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Q: How often should I clean my chimney?
A: The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends an inspection yearly, with cleaning as needed. Practically, we suggest the following:
Woodstoves — annually; twice a year with heavy (or abusive!) use
Fireplaces — every 3-5 years; annually with frequent or prolonged use
Pellet & Coal Stoves — annually
Oil & Gas Central Heaters — every 3-5 years; more if malfunctioning or unlined
Decorative Gas Stoves & Fireplaces — every 3-5 years
Q: What should I do in case of a chimney fire?
A: Close all air inlets and dampers to stoves and other appliances. Close fireplace doors. Call your fire department immediately! Observe conditions and any hotspots in ceilings, walls and roof until fire officials arrive. Afterwards, call your chimney service professionals to inspect, clean and videoscan for damage (covered by your homeowner's insurance).
Q: Who can do masonry repairs for me?
A: A Merrie Sweepe has two experienced, full time masons on our staff. We can do anything from new construction and full scale repairs to historic restoration in brick, stone, or block.
Q: What does a "lifetime warranty" mean?
A: For A Merrie Sweepe "lifetime warranty" means full coverage for all materials and labor for you and anyone who buys your house from you for an unlimited period of time, with an exception for events like lightning strikes or chimney fires, which are covered by your homeowner's insurance.
Q: What other warranties do you have?
A: First of all we "guarantee customer satisfaction" — a tall order, perhaps, but we'll never stop trying to fairly respond to your wishes and make you happy.
Q: When do I need a liner?
A: Most chimneys built before 1950 will not have a (clay tile) liner. All newer construction requires a liner. If you don't have a chimney liner, regardless of whether your appliances are wood, oil, gas, pellet or coal-fired, a liner will benefit you greatly. A liner prevents deterioration of the outside masonry and contains flue gases, while minimizing heat transfer. Any time you install any new appliance, especially oil and gas, your local building codes will require a liner upgrade. Highly efficient new oil and gas heaters need appropriately-sized liners to run smoothly without undue water vapor condensation and messy deterioration. All appliances fare better, with significant performance enhancements and $$ savings, when there is an appropriately designed liner.
Q: Why do services cost so much?!
A: We are the largest, most diversified and highly trained chimney company in New Hampshire, in operation for 35 years! We do everything "top of the line". Our trucks and safety and operations equipment are excellent. We are CSIA & NFI certified and continue our education on many fronts. We bend over backwards to achieve customer's satisfaction and right any oversights. Our materials are of the highest quality. Going into high places at your houses, or dealing with soot and dust, is a risky enterprise. Our staff are long term, well paid professionals who are happy to give you patient, thoughtful service. While for you our charges may not be "on the cheap", neither are our services, and you can expect thorough, attentive care without irresponsible gouging or extravagant fees. Any time you have questions about details of any estimate or fees, don't hesitate to call — we'll be glad to elaborate.
Q: Why do I need a thermometer for my woodstove? How hot should it get and where should I put it?
A: Magnetic thermometers help you burn wisely and in control. They are usually placed on the outer firewall of a woodstove or on single wall stovepipe about 12" from the stove's flue collar. They indicate the overall combustion status of the fire, as both a maintenance and a safety issue — too low a reading and the stove will be burning inefficiently with too little air or else it needs more wood; too high and the stove is at risk of damage, and excess, wasteful heat is being generated because of too much air influx. On the stovepipe the reading should be between 300° F to 600° F, unless the plan is to let the stove gradually burn down. A thermometer reading under 300° F, if there is an adequate wood load, means that the stove is burning dirty, with incomplete, wasteful combustion and excess creosote buildup. This means lost BTU's, more frequent or costly chimney cleaning, and also environmental pollution. Thermometers only cost about $20.00!
Q: What's a "rotoclean"? When would I need it?
A: When we refer to a "rotoclean", it may indicate only a simpler method of cleaning, often from the bottom up, using a rotary brush or plastic-tined "weedwhacker" style rotary device. In this case, the charges are the usual. Also, though, if there is a significant glaze, or "black ice" as we sometimes call it, caused by poor system performance or excessive dampening down of the stove, then the above rotary whip or rotary chains may be necessary, in addition to the usual brushes, in order to impact the stubborn glaze. In this case an extra charge of $50.00 - $100.00 may be appropriate. Certainly when glaze is present, this indicates a need for adjustment in burning habits or the character of the venting system components.
