Valentine’s Day: Pagan Revelry, Clandestine Marriage, and 14th Century Poetry

February 14th, 2015 by David Pixley

What do you think of when you think of Valentine’s Day? Perhaps rushing off to the stationary store after work to choose the perfect card with which to express your feelings towards a loved one? Dinner reservations at a fancy restaurant? Roses, dark chocolates, and other gifts and confections? Whatever Valentine’s Day may look like to you, chances are that it is a far cry from the history surrounding this holiday – or at least we hope so. Here are a few interesting facts about this most romantic of holidays, from your friends here at 2nd Generation Chimneys.

The fact of the matter is that there is no definitive history as to how Valentine’s Day came to be. There are a few different saints with variations of the name Valentine, for example. One of the most prevalent legends, and one certainly in keeping with the romantic nature of the holiday as we know it today, pertains to a priest serving during the 3rd century in Rome. Under the rule of Emperor Claudius II, who believed that young men made for better soldiers if unfettered by marriage, it was illegal for young men to marry. A true believer in love, Valentine would marry young couples in secret. Until, at least, he was found out, and met a very unpleasant end for his crimes.

Like many of our modern holidays, Valentine’s Day can also be traced back to pagan ritual. Lupercalia, as the pagan festival is known, was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, a god of agriculture. As is often the case with Roman celebrations, the details of this celebration are unfit to detail here. Suffice to say that, while there is certainly a touch of the amorous in the proceedings, the festival was a far cry from what we associate with Valentine’s Day today.

How, then, did our modern version of Valentine’s Day come to be? The answer may lie in, of all places, 14th century poetry; particularly, in the writings of Geoffrey Chaucer. Famed for his Canterbury Tales, Chaucer may well be the very first writer to associate Valentine’s Day with romantic love, in the manner of which we are familiar with it today. His The Parliament of Fowls details the dream-vision of a narrator consumed with the idea of romantic love and the natural order of finding a mate. Valentine’s Day is mentioned by name a number of times, as the narrator witnesses a parliament of eagles vying for the hand – or, perhaps more aptly, the wing – of a mate.

Whatever you may think of the holiday’s sordid and convoluted history, we here at 2nd Generation Chimneys hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day with the special someone in your life.

What Happens During a Chimney Inspection?

February 5th, 2015 by David Pixley

The safety of your family is important to you, which is why we feel it is so important for every home chimney to receive inspection once a year. Like any other type of heating equipment, a chimney can pose a safety hazard if it is not regularly maintained. Maintenance includes cleaning problem areas and checking for any damage that could increase your chances of a dangerous chimney fire. Heating equipment is the second leading reason for home fires, and chimney fires take the lead in this category.

Scheduling chimney cleaning and inspection every year can significantly lower your risk of a fire, alerting you to any repair needs and giving you some peace of mind over the condition of your unit. Call a company trusted for chimney inspection and repair and recognized by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. Call 2nd Generation Chimneys today.

The Levels of Chimney Inspection

What happens during your next chimney inspection will depend on your needs, the state of your chimney and firebox, and whether you or your technician suspects trouble. There are three stages or levels of chimney inspections.

  • Level 1 – A level 1 chimney inspection is recommended for most homeowners as part of annual chimney cleaning. Before chimney cleaning, the technician should inspect your chimney for any large debris, like birds’ nests, and areas with a high concentration of creosote. After cleaning up these types of issues, the technician should inspect the chimney again using a strong light to locate any visible damage.
  • Level 2 – Level 2 chimney inspections are a bit more comprehensive, but are necessary after a fire, in case you decide to sell your home, or if you’re upgrading your stove or alternate heating equipment. Technicians will access crawlspaces and use high-tech equipment to assess the state of the chimney.
  • Level 3 – Finally, level 3 chimney inspections are recommended only in extreme cases, as the chimney may be disassembled to an extent for a complete inspection.

