What Happens to a Fireplace When It Rains?

What Happens to a Fireplace When It Rains?

What happens to your fireplace during the rain or during a snow storm?  Will a cap on my chimney keep out the moisture?  If I don’t have a cap on my chimney, is it something to be concerned about?  This article will address these questions.

STAINLESS OR MASONRY?

There are two types of chimneys;  stainless steel and masonry.  A masonry chimney is built by a mason who uses concrete, bricks, concrete blocks, flue tiles, mortar, steel and cast iron to build a chimney.

Stainless steel chimneys are often called “factory-built” or Class A chimneys.  These are manufactured in a factory and the components of the chimney system are twist-locked together.  They are used in new construction and in remodeling projects.  Today, factory built, stainless steel chimneys are the standard and preferred type.

It is highly recommended that a properly sized cap be installed, regardless of the type of chimney.

WATER DAMAGE:

Water, whether it’s rain or snow, can cause a lot of damage, especially to a masonry chimney.  Water will rust steel fireboxes, clean out doors and cast iron dampers.

Water seeps into small cracks and crevices and will expand when it freezes.  Masonry materials will quickly start to deteriorate during these freeze/thaw cycles.  Just ask your city or county highway maintenance crews about the freeze/thaw effects on roadways.  How do you spell:  P-O-T-H-O-L-E-S ?  That’s the effect of water seeping into cracks, expanding when it freezes, then cracking and popping up chunks of pavement.

OTHER ISSUES:

Other concerns about water in chimneys include:

  • The deterioration of mortar between flue tiles can be worsened. This decline is from the inside, out.  By the time you have noticed issues on the outside of the chimney, the inside is normally severely damaged.  This can lead to expensive repairs.
  • Seeping water can stain the exterior of the chimney and house. In addition, it can also stain the interior walls and ceilings.
  • Additionally, when this water mixes with creosote in the chimney, the result is a nasty smelling odor that will often spread throughout the entire house.

GET A CAP!

Make sure your chimney has a cap installed on it.  A chimney cap is an inexpensive item that comes in dozens of sizes and several colors.  Stainless steel, copper and black powder coat are the most common.  Your WE LOVE FIRE dealer can determine what size and type is the best option for your chimney.

Other advantages of having a chimney cap include:

  • Preventing sparks that find their way up the flue from landing on the roof.
  • Caps can help keep critters and birds from nesting in the chimney.
  • If your damper is inoperable, consider replacing it with a lock-top sealing cap. This is a special cap that is designed to seal the flue at the top.  It locks out the weather, pests and keeps the warm air in the house from moving up the chimney flue.   A cable is installed from the fireplace to the cap.  The cap springs open when the cable is pulled and seals tightly down when pulled again.  Most have a safety device that will lock it open in case the operator builds a fire and forgets to work the cable.

A properly sized and designed chimney cap can go a long way to preventing damage.  Chimney caps have long been acknowledged as a critical safety and damage avoidance component.

For another interesting article that you will find informative, see SIX REASONS WHY YOUR FIREPLACE SMELLS BAD.

CALL YOUR CSIA* OR WETT** SPECIALIST!

It is very important to have your chimney system inspected and cleaned if necessary, at least once a year.  Be sure to enlist the help of a nationally certified chimney sweep.  You and your family will sleep better knowing they are professionally trained by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) or by WETT in Canada.  Your WE LOVE FIRE expert is ready to help in any way we can.

*CSIA, in the United States, Chimney Safety Institute Association
** WETT, in Canada, Wood Energy Technical Training.

 

Eleven Ways to Reuse Fireplace Ashes

A Word of Warning

Anytime you handle ashes, hot or cold, always wear safety gloves.

Ashes mixed with water produces lye, which is alkaline and can be very painful when in contact with your skin. Always wear gloves and safety glasses when handling ashes mixed with water, and keep vinegar close by to neutralize the burn if it does come in contact with your skin.

Dispose of the Ashes

Traditional Ash BucketIf you don’t have the time or opportunity to recycle wood ash, or if you have too much and can’t reuse it all, here’s how you can dispose of it safely.

Let the wood and ashes cool down completely. Don’t pour water in your fireplace; it could damage it. If need be, smother the fire with sand or flour. And then, let the embers cool down for several hours.

Use a metal shovel to transfer the ashes in a metal bucket, then pour water in the bucket to thoroughly saturate the ashes. Put the bucket outside, away from the house and any flammable material and wait at least seven days. On garbage day, pour off any extra water and empty your bucket in the garbage bin. If there are compost bins in your area, you can usually put the ash in it. Check with your municipality first.

