Our Company Blog

Winter Maintenance Tips for Your Home

There are many issues that can arise during the winter months—things that affect the bills you pay and the safety of your home. The problems that affect your home this winter are not always caused by your fire appliance, your heater, or even neglect. Many problems arise because of weather, storms, damage, or other things entirely out of our control. In order for our customers to have the safest home possible this winter and every winter, we recommend these tips.

Gutters and Drainswinter house with snow

Gutters and outside drains are great assets during freezing winters and wet springs. However, if they aren’t properly maintained, they can become a hazard. Leaves and debris left inside gutters and drains can cause a clog, allow your water flow to stall and freeze, and even lead to leaks and water damage outside the gutter system. A gutter problem doesn’t just affect the roof, eaves, and house. An overflowing or damaged gutter can lead to washout and damage to your landscaping and direct rainwater to your basement and foundation instead of designated drainage areas.

Weatherizing Windows

The only windows that do not need to be weatherized are those that are double-pane storm windows. There are specific models and brands of windows that will insulate your home despite the outside weather and temperature, but these windows are expensive and not usually in older homes. If you have a standard single-pane window, it should be properly winterized in order to save you money and prevent damage.

Screen Removal – If your windows have an outer screen, the screen should be removed during winter prep. Leaving the screens in the window can allow water to pass through the screen and then freeze against the window and the window sill. This not only leads to a temperature drop but also can ruin a wooden window frame and sill. Remove the screen and store upright in a storage closet, basement, or attic.

Storm Window Panes – If your single-pane windows have a screen, look around the basement and attic for replacement storm windows. These panes slip right into the space where the screen is removed. If your windows do not have storm window panes, remove the screen and plastic over your windows for insulation.

Window Insulation – Whether you have storm windows or simple single-pane windows, you can still add clear plastic insulation to your windows to help keep the cold out and keep your warm air in. You can hire someone to winterize your windows or purchase a window insulation kit at your local home improvement store to improve your home’s heat efficiency.

Lawn Maintenance

By the end of summer, we are excited to be finished with lawn care. We’re excited for the leaves to begin falling and celebrate as we put that weed trimmer and lawnmower in the shed for the winter. While we as homeowners are understandably finished with lawn care when autumn arrives, it’s important to trim your lawn before winter is in full force. Oftentimes, the grass stops growing, so we fail to cut it one last time. This makes raking more difficult when necessary and can hide hazards beneath high grass and then snow as fall turns to winter and winter to spring. Cutting your grass before winter arrives will mean a seamless transition back to spring and summer and will mean a healthier lawn and healthier microorganisms that help cultivate healthy soil.

Air Duct and Dryer Vent Maintenance

During winter months, we use air ducts and dryer vents more often than other times of the year. You may not even realize it, but you are likely spending more time than ever indoors, breathing recycled air that has been moving through your HVAC system over and over. You are also likely using the clothes dryer more often than in warmer months if you use a clothesline during the warmer months.

Whatever the reason, these systems are being used, and are oftentimes neglected. In order for a more efficient and safer central air and heating system, make sure you have your air ducts cleaned and sanitized as needed. When the system is maintained properly it will use less energy, will cycle and filter the air in your home better, and will last longer. Similarly, the clothes dryer vent will work better when it is cleaned annually. Not only will a clean dryer vent keep your family safe this winter, but it will help your dryer work better, work safely, use less energy, and last longer. Running your dryer multiple times for one load of clothes is a sign that there is a problem—and it’s a sign that costs you money! Schedule dryer maintenance now and see how much it saves you.

Chimney and Fireplace Maintenance

Homes that have a fireplace and chimney system are safer when they are maintained properly. Don’t take our word for it! The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) both agree that the safest and most efficient chimney systems are those that are cleaned regularly and inspected annually. Ideally, a homeowner would schedule these important services before the burn season, but it isn’t too late.

