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Tuesday, July 01 2014

With so many preparations to worry about, the last thing you may think about come winter is the condition of your fireplace and chimney.  But, turning that fireplace on after months of inactivity and wear from the changing seasons could leave your house, your family, and yourself at risk. Improperly maintained chimneys can cause structural damage, destroy homes or even injure people. There are a few different signs of chimney damage you should look out for.


Years of wear and tear from Mother Nature can cause a chimney’s brick and mortar to deteriorate. Older chimney’s have not only had to endure more wear, but they may also be made of blends that are softer and more porous than those used today, which could cut the life of a chimney in half. Different climates also have different effects on the structure of a chimney. “Spalling” can occur if you live in a climate that experiences freeze/thaw cycles. Moisture enters the concrete, freezes, and expands causing pieces or layers of the brick to crumble off.

Cracked Crowns

A chimney crown is a concrete slab placed on top of the chimney. Its purpose is to protect the chimney from weather and prevent deterioration. If a chimney crown has shrunk or cracked, it exposes the rest of the chimney to water and other natural elements, which could cause bricks to fall out or come loose. A good quality crown should be made of concrete or cement, have no cracks, and overhang the masonry by at lease 2 inches.

Broken Caps

A chimney cap is a metal “hat” that protects the interior of the chimney. Caps are important to the proper functioning of a chimney since they prevent water from entering the inside of the chimney, keep animals and debris out, and allow proper venting. A broken chimney cap can have severe consequences, such as water damage to the chimney and even inside your house. If a cap is not allowing for proper venting, smoke could build up inside the chimney and enter your house, or even cause a fire.

Improper Dimensions

If a chimney is too short, it may fail to prevent downdrafts. The improper spacing between components can also prevent smoke from rolling before entering the smoke shelf, and allow smoke to enter your house.

Poor Flashing

Flashing is thin material that is installed to prevent water from entering a structure. Chimneys typically have flashing installed under the roof shingles and cut into the brickwork. Even minor breaches in flashing can lead to significant leaks and serious water damage.

Posted by: AT 02:57 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, May 14 2014

At Chicago Fireplace and Chimney Co, our fireplace and chimney specialists are certified by both the CSIA or the NFI, but how did they get this certification? More importantly, what does that mean for the quality of their work? Read on to find our more about this important certification process.

If you’re having work done on your fireplace or you are even having it cleaned, the person working on your fireplace should have been CSIA or NFI certified. CSIA is Chimney Safety Institute of America certified, which means that they have the safety knowledge required to properly maintain chimneys. NFI or National Fireplace Institute certified means that a person is qualified to install fireplace products. These qualifications provide professional credibility as well as represent the skills of the worker.

To Become CSIA certified you must first take a review session either online or in person. You will need to study the Successful Chimney Sweeping, NFPA 211 and IRC books before you attempt to take the one-hour exam. After the first exam there is a second, 90-minute open note exam. This certification is only for one year and will require to be renewed.

When you become NFI certified you will become a specialist in gas, wood and pellet systems. To become NFI certified, you must take a 100 question multiple choice test. You are given 2 ½ hours to complete the test. These exams are updated once every three years. A person who is NFI certified will have fundamental knowledge in the following areas: Combustion, heat protection, safety, consequence of action, construction fundamentals, regulations, fuel delivery, appliance requirements, ventilation principles as well as post installation inspection/service. A NFI certified worker will be provided a wallet ID card.  

We take pride in being the best in the business at Chicago Chimney, check out our services page for more information about what we have to offer. 

Posted by: AT 11:58 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, April 22 2014

A fireplace is able to make your home warm and cozy. With modern fireplace designs there are many designs and styles to choose from that are simple and stylish. Most of these fireplace designs are simple and they are mainly composed of clean straight lines without classic curves and lavish décor which some of the traditional ones have. These kinds of fireplaces come in polished wood design or are matted in silver. Here are some of the most popular modern fireplace designs. 

1. Cast Iron Fireplace Design: Fireplace made of cast iron that is a polished cast fascia or insert panel that accentuates the modern look of the house. It has pine or oak mantel or frame. It has no fancy corbels so it can be fitted in most contemporary homes. It has a striking contrast when it is mixed with granite hearth and panel. This design suits most of the fashionable homes as there are no picture corbels in them. It can have an eye-catching contrast if it is blended with fireplace and stonework panel. 