The technicians at 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. are highly trained and certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. Call Us Today! 612.922.9600 or 1-888-PIXLEYS

What Is My Home’s Risk for a Chimney Fire?

January 30th, 2015 by David Pixley

When you use your chimney, you feel comforted by its warmth, so you’re often not thinking about the potential consequences of a poorly maintained chimney. As it turns out, heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires in the U.S., and chimney fires account for the majority of these. Most chimney fires are totally preventable—as long as you understand your risk. Assess whether your chimney has the potential for a sudden fire by asking yourself the following questions and taking action to protect your home.

Call 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. for regular inspections and chimney cleaning in Lakeville. We are a team of certified professionals who take pride in our comprehensive chimney services.

Are there damages to your chimney or fireplace?

The first way to tell whether your chimney is at risk is by taking seriously any damage you may have noticed on the masonry, in the firebox, or with the flue. Cracked or chipped tiles or liners allow a pathway for flames to reach the structure of the home. Excessive creosote buildup in the firebox or chimney is another issue to look out for, as a single spark can ignite the creosote and start a massive fire. Creosote is a gummy, corrosive substance that sometimes forms as condensation collects in the chimney liner.

Have you had a chimney fire in the past?

If you’ve had a chimney fire before, your risk of another chimney fire or a home fire is particularly high. A chimney fire can crack flue tiles, damage the masonry, and spread creosote around the chimney and firebox or stove. In fact, you may be unaware that a chimney fire has occurred once before, so keep an eye out for flakes of creosote, warped TV antennae, masonry cracks, holes, and discoloration.

When’s the last time you scheduled chimney inspection and cleaning?

Perhaps the most important step in protecting your home from a chimney fire is regular chimney inspection and cleaning. This is suggested for most homes annually, although your technician may have different recommendations based on how often your chimney is used. Experts will inspect every portion of your chimney for damage, clean out creosote buildup, and may offer you valuable maintenance tips.

Calling 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. for chimney cleaning in Lakeville gives you access to professionals certified by the CSIA, Call Us Today! 612.922.9600 or 1-888-PIXLEYS

What to Look out for When Inspecting Your Chimney

January 29th, 2015 by David Pixley

Any piece of heating equipment can run into trouble from time to time, and sometimes it comes with some scary consequences. Heating systems are the second leading cause of home fires in the U.S., so it’s important to do all you can to prevent this possibility from occurring. And while any piece of heating equipment needs regular inspections and a tune up in order to prevent issues from popping up unexpectedly, chimneys may need a little extra work.

You may wonder: what can I do to prevent a chimney fire? While there are certainly some things you should stay attuned to, at 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. we recommend leaving the brunt of the cleaning and inspection work to a professional. We’ve been around since 2001 and are certified by the CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) or chimney inspection in Circle Pines and the surrounding area.

Some things to look out for

There are a couple of things that should alert you to trouble when you look at your chimney or firebox. The first is cracked masonry. Cracks and holes force heat to distribute unevenly and may allow flames to escape onto the roof of your home. Especially when the liner is damaged as well (which is common with tile liners), flames are likely to spread. Second, you should pay attention if you notice an excessive buildup of flaky or tar-like creosote. Creosote forms in the lining of a chimney as condensation forms, and with high levels of creosote, even a spark can send flames throughout the chimney.

Leave inspection to professionals

However, you should leave any major inspection tasks to professionals. Inspecting a chimney is hard work, and it also requires a trained eye to locate smaller cracks, holes, and hazards. Amateur chimney inspection may pose a health or safety hazard as well. Besides, experts have the right tools for both inspection and cleaning, which could cost the average homeowner thousands of dollars. Professionals are best suited to recommend changes, such as replacing a worn liner, which could end up saving you and your home from danger.