Residents in Boston, North Shore, and Portland area can call and schedule a sweep or inspection with Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep anytime, year-round. Our aim is to make safe homes and warm hearths. Dial 617-469-4528 or contact us online.

The Parts of the Chimney System

Your chimney is a focal point for home decor and necessary for home heating. Without the chimney, your fireplace would not have proper airflow to burn well, and would allow harmful smoke and toxic gases into your living space. In order to work properly, it must be properly constructed from top to bottom. Understanding the anatomy of your chimney will help you notice changes, suspect damage, and maintain it properly.

Foundation

Like the house itself, the chimney must be properly supported from beneath. Without a proper foundation, the masonry can shift, leading to cracks, leaning, and eventually structural damage.
Look for: signs of settling or movement, especially inside the firebox.

Ash Dump

The ash dump leads from the firebox through a type of trap door which makes it easy for homeowners to clean ashes from their fireplace by scooping it into the space below. The ash dump is a safe place for the ashes to cool and collect until it is too full to use.
Look for: ashes spilling out of the outlet or clogging the door.

Firebox and Hearth

The firebox is the space where the fire burns. It endures the most abuse–the highest temperatures and often the least attention. The hearth is the floor of the firebox which extends out toward the room. It is durable and usually decorative.
Look for: stains or cracks that indicate water damage.

Chimney Damper

Installed at the base of the chimney or a top mount damper installed at the top of the flue, the damper is essential for proper chimney function. It allows for adequate airflow to light and maintain a fire. A top mount damper and a throat damper can also prevent airflow during the off season.
Look for: drafts that affect your heating or cooling, a smoky fireplace, and animals in the flue.

Smoke Chamber and Shelf

The smoke chamber is the space above the fireplace where the heat and gases mix before continuing up the flue. The slanted wall directs the smoke upward, and the smoke shelf keeps the smoke and gas from falling back into the fireplace.
Look for: a smoky fireplace, rough walls, and dripping noises within the chimney that aren’t visible.

Flue Liner

The flue liner extends up the entire chimney and is made of clay tile, stainless steel, slip casting, and even HeatShield cerfractory sealant. It helps to properly size the flue for optimum airflow, protects the home from heat and gases inside the chimney, and protects the masonry from corrosive chemical byproducts inside the chimney.
Look for: pieces of clay tile inside the fireplace, chimney hot to the touch.

Chimney Crown, Cap, and Flashing

In order to maintain the integrity of the chimney, it needs protection against water penetration year-round. The crown is a mortar ceiling placed on top of the chimney, extending outward from the flue. The cap protects the flue opening, and the flashing protects the vulnerable intersection of the chimney and roof.
Look for: signs of water damage.

Every part of the chimney is essential and should be intacted for the chimney to work properly. Schedule an annual inspection to make certain the chimney is in good shape.

Call Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep at 617-469-4528 or request an appointment online today.

Understanding Your Damper

As a homeowner, it is important to know your fireplace and chimney system. How you use and maintain it will determine its safety and efficiency. Using the system improperly can make it difficult to light and maintain a fire. Your fire’s heat, beauty, and safety starts with the damper.

Get to Know Your System

If you have a traditional open-hearth fireplace, your damper may be adjustable. Other systems, including many styles of pre-fab fireplace appliances only have two settings: open or closed. If you have a closed unit such as an insert or stove, you can safely close your damper without exposing your home to smoke and carbon monoxide. However, closing the damper will cause your coals to smolder, increasing the amount of creosote produced. Some homeowners allow coals to smolder in a stove overnight, but this practice means you will need more frequent chimney maintenance.

Lighting the Fire

Your fire needs oxygen to burn, no matter what type of fireplace or appliance you have. While you are lighting your fire, the damper should be fully opened to allow air to flow freely. If your appliance has a vent, this should be opened so that it pulls air out of the room, into the fire, and out the chimney. Without adequate airflow, your kindling and wood shavings may burn, but will not light your wood. This will waste time and kindling as you repeat this process until your fire is lit.

