect the firebox. At this time we will make sure your damper seals shut. If it doesn’t we will tape up the opening of your fireplace with tarps to avoid any mess to your home.

Once we have taken the proper precautions, and inspected the firebox, our inspection and cleaning moves to the roof of your house. Our technicians check for flashing, water damage, and the structural integrity of your chimney. Mike’s Mobile systematically checks your chimney and fireplace to make sure you have a complete inspection.

How Often Should I Have My Chimney Cleaned?

chimney_sweepSo how often should I have my chimney Cleaned? According to the National Fire Protection Agency (Source: NFPA), ” a yearly inspection and cleaning and repairs done as necessary. Freestanding woodstoves or fire place inserts used to heat the home should be inspected and cleaned if needed every year. Regular, open fireplaces need to be maintained and cleaned on a consistent basis as well. Usually, a cleaning is needed for every cord of wood burned or at least 2-3 years.”

Don’t DIY Chimney Cleaning

Why You Shouldn’t DIY

Your Chimney Cleaning 

 

In the past few years there has been a lot of hype in regards to DIY (Do It Yourself). There are some websites and blogs such as Pinterest that say a homeowner doesn’t need a chimney sweep to perform a chimney cleaning and post videos that teach you how to perform a chimney cleaning.

Many posts online (such as Pinterest) say homeowners can clean out their own chimneys.

 

However there are certain things that homeowners’ shouldn’t take it upon themselves to do, such as cleaning their home’s chimney. There are some homeowners that may do a good job in maintaining their chimney but that’s only to a certain degree (no pun intended). Things such as creosote buildup, a damaged flue, live/dead critters, etc. can be overlooked when DIYing a chimney cleaning, which is why a chimney sweep needs to be called in.

3rd Stage Glazed Creosote

Damaged Flue Liner

 

Chimney Sweeps are certified trained professionals who while cleaning your chimney also look for anything that may be wrong with your chimney. They also use the proper tools and equipment needed to clear out your chimney completely without creating any new problems along the way.

So before trying your hand on chimney cleaning, call one of our professional chimney sweeps today at 1 877 520 3595! or schedule an appointment with us online at mikesmobile.com/chimney-services/!

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Why You Should Get Your Chimney Swept and Inspected

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Getting your chimney swept and inspected are very important for your home. If you are using your fireplace, you should be getting a chimney sweep annually. This will prevent chimney fires as well as maintain your fireplace/chimney safe to burn in. The NFPA suggests that you get your chimney swept after each cord of wood that you burn and/or an annual safety inspection.

One way a chimney inspection can be beneficial is to find water intrusion. If your chimney, cap or flashing is not properly installed and sealed it can lead to a bigger mess. Water can get into cracks a spread. If water freezes, it will expand and further damage an area. If your flashing is not properly installed and sealed it can lead to severe damage on your roof. This can trickle down (excuse the pun!) and cause leaking. Take a look at the pictures to see what water can cause. There will be more articles about this to come! Stay tuned.

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Why Do I Need a Fireplace Grate?

Why Do I Need a Fireplace Grate

Why Do I Need a Fireplace Grate?Let’s start by describing what a fireplace grate is. Shown left, a fireplace grate is the cast iron, or metal, stand that your fire wood sits on. Typically it is centered in your fireplace. If you are having smoking issues you will need to make sure the grate is pushed all the way to the back.

Getting the firewood off of the ground does a couple of importantly thiing.

By raising the wood off of the floor of the fireplace, you are allowing the wood to be burned more efficiently. Air is able to get under the wood causing the fire to burn hotter. When this is achieved you are essentially using less fuel to heat your home, thus saving you money on firewood.

Another benefit of a grate is when your firewood is raised, the coals from burning wood drop to the ground. This allows the fire to burn from the bottom up and subsequently the wood gets completely burned. As the hot coals drop, the need to shift or move the wood is not there because the wood is held by the grate.

A fireplace grate protects the floor of your fireplace. Direct exposure to high temperatures will destroy the concrete ground. The grate slows down the destruction of the ground by lifting the fire instead of the ground getting direct heat.

Fireplace grates are a must when it comes to properly using your fireplace. They help burn a more efficient fire and protect the floor of your fireplace from needing to be repair frequently.

Install an Energy Saving Damper

savemoneyandenergyIf you’re wanting to save money, (via saving energy) an energy saving top mounted damper is something you should take a look at. A traditional damper is metal and closes inside of your firebox. Is yours open or closed? If its shut, often times it doesn’t seal. This presents a problem when running your air conditioning or heater. Air from inside the house that you want, (i.e. cool air or warm air) will end up leaving your house through the chimney. Would you leave a window open while your air conditioner/heater was on?

Lock Top II Dampers are mounted on top of you chimney and offer an air tight seal. This means that you won’t have to worry when you use your air conditioning and heater. Closing a chimney from the top will end the days of having cold air trapped in your chimney. The cold air can cause smoking issues, inside of the house, because of a cold chimney.

Natural Gas Safety: Three Things You Should Know

gassafetyThere are three things you should know when it comes to gas safety. Knowing where PG&E natural gas pipelines are located near you, spotting a leak, and knowing whats below before you dig will keep you safe.

Living in the era of the internet means we have all kinds of information at our fingertips. It has never been easier to find out where pipeline markers are. Markers include an emergency number and indicate the need for extra care around gas transmission pipelines that feed local distribution pipelines. These markers specify the approximate location, but not all pipelines follow a straight path between markers. PG&E has an interactive online map where you can find out about the transmission pipelines in your neighborhood. You can also check out the National Pipeline Mapping System to see the location of all transmission pipelines in the United States, viewable by county, zip code or street address.

Being able to spot a leak is also very important. Spotting a leak requires 3 of your 5 senses. Smell, hearing, and sight.

  • Smell
    • If you smell this distinctive “rotten egg” odor, move to a safe location and immediately call 911 and PG&E at 1-800-743-5000
  • Sound
    • Always pay attention to hissing, whistling or roaring sounds coming from underground or from a gas appliance.
  • Sight
    • Other signs of a possible gas leak can include dirt spraying into the air, continual bubbling in a pond or creek and dead or dying vegetation in an otherwise moist area.

The last tip is certainly not least. Damage from excavation is a common cause of pipeline accidents. That’s why you must always call Underground Service Alert (USA) at 811 at least two working days before you dig—even in your own yard. USA is a free service that will notify underground utility operators in the area of your planned work. PG&E will then locate and mark our underground gas and electric facilities.