Living in Denver we are lucky to have weather that allows us to use our fireplaces for the majority of the year. This not only gives comfort and joyous memories but for some is also the primary heating source for our homes. Making sure that our chimneys and fireplaces are well cared for not only allows them to continue to function as they should but also gives certainty that there will be no uncontrolled fires in our home if used properly.
Ensuring that you keep up with routine inspections on your fireplace and chimney cam help to keep you aware of any wear and tear that is happening as well as keeping you on top of vital repairs. When Masters Services sends a technician out to your home our inspection is what we refer to as top to bottom, also known as a level 1 inspection. We are going to visually inspection every part of your chimney from the chimney cap or ran cap to the firebox to ensure that each part is functioning as it should and meets NFPA 211 fire safety codes.
One of the very first thing that we look for is the presence of a complete chimney cap. There are often rain caps that are installed that cover only the flue opening, while these function as covering exactly that opening they hold very little effectiveness in actually keeping water out as well as provide no protection for the chimney mortar crown or bricks. This is because they do not extend to the edge of each of the bricks. With this type of rain cap or no chimney cap your chimney is exposed to the elements this very often results in the mortar crown cracking, and in extreme cases, caving in completely. The top rows of bricks are also often compromised, this is because they have a constant assault from moisture as well as sun exposure and begin to break down. Having a chimney cap that extends to cover the entire top of your chimney will keep these vital parts of your chimney chase protected and leave you with less repairs on a regular basis as a result of daily exposure.
There is also the all too common occurrence of animals getting into an uncapped chimney. This happens not only in masonry chimneys but in prefabricated chimneys as well. Trust me, it is far easier for an animal to get into your uncapped chimney than it is for us to get them out. If you think of your chimney from the view of an animal looking for shelter, it makes sense. The chimney is basically a hollowed out tree. The only problem is how to easily get in and out when looking for food. Since it is easy, although sometimes dangerous, to get into the chimney that is where the party stops, the getting out part.
In chimneys with installed and properly fitted chimney caps from Masters Services, there is no animal entry possible as the cap is screened where it needs to be in order to keep them out.
When you have an animal in your chimney I strongly suggest getting a professional chimney specialist or wildlife removal expert involved, this is for the sake of your home as well as the animal’s well-being. Seeing as a chimney is disguised so well as a safe shelter during the spring months mother birds, raccoons, opossums and squirrels often get inside, make a nest and birth their young. The chimney smoke shelf actually makes a great little place for them to nest and curl up.
We have gotten calls from homeowners where they hear a bird chirping in their chimney and don’t want to open the damper for fear of the bird flying into their house. When we have arrived we have confirmed that it was very smart to wait for help as what they were hearing was in fact baby raccoons. Raccoon pups make a noise that is very similar to chirping. In almost all cases we have been able to safely remove the babies, seal the chimney with a properly fitting chimney cap, trap for the mother and relocate the family to a safer wildlife area to grow and live.
A while back we got called out to a home where birds had gotten into a chimney and actually gotten in between the flue piping where a more in depth handling was needed. In this case the flue pipe had to be taken apart and removed from the chimney, the nesting and debris cleared and then the piping reinstalled, all adding quite an expense to the chimneys regular upkeep. From what we found when taking apart the piping and removing the nesting it was clear that there had been a few seasons where this had happened as there was a missing chimney cap. In this case there is more than just the annoyance of the noise that the birds were making but also the danger of the nesting being in contact with the flue pipe and able to catch aflame if overheated during a fire. Luckily this homeowner was able to catch the problem and handle it before any uncontrolled fires were started in the home. If you take a moment to review past chimney fires and their cause it is often from debris like nesting and leaves getting in through lack of chimney caps on the chimney chase.
One of our mantras here at Masters Services is that the chimney does the talking, we determine what the chimney needs and go from there. One very important need for the health of your chimney as a whole is the presence of a properly sized and installed chimney cap or ran cap. You can truly save yourself thousands of dollars in repairs over the years by keeping a routine of yearly inspections and repairs as needed. In this manner of care, you will be able to stay on top of any needed repairs before they become much larger issues for your chimney or home.