Northeastern Masonry & Chimney's Blog

Why You Should Leave Cleaning Your Chimney to the Professionals

Let Pros Clean Your ChimneyAre you a do-it-yourself type of person? Nowadays, there are online tutorial videos that can help you learn how to complete almost any home project you want. However, there are some tasks that would best be left to the professionals. It may be tempting to buy some chimney sweeping tools and attempt to perform your chimney cleaning yourself. However, chimney cleaning is something that can have dire consequences if not performed correctly and should only be left to a professionally trained chimney technician.

Safety

The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) is a non-profit organization that dedicates itself to educating, training, and certifying chimney sweeps on the latest chimney and ventilation technology and safety standards. Acquiring certification is no easy process. Chimney sweeps must complete rigorous training related to the most advanced chimney, ventilation, safety, and maintenance techniques. Once training is completed, each chimney sweep must pass two exams before they are certified. Certification means that a chimney technician has met the highest of safety and technological standards that the chimney industry has to offer. At Northeastern Masonry & Chimney, we want your chimney cleaning experience to be the best that it can be. That’s why we require all of our sweeps to be CSIA certified before they can clean your chimney.

Fire Hazards

A dirty chimney is a dangerous chimney. Most chimney fires are caused when creosote, ash, and debris building up in your chimney and catching fire. If you are unsure how to identify and properly remove these things from your chimney, you may be putting your home at risk. This is why you should never attempt to clean your chimney. A CSIA certified chimney technician has training and experience in removing hazardous creosote and debris from your chimney, assuring that your chimney cleaning will be done safely and effectively. Furthermore, a CSIA certified technician will also be able to identify if there are any other issues with your chimney while cleaning it.

Cost

To clean your chimney, you need the right tools for the job. Chimney cleaning brushes, cameras, and hand tools can add up in cost very quickly. Also, because of inexperience and trying to learn the chimney cleaning process on your own, cleaning your chimney on your own can take up a lot of time as well. With all the money and time it takes trying to clean your chimney on your own, it is actually less costly to have a trained chimney sweep clean your chimney. Furthermore, a trained sweep may also be able to catch a small issue in your chimney before it becomes a larger, more expensive issue, saving you even more money.

We know that it may be tempting to try and clean your chimney yourself, however, with such a high potential for fire hazard and cost, wouldn’t you like to know that your chimney was cleaned by a professional? Our CSIA certified professionals can help! Call Northeastern Masonry & Chimney at 518-767-9315 or visit us online and to schedule a chimney cleaning today!

Fireplace Ash Uses in the Spring

Spring is here and that means it is time for spring cleaning. After cleaning out your fireplace, you’ve probably got a nice pile of ash to dispose of. Before you just throw your ash out with the garbage, did you know that wood ash has a variety of useful characteristics? At Northeastern Masonry and Chimney, we want to share with you some of the useful things that we do with our fireplace ash!Fireplace Ash Uses for Spring Image - Albany NY - Northeastern

Gardening and Lawn Care

There are a few ways that fireplace ash can be used to improve your garden and lawn. One of the most common ways fireplace ash is used is to enrich compost. Wood ash can add nutrients like lime and potassium to your compost mix. Fireplace ash is also alkaline, and can help lower the pH of slightly acidic decomposing compost materials, creating a more neutral environment for bacterial and microbial growth. However, if you are using your compost for acid-loving plants such as azaleas, blueberries, and rhododendrons, you may want to avoid adding fireplace ash to your compost. Fireplace ash can also give a boost to calcium-loving plants, such as tomatoes, lawn grass, and hardwood fruit trees. Just add a ¼ cup of ash in the hole when transplanting your plants or sprinkle ash across your lawn and around the base of your fruit trees.

Fireplace ash has also been known to help repel some garden and pond pests. Sprinkling a fine layer of firewood ash on your garden beds has been known to repel slugs and snails. Also, adding about a tablespoon of ash for every 1,000 gallons of water in your pond can help control algae growth by strengthening other plants that compete with it.

Cleaning

Fireplace ash can also be used for cleaning. Wet paint splatter on concrete can be soaked up by sprinkling fireplace ash on it and peeling it away once absorbed. You can also use a damp sponge dipped in ash to scrub away soot from your fireplace door. Another use of ash is to mix it with a little water forming a paste that makes a great silver tarnish.

Other Uses

If your dog has ever gotten into a tussle with a skunk, you know that it can quickly become an unpleasant situation for both you and your furry friend. However, rubbing a handful of firewood ash on your pet’s coat can help neutralize the skunky odor. Fireplace ash can also be used to melt ice. Not only does it help melt to melt the ice, it also adds traction and is safe for the health of your soil as well.