Call 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. For chimney inspection in Circle Pines by trained experts, Call Us Today! 612.922.9600 or 1-888-PIXLEYS

Efficiency and Safety Tips for Wood Stove Owners

January 22nd, 2015 by David Pixley

While wood stoves were once reserved for outdoor use, today’s indoor wood stoves are better than ever, with advanced ventilation systems, safety features, and an attractive and vintage look for a great addition in any home. Many homeowners still have their reservations about wood stove installation, but there is plenty you can do to make sure your unit continues to run efficiently and safely.

Work with 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. in order to make sure your new wood stove installation in Minneapolis goes smoothly and that your unit runs as safely and efficiently as possible.

Saving Money and Benefitting the Environment with Your Wood Stove

  • Only Purchase Stoves Built after 1990: According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, stoves built before 1990 were 50% less efficient than modern EPA-approved stoves.
  • Find Wood with a High Heat Value: The heat value of wood helps you to determine how efficiently it will burn, though you may be limited to a few specific types due to your location.
  • Weatherize Your Home: Weatherizing your home by sealing any cracks and leaks helps monitor the indoor temperature and keeps you from running your stove for long periods of time.
  • Only Allow Professionals to Service Your System: A professional knows where to install a system for peak efficiency as well as the proper maintenance and repair procedures.

Safety Tips for Wood Stoves

  • Professional Service is Key: Again, one of the most important things you can do is choose professionals for installation, service, and yearly maintenance to keep everything running as safely as possible.
  • Follow Manufacturer’s Instructions: Check your unit’s manual for the most accurate safety information or ask your technician for further advice.
  • Burn Dry, Seasoned Wood: Wet wood cannot burn efficiently, and drier wood helps to protect against creosote, a buildup of which can be a fire hazard.
  • Never Leave a Wood Stove Unattended: Always put out your wood stove before you leave the home to prevent the risk of fire.

We use industry standards for installation and ventilation and have years of experience with Minneapolis wood stove installation.

For professional service and more information about keeping your home safe, call 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. Call Us Today! 612.922.9600 or 1-888-PIXLEYS

Why Fireplace Repair Is Always a Job for Professionals

January 15th, 2015 by David Pixley

If there is a problem with your fireplace, you want it fixed quickly. Whether your home is recovering from a fire, your broken fireplace cannot provide adequate heat, or it is at risk of catching fire in the future, you’ll need a professional trained in the standards of chimney repair and safety to ensure that the problem is fixed and to keep any safety hazards from occurring in the future.

Fireplace repair is not a job for the average do-it-yourselfer. While you can challenge yourself by doing some home projects on your own, such as assembling or repainting furniture, these jobs don’t generally come along with any high risk. Chimney fires are one of the leading causes of home fires in the U.S., and you risk a chimney fire any time a component of your fireplace is in a state of disrepair. There are professionals trained specifically on the best methods for repairing, relining, or sealing your fireplace, and you should always make sure you’re working with an expert.

As an example, the flue liner must be the proper size and it has to be in top shape in order for the fireplace to remain in good shape. If you call a technician for a routine inspection and they discover that the flue liner needs replacement due to cracks and holes or any other threat to your safety, the technician may decide that it needs replacement. And you’ll want to make sure you have a certified professional to make measurements and choose a fire resistant material that is fitted properly.

Be sure to call for repairs as soon as you notice anything unusual, such as excessive smoking, visible cracks and holes in the chimney, or a cracked firebox. You should only trust professionals certified in chimney repair and cleaning, as they are better able to assess any potential danger and recognize repair needs throughout the structure. The experts at 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. are certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America, which means they’ll make sure your new repairs are safe and sound.

Contact 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. today for thorough, quality fireplace repair in Wayzata. Call Us Today! 612.922.9600 or 1-888-PIXLEYS

How Will Professionals Restore My Chimney after a Chimney Fire?

