Q & A

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As a family-owned and operated business for 34 years, we go the extra mile to provide you with quality and personalized service. You can trust us as there is always a certified technician on the job.  Learn more about fireplaces and let us answer all your fireplace concerns. Contact Top Hat Industries, Inc. to learn more.
Fireplace

Frequently Asked Fireplace Questions

Q. When is the best time to have your chimney swept?
 
A. Start thinking about scheduling your service call right after the last fire of the season is extinguished. This will give adequate time to conveniently schedule the work and you will not find yourself in the autumn rush.
 
Q. Why should I have my chimney swept?
 
A. The main reason to have your chimney swept is to remove the combustible byproducts of wood burning. Creosote is the substance that is removed when sweeping a chimney, along with the occasional mummified creature and cluster of spider webs. In doing this you're lowering your chances of having a chimney fire and prolonging the life of your chimney system.
 
Q. Do all chimney sweeps provide the same level of service?
 
A. The short answer is no.
 
Chimney sweeping is often conceived as a relatively low capital start up business. And there are no requirements for education or certification in either Iowa or Nebraska. This unfortunate mentality often allows someone to get started with little or no knowledge of codes and standards and proper equipment usage
 
There is a vast chasm between what we refer to as a "brush pusher" and an experienced, certified, sweep that has the training, knowledge, and equipment at their disposal to service and properly diagnose your system.
 
Anyone can sweep a chimney as easily as anyone can write down numbers on a piece of paper.  But, if you were being audited would you prefer the person with good penmanship or a CPA to represent your interests?
 
Q. Do all certified chimney sweeps provide the same service?
 
A. No. Unfortunately the chimney sweeping industry is like any other industry in that certification or professional affiliations are no assurance you will be treated fairly or honestly. It only means the individual carries the knowledge and has paid their dues. It does not mean that they will use what they have to your benefit.
 
Unfortunately this is a buyer beware world. It is up to the consumer to do their homework and check out a business. Asking for referrals, proof of insurance, etc., is very important.
 
Anyone can say they have been in business for 25 years and run a yellow page add.  This does not mean they have actually been in business that long or that they are true professionals.
 
All attorneys have to have a certain level of education and must first pass a state test before practicing their service. Ask yourself, do all attorneys provide the same level of service?
 
Q. What is the best kind of wood to burn?
 
A. The factual answer is Free wood. In the big picture it may be said that wood is wood until you must pay for it. If you're purchasing your wood then you might want to do a bit of research.
 
In actuality the best type of wood depends on what you expect from the wood you purchase and the type of appliance being used to burn the wood. All wood, for the most part, burns differently. Traditionally hardwood is what most people think is best and therefore is what most people request, i.e. oak, elm, ash, etc. For wood burning stoves and fireplaces alike, you will get more burn time from a cord of oak than from a cord of birch or pine. This is simply due to the fact that hardwood is dense and much heavier. However, there are some things to consider regarding hardwoods that the consumer should be aware of.
 
Hardwoods produce more creosote per cord than lighter woods or pitch filled woods such as pine, otherwise known as coniferous trees. Hardwood gives the traditional slow burning fire in the fireplace and the overnight burn in the wood stove. It also provides cooler flue gas temperatures and a longer residence time for the smoke being produced. The tar fog and moisture in the smoke is what aids in the production of heavy creosote.
 
Birch burns very fast but is popular because it starts relatively easy. Pitch filled woods burn fast and very hot as the pitch is extremely flammable. In a wood stove, coniferous trees can cause problems of overheating.  In a fireplace this type of wood snaps and pops creating sparks. However, my experience has shown me that due to the excessive heat being produced these woods burn cleaner than hardwoods.
 
In my fireplace I try to burn a 60 40 hardwood coniferous mix. This gives me a nice hot fire with complete combustion along with a desired burn time. I also like the aroma as well as the snap of the pine and cedar I burn with my hardwoods.
 
Here are a couple of things to think about. 1. How many (hardwood) forest fires do you hear about? 2. Charcoal briquettes are manufactured from hardwood not pine. This is partially due to the pitch in the pine and the slow burn characteristics of hardwoods.
 
Q. Is how I store my wood important?
 
A. Yes. Moisture content is an important consideration. Well-seasoned wood can have very high moisture content, if not stored properly. Like a sponge, dry wood is more than willing to let moisture be reintroduced back into it. It’s recommended that firewood be stored off the ground and covered so as to prevent direct moisture from rain and snow. If possible it is best to leave the sides of your wood pile open so air can flow freely through it. In other words, don’t tightly cover your wood pile with a plastic bag. For storing off the ground wood pallets work well. Most mass merchants will give you left over pallets.
 
It is not recommended that wood be stored in your garage or next to your home. That is unless you prefer having termites and carpenter ants start on your home as the main course after their appetizer is gone.
 
Q. Is there any type of wood that I should not burn?
 
A. Yes. Any wood that has been chemically treated or has any type of glue on it should not be burned in a fireplace or wood stove. This can cause overheating and chemical reactions with the interior components of your fireplace or woodstove system, not to mention the potential toxins released into the atmosphere.
 
The same goes for paper and cardboard. I recommend purchasing a shredder for those sensitive documents and not using the fireplace or wood stove.
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