At Northeastern Masonry & Chimney, we think it’s important to cut down on waste. Recycling your ash is a great way to do this. If you are ready for a spring chimney cleaning, call Northeastern Masonry & Chimney at 518-767-9315 or visit us online and to schedule an appointment today!

Be on the Look Out for Chimney Swifts

Look Out for Chimney SwiftsAlthough towns and cities are very different from natural landscapes, many animals have found ways to adapt to life in urban areas. This is especially true for many types of insects, birds, and rodents that have learned to use structures that humans have built to provide homes for themselves. One of these animals is the chimney swift. Chimney swifts naturally build their nests on the inside of old hollowed-out trees. However, when hollowed-out trees are not available, chimneys offer an almost perfect replacement. This adaptation to urban life is good for chimney swifts because it means they are able to proliferate their species, but can be bad for homeowners who want to keep wild animals out of their residences. This problem is further complicated by the fact that chimney swifts are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and removing their nests at the wrong time could land a homeowner in trouble.

Protected species

Chimney swifts are a protected migratory bird species. This means that if they build a nest in your chimney, you are not allowed to remove the nest until the brood has hatched and all birds have left the nest. This could be anywhere from one to two months after the nest is built, usually in late May to early June. Removal of an occupied nest by a homeowner or a chimney sweep is against the law and is punishable by fines or other penalties.

Issues with chimney swift nesting

The main issue with chimney swift nests is that they can clog up your chimney ventilation. This can cause issues with airflow and lead to subpar fires. Chimney swift hatchlings will also make some noise when they are feeding. Although this is short lived, it can be a nuisance to some homeowners. Finally, chimney swifts sometimes fly into newer chimneys which have smaller flues made of clay or metal. Chimney swifts can’t grip inside these flues and they can become trapped in the flue causing some of them to, unfortunately, perish.

Ways to prevent chimney swifts

The easiest and preferred way to prevent chimney swifts from nesting in your chimney is to simply deny them access to your chimney. This can be done by making sure you have a functional chimney cap attached to your chimney. A working chimney cap will prevent a chimney swift from making their nest in your chimney in the first place.

If you are worried about chimney swifts nesting in your chimney, now is the time to make sure your chimney is chimney swift-proof. Be sure your chimney is prepared for all critter invasions this spring and summer by calling Northeastern Masonry & Chimney at 518-767-9315 or visit us online to schedule an appointment today!

Firebox Repairs: Do You Need Them?

One component of your fireplace system that is put under the most stress is the firebox. Your firebox is built out of materials which are capable of handling extreme temperatures, open flames, and corrosive byproducts associated with burning fuel. However, over time, your firebox may begin to crack, crumble, and show signs of wear. When this happens your firebox can’t properly do its job of protecting the rest of the house from fire. This can lead to serious and hazardous issues that can put your home at risk. At Northeastern Masonry & Chimney, we want to help you identify issues associated with your firebox and let you know that we are here to help you with all of your firebox repairs.Firebox Repairs Do You Need Them Image - Albany NY - Northeastern

Masonry fireboxes

If you notice damage to your firebox masonry, it needs to be repaired. If the brick is cracked, it may be able to be patched. However, if you notice any crumbling bricks, you will have to replace them. The bricks in your firebox aren’t like normal bricks, but are specially made refractory brick designed to handle high temperatures. Because of this, only let an experienced mason replace brickwork within your firebox to assure that the correct materials and methods are being used.

If you notice that your masonry joints and mortar are cracked and crumbling, the will need to be repaired with a process called tuckpointing. Tuckpointing involves grinding away the mortar between brickwork and replacing it with new mortar.

Sometimes the damage to a firebox may be extensive enough that a rebuild is required. This involves removing all the old brickwork in your firebox and replacing it with new brickwork. Although this may seem like a big project, a lot of people use it as an opportunity to change the overall design of their fireplace.

Prefabricated metal fireboxes

Sometimes a metal panel on a prefabricated firebox will start to develop cracks or become brittle. This can be remedied by simply removing the old panel and replacing it with a new one. This is a repair that some people will try to do themselves. However, replacing a firebox panel is something that requires experience and training. If panels aren’t installed correctly, you could be putting your home at risk. Therefore you will only want a trained professional to work on your prefabricated firebox

Whether you need crack repair, tuckpointing, panel replacement or an entire rebuild, Northeastern Masonry & Chimney can help you with all of your firebox repairs. Our masons have many years of experience and have been certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. That means you can be confident that their work will be done correctly and safely. Call us at 518-767-9315 or visit us online and to schedule an appointment today!

