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Furnace Flue Maintenance

Although this winter has proven relatively mild so far, most homes have had some type of heat running for the past couple months. Whether the home utilizes a boiler, a furnace, a fireplace, or a wood stove, an appliance has been working diligently to keep the house warm and comfortable. To keep these trusty units functioning year after year – and to avoid those devastating emergency calls – it is important to schedule regular maintenance.


Furnaces, in particular, often seem to go without proper care. Perhaps this occurs because homeowners assume the modern features of a gas powered furnace need less servicing. While new furnaces do run more efficiently than more historic forms of heat, like boilers or oil furnaces, they are prone to their own set of issues if they do not have regular care.

A common issue with gas furnaces is damage inside the flue. These furnaces run cooler than other, earlier appliances, making them more efficient but also more vulnerable to condensation. Especially if the furnace was installed in an older home and utilized an existing chimney, the size of the chimney is likely too large to create a proper draft. In a larger chimney, the cooler air spreads out and cools down too quickly, resulting in condensation on the walls of the chimney. This condensation has acidic properties, meaning it degrades the flue lining upon contact. A lining damaged like this can lead to serious problems like carbon monoxide leaking into the home.

Many homes in the Boston were built many decades or even centuries ago, so they may still rely on older heating appliances like oil furnaces. These units experience regular soot buildup as a result of burning oil, so they require regular cleaning and inspection. The soot can buildup to the point of blocking the chimney completely, which can be dangerous if the furnace does continue to function. In addition, the soot may flake off the wall of the flue and fall onto the furnace vent. This blocks the waste air from flowing out of the furnace, heavily reducing its efficiency and even stopping the furnace from functioning at all.

A potential problem with all types of flues is an obstruction from an external source, like an animal living inside the flue. This is a common occurrence as the weather turns colder because the animals start looking for a warm place to wait out the winter. When the flue is blocked by an animal or its nest, the toxic gases cannot flow out of the house properly. The only option then is for them to flow back into the home, but sometimes homeowners are lucky enough to have the furnace quit working instead.

Fortunately, all of these issues can be avoided with regular care of the furnace and its flue. There is rarely a need for an emergency service call in the middle of winter if the furnace has been cleaned and inspected on a regular basis. If you live in the Boston, South Shore or Cape Cod area and need a furnace inspected, contact Above and Beyond Chimney Service to speak with an expert.

New Year, New Fireplace

Make Plans Now for Next Year’s Spring Fireplace Renovation

Most people do not give any thought to renovating their fireplace until they are getting ready to use it for the winter. However, winter is really not the best time of year to make changes to the fireplace. It is, however, a great time to start planning for renovations that will take place during the upcoming spring months.

Getting fireplace renovations done in the off season has many benefits. For one, contractors tend to be less busy during this time of year because the fireplace is the last thing most people are thinking about. This means that homeowners can enjoy more flexibility and may be able to get their work done more quickly than in the winter. Also, they do not miss any time enjoying the fireplace while it is out of commission. We’d be happy to discuss your options with you to help you craft your vision.

Winter is a very good time to begin the process of renovating your fireplace. The first thing you need to do is to research your options and determine what is most important to you.

Winter is a very good time to begin the process of renovating your fireplace. The first thing you need to do is to research your options and determine what is most important to you.

Since renovations should not be done during the winter, it is a good idea to use this time to fully research the project. Most changes to the fireplace area are difficult to reverse, so it is important to be clear about exactly what the outcome will be. Look through magazines and pictures for inspiration and fully develop the idea before speaking with a professional.

Once there is a concept in place for the renovation, find a certified professional who is well qualified to do it.  Be sure that they understand the vision and have the appropriate experience to execute it. Always choose a professional who has experience with fireplaces rather than someone who has, for example, only painted traditional walls. This is the best way to make sure that the project comes out as it was intended and that it is safe.

Renovations to the fireplace should never be done as a do it yourself project. There are many complicated parts to a fireplace and it is easy for someone without experience to make a mistake. If the structure of the fireplace is compromised, it could become extremely dangerous to use it. The real problem is that someone without experience may not even realize the severity of their error until it is too late. A professional will get the job done well but, more importantly, they will do it safely.

Before having any renovations done to the fireplace, it is also a good idea to have it inspected  and cleaned by a certified chimney sweep.  An annual inspection by a certified chimney and fireplace technician should be done annually as part of regular maintenance, even without renovations. An inspector will be able to indicate whether or not there are any safety issues that need to be addressed before renovations can be completed. You can check with the Chimney Safety Institute of America to verify whether a chimney sweep is duly certified.

The spring is the perfect time to renovate the fireplace because contractors tend to be more flexible and the fireplace is not in use anyway. Be sure to plan the project carefully and find the right person to do the job. Before making any changes to the structure of the fireplace, have it inspected to make sure that it is starting out in good, working order.

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