Clean Fireplace Doors

Before throwing your ash away, use it to clean your glass fireplace doors. Dip a damp sponge in powdery ash and use it to scrub off soot residue from the doors.

Melt Ice and Snow

Do you usually use rock salt to melt ice on your driveway and walkways? While rock salt is a quick solution to get rid of ice, it’s harmful to the environment. Excess salt can harm and eventually kill plants, and it irritates your pets’ paws. When the salt washes away in waterways, it can put fish and other aquatic life forms at risk. The good news is, you have the solution right there in your fireplace. Sprinkle some wood ash on the ice or snow, and it will melt.

No Mess Ash PanPolish Silver

Before chemical cleaning agents existed, wood ash was used to polish silver. Mix two cups of powdery ash with four tablespoons of baking soda, and add just enough water so that it makes a thick paste. Use a cloth or sponge dipped in the paste to polish the silver. You can also use the mixture to clean gold, chrome and stainless steel.

Use as Bleach

Pass the ashes through a metal sieve so that only the finest white or powdery grey ash is left. Using a ratio of one-part ash, four parts water, mix the ashes in a bucket of very hot soft water. Soft water, like rainwater, does not have added minerals that could disrupt the lye-making process. Mix well, then let the ash settle. The clear water is wood ash lye water and can be used as a bleach. Use about one cup per wash load. Use hot water in your wash if you want to accentuate the bleaching effect, wear gloves while handling your clothes and make sure to rinse your clothes before drying thoroughly.

Unclog Drains

Use the finest white or powdery gray ash, and make sure they’ve never been wet. Pour one cup of ash in the clogged drain, followed by one cup of heated soft water. Let sit for two to three hours. Flush with water. Your drain should be in perfect working order. Do not combine this method with other chemicals.

Enrich Your Compost

Plants love potassium, and wood ash happens to have a lot of it. Add a cup of powdery ash to every 1.5 cu ft of compost. Remember that wood ash increases the soil’s alkalinity, so avoid using it around plants that strive in acid soil, like potatoes, tulips and hydrangeas, to name but a few.

Repel Pests

Wood ash naturally repels slugs and snails. Sprinkle the ash on the edges of each garden row. Avoid direct contact with your plants and redo the process after each rainfall.

Absorb Bad Odours

Wood ash, like baking soda, absorbs and neutralizes bad odours. Leave a small bowl filled with wood ash in the fridge or in a room to neutralize bad smells. Change the ash after a few days.

De-Skunk

Did you or your pet come in contact with a skunk? Use ash that has completely cooled down. Rub a handful on the affected part of your skin or your pet’s coat. Let sit for a few minutes then rinse thoroughly. Dry and repeat if need be.

Algae Control

If your ornamental pond is taken over by algae, you don’t have to resort to chemical algaecides to resolve the problem. Just sprinkle about one tablespoon of wood ash for 1000 gallons of water. The potassium contained in the ash strengthens other aquatic plants, which will, in turn, compete with the algae and keep it under control by slowing its growth.

Make Soap

Save money and recycle wood ash by making your soap. Boil one cup of powdery ash in five cups of soft water. Use a stainless-steel pot, as the lye will eat right through an aluminum pot.

Once the ash has settled on the bottom, transfer the liquid lye in another pot. Boil it down to have a higher concentration of lye. When an egg can float on top, it means it’s ready.

In another pot, heat about one pound of fat. It can be anything from cooking lard to vegetable oil or meat fat. Heat it until it turns to liquid fat. Add some more until you get one cup of liquid.

Add the hot grease to the boiling lye, and stir until it gets to the consistency of thick cornmeal mush, then turn off the heat. Stir in two tablespoons of salt with chopped herbs or essential oils.

Line a small wooden box—approximately 2″ × 3″ × 6″—with waxed paper and pour your mixture in it. Let it cool, then take the soap out of the mould.

Clean Out That Fireplace!

With this list, you’ll never run out of ideas about what to do with your ashes. Ashes can be recycled and used in countless ways, and it’s ecological. So, clean out that fireplace, and make good use of those ashes!

Upgrading the Efficiency & Appearance of Your Fireplace

A masonry fireplace is a very popular built-in feature, but did you know you have options and could upgrade both efficiency and appearance? If you’ve come to realize that, unfortunately, your open-hearth fireplace loses about as much heat as it provides overall, the good news is that you can transform it into a highly efficient heat source that can help you cut energy costs. And if you’re going for a whole new look with your décor, you can have a stylish new mantel or surround installed. You can also install additional fireplaces in your home that can provide warmth and look stunningly unique, modern, and beautiful.