Q: How do you prevent damage to my roof?
A: We often use roof ladders laid along the roofline of steep roofs, with a non-damaging flat hook over the peak. We may use various forms of staging, especially for big masonry projects. We try to step especially carefully when cold weather makes shingles brittle or hot weather renders then soft and vulnerable. Most of the time we can access your roof no matter how difficult the weather conditions.
Q: How does your water repellent stuff work? Why can't I go buy and use something cheaper at a big box store?
A: Our ChimneySaver® brand, state-of-the-art, water-based, silicone containing, clear, penetrating solution fills the pores of masonry and seals them against liquid water incursion while allowing water vapor build up inside to escape without chimney damage. It's invisible — you won't know it's there (no sheen). It's very long lasting, without the ultraviolet light-induced breakdown of the "cheap" brands after 2 years. We apply ChimneySaver® with a hand pumped garden sprayer usually and protect any glass, siding or shrubs that might be affected. It has a 10 year warranty!
Q: What happens if you make a mess in my house?
A: We usually use pretty sophisticated dust control, with strong vacuums and drop cloths, foot wiping rugs, runners and air barriers. Occasionally a miscalculation, vacuum failure or unforeseen circumstance results in some dust, fingerprint or footprint, or other accident. We will clean up anything we can do personally, pay you or discount your work if you are inconvenienced, or call in a professional cleaning company if needed. We will not leave you "high and dry"! It hardly ever happens!
Q: When do nearby combustible surfaces need shielding?
A: The first rule of thumb is "whenever they become uncomfortably hot to the touch". Also, any wood closer than 18" from single wall stovepipe for wood and oil heaters (or 6" for gas heaters) needs some shielding consideration. Stoves manufactured in the last 20 years or so have CPSC labels listing or diagramming required clearances to combustibles, backed up by info in their installation manuals. Any older stoves without such info generally require 36" between them and combustibles. Fireplace trim needs ideally be 6" away from the sides of the firebox opening and 12" away from the top of the opening.
Q: Why and when should a retrofitted chimney liner be insulated?
A: a) Whenever the liner is in a cold, outside chimney
b) Any liner for a woodburning device in an older, otherwise unlined flue or inside a damaged tile liner
c) All newer oil and gas appliances installed since about 1995 should have a liner also, by Code
Liners provide safety and superior operating performance (higher efficiency) and protect house and chimney from accelerated deterioration.
Q: How do I avoid loss of warm air when my fire has died down at night?
A: The simplest solution is glass doors which can be closed. A secondary solution would be a custom sealing panel, made out of noncombustible materials and light enough to carry from a convenient storage spot. This panel needs gaskets and a means to maintain a tight fit with the fireplace face. We can help you design such a panel, and have it made if you wish.
Q: Why does my fireplace smoke? Help!
A: A complex question — lots of possible reasons:
a) Flue is too small
b) Chimney is too short — absolutely or in relation to rest of house
c) Damper is too small or functions poorly
d) Smoke chamber dome is not adequately designed or aerodynamic
e) Fireplace is too shallow
f) Your fire building skills may need some improvement!
g) Your house configuration allows for thermosyphoning of air down your fireplace flue, ruining draft — your home may be too tight or too drafty
h) Wind currents against the house may set up high pressure zones that force air back down the chimney
i) You may need a raincap
Long story short, you probably need us to come investigate and experiment with you on site!
Q: Why do I need a raincap?
A: Almost all chimneys will benefit from a raincap — usually over the whole chimney top. Water is the big enemy — without a raincap freeze/thaw damage, rust, staining, and acid corrosion are increased.
a) Raincaps keep out water — out of flues, off the top crown
b) Raincaps keep out animals
c) Raincaps mitigate wind interference with good drafting
d) Raincaps retard flying embers and sparks
e) Raincaps help keep out leaves and other debris