Why Your Fireplaces Firebox Needs Cleaning

April 15th, 2014 by David Pixley

When thinking about cleaning and maintaining your fireplace, it’s helpful to remember that a “fireplace” isn’t just the area where you see the flames coming from wood logs or gas jets. It’s a whole system that includes the hearth, the chimney, the mantle, the dampers, and the flue.

One of the most important parts of this system is the firebox, the place where the actual fuel for the fire is combusted. The size of the firebox differs depending on the type of fuel the fireplace burns, but they have one thing in common: they need regular cleaning to make sure the fireplace burns its fuel efficiently and safely.

Firebox cleaning is part of the regular professional fireplace maintenance you should have scheduled for your home’s fireplace every year. The best contractor to take care of your fireplace sweeping in Wayzata, MN is one dedicated exclusively to the care of fireplaces.

2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. employs certified chimney sweeps with the Chimney Safety Institute of America and members of the National Chimney Sweep Guild. Call us today to set up an appointment. 

The importance of keeping a clean firebox

Fireboxes will accumulate the leftover, unburnt product or fuel, and this residue must be removed regularly. For a wood-burning fireplace, the firebox will begin to accumulate creosote, which is a shiny black substance that is essentially unburned wood energy. Creosote is also highly combustible and will easily catch fire and can escape from the hearth.

Ash that collects in the firebox will eventually clog it up enough that the fire will not burn as efficiently. Although you can remove much of the ash yourself, a large amount will stain the firebricks, and they can eventually cause cracking, which can be very bad news for a fireplace. This ash contamination will need professional sweepers to remove.

Chimney sweeps will always check for cracks during cleaning. Aside from excess ash, these cracks can occur because of repeated expansion and contraction over time from the intense heat in the firebox, as so even gas fireplaces are susceptible. Cracks can lead to hazards, since they will allow heat to get out of the firebox and toward combustible construction material. You should hire masonry services to repair the firebox damage before you use the fireplace again.

Regular chimney sweeping and inspections

A chimney sweeping takes care of your whole fireplace, not just the firebox. To make sure you have a safe fireplace, technicians can perform Level 1, 2, or 3 inspections, depending on the amount of damage your fireplace may have. Our chimney sweeps at 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. are certified to perform all levels of inspections and comprehensive fireplace sweeping in Wayzata, MN, so make us your choice for regular chimney cleaning and maintenance.

Treat Creosote Build-Up This Spring

April 8th, 2014 by David Pixley

Creosote is a byproduct of regular fireplace use: a tarry, flammable substance that coats the interior of your chimney. It’s very natural and as long as you have your fireplace maintained regularly, you shouldn’t have any problems with it. Eventually, however, creosote will build up to sufficient levels to constitute a fire hazard, and even when it doesn’t, it can block the flow of air through your chimney, severely reducing the effectiveness of your fireplace. In terms of chimney repair, St. Paul MN has the experts to handle creosote build-up.

If you need to treat creosote build-up, don’t hesitate to give the fireplace maintenance experts at 2nd Generation Chimneys a call. You’ll be glad you did! 

Why Spring is Ideal For Treating Creosote

It’s tough scheduling  fireplace cleaning in the winter, because it means giving your fireplace a rest during the coldest parts of the year (as well as opening your home to the frigid temperatures outside). As spring blooms, you’ll have the luxury of scheduling a cleaning session at your convenience. It also makes a golden opportunity to clean up any creosote that has built up since last fall, making your fireplace clean, safe and ready to go when the next heating season rolls around.

Furthermore, spring is an easier time than others to tackle creosote problems. Temperatures are warmer and yet the mugginess of summer hasn’t set in yet. Treating creosote is fairly simple, though it requires specialized brushes provided by chimney sweeps a well as the training and experience to make sure the creosote is all cleaned up.

All of which is a round-about way of saying that you should probably treat creosote build-up every spring, not just when you really need it.  And if you’re looking to address issues related to chimney repair, St. Paul MN has ready-to-go experts in the form of 2nd Generation Chimneys. We’ve been in business since 2001 and have built a strong and successful company based on the quality of our referrals. That means quality work performed for satisfied customers, whether it’s creosote removal or something more substantial.