2. Limestone Fireplace Design: The most common kind of fireplace design. There are many modern homes that use this age-old limestone. Many people prefer this design because it has neutral color which helps to blend with the décor of the house. If it is installed properly then it enhances the look of the traditional houses. It has a simple look but it gives a luxurious feel. The limestone varies in veining and color, so two fireplaces made of limestone will not look similar even if the designs of them are same. 

3. Micro Grain Mantel Fireplace Design: A kind of design where the marbles are crushed in to fine pieces and it is then bonded together to make mantel for the fireplace. The best thing about this design is that it has subtle but high gloss finish which remains glossy for several years. 

4. Marble Fireplace Design: An elegant kind of fireplace design that is pricey too. It can blend well with any kind of setting. It comes in various colors, shades and styles that can be incorporated well with the traditional wooden burning fireplace. To create a distinctive and unique look it can be customized with classic hand carved designs for the fireplace frame or mantle. These kinds of fireplace design can fit in the dining room, living room, bed room, outdoor patio or garden. 

5. Portable Free Standing Fireplace Design: An unconventional design that can project a cozy ambience and modern look to blend well with other interior furnishings. It is a suspended design that acts as a focal center of the house. It is known for saving space and can be installed anywhere in the house. A corner free standing unit can be installed with glass screens or cover. It comes in varieties of futuristic shapes and contemporary designs. 

6. Vent -less Fireplace Design: A kind of fireplace which uses non-toxic gel fuel. It is highly in demand due to its environmentally friendly usage of the clean burning fuel. 

These are some of the most popular modern fireplace designs that can be used to enhance the beauty of the home.

Posted by: AT 11:46 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, April 14 2014

Now that the weather has finally started to warm up it is time to start enjoying all of the fun activities that Spring and summer have to offer. One decidely less fun aspect of Spring is the inevitable need for Spring cleaning. When you are starting this process, it is very important that you do not neglect one very important aspect of Spring cleaning. Your fireplace and chimney have been working hard all winter long, it is important to get them properly cleaned and inspected during the spring. This ensures that they will be in top working condition and ready for the next winter. Here are some tips to remember for fireplace and chimney Spring cleaning.

  1. Properly clean your fireplace: A build up of ashes can end up being an issue after the winter has ended. It is important to completely clean your fireplace and remove all ashes from the firebox area. 
  2. Complete any repairs: Repairs for your fireplace can end up falling down the to do list once warmer weather has come. It is important to make any needed repairs as soon as possible. This will stop future damage to the fireplace and ensure that everything is functioning properly the next time you need it. 
  3. Hire a chimney sweep: Getting your chimney swept is one of the most basic and neccessary fireplace and chimney maintenance tasks. Hire a chimney sweep professional during the fireplace off season.
  4. Consider a renovation: Spring can be the perfect time to upgrade your fireplace and chimney. If you have been thinking about getting your fireplace redesigned or upgraded, add it to your list for Spring cleaning. 

Your fireplace may have been the unsung hero of the winter months. Make sure that your treat it right this Spring by getting all of the proper cleaning and repairs done. Contact Chicago Chimney for a chimney sweep or fireplace repair today!

Posted by: AT 12:21 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, March 28 2014

It is approaching that time of the year where you may be looking to do some updates to your interior design. In addition to spring cleaning, giving a new look to your den or family room can be a great way to spruce up the house. If you have a fireplace, you have a number of options for updating its design. If you want to give it a clean, fresh look, you can paint the brick or stone on the fireplace. However, painted fireplaces can end up taking away from the fireplace design if it is not done correctly. Here are some tips to consider when you are considering painting your fireplace.

  • Completely clean the area to be painted - A painted fireplace design can be ruined, or not work at all, if the fireplace stones or bricks are not cleaned and prepped for painting. It is important to clean off any cobwebs or dirt so the paint will go on smoothly and look great.
  • Use a proper primer - Oil-based primers are an effective way to cover up any soot stains that may be present on your fireplace. This will ensure that the stains do not bleed through the paint and ruin the design you are trying to achieve.
  • Roll then brush - Begin with a roller to get some initial coats on the fireplace. Then you will need to use a brush to fill in some of the gaps or porous areas. It will take more coats for the textured fireplace then it would for a typical wall.
  • Be sure about your decision - Getting paint off a fireplace can be a nearly impossible task. To avoid having designer's remorse, it is important to make sure that you are comfortable painting the fireplace. You should also know if it will match the rest of the room design for the foreseeable future.

