Our Company Blog

The Dangers of Creosote

If you have a fireplace, you likely know that creosote can be a hazard to your home and family. You probably also have your fireplace swept by a certified chimney sweep each year to remove any creosote buildup from your chimney, and perhaps you even burn the occasional creosote sweeping log to help maintain your chimney. But how much do you know about creosote, how it forms, the dangers it poses and how you can keep it at bay? We’ve put together some basic information on creosote so you can better protect your home and family.

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What is creosote?

As smoke from your fireplace makes its way to the top of your chimney, it cools. As the smoke cools, it causes condensation of the chemicals and water vapor created when wood burns. The substance left sticking to your walls is creosote. All forms of creosote — whether black or brown, sticky or shiny, hard or tar like — can be found sticking to the insides of most chimneys.

Why is creosote dangerous?

As little as a quarter inch of creosote buildup on the walls of your chimney can be dangerous, putting your home at risk of a chimney fire. Highly combustible, creosote can burst into flames if it is touched by a stray spark from your fireplace, or if chimney temperatures exceed 1,000 degrees. If creosote builds up enough in your chimney, it also can prevent the gases created by the fireplace from exiting your home, which can force dangerous carbon monoxide back into your home.

How can I avoid the dangers of creosote?

Using the right wood in your fireplace can slow the buildup of creosote in your chimney. Only burn dry hardwoods that have been seasoned for a minimum of six months. When wood is improperly seasoned and contains moisture, it produces more water vapor when burned and burns at a cooler temperature, which causes the formation of creosote. Make sure that your fire is large enough for your fireplace. If your logs are too small, the fire won’t burn hot enough for your chimney. Your flue also should be fully opened when you’re burning a fire, as a partially closed flue will cause smoke to remain in your flue longer, encouraging creosote buildup.

Of course, the best way to keep your home safe from a creosote fire is to have your chimney swept and inspected each year by a certified chimney sweep. Your chimney sweep will make sure that your chimney is entirely creosote free. During the sweep’s inspection, he also will make sure your chimney does not show any signs of damage from a past creosote fire, which can weaken your chimney and put your home at danger for a future fire.

If you’re overdue for a chimney sweeping and inspection, don’t wait! Putting off your chimney sweeping puts your home and family in danger of a creosote-caused chimney fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. Call the certified sweeps at Billy Sweet to have your chimney ready for the fire-burning season.

We Love Serving The North Shore

North Shore, Massachusetts encompasses the area between Boston and New Hampshire. The area is beautiful and coastal. Describing the North Shore must include a special and rich culture in addition to stunning and diverse geography. That’s why the entire staff of Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep loves serving the North Shore.

Here is a list of the cities and towns included in the North Shore area:

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  • Amesbury
  • Beverly
  • Boxford
  • Danvers
  • Essex
  • Georgetown
  • Gloucester
  • Groveland
  • Hamilton
  • Haverhill
  • Ipswich
  • Lynn
  • Lynnfield
  • Manchester
  • Marblehead
  • Merrimac
  • Middleton
  • Nahant
  • Newbury
  • Newburyport
  • Peabody
  • Rockport
  • Rowley
  • Salem
  • Salisbury
  • Saugus
  • Swampscott
  • Topsfield
  • Wenham
  • West Newbury

Geographically, the region has a rocky coastline, marshes, wetlands, beaches, and harbors perfect for recreation, wildlife, and inter-coastal commerce.
One of the best known cities in the North Shore region is Salem, well known for the tragic Salem Witch trials of 1962. The Salem Witch Museum provides an insight to that unique time in our history. The Peabody Essex Museum includes the Ying Yu Tang house which was originally located in southeastern China and depicts the life of the many generations of the Huang family who lived in the home for over 200 years. Gloucester, a fishing town, was venerated in “The Perfect Storm” by Sebastian Junger. Newburyport is the quintessential coastal town with a boardwalk, red-brick downtown, and active commercial wharf. The North Shore area includes activities such as whale watching and harbor cruises, beaches and lighthouses, theatre and restaurants, contemporary and historic architecture. And yet, there is so much more.

Sports fans of the North Shore breathe black and gold in honor of their beloved Bruins. Babies in the North Shore towns (or to parents who once lived in North Shore) are mysteriously born with a Red Sox logo tattooed on their chest. We’re kidding, but the dedication and spirit of Red Sox fans is undeniable. And no matter what happens, The New England Patriots will never lose favor with their devoted fans in North Shore even when the rest of country is badmouthing the team.