A Brief History of Chimney Sweeps

March 28th, 2014 by David Pixley

The job title “chimney sweep” carries with it connotations both romantic and sooty. The first images that pop into people’s imagination when they hear the words “chimney sweeps” are either Mary Poppins or something close to the world of Charles Dickens. However, the chimney sweep in history goes farther back in time than Victorian London. This is an old profession, and a necessary one from the days of the first chimneys up through today.

Chimney sweeps are still with us, and they may not be as soot-covered as before, but they’re still ready to keep your chimney clean and safe. You can find some of the finest chimney sweeps at 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. Call on us for fast and effective chimney inspection and chimney cleaning in Eden Prairie, MN.

The Chimney Sweep in History

The ancient Romans usually receive credit for the invention of what we would call a chimney. Since the Bronze Age, homes and palaces used large central hearths vented through a hole in the ceiling to heat rooms. But the Romans started to use fires in individual places of a dwelling that vented out a brick stack. Cleaning this was crucial to making sure the exhaust left the room and didn’t enter it, although there was not yet a single profession dedicated to the job.

It was during the 16th century in England that fireplaces with chimneys developed toward their modern versions, with fireplaces built in each room of a house to spread warmth more evenly. When the Crown levied a hearth tax in the 17th century on the number of chimneys in a house, homeowners would build complex tunnels systems of vents to all connect to single chimney. Coal also started to replace wood as the main fireplace fuel. Now homes were riddled with twisty channels choked with coal soot—and the task of keeping them clean was so large that a new profession arose to deal with it: the full-time chimney sweep.

This was an often hazardous occupation. Soot is dangerous for lungs, and the sweeps were frequently up in high places or required to squeeze up difficult narrow shafts. Orphaned children were often placed into indentured servitude as sweeps in exchange for food and lodging. (The term “light a fire under you” comes from a master threatening a frightened child sweep to continue to climb up a long chimney to complete the cleaning.)

In 1864, this abusive practice thankfully ended when Parliament passed a law to stop child labor as chimney sweeps. New inventions also allowed for much easier cleaning of chimneys.

Today in the U.S., chimney sweeps are highly specialized professionals certified to work to keep people’s fireplaces safe using the finest modern equipment.

For quality chimney cleaning in Eden Prairie, MN from a professional chimney cleaning service, contact the experts at 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. Give us a call today to schedule your next service appointment!

3 Common Problems Found in Old Chimneys

March 21st, 2014 by David Pixley

It’s not uncommon for chimneys to endure beyond the buildings in which they stand; a solid masonry chimney can survive for over a hundred years with the right care and attention to problems that might develop. If you live in a home with an older chimney, take care to look for repairs that it may need. We’ll list three of the more common troubles that can afflict a chimney that has vented smoke for many decades.

2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. is your one-stop service for all your needs for chimney restoration in St. Paul, MN. We handle fireplace installation, repair, and maintenance as well.

Here Are 3 Problems We See With Old Chimneys

  1. Leaning chimney:
    No, it’s not an optical illusion. The strange slant you see on the chimney that you never noticed before is the chimney beginning to lean away from the house. The cause of this is usually deterioration in the chimney’s foundation, and it will require masonry work to prop it back up. This is an urgent job: a leaning chimney places enormous stress on the side of your home, and when the chimney does fall, it can take large chunk of the wall with it. Of course, a collapsing chimney is immensely dangerous as well to anyone who might be nearby when it happens.
  2. Cracking in bricks and masonry:
    No matter how sturdy bricks or masonry may appear, the ravages of weather, heat, and moisture can damage them. The most insidious problem they encounter, especially in Minnesota with our snow-covered winters, is moisture entering into the flue and seeping between bricks. Even without sub-freezing temperatures, water can cause cracking in bricks; but it’s much worse when the water turns to ice and expands, forcing gaps in the bricks and masonry. Make sure you have regular maintenance on your old chimney to see if it needs restoration due to cracked bricks. You should also invest in a chimney cap to keep away moisture.
  3. Cracks in the chimney liner:
    The liner of the inside of a chimney is crucial for how it vents. Older chimneys often do not have liners, and you should have installers put one in. As the chimney ages, older liners can fall apart because of creosote damage, and this can lead to heat getting through the exposed bricks and into places it shouldn’t. Have certified chimney reliners take care of this for you.

Our staff at 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. has extensive experience and the proper certification to relieve your worries about chimney restoration or chimney repairs in St. Paul, MN. We are certified chimney reliners and members of the Chimney Safety Institute of America. Call us today for any concerns you have about your home’s chimney or fireplace.