Function of a Chimney Crown

Mother nature isn’t kind to your chimney. Over the years, the weather can take a serious toll on your chimney. A couple of the most devastating elements your chimney faces is water and ice. If water is allowed inside your chimney, there are a variety of problems that it could cause. These include the deterioration of masonry, staining, and bad odors.

With the many issues that water can cause, wouldn’t you want to protect your chimney any way that you can? Fortunately, when your chimney was constructed, a chimney crown was probably installed as well. A chimney crown is your first line of defense against rain, snow, and sleet. At Northeastern Masonry and Chimney, we want to explain the importance of your chimney crown as well as why it needs to be maintained.

What is a chimney crown?Function of a Chimney Crown Image - Albany NY - Northeastern Masonry

A chimney crown is located at the very top of your chimney. Structurally, it is simply a slope that built along the top of your chimney that deflects rain and snow away from your chimney flue opening. If constructed properly, your crown should be able to deflect a lot of the rain away from your flue. Your chimney crown doesn’t cover your chimney flue, however, so your chimney crown works with your chimney cap or chase cover to offer total rain, snow, and sleet protection.

Leaky chimney crown

Due to your chimney crown’s location on the top of the chimney, it is exposed to all the elements. Constant exposure to water, ice, sun, and heat causes your chimney crown to deteriorate more quickly than other parts of your chimney system. This can cause your chimney crown to start cracking and loosening from the chimney. Because of its location, your chimney crown may not be easy to inspect. Unfortunately, you may not know you have an issue with your chimney crown until you notice chimney leaking. The best way to avoid chimney crown leaking is to keep up with your annual chimney inspections.

Repairing your chimney crown

At Northeastern Masonry and Chimney, we get called out to perform chimney crown repairs regularly. If your chimney crown only has minor cracks and leaking, we may be able to use a product called CrownSeal. CrownSeal will seal your crown, allowing it to function properly again. If there is more extensive damage to your chimney crown, our expert masons can build you a new one.

The longer water is allowed to get into your home, the more damage it will cause. If you think that your chimney crown may be cracked or loosening, don’t hesitate to get a hold of one of our CSIA-certified chimney sweeps for an inspection and repair today.

We Serve Parts of Western Massachusetts too!

You know that Northeastern Masonry & Chimney offers Northeastern New York’s best chimney service, but did you know that we also service Western Massachusetts as well? We have been servicing fireplaces and chimneys for over 35 years and we love what we do. That’s why we extended our service area to include the wonderful people of Western Massachusetts.We Serve Western Massachusetts! Image - Albany NY - Northeastern Masonry

Our service area in Western Massachusetts includes North Adams and Pittsfield as well as 29 towns and 10 villages in Berkshire county. Although we are proud to serve our customers in Western Massachusetts, there are other reasons that we love this area as well.

The Mountains

Western Massachusetts is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in North America. If you want to get in touch with nature, this is the right place for you. Nestled in the Blue Ridge and northern highlands of the Great Appalachian Valley, Western Massachusetts offers wonderful sightseeing, camping, and hiking. In fact, 90 miles of the Appalachian Trail runs through Berkshire County.

Western Massachusetts is also home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Hiking through the woodlands of Western Massachusetts, you’ll discover over 100 different plant species. If you are into animals, you will be able to see all sorts of birds, squirrels, rabbits, whitetail deer, and maybe even a moose. Berkshire County offers a treasure trove of living thing that even the most experienced naturalist would be excited to explore.

Waterfalls

If you love waterfalls, just head to beautiful Bish Bash Falls State Park near Mount Washington. Bish Bash Falls is the tallest waterfall in the state, cascading almost 200 total feet. Enjoy a picnic by the waterfall or go hiking to the summit of the falls for a view of the Appalachian Mountains.

History

Western Massachusetts was part of the original colonies and is chock-full of history. Berkshire County has many historical sights and antique stores. If you want to see what life was like in colonial times, visit the Hancock Shaker Village and explore their living history museum in Pittsfield.

We are happy to be part of the culture, history, and people of Western Massachusetts. That’s why we will continue to be the area’s best choice for chimney service and maintenance. If you live in our service area and need a chimney sweep, don’t hesitate to call Northeastern Masonry and Chimney at (413) 931-3464 or schedule an appointment online today.