Before you think about painting your fireplace, make sure that you have it professionally cleaned and inspected. This will ensure that your freshly painted fireplace is in top shape and is ready for use. Good luck and thanks for reading!

Posted by: AT 10:18 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, March 26 2014

One of the most basic principles of fireplace cleaning and maintenance is removing ashes and disposing of them in an appropriate manner. However, many housefires are caused because fireplace owners neglect to empty ashes, or they are disgarded of in an improper manner. A recent news story in Maryland shows that ashes can end up being a very pricey issue if they are not maintained properly.

In Jarrettsville, Maryland, firefighters received a call for a fire at a single family home. Nobody was hurt in the fire, but the cost of the damage was estimated at $375,000. This was caused because of improper disposal of some of the ashses from the fireplace. Here are a few tips to remember when dealing with your fireplace ash cleaning and removal:

  • Regularly dispose of ashes - Letting ash build up is bad for a number of reasons. The first is that it causes your fire to burn less cleanly which is not healthy for your family. The second is that is can cause risk for fire to escape from the fireplace.
  • Dispose of ashes in a proper container - Putting ashes that are still warm in a plastic or other meltable container can cause damage to the container and increase the risk of a fire.
  • Do not dispose of embers with ashes - The embers of a fire can re-ignite, even after the fire has been extinguished for hours. It is important to make sure that everything has fully cooled before disposing of ashses.
  • Keep ashes away from flammable items - Simply throwing ashes in with paper and other flammable items is asking for trouble. Keep ashes seperate and in a safe container to decrease fire risk.

Use these tips to keep your fireplace maintenance safe and decrease any fire risks. Good luck and thanks for reading!

Posted by: AT 11:31 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, February 20 2014

It seems like we may be out of the negative degree temperature days, for at least the time being. However, snow melting temperatures can end up creating a completely different, and equally dangerous issue for your home heating situation. Ice dams are a home design issue that can be very damaging and dangerous if not managed correctly. 

What is an ice dam?

Ice dams form when snow melts on a hot spot of a roof. The melted snow runs down on the ice still present near the edge of the building's roof. As the water begins to refreeze, it will result in more ice than was originally present on the roof. This process can continue until as ice dam has formed. Similar to  a functional water dam, the ice dam will hold back water and keep it present on the roof, even if the temperature is warm enough to melt the snow. 

What are the dangers?

An ice dam may seem like a harmless home annoyance, but there are some real strucutral and physical dangers associated with an ice dam. The first is that the weight can cause structural damage to the building. A second issue is that the water being held back can result in mold on the roof or it can seep in and cause breakdown in the attic or upper level of the building. A final issue is that the ice dam has the risk of falling at any time, especially as temperatures rise. This can be very dangerous for home or business owners who could be hit by a falling ice dam.

What to do about ice dams?

Ice dams are a simple issue, but they can be a pain to fix. A single ice dam can be steamed, manually removed, or dissolved with salt or other chemicals. Ice dam removal specialists can help with any of these issues and are able to remove an ice dam in a short amount of time. However, another issue can be that the heating process that occurs on your home's roof has created an environment for more ice dams to form in the future. If that is the case, then you will need to evaluate the chimney situation or heat exhaust design of your home. That way you can identify potential hot spots on the roof that will melt snow and can lead to ice dam formation.

Get your roof checked as soon as possible for potential ice build up issues. This will ensure that you home and family stay safe and happy the rest of the winter season. Good luck and thanks for reading!

Posted by: AT 11:06 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, February 04 2014

Setting cold weather records

The Windy City has had it’s share of cold days but recently it’s been breaking records and getting dangerously cold. The cities most recent low was 15 below zero with Chicago’s infamous wind chill bringing the temperature to as low as 42 below zero. This record beats previous record lows set in 1894 and 1988. It would even have been warmer at the South Pole with temperatures of only 11 below. Not only was the record low beaten, as the record for the lowest high was broken on January 6th with a high of -1. 

With temperatures like this and schools being cancelled it’s clear that the best thing to do is avoid going outside as much as possible. If you do go outside, make sure you are prepared and that you spend as little time outdoors as possible. Staying warm at home comes with the assumption that your home is actually warm. These cold and windy days will most likely inform you and your family the importance of having a properly insulated and heated home. These may also be the days when you realize that your chimney has been merely decorative, and you might want to use it.  