January 8th, 2015 by David Pixley

You may simply see your chimney as a decorative addition to your home that also requires little maintenance to make your living space warm and welcoming. But according to the National Fire Protection Association, chimney fires are one of the leading causes of home fire deaths. Most of these fires are caused by a buildup of creosote, a preventable issue in most cases. After a chimney fire, it takes an expert to figure out the next steps that should be taken, which is why you should always contact professionals for chimney restoration in Minneapolis, MN.

First, the technician will need to assess what may have led to the fire in the first place. It would be irresponsible for a technician to begin repairs without first determining what can be done to improve your chimney and firebox and keep the problem from occurring in the future.

Next, the technician will repair or replace components that were damaged by the fire. Any severe masonry damage will need replacement, as will a cracked chimney liner. Sometimes, the masonry must be replaced because of the extensive damage. However, a technician may instead use a process tuckpointing to correct any issues with the masonry and crown. Trained tuckpointing specialists do their best to fill in any gaps with mortar that is as close as possible in design and texture to the original.

The technician will most likely need to install a new chimney liner after a fire as well. Many homes are equipped with clay tile liners as they are easy to install, relatively inexpensive, and readily available. But these so a poor job of absorbing and distributing heat, which can cause them to crack during a chimney fire, exposing the masonry to damage. Most professionals advise replacing clay tile with a steel or aluminum liner instead.

After a chimney restoration, a technician will recommend that you continue to schedule chimney cleaning and inspection on a regular basis. The most common source of chimney fires is creosote buildup, something that a technician can clean with the proper tools and know-how.

When you call 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. for chimney restoration in Minneapolis, MN, you’ll get expert advice, assessment, and repairs from specialists in the industry only. Call Us Today! 612.922.9600 or 1-888-PIXLEYS

How Can I Tell if There Is Too Much Creosote in My Chimney?

January 5th, 2015 by David Pixley

There are a number of toxic byproducts produced by combustion, and one of them is creosote. Creosote is a sticky, highly-flammable substance that forms when the gases from combustion combine and cool, and if you have a fireplace, creosote will cling to the inside of your chimney. Any amount of creosote can cause a problem for your fireplace, which is one of the reasons why it’s so important to schedule annual chimney cleaning in St. Paul. We are officially in fireplace season, and if you have started to use yours but haven’t had your chimney swept in more than 12 months, call 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. today.

Creosote Stages

There are 3 stages of creosote that can develop with a fireplace and chimney. These stages are known as Stage One, Stage Two and Stage Three and each is used to describe how heavy the creosote build-up is:

  • Stage One – creosote in Stage One is the easiest to remove as it is comprised mostly of soot. A thorough cleaning with a chimney brush can remove Stage One creosote and restore the chimney to a clean state.
  • Stage Two – Stage Two creosote typically consists of hard, black flakes. This is because this type of creosote contains tar that has hardened. Stage Two creosote can be removed, but it requires the use of a tool known as a rotary loop. Because Stage Two creosote is hard, it can start to restrict the air flow in your chimney, which will affect how your fires burn.
  • Stage Three – the heaviest and most difficult of all creosote build-up, Stage Three creosote is very hard to remove and may require replacing your chimney liner. This type of creosote build-up looks like a coating of tar on the inside of your chimney, and it can easily catch on fire.

Signs of Creosote Build-Up

  • Reduced drafting in fireplace
  • Less ash and more wood in fireplace after a fire
  • Black soot in and around fireplace
  • Very dark smoke from chimney
  • You can visibly see more than 1/8 of an inch of soot build-up

Any amount of creosote can cause you problems, so if you are seeing the signs of build-up, call 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc., and schedule a chimney cleaning in St. Paul.

The History of “Auld Lang Syne”

January 1st, 2015 by David Pixley

There are numerous different traditional songs associated with Christmas—but there is only one song that comes to mind immediately when people think of New Year’s Eve: “Auld Lang Syne.” It is hard to find a New Year’s Eve party where people won’t leap into singing “Should old acquaintance be forgot…” as the first stroke of midnight sounds. This tradition encompasses the globe, with almost every culture that celebrates New Year’s on January 1st breaking into song with the same set of lyrics.

