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  • FIREPLACE TROUBLESHOOTING

    FIREPLACE TROUBLESHOOTING

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    Understanding Your Chimney

    Chimney troubleshooting begins with understanding chimney problems. First, you must understand the laws under which your chimney operates. The function of your chimney is to vent the exhaust from a fireplace or appliance (i.e. furnace, hot water heater, or boiler) out of your home. In order for a chimney to vent properly there are two major principals that must be present: draft and flow. Draft is the pressure/temperature difference between the interior and exterior of the chimney that cause a volume of gases to pass through the venting system. This passing is known as flow, which is a result of draft and the opening size of the chimney flue. Draft and flow work hand in hand to vent the hydrocarbons that are produced by a burning fire. Keeping these basic concepts in mind, a chimney problem may not always require repair, but rather basic chimney troubleshooting and an adjustment in your operation.

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    Broken Chimney Damper

    A common misconception about chimneys is the use of the term “flue”. Many times a call will come in for a “flue that won’t open”. In actuality it is the chimney damper that won’t open, which in turn leaves the flue closed off. A damper is the physical apparatus that opens and closes the passageway of the flue, inside the chimney, where draft and flow occur.

    First Determine the Type of Chimney Damper.

    -Is it a handle that you push or a knob that you can turn (throat damper)?

    -Is it a chain that you pull (top sealing damper)?

    If it is a throat damper, whether it is stuck open or closed, we need to send a technician to assess the situation. Debris may be caught behind the chimney damper causing it to fall off of the track.

    If it is a top sealing chimney damper (i.e. Energy Top, Energy Top Plus, Seal Tight, or Lock-Top), exposure to extreme weather conditions during the fall and winter may cause a layer of ice to cover the gasket. Before requesting a technician, try to pull or jerk hard on the chain to break it loose. As with all mechanisms that are installed outdoors, this rare instance usually occurs when the temperature suddenly drops after there has been some form of precipitation. Although this technique is not guaranteed, you may be able to prevent the aforementioned issue by leaving the chimney damper cracked open by the slightest amount. Doing so will not allow the gasket to create an airtight seal thus ice will tend to form.

    In addition, since the chain on a top sealing chimney damper is spring loaded, occasionally it may bounce up and back onto the smoke shelf. If comfortable, you may reach this chain and pull it down into the firebox again. To access this section, reach up into the flue, beyond the throat damper, to the back where the smoke shelf is located. If you are unable to do so, please feel free to call our office to schedule a technician to help you.

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    Smoking Fireplace

    There are many reasons a fireplace may smoke and thanks to chimney physics there may be a couple of chimney troubleshooting techniques you can do at home to prevent or stop smoke from entering your home.

    – Warm the flue, prior to lighting the fire, to create a stronger draft. You may accomplish this by lighting a piece of paper or running a hairdryer to hold up the flue.

    – In order to provide additional air to allow sufficient oxygen to sustain combustion, you can try cracking a window or two. Once the fire is burning strong, you may be able to close the windows.

    -Choice of firewood (for detailed information see below).

    We understand that any amount of smoke in your home is undesirable and can be alarming. Our chimney technicians are trained in chimney physics and can help determine the best solution for you and your system.

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    Fire Quality and Efficiency

    FIREWOOD

    Your choice of firewood will make a difference in the quality of heat from your fire. A hard wood, such as maple, beech, apple, and oak, will burn slower and release more heat than a softer wood. Soft wood, such as poplar, willow, birch, and pine, makes good kindling. The harder wood will weigh more, but most often wood is purchased by volume verses weight.

    Storage and seasoning of your firewood is equally as important to the efficiency of your fire. After splitting wood, stack it with the split side down. Stack it loosely so air can circulate to allow the wood to dry. Wood must be seasoned for approximately six to nine months to get the moisture content to 20-25%. Be aware that storing wood for an excess of a year increases the chance of insect infestation and rotting. If wood becomes affected, burn it immediately. If the moisture content exceeds 25%, then it is considered to be “wet” or “green” and it should not be burned. You can determine if the wood is well seasoned by how it heats up. For example if there is a hissing sound and steam bubbles, then the wood needs to be seasoned longer or has absorbed moisture. In order for the wood to dry out properly, it must be protected from reabsorbing water and cannot be stored in an enclosed space such as a shed or garage.

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    How to Build a Fire

    Conventional:

    1. Crumple newspaper and place it on the floor of the firebox.
      1. Do not use colored, coated paper or wrapping paper.
    2. Top the newspaper with kindling.
    3. Light the newspaper with a fireplace match or lighter.
      1. An easier lighting alternative would be to have a gas starter pipe installed under the grate. This is something we can install for you.
    4. Once the kindling catches, set larger pieces of wood in the grate over and behind the kindling.
      1. When adding logs to a fire, three or more pieces are needed to sustain a fire.
      2. Place smaller logs loosely and in a crisscross style for short fires.
      3. Stack larger logs in a compact pile for extended fires.

    Top-down:

    1. Place down three to four pieces of wood.
    2. Cover the logs with a layer of course kindling followed by finer kindling.
    3. Top the pile off with crumpled newspaper.
    4. Light the newspaper with a fireplace match or lighter.

    We hope this information on troubleshooting chimney issues has helped, but in the event that you require our assistance, we are pleased to book an appointment with one of our Nationally CSIA Certified Technicians. CSIA stands for the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

    Over the past forty years we have been assessing a variety of issues and have been providing chimney solutions for the following:

    • Smoking problems (i.e. smoking from fireplace or smoke transfer when multiple flues reside in one chimney).
    • Animal removal (when located in the chimney)
    • Repair after a chimney fire or lightning strike
    • Exterior masonry damage
    • Leaking chimneys
    • Flue obstructions
    • Broken dampers
    • Cracked crowns
    • Chimney odors
    • Venting issues

    Your chimney safety is our first concern. If you’re not sure about a problem, call us. Our technicians are highly trained in troubleshooting chimney and fireplace problems.

    Let us address your chimney needs and preserve this investment in your home.

    Lindemann Chimney Service has been fixing dampers, installing chimney caps and troubleshooting all kinds of chimney performance issues for over 40 years. We are proud to serve Chicagoland and Southern Wisconsin.

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