Keeping your home warm and safe

Lighting a fire in your fireplace is an inexpensive way to add additional warmth to your home but can also be somewhat problematic if you don’t have your chimney properly maintained. If your fireplace is not properly set up, you could end up losing much of the warm air in your home and let some of the freezing cold air in. While this is an issue with fireplaces, doesn’t mean that it is not preventable. Adding a chimney liner can prevent the loss of heat and can increase the amount of heat your fire produces for your home as well as preventing a number of other problems associated with houses with chimneys.

Adding a class cover to your fireplace helps prevent letting some of the cold air in. While it also allows you to see the fire and enjoy the atmosphere that it provides, it is effective at conducting heat into the room. These glass doors to your fireplace will also prevent heat from escaping from your home even when there is no fire lit. So even if you do not plan to light any fires, consider getting glass doors for your fireplace as they are good insulators and improve the overall aesthetic of the room. 

If you have not been properly maintaining your fireplace and chimney, you run the risk of starting a fire. This risk is increased because of how dry your chimney gets in these extremely low temperatures. Having your chimney properly or even professionally cleaned can help avoid the risk of a fire starting. It is recommended that you do this before starting a fire.

Chicago Fireplace And Chimney 

Posted by: AT 09:42 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, January 14 2014

   As the winter months roll on it can be easy to pay little mind to your fireplace or furnace. If you use a fireplace as one of your main sources of heat, it can be easy to overwork your fireplace and end up with a potentially deadly problem: carbon monoxide leakage. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can be deadly if present in large amounts. Here are a few pointers to remember about carbon monoxide.

-Since it is difficult to detect, it is imperative to have at least one carbon monoxide detector in your home. 

-Young children and elderly individuals are more at risk since they may not be aware of an issue or able to correct it. 

-Carbon monoxide can come from some different sources, but a fireplace or furnace can be a potential leakage area, especially during winter months when they are working overtime.

   It is important to keep your fireplace in good working order, and have it inspected regularly to ensure that there are no leaks or issues relating to fireplace operations or carbon monoxide leakage. Some important things to look for include cracks on the seals of the fireplace or chimney, making sure that the flute of the fireplace is not rusted or cracked, and removing any obstructions that would send the exhaust from the fireplace back into the living area. A fireplace like the one pictured below would be a candidate for immediate repair.

   Carbon monoxide poisoning can begin with lightheadedness or nausea, but it can progress to chest pains or loss of consciousness, and even become fatal in extreme cases. If you have any questions about your fireplace, have it inspected as soon as possible, and do not use it until you are sure all components are functioning properly. Have a safe and happy winter, from everyone at Chicago Fireplace & Chimney Co. 

Posted by: AT 01:53 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, December 27 2013

New Year’s Resolutions for Your Fireplace

    We hope that everyone had a warm and happy Christmas! As we move in to 2014, it is important to ensure that your fireplace and chimney are in tip-top shape. As you work your way through some of the standard New Year’s resolutions of ending some bad habits and losing weight, here are some resolutions to take for your fireplace.

1. Clean your fireplace

    Give you fireplace a holiday gift by making its job easier. Completely cleaning out all of the ash and residue from you fireplace chamber will make your fireplace work more efficiently and provide cleaner heat for your family.

2. Investigate “the smell”

    If you fireplace has been giving off smoke or generating some weird smells, it is time to investigate and make sure the chimney is clear of any debris and everything is working properly. How will Santa get down the chimney next year if it is blocked?! Avoid a holiday travesty in 2014 and make sure everything is functioning properly. 

3. Do any exterior cleaning

    If you have been putting off clearing away some branches near your chimney or having some structural work done on the exterior parts of your fireplace & chimney, make it a resolution to get this done in 2014. Your home heating will be safer and more efficient if you make this a priority.

4. Consider a design update

    Maybe some new fireplace doors would help with the decor of your family room. Adding some aesthetics to your fireplace can really breathe new life into an old design. You have numerous design options available, make 2014 the year that you choose one and take your fireplace to the next level!

5. Get a fireplace

    Maybe you are reading these resolutions about a fireplace and you do not even have one. If that is the case, make 2014 the year that you get a fireplace installed and provide your family with an affordable and stylish heating source. Let us help you choose a design and fireplace type that will make your living area glow.

Posted by: John Crisp AT 12:04 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email

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