Where did this song come from? And what do the words “auld lang syne” actually mean? The best place to ask these questions is Scotland. The Official Gateway to Scotland website calls the song “one of Scotland’s gifts to the world, recalling the love and kindness of days gone by, but in the communion of taking our neighbor’s hands, it also gives us a sense of belonging and fellowship to take us into the future.”

The melody of the piece originates from Lowland Scots folk song tradition. It was legendary Scottish Romantic poet Robert Burns (1759–1796) who created the words we know today, however. During the later years of his life, Burns dedicated much of his work to collecting Scottish folk tunes and giving them new life. The first mention Burns makes of “Auld Lang Syne” is in 1788, when he calls the song “a glorious fragment.” Burns wrote new lyrics to the old melody, and used the words “auld lang syne,” which is Scottish for “old long since,” and which can be translated into standard English as “long, long ago” or “days gone by.” The phrase was already known in earlier Scottish poems and folk songs, and appears to be the equivalent of “Once upon a time…” for Scots fairy tales.

Soon after Burns introduced the song to the public, it spread across Scotland as a New Year’s custom, and then to the rest of Great Britain. Scottish immigrants took the song with them as they moved across the globe, and by the middle of the 19th century it was a holiday tradition throughout the English-speaking world. By the close of the 20th century, it was a global phenomenon to ring in the New Year.

We imagine that you’ll end up singing or hearing “Auld Lang Syne” at some point this New Year’s (maybe you’ve already heard it while watching It’s a Wonderful Life).

All of us at 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. would like to take this opportunity to wish you a happy coming year in the tradition of the song.

5 Facts about Santa Claus

December 25th, 2014 by David Pixley

Many holiday traditions involve the story of Santa Claus, the lovable old man who spends most of his time at the North Pole taking a single evening to deliver presents and candy to children everywhere. But since Santa Claus is so elusive (unless he happens to be visiting your local shopping mall), how do we know so much about him? Where exactly does his journey begin? Our holiday guide details 5 of the most common traditions associated with Jolly Old Saint Nick.

  1. The Origins of Santa: The name “Santa Claus” comes from St. Nicholas (a name which became Sinter Klaas for short in Dutch), a Christian Bishop from 4 A.D. who was known for giving his fortune away to those in need in Turkey. Santa Claus’ first associations with gift-giving comes from Holland’s St. Nicholas’ feast day, during which children would leave out their shoes overnight and find presents waiting inside the shoes on the next morning.
  2. The Stocking by the Chimney: While many people associate Holland’s shoe tradition with the origins of hanging a stocking, this isn’t entirely accurate. Hanging stockings instead comes from the legend of a time St. Nick helped a man afford to marry off his daughter by throwing a bag of gold down the chimney, which landed in a stocking that was hanging up to dry.
  3. St. Nick’s Outfit: Santa got his fashion sense from a wooden cutout handed out during a meeting of the New York Historical Society in 1804. But it wasn’t until a 1930s Coca Cola advertisement that his traditionally blue, white, and green outfit was transformed into a big red suit.
  4. Leaving Cookies out for Santa: Food was traditionally used as ornamentation during the holidays in medieval Germany as apples and cookies commonly adorned the home at wintertime. When the Christmas tree became a common symbol of the season, edible treats began to vanish, a phenomenon which became attributed to Santa Claus’ snacking habits.
  5. Why Santa Drives a Sleigh: Santa gets his sleigh from a tale spun by Washington Irving, the same author who brought us the Headless Horseman. He wrote down an account of a dream in which Santa Claus drives a weightless wagon through the sky, and the stories became so popular, they stuck around.

Here at 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. we hope that you have a joyful and safe celebration, no matter what holiday traditions you engage in this year. Happy holidays!