Fireplace Inserts

You can instantly transform your masonry fireplace into an efficient appliance by having a fireplace insert installed. Fireplace inserts are typically cast iron or steel, and they fit inside your existing masonry fireplace or zero clearance fireplace.

Fireplace inserts operate with a closed design system that conserves heat and creates an environment in which wood burns longer and at hotter temperatures. An open-hearth fireplace heats little more than the chimney. A fireplace insert, on the other hand, can provide enough heat for a large area of your home, between 1,000 and 3,000 square feet, depending on the size and model of the insert.

Economy

Once you begin using a fireplace insert, your firewood will provide you with three times the heat and yet you will use three times less wood. This means you will save on the cost of firewood as well as cut utility costs, since you’ll be able to turn off central heating and still stay warm. Some experts have estimated that your heating bill can be reduced by as much as 40%, when you use a fireplace insert to heat your home in winter. Some models come with fans that circulate air in the firebox and project it into your home.

Style

You can change the appearance of your fireplace as well as the efficiency of it, when you have an insert installed. There are many different designs to choose from, and they come in attractive styles to match virtually any décor, from rustic to contemporary.

Mantel and Surround

If you really want a completely new look for your fireplace, why not hire professionals to tear out the old and put in an entirely new mantel and surround? The possibilities are just about limitless.

Zero Clearance Fireplaces

You don’t need to limit yourself to enjoying a fireplace where a chimney has been installed in your home. There are beautiful zero clearance fireplaces available that burn a variety of fuels, and no chimney is required for venting. ZC Fireplaces are efficient and beautiful. Some models look like absolute works of art. Gas fireplaces can be installed just about anywhere within walls and create a bold and awe-inspiring statement, in addition to providing a significant amount of heat.

These are good times to think outside the box, as regards the possibilities with fireplace efficiency and appearance. Contact one of our member stores and let professionals guide you through your many options.

Step by Step Guide to Building the Perfect Fire

The use of fire for warmth may date back to the Stone Age, but the principles of getting a wood fire started haven’t changed a bit. Untold millions have tried and failed to get a nice wood-fueled blaze going in their fireplace. The primitive task actually can be daunting, and getting just the kind of fire you want requires some know-how. If you understand the elements required for starting a fire, however, you’re well on your way. Details follow about bringing together the three components of fire-starting, which are: Fuel, air, and heat.

Fuel

The only types of fuel that should be used in your fireplace are tinder, kindling, and logs. Do not use yard debris or colored paper in your fireplace because it’s unsafe to do so. All wood that is used should be dry or seasoned. When unseasoned wood is burned, the moisture inside uses the majority of the fire’s energy; and an increased amount of flammable, tar-like creosote is deposited in the chimney flue lining from green firewood.

Tinder. 

Tinder materials are easily ignited. Out in nature, milkweed fluff, pine needles, and wood shavings are great sources of tinder. To ignite the fire in your fireplace, dryer lint can be used but actually may not be the best choice, since the lint can contain synthetic materials. Newspaper, pencil shavings, moss, and twigs also make for good tinder. Only use sticks and twigs for tinder and kindling if it snaps and breaks because if it bends, it contains too much moisture.

Kindling. 

The second phase of fire-building is when the kindling catches fire, creating more substantial flames. Sticks, small branches, and logs split into small sections serve well as kindling.

Logs. 

There are two different types of wood: Softwoods and hardwoods. The logs are the fire’s fuelwood. If you want a fire that burns hot and quickly and does not leave lingering hot coals, burn softwoods. For long-burning firewood that produces lasting warmth from hot coals, choose hardwoods. Softwoods are the best sources of kindling since they ignite quickly and produce a good blaze.

Air

Air is the second necessary component to get a fire roaring in your top-rated, stunning wood fireplace. Producing a sufficient draft can be hindered for numerous reasons. There may be too many ashes beneath the grate. Sometimes a fire doesn’t get needed air because the home has negative air pressure, caused by being too tightly sealed. Opening a window in the home can usually provide a temporary solution if negative air pressure is causing the lack of air. If the chimney isn’t properly maintained, the draft may be hindered due to various potential obstructions.

Heat

The heat component of fire is what the cavemen had the most trouble with. Today, we have the benefit of matches and lighters. It is extremely dangerous to use liquid accelerants in your fireplace; it should never be done. The most recommended is to light your tinder and kindling with a long match.

Contact one of our member stores for chimney and fireplace maintenance and to ensure that it’s safe to develop or hone your fire-starting skills in your fireplace.