Reasons You May Need to Repair Your Fireplace

March 12th, 2014 by David Pixley

Because fireplaces and chimneys are usually made of stones or bricks (and other durable materials), they don’t seem like they should need repairs. What could possibly go wrong with them?

Many things, actually—especially if you haven’t scheduled regular fireplace inspections and chimney sweeping. This doesn’t mean your fireplace is particularly dangerous; it’s no more so than any other heating system in your house. But it does mean you need to arrange for repairs whenever you notice a problem. We’ll list a few of the common reasons for scheduling fireplace repair in Minneapolis, MN.

For fast and professional service for your fireplace’s troubles, call 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. We have fireplace technicians ready 24/7 to service your hearth.

Common Reasons For Fireplace Repair

  • Cracks in the firebox:
    The firebox is the section of your fireplace at the floor level of a room where fire is combusted. It’s made of firebricks that can withstand extreme temperatures. If cracks appear in the firebrick, it can turn into a major fire hazard that will allow heat to reach combustible material. For this repair work, you’ll need a fireplace masonry expert to remove and replace the firebricks and provide mortar to the joints.
  • Gas line problems:
    For fireplaces with gas logs, you need to have a gas line in good repair or it could cause the fireplace to stop working, or worse, lead to carbon monoxide leaking. Although CO is naturally odorless and colorless, suppliers often add a taint to it to make it easier for homeowners to detect when it is leaking. If you smell a strange odor from your fireplace, hear a hissing noise when it isn’t operating, or if your gas line simply won’t light, call for repairs immediately. Do not tamper with a gas line on your own!
  • Broken/stuck damper:
    The damper at the top of the fireplace that leads to the flue must be in good condition so it can properly vent smoke and combustion fumes to the outside. If the damper breaks and either becomes stuck in an open or closed position, do not use your fireplace. Instead call for professionals to come to your home and repair the damper so your fireplace won’t waft exhaust into your house or suck out all the heat from your living room.

Fireplace Repair Should Be Left to Professionals

You can locate “do-it-yourself fireplace repair guides” all over the Internet. However, because fireplaces consist of heavy masonry or other durable construction material, there is usually little you can (safely) do to repair a major fireplace issue. Leave this task to professionals certified with the Chimney Safety Institute of America—like our staff at 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. Give us a call for quality fireplace services in Minneapolis, MN.

Benefits of Installing a Chimney Cap

March 7th, 2014 by David Pixley

An improvement to your chimney that you should consider having installed (if you don’t have one already) is a chimney cap. These covers on the top of your chimney won’t impede smoke exhaust, provided you have regular cleaning done, and can prevent some serious troubles that might lead to damage to your home or make it necessary to have expensive repairs done.

2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. performs chimney cap installation in Maple Grove, MN. We’ve seen first-hand the benefits homeowners can receive from a chimney cap. Here are the three main ones:

  1. Keep animals out of the chimney: Animals often enter chimneys and try to use them as nests or lairs. This makes sense from the point of view of an animal: chimneys are warm, sturdy, protected spaces. Birds and squirrels are among the most common intruders into chimneys, but raccoons are increasingly becoming an issue—and are the most difficult and potentially dangerous to remove. Since trying to “smoke out” animals from a chimney can backfire, the best method to deal with animals is to keep them out in the first place with a chimney cap.
  2. Protection from rain: You may not think that rain could pose much danger to something as durable as a masonry chimney. However, when moisture starts to gather inside the chimney, it can enter between the cracks in bricks and eventually cause them to crack. This is especially problematic in Minnesota, where freezing temperatures in winter cause water in the bricks to turn into ice and expand. A chimney cap will keep out most of the rain out.
  3. Prevent downdrafts: Downdrafts in a chimney can blow the smoke from the fireplace in the hearth back into your home. If you live in an area where you encounter powerful winds, these downdrafts can become intense, and a chimney will help stop them from polluting the air of your home.

There are a few drawbacks to chimney caps as well, although most of these you can avoid with regular professional chimney maintenance. For example, caps can become clogged with soot and creosote, but routine chimney sweeping will eliminate this problem.

There are very few reasons not to get a chimney cap. As long as you take good care of your fireplace and chimney, the cap will not pose any serious trouble to the fireplace’s performance and will stop major problems that could plague it.