Chimney Resolutions (how to be prepared for next year)

This is the time of year for making resolutions to better ourselves. Many people resolve to improve their diet, start a new hobby and to exercise more. However, we here at Northeastern Masonry & Chimney believe that 2018 is a great year to resolve to take better care of your home chimney system. Taking good care of your chimney can save you money on future maintenance costs as well keep your home safe. At Northeastern Masonry & Chimney, we have a few tips that can help you keep your chimney resolutions this year.

Annual InspectionsChimney Resolutions Be Prepared Image - Albany NY - Northeastern Masonry

Have you had your chimney inspected within the past year?

The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) suggests getting yours inspected by a CSIA-certified chimney sweep at least once a year. If you didn’t have a chimney inspection in 2017, this means that you are likely overdue for a chimney inspection. Chimney inspections are crucial to your chimney’s health. An inspection by a CSIA-certified chimney sweep will let you know if there are any issues such as loose brickwork, creosote buildup, or blockages in your chimney, just to name a few. Getting these issues resolved as soon as you can may prevent small issues from becoming large issues, saving you money in the long run.

Improve Safety

Taking preventative actions to reduce fire risk is another great resolution this year. This is another reason why annual inspections are so important. A CSIA-certified chimney sweep will be able to tell if you have any chimney blockages or creosote buildup in your chimney. Creosote buildup and chimney blockages can catch on fire and loose masonry may cause heat from your chimney to transfer to adjacent woodwork also starting a fire.

Other ways to reduce risk of fire include:

  • Keeping all combustibles at least three feet from your fireplace opening
  • Installing a fire screen to prevent embers from flying onto your carpet
  • Installing fire and carbon monoxide alarms around your home
  • Making sure everyone in your home knows what to do in case of a fire

Load Up on Fuel

Now is the perfect time to chop and stack wood to burn for next year’s winter. Wood needs six months to a year to sit and dry before you can burn it in your fireplace. This is called seasoning your wood. That means you need to start cutting and chopping wood now to burn for next year. Also, since chopping and stacking wood is excellent exercise, resolving to get a start on seasoning your firewood now may also help with personal New Year’s resolutions as well!

Although it may seem early, now is the perfect time to schedule your annual chimney inspection with Northeastern Masonry & Chimney. Not only is the new year an easy time to remember your annual inspection, you will also be able to get ahead of our yearly springtime chimney maintenance rush. Contact us to schedule a chimney inspection with one of our CSIA-certified technicians today.

Cleaning Out Your Fireplace After the Holidays

The holiday season is filled with holiday tradition and, if you own a fireplace, many of your holiday traditions were probably observed around the warm glow of a fire. Whether it’s roasting marshmallows or opening presents, a fireplace adds a perfect ambiance to your Christmas backdrop. With family and friends around, your fireplace probably gets used more during the holidays than it does at any other time of the year. Because of this, we here at Northeastern Masonry & Chimney think it is important to know what you should do to maintain your fireplace once the holiday season is over.

InspectionCleaning Out Fireplaces Post Image -Holiday - Albany NY - Northeastern Masonry

First and foremost, if you haven’t had your annual chimney inspection yet, now is the perfect time to do that. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) suggests getting your chimney inspected annually.  Annual inspections help you make sure that there isn’t any dangerous resin or creosote building up on the inside of your chimney. Also, make sure that your chimney is inspected by a CSIA-certified chimney technician, like the ones at Northeastern Masonry & Chimney.

We believe that right after Christmas is a perfect time for scheduling a chimney inspection. First of all, clear off your mantel. Since you will probably be moving holiday decorations from your fireplace and fireplace mantle anyways, you won’t have to do any extra clearing of the inspection workplace. After we finish our inspection and cleaning, you can move your regular decorations back.

Cleaning

If you have recently had an inspection, we still suggest that you clean out your fireplace about once a week when it is being used a lot. The first thing you will want to do is cover your carpet and furniture with some old sheets or a drop cloth, if you have one. Once you have done that, you can clean the ashes from your firebox. Remove the andirons and grate and use a fireplace shovel to shovel loose ash into your trash. Once your ash is gone, create a mixture of warm water and baking soda and use a stiff bristled brush to clean soot off of your brickwork.

Sweeping in the New Year

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a nice clean fireplace to ring in the New Year? If you are looking to have your chimney cleaned or inspected, now is a wonderful time to do it. Call Northeastern Masonry & Chimney today or contact us online today to set up an appointment with one of out CSIA-certified technicians today!