Maintaining the Fire

Once your fire begins to catch, the heat will begin to rise up the chimney along with the smoke. To avoid losing too much heat through the chimney, but continue to allow adequate ventilation, close the damper halfway. If your damper only has two settings (open or closed), you need to leave your damper open to avoid smoke and carbon monoxide exposure.

Saving Money

Open fireplaces lose heat, sometimes costing homeowners 3 times the amount of wood and utilities. You can improve efficiency of your system by installing an insert directly into your existing firebox. You can save money during the summer by choosing an energy-saving damper for your open fireplace. Avoid issues with your fireplace, chimney, and avoid wasting time, money, and resources by burning the proper wood and using the system correctly. Using the damper properly can save you more than money. Protecting your family from carbon monoxide exposure can save lives.

Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep installs, repairs, and replaces dampers. If you aren’t satisfied with your throat damper, we can install an energy top damper that will save you money year-round. We can be your choice for comprehensive chimney maintenance for all four seasons, and we’re just a phone call away. Call Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep at 617-469-4528 or make an appointment using our online scheduling tool today.

Proudly Serving Boston

Boston might have had a slow start, but the area will be seeing more winter weather going into next week and extending into Christmas! Homeowners with fireplaces are probably using them for heat already, as well as ambiance during holiday festivities—setting up a tree, wrapping gifts, or just spending time with family. This is the favorite time of year to enjoy a fireplace, and it’s important to make sure it’s ready for burn season before you light it. It’s important that your fireplace and chimney are safe and functioning properly to have the least impact on the environment (and your wallet), but the most benefits to your family.

Professional Services

Your chimney system can last your lifetime and the life of your house, but only when it’s properly maintained. Chimney industry professionals and organizations like the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)recommend routine maintenance in order to have the safest and most efficient fireplace possible.
Chimney Sweeps – Routine chimney sweeps keep the fireplace and chimney clean of ash, soot, creosote, and debris that can slow the airflow through the flue. A clean chimney is an efficient chimney.
Chimney Inspections – Annual inspections keep the chimney working properly. There are large portions of the chimney system that a homeowner will never see, and problems can occur that a homeowner would not know to look for. When you schedule a chimney inspection, a certified professional comes in and assesses it from top to bottom. A properly functioning chimney is a safe chimney.

Finding Chimney Services in Boston

When it’s time to schedule services for your chimney system, you don’t have to search far. By clicking over on CSIA.org, you can input your zip code and a complete list of CSIA certified professionals comes up. Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep is at the top of the list!

Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep has been sweeping, inspecting, and caring for the chimneys of New England for over 30 years. We provide homeowners, realtors, property managers, and business owners with the highest level of customer service and care. We not only work in the area, but we live here, and it’s our priority to keep our neighbors safe and to educate our communities about fire and chimney safety.

Before you hire an amateur to construct, repair, or service your chimney system, find out what Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep can do for you. Our CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps specialize in CSIA inspections, chimney sweeps, installations, repairs, and rebuilds. We are certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America as well as the National Fireplace Institute [http://www.nficertified.org/], and members of the National Chimney Sweep Guild (NCSG) and the Massachusetts Chimney Sweep Guild. Our training, experience, and certifications make us better at providing chimney care in Eastern Massachusetts, Southern New Hampshire, and the Portland, Maine area.
Call Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep today at 617-469-4528 or schedule online.

Preparing Your Chimney For Cold Weather

As summer winds down, the evenings become cooler and cooler until the A/C is off for good. The fall, leading into the holidays, may be the most popular for fireplaces. So start now, and you’ll be ready.

Routine Maintenance

Follow the advisement of industry professionals and have your chimney routinely swept. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) also recommend annual inspections for the safest and most efficient chimney system. These appointments may be the only time throughout the year that a certified chimney sweep has access to your chimney, and can identify weaknesses, concerns, and hazards. Not sure you need an inspection? Familiarize yourself with the CSIA inspection and when to schedule yours.