Contact 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. for chimney cap installation in Maple Grove, MN, as well as the maintenance, cleaning, sweeping, and repairs that will keep the cap—and your fireplace—in superb shape. Give us a call today to schedule your next chimney service in Maple Grove.

What Does a New Fireplace Installation Entail?

February 28th, 2014 by David Pixley

If your home doesn’t have a fireplace, you may think that installing one is impossible, or at least too much work to be worth it. We won’t deceive you: the installation of a fireplace is indeed a great deal of work. But if you bring in the right fireplace installers to do the job, it will go much easier and have a minimal interference of your life while the work goes on.

At 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc., we specialize in many types of fireplace installation in Minneapolis, MN. We can handle gas log inserts into existing hearths, freestanding wood and pellet stoves, masonry fireplaces, and complete installation of a new chimney liner. For the purposes of this post, we’ll look at what the most extensive of the jobs entails: installing a traditional wood-burning fireplace with a chimney.

Traditional Fireplace Installation

The first step in putting in a traditional fireplace is to determine the type of stone, wood, and decoration to use that will match the sort of fire you want, as well as fit your budget plans. You’ll work with a mason, who will be responsible for constructing the chimney and the hearth. The installers will also determine the best location for the fireplace for the purposes of venting and laying in a foundation. You may have a set idea for where you want to have your fireplace, and often the installers can accommodate you, but listen to their advice about the safest location.

The installers will need to do some renovation on your home to fit in the chimney. The biggest work comes first: laying a chimney foundation, which is responsible for supporting and balancing the considerable weight of the chimney stack. After this, the installers will build up the firebox (where the fire actually will burn) and then the outer chimney bricks. Then the liner will go in, which keeps the heat from the fireplace from getting through the masonry of the chimney to the materials of your home.

Other Options

If you would prefer a less expensive and time-consuming choice for a fireplace, you can have a wood-burning stove installed instead. These are freestanding units, although they do require a vent through a wall and a lined flue to reach the outside. Freestanding stoves are very efficient heaters because they raise the temperature of their metal casings.

Ask About Your Fireplace Choices

For high quality fireplace installation in Minneapolis, call 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. and talk to our professionals about the various options for placing a fireplace in your home. They’ll help you sort through the prices and the construction details so you’ll end up with the right fireplace for you.

The 3 Levels of Chimney Inspection

February 19th, 2014 by David Pixley

Chimney inspection is an important part of maintaining a safe and attractive fireplace in your home. We often need to remind people that a fireplace poses no greater danger to your home than a heating system like a furnace or boiler…as long as it receives regular inspections and necessary cleanings and repairs.

When it comes to inspections, you should entrust the work only to certified professionals. The organization that certifies chimney inspectors and technicians is the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). In January 2000, the National Fire Protection Association adopted three levels of inspection to solidify the methods of inspectors. The CSIA has adopted these three levels, and all certified inspectors now use them.

2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. has CSIA-certified inspectors on staff with extensive training to provide all three levels. We also offer chimney sweeping, repairs, and the necessary masonry services in Eden Prairie, MN, for your chimney should an inspection identify problems that need remedy.

An Explanation of The 3 Levels

The levels of chimney inspection are a hierarchy: the first level is the simplest inspection, while the third is extensive and necessary if it appears there are serious issues. Which one will you need?

If you haven’t had trouble with your fireplace’s venting and have no plans to make any changes in the near future, then a Level 1 inspection is the place to start. According to the CSIA, “A Level 1 inspection is recommended for a chimney under continued service, under the same conditions, and with the continued use of the same appliance.” The inspector will examine parts of the chimney that are easy to access to check for construction soundness and flue integrity, as well as look for any obstructions.

You will need a Level 2 inspection if you have made any changes to your fireplace or venting: a new fuel source, construction, or appliance addition. It’s also required upon sale or transfer of property, or after any occurrence that might have damaged to chimney and liner. A Level 2 inspection includes everything in Level 1, but also investigates other areas of the chimney exterior plus the attic and crawlspaces.

A Level 3 inspection is necessary if either of the other levels identified the possibility of hidden hazards. Inspectors will often need to remove some chimney components to access areas that could have sustained damage.

In Case You Need Chimney Repair

Fireplaces and chimneys are durable and do not often require repairs. But it’s vital that they receive them when they need them: there’s danger of fire escaping or structural collapse. Call for 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. when you need your chimney inspected in Eden Prairie to find out its current state, and if you’ll need our professional masonry services to restore it.

