2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. Blog: Archive for March, 2014

A Brief History of Chimney Sweeps

Friday, March 28th, 2014

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!

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3 Common Problems Found in Old Chimneys

Friday, March 21st, 2014

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.

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Reasons You May Need to Repair Your Fireplace

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

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.

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Benefits of Installing a Chimney Cap

Friday, March 7th, 2014

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.

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