Patriotism is also abundant in the area. North Shore is the birthplace of the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard. The Atlantic Ocean fosters international commerce as well as provides the freshest and finest seafood in America, which diners enjoy along with their favorite craft beer. Local breweries are abundant. Donut aficionados say the only donut worth eating comes from Dunkin Donuts. If you are lost and ask for directions, if you are told “it’s just past the Dunkin Donuts”, you better ask someone else. Dunkin Donuts is so popular in North Shore you will find one on practically every street.

Residents of North Shore speak with a unique Revere accent. The surest way to unintentionally insult a resident of the North Shore is to remark on their “Boston” accent. It’s not Boston; the speech pattern is a local dialect exclusive to the North Shore.
Ultimately, it’s the people who make the North Shore so special, it’s always been about the people and always will be. Past and present residents of North Shore are strong, determined, loyal, full of community spirit, enterprising, generous, and fun loving. The people of North Shore have learned from the mistakes of their ancestors and work diligently to secure a prosperous and praiseworthy future for generations to come.

“We love serving the North Shore”, is the mantra of the team of Billy Sweet Chimney Service and are proud to bring our chimney services to its residents.

It’s Great To Work In Boston

Working in Boston links you to the history and entrepreneurial spirit on which American Free Enterprise was built. Not only is Boston the birthplace of American freedom, throughout the years, Boston has proven to be a leader in national and international commerce. That’s why Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep is so proud we are part of the Boston business community.

Boston Harbor is the oldest in the country. John Smith discovered the port in 1614. The harbor is synonymous with the Boston Tea Party. By the 1660s Boston Harbor was the port for all arriving cargo ships bringing goods to New England. Today, Boston Harbor remains an important shipping port and many of the job opportunities are related to the maritime activities associated with the Port of Boston.

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In addition to its strategic waterfront location, Boston has also grown into a technological, educational, and health care mecca for local, regional, national, and international businesses. As the capital of Massachusetts, there are civil and political employment opportunities, both local and state. At the crux of all business, is independent business. Boston is the place for entrepreneurs to build deep roots and showcase their talents and passions by providing products and services to those who live and work in the Boston area. There are over 800 restaurants in Boston and less than 40 of them are considered “fast food”. That means restaurants for lunch, after work get-togethers, dinner, and weekend food and entertainment venues are abundant for foodies and wait staff.

There are many characteristics that make working in Boston so special.

First and foremost are the people. Boston is a melting pot. Hardworking, determined settlers from across the globe came to Boston over the years in order to build a better life. Each generation has built on that foundation while growing Boston into a progressive leader of commerce in the world.

Boston is a city of education.

The students of Boston’s most prestigious colleges and universities make Boston one of the youngest metropolitan areas in the country. Working in Boston means your business is patronized by the students, faculty and administrators. As a resident or visitor to Boston you can enjoy sports, theatre, art, community education and much more as a result of the community outreach programs sponsored by the 53 colleges and universities in the Boston area. Nine out of 27 of Boston’s public schools were honored with the bronze, silver, or gold rankings by U.S. News & World Report thanks to their educators and school district administration. The first public school in the United States opened in 1635, Boston Latin, and is still open today.

Boston is a city of firsts.

  • First College (Harvard, 1636)
  • First Subway (1897)
  • First Public Park (1639)
  • First Organ Transplant (Kidney, 1954)
  • First City Police Department (1837)
  • First Dunkin Donut (1950)
  • First Newspaper (Boston Globe, 1704)
  • First Microwave Oven (1947)
  • First Ball Park (Fenway, 1912)
  • In light of the recent terrorist attacks in Boston, our first responders also receive our accolades.

All these, and many more firsts, reinforce why it is so good to work in Boston. For more firsts in Boston click here.

Sports in Boston are a source of employment and after work recreation.

The Celtics, Red Sox, Bruins, and Patriots mean sports lovers have the ability to cheer for their favorite team during every season. Dating as far back as opening day at Fenway, attending Opening Days and special games have even been the reason many employees have called in “sick”. There is nothing better than relaxing and supporting your favorite team! The staff who support the stadiums, teams, and concessions give our athletes and the fans a unique and unprecedented experience. (As do our renowned craft beer breweries.)

Boston Employment An All-Time High

There are over 3.4 million people working in Boston. Those who are currently working or look to work in Boston, are encouraged by this summary on the City of Boston’s website. “With a strong economy, safe streets and a diverse workforce, Boston is poised for continued success in fostering new enterprise throughout the city. Increasingly, companies are discovering new market opportunities in urban neighborhoods where density of purchasing power, investment in new infrastructure and access to employees form a framework for growth.”

We love working in Boston, the people, the resources, the transportation, the culture, the geography and so much more gives those who work in Boston a huge advantage and quality of life over America’s other big cities!