Schedule Repairs NOW

You have a few more weeks to get repairs and upgrades completed before burn season starts. Scheduling necessary repairs and services now means you can avoid the fall rush. If you wait until fall, you may not get an appointment when you need one. Don’t get left in the cold. Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep offers all of our chimney services year-round because we know summer is a great time for chimney work!

Waterproofing

Your chimney is subject to weather year-round, but is especially vulnerable during the winter, when snow sits on the chimney and flashing and melts slowly. During these months, water is also subject to a freeze/thaw cycle that can damage your masonry from the inside out. Once water penetrates the masonry, it freezes, expands, melts, and repeats this process, breaking through the masonry each time. This freeze/thaw cycle causes spalling and serious water damage to the chimney interior. If left unchecked, rain will have direct access to the chimney system this spring. The best way to prevent water penetration this winter is to make sure your chimney has an effective cap, crown, and flashing – all checked during your inspection.

Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep also applies a vapor-permeable sealant for added water protection. In fact, we apply this sealant for FREE on all of our masonry repairs because we know it works, and our first priority is your safety. This waterproofing sealant protects your masonry all winter long, decreasing winter damage and preventing chimney leaks. By protecting your chimney this winter, you will have a more efficient fire and safe chimney.

Is your fireplace and chimney ready for winter? Then the only thing left to do is to prepare your fuel. Do you have a wood fireplace, insert, or stove? Then you should have already started gathering properly seasoned wood. If you are unsure about fuel, appliances, tools, or fire safety, you can contact a Billy Sweet professional now. Call 617-469-4528 or use our convenient online form.

Beat The Fall Rush & Schedule An Inspection Now

Your chimney system should be in good shape to be both safe and efficient through the winter. However, if your chimney is damaged during the off-season, it can result in higher electricity bills, cause warm drafts, and even leaks and other damage in your house! The best way to protect your home and chimney from damage year-round? Schedule annual inspections. It’s at these vital appointments that a chimney expert assesses your chimney system, taking note of weaknesses and damage – often diagnosing problems before damage occurs.

Avoid The Fall Rush

If you schedule your inspection now, you will have time to make necessary repairs, preventative measures, and cosmetic changes before the fall rush. The “fall rush” refers to the months between October and January when chimney companies are busy, so it can be difficult to get an appointment. During this time chimney sweeps are busy with emergency calls and repairs. Due to the tight schedule during the fall rush, waiting to schedule your inspection can mean you don’t get the appointment time, technician, or even chimney sweep company you’d like. Don’t settle for second-best. Choose the best company and schedule today!

Allow Time For Repairs

By scheduling your chimney inspection now, you still have over two months to complete necessary repairs before cold weather returns. It’s a nuisance to make repairs during burn season. This is because you can’t light a fire safely until repairs are made. Efficiency will be down, and fire and health risk will be up.

Get your inspection, chimney sweep, and repairs completed during the off season! Then you can rest assure knowing your fireplace and chimney is ready for fall. In addition, you don’t have to worry about an unexpected issue. This is because our technician will diagnose and assess any potential hazards in the system and deal with them, before burn season. Making necessary repairs before the fall means you don’t have to dip into holiday shopping funds for chimney repairs. When you schedule your inspection during the summer, you also have more time to come up with the money for any necessary repairs.

Preventative Measures

The sooner you have your chimney system cleaned and inspected, the sooner you can close it out for summer. If you haven’t done this already, you need to! First schedule a chimney sweep and inspection with your trusted and certified chimney expert. Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep offers both services, paying attention to the likely problem areas. When our technician is finished with your chimney, it won’t be accessible to critters, won’t stink, and will be ready for fall in a few short months.

For more information about preventative measures that can prolong your chimney’s life, click here. We are always looking to help our customers stay safe in Eastern Massachusetts, Southern New Hampshire, and Portland, Maine. Find out how we can help you by calling now. Speak to an expert by dialing 617-469-4528 or schedule an appointment using our online scheduling tool.