Fun Fireplace Activities for Your Holiday

The holiday season is here and that means the nights are getting longer and colder, meaning that your family will be spending more time indoors. With the holidays just around the corner, children will soon be on winter break and friends and family will be visiting to celebrate the holiday season with you. With so much going on, it may be hard to find activities for everybody. At Northeastern Masonry & Chimney, we know the holiday season is hectic, so we would like to help you by sharing some of our favorite fireplace activities to keep your families and guests entertained.

Hot Cocoa Mixer Bar

Fun Fireplace Activities for Your Holiday - Albany NY - Northeastern Masonry & ChimneyBuy some hot cocoa mix or use a homemade cocoa recipe. Next, set up a bar with whipped cream, different types of marshmallows, sprinkles, flavored syrups, candy canes, and all of your other favorite hot cocoa additions. Next, sit around the fireplace and compare your creations with one another and see who made the best cup of hot cocoa. Competition never tasted so delicious!

Winter Campout

Just because it’s winter, that doesn’t mean that camping season is over. Use blankets and pillows to set up a fort in your living room. Trust us, this is just as much fun for adults as it is kids! Sit around the fireplace telling stories and reminiscing about the past. For an even more realistic camping experience, sting up white Christmas tree lights across the ceiling so you can camp “under the stars.” Finally, no campout would be complete without our favorite camping treat, s’mores! Just get a couple of sticks and roast your marshmallows over your fireplace fire. If you don’t have an open fireplace, no worries, there are other ways you can bring s’mores to your campsite.

Game Night

Are you up for a little friendly competition? If so, the family game night should be on your holiday activity list. Board games are a fun way to pass the time, especially around the glow of a warm fireplace. Board games like Monopoly, Checkers, Scrabble or Yahtzee are loads of fun and will make the family game night a tradition in no time.

Happy Holidays to You!

We here at Northeastern Masonry & Chimney would like to wish you a warm and happy holiday season. Our holiday wish is that you will able to enjoy your fireplace for the holidays. If your fireplace is in need of servicing, there’s still time to schedule an appointment before the holidays get into full swing.

Chimney Cap Benefits in the Winter

When you burn a fire in your fireplace, smoke, gases, and hot air flow up your chimney flue and outside of your home through an opening at the top of your chimney. This opening exposes your chimney system and home to all sorts of potential hazards. Luckily there is a small and relatively inexpensive device that you can add to your chimney system to protect chimney from potential issues. A chimney cap is an essential component of any chimney system. This is especially true in the winter when snow, ice, and cold weather can affect the health of your chimney.

What is a chimney cap?Chimney Cap Benefits in the Winter Image - Albany NY - Northeastern Masonry

A chimney cap is a device that is attached to the flue where is comes out of the chimney. The cap prevents rain and snow from getting into your chimney. Chimney caps are usually designed with a mesh screen on its sides to allow smoke and gasses out of your home, but keep leaves and critters out.

Moisture Protection

Winters are especially hard on your chimney and if snow or rain gets into your chimney it can cause a number of issues. Probably the most costly issue related to moisture is when water seeps into the tiny pores of your brick and mortar. When it gets cold enough, the water can freeze and expand, causing cracking and crumbling of your chimney masonry. Not only can this affect the functionality of your chimney, it can also cause a hazardous situation by loosening brickwork enough to cause bricks to detach and fall.

There are other potential chimney system issues caused by rain and snow. If moisture gets inside your chimney, it can mix with ash, oil, and creosote deposits along your chimney wall. Not only can this mixture corrode the inside of your chimney, it also causes a formidable odor that can creep into your home. Other potential issues related to moisture are: rusted firebox and damper assemblies; water stains on chimney exterior and walls; chimney settlement; and rotting of your homes wooden framework.

Nature Protection

Chimney caps also prevent nature from entering your chimney. An unprotected chimney may allow leaves and small branches to enter your chimney flue. Animals may also see a chimney opening as a nice, protected place to build a nest. Chimney blockages can really mess with your chimney systems airflow, allowing smoke and other gases into your home. Furthermore, blockages can also combust, causing a chimney fire.

What kind of cap do I need?

Winter is almost here! If your chimney cap is missing or worn out, and you’re looking to replace it, it’s important to know that chimney caps come in a number of styles and sizes. The best way to know if you have the correct chimney cap is to have a certified chimney technician inspect your chimney and guide you from there. At Northeastern Masonry & Chimney, we have a wide variety of chimney caps that can we can customize to fit any chimney. If you’re in the market for a chimney cap, or have questions regarding chimney cap installation, please contact Northeastern Masonry & Chimney today to schedule an appointment with one of our certified chimney technicians.