Common Problems with Masonry Chimneys

The autumn weather has arrived in full force. The chilly wind has colorful leaves falling from the trees and has everyone digging up their cozy jackets. This time of year also has homeowners thinking about how to heat their homes. In the frigid New England winters, this is a big concern. Many homes utilize fireplaces for some or even all of their heating needs. With a fireplace, however, comes some maintenance responsibilities. Fireplaces with masonry chimneys, in particular, are prone to specific types of issues, so you need to keep an eye out for the safety of your home and family.

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A major issue that masonry chimneys face is water damage. Many homeowners never even consider that their strong, robust chimney could ever succumb to damage from a little water. Chimneys are built to live outside, after all. Unfortunately though, water can cause serious problems. The materials used to build a masonry chimney like brick, mortar, and concrete are all very porous, meaning they readily absorb water. While stones do not absorb water, the mortar holding them together does. The trouble with a masonry chimney filled with water occurs during the freeze and thaw cycles of winter. The water expands as it freezes, which means the bricks, the mortar, and the concrete all expand as well. Over time, this expansion causes damage.

You may see water damage in several different forms. The first clue is cracked or missing mortar. The constant movement of the materials during freezing weather loosens the bonds of the mortar. Thus, the mortar wiggles its way out from between the bricks, appearing as a crack or as a decent sized hole. A mason can usually fix isolated mortar cracks or holes using a process called tuckpointing.

Another sign of water damage is a cracked chimney crown. This concrete slab on top of your chimney acts as an umbrella to keep water from entering the flue. If it has cracks from water damage, water is entering your chimney, which leads to a whole new set of problems. Ask your mason if he can patch the cracks. Otherwise, the chimney crown may need to be completely replaced.

The most devastating sign of water damage to the chimney is partial or total collapse of the structure. This most likely occurs after years of exposure to water and freezing temperatures, but a poorly built chimney could suffer from collapse in less time. Chimneys are very heavy, meaning a collapse could be a danger to anyone on the ground and to the structure of your home. Any signs of a collapsing chimney must be addressed by a mason right away.

Luckily, you can take some steps to prevent water damage, like sealing your chimney and adding a chimney crown. Ask your mason what can be done to protect your chimney. If you live in the Boston or North Shore area or around Portland, Maine, contact Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep for a professional consultation. The experts at Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep can help make your chimney last for many more years.

Use HeatShield to Protect Your Home and Chimney

The fireplace in your home has steadfastly provided you with warmth and an ambient, crackling background on chilly evenings. In return, you have lovingly followed through with an annual chimney sweep to keep your fireplace functioning. Unfortunately, a sweep might not catch the hidden damages inside your chimney. The flue tiles lining the inside of your chimney suffer the most neglect because you cannot see them without a through video inspection of the inside of the chimney. If these tiles are cracked, missing mortar, or completely absent, you can have a serious safety hazard on your hands. Luckily, all of these issues can be easily resolved using the HeatShield system.

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Flue tiles are heat resistant units that line the interior of your chimney. They protect the masonry structure from the smoke and heat and guard the combustible materials in your home from starting on fire. If the flue tiles in your chimney are damaged or missing, you are putting your safety at risk. The corrosive products of a burning fire can cause damage to the masonry structure, meaning that a burning fire is slowly deteriorating the integrity of your chimney. In addition, flue tiles protect the combustible materials in your home, like dry wall and wooden beams, from catching fire. In a study done by the National Bureau of Standards, a fire in a unit with an unlined chimney resulted in adjacent woodwork lighting on fire within 3 ½ hours.

To protect your home from structural or fire damage, you need to have a professional assess the condition of the flue tiles in your chimney and repair any damages with HeatShield. If your flue tiles are only missing mortar, the simple fix involves applying HeatShield flue sealant to the interior of the chimney using a custom made application blade.

The Resurfacing System is used for flue tiles with missing mortar and other superficial damages. The professional will apply a special primer to prepare the surface for the HeatShield, then a fine layer of HeatShield flue sealant will fill in all cracks, crevices and holes. Upon the final application, the flue lining is as good as new.

Finally, some chimneys are missing entire sections of flue lining or do not have a flue lining at all. Before burning a fire under this chimney, you need to have a professional install a HeatShield lining. First, a layer of HeatShield flue sealant is laid against the bare masonry. Next, custom fit steel fabric is fitted against the sealant. The final step is to apply another layer of HeatShield flue sealant over the steel mesh to form a strong, heat-resistant flue lining.

All of these applications must be performed by a professional chimney service certified to properly use HeatShield products. If you live in the North Shore or Boston, Massachusetts area or the Portland, Maine area, contact Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep for a professional consultation.