Other Anniversaries of Valentine’s Day

February 14th, 2014 by David Pixley

For more than a hundred years, people in countries around the world have marked the 14th day of February as a time for lovers to give each other gifts and for children to write cards to each other and eat heart-shaped candy. But Valentine’s Day isn’t the only important event to occur on February 14th. There are many other anniversaries to mark on this day. Here are a few:

1400 – The death of King Richard II: The same English king whose engagement resulted in the first love poem mentioning Valentine’s Day (from court poet Geoffrey Chaucer) dies in prison in Pontefract Castle after his cousin Henry overthrows him. He probably starved to death, although another famous author, William Shakespeare, would portray his death as murder.

1859 – Hello, Oregon: The Oregon Country is admitted to the United States of America as the 33rd state.

1876 – Who invented the telephone? Alexander Graham Bell applies for a patent for his new invention, the telephone. Another inventor, Elisha Gray, applies the same day for a similar device, sparking a long controversy over who invented what first.

1912 – Hello, Arizona: Continuing the statehood tradition that Oregon established, the Territory of Arizona is admitted to the U.S. as the 48th state. Women are granted the right to vote in Arizona the same year, eight years before the rest of the nation.

1929 – The world’s most infamous mob hit: Unknown assailants shoot down seven people in Chicago, IL. Six of the dead are gangsters in the mob of Bugs Moran, an enemy of Al Capone in the business of selling Prohibition bootleg liquor. No one is ever arrested or charged for the crime—but there isn’t much doubt who masterminded it.

1931 – “I am… Dracula”: The most influential vampire movie ever made, and the start of Universal Studio’s famous monsters series, Dracula starring Bela Lugosi, premieres in theaters. Universal cannily uses Valentine’s Day to promote the film as “The Story of the Strangest Passion the World Has Ever Known!”

1961 – The Periodic Table becomes larger: The 103rd chemical element, Lawrencium, is discovered at the University of California. The name comes from the laboratory where it is synthesized, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

2005 – Now it’s easy to watch funny animal videos: A group of college students launch a video sharing website call YouTube.

Even if Valentine’s Day itself isn’t a major holiday for you, February 14th has many reasons to celebrate—unless you are a member of Bugs Moran’s gang or a supporter of Richard II. All of us at 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. would like to wish you a happy Valentine’s Day, however you observe it.

3 Stages of Chimney Inspection in Wayzata

February 7th, 2014 by David Pixley

Because chimneys are made of durable material and designed to last for many years—over a century in some cases—people often believe that chimneys don’t need to have regular maintenance or inspection, except maybe at five year intervals just to check if there’s creosote that need cleaning out.

But this is a myth, and a potentially hazardous one. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends that homeowners have their chimney inspected once a year, even if they did not use it much during the previous year. Chimneys can accrue damage during periods when they are not in use as easily as during their busiest times of the year, such as winter holidays. Scheduling a chimney inspection in Wayzata, MN should be on your yearly calendar for home maintenance. Call 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. to schedule an inspection today from our certified technicians.

There are 3 stages of inspection, which are called “levels” by the CSIA.

Your chimney inspectors will ascertain what level you need. Below are the different levels:

  • Level 1: Recommended for a chimney in regular use that is not experiencing problems. Inspectors look over the readily accessible areas of the chimney (spots that do not require special tools or damage to building material or surface finishes to access). The inspection goes over the flue, the basic building structure, and fundamental installation, all for the purpose of ensuring the safety of you and your family.
  • Level 2: The CSIA recommends this level when you make a change in your heating, such as a switch in fuel type, a flue relining, or the replacement or addition of an appliance like a gas log insert. It is also recommended if you have experienced a malfunction or damage to the chimney. This level of inspection goes beyond Level 1 to include video scanning.
  • Level 3: Recommended when earlier inspections indicate hidden problems within the chimney or more complex tools are necessary. This inspection may require removal of components around the chimney, such as drywall, so technicians can access hidden areas of the chimney.

Chimney inspections are vital to maintain the safety of your fireplace and its ventilation. 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. has a staff of CSIA certified chimney inspectors who can perform all three levels of inspections to help ensure that your chimney is safe, allowing you to enjoy the warmth of a fire in the hearth throughout the year. Contact us today to start with a Level 1 chimney inspection in Wayzata, MN.