Author Archives: Jim DeMicco

Firepits and Spring Chimney Cleaning & Repair

I think the warm weather is officially here, please tell me I didn’t just jinx it.

As we kick off the official start of the outdoors season, I’ve got a few things on my mind.

1. Getting my yard and fire pit in shape so I can sit by the fire this summer
2. Getting my chimney cleaned out after all that winter burn
3. Getting repairs done on my chimney while the weather is nice

Fire Pits

The warm weather instantly gets me thinking about sitting around, catching fireflies, roasting marshmallows, listening to the kids squawk about their water gun fight and kicking back with a beer at the end of the day. Being able to sit around fire spells out relaxation and friends and family for me. Creating a fire pit in your yard can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be and can take over as your Spring and Summer hangout spot.

Option One: Purchase
The fastest and simplest method is to purchase a fire pit. They are readily available from your local hardware store, big box department store or even Target. Of course, you can also get them online from Wayfair.com, Amazon.com or any other online retailer. Choose from a variety of metals including copper, stainless and bronze or for a more natural look there are stone or stone-like materials available. They come in round, square, rectangular with and without covers. You can choose the fuel source, though wood or propane are the most popular. Personally, I like wood burning because it feels more authentic. These are fully self-contained and can range from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand. Many of these are designed to be placed on a deck or other outdoor structure, so if that’s where you’re placing it, these are a good option for you.

Option Two: Build
If you’re putting it directly on the ground, as opposed to on a deck or other structure, you can build your own simple pit without much hassle. You can definitely make this into a bigger and more permanent project and build elaborate outdoor burning spaces but I like to keep things easy, so I’m going to lay out the simple methods.

You can either do the whole thing from scratch or make it easy on yourself and purchase a kit.

Regardless of your method, you’ll want to start the same way.

1. The point of a fire pit as opposed to just building a bonfire in your yard is to keep the fire contained so it doesn’t burn you, your house, your trees or anything else down. You need a good ten-foot area free of brush or any structures to place your pit in.

2. Create a circle in the middle of your ten foot clearing for the actual pit. I do this by placing a stick or a piece of rebar in the middle of where I want my circle and tying a 2-foot piece of string to it. Now with this string outstretched you can draw along the dirt to create a circle 48″ across. If you buy a kit, the kit will inform exactly how big to make your circle but most are around 48″. Mark your circle with spray paint, chalk or even just a stick.

3. There are two schools of thought on the circle, to level it or to dig a hole. I like less work for the same results so I choose to make it level and build an extra layer of stone. If you dig the hole you can put one less layer of stone but then you have to dig a hole. If you are of the dig a hole persuasion, you will want to dig out your circle about a foot deep. For the levelers, clear the circle of grass, sticks, rocks, etc. use a level to assure that the circle is indeed level.

4. If you dug a hole you’ll pour a circle of paver base around the circle, a little wider than the size of your stones. If you leveled your circle you’ll spread the paver base across the circle. Next, pour a 1-inch layer of paver sand on top of your base. This will help you level the stones as you place them creating give in the ground so you can wiggle the stones. You will need around 1 – CU. feet of each.

5. Placing the stones. Here’s the part where the kit comes in real handy. This is the barrier you’re building to keep your fire in the pit and not on your family. If you purchased a kit, the stones are flat, even and fit together in a perfect circle. You simply place them side by side to form a circle around your circle ensuring that they are snug together and level. Use your level to check and then wiggle them in the base to get them nice and flat. The kit will come with two or three layers and you simply place each layer on top of the previous one, staggering the stones like you would if you were building Legos or a brick wall. No need for mortar, just place them on top. If your kit didn’t come with a metal fire pit ring you will want to purchase one that fits the size specified in your kit. Place the ring in each layer as a guide so that you can assure the stones are fitting snugly together. You may need a rubber mallet to get the stones snug. Remove the ring, build the next layer and repeat.

A basic kit is going to start at around $500, these kits also go up into the thousands, depending on how fancy you want it.

If you didn’t purchase a kit, you will need to get the stone from somewhere. A hardware store, Stone Depot, the Farmington River, the woods behind your house, your kid’s rock collection – somewhere. You can get nice, flat uniform stones and build it similarly to the kit or you can get all different sizes and shapes and practice your Tetris skills as you build a 2-3 foot wall of stone around your pit. There are some arguments that porous rocks may explode but generally speaking, if the stone is dry and hard it will work fine.

That’s it, you’re ready to throw that leftover wood that you didn’t go through this winter into that bad boy and get roasting.

Fire Starters


Remember I like to make things easy so I use these fire starters to get my fire started. I love this brand because they are non-toxic, all natural, made from recycled forest products, and they work. Just one of these babies and your fire is going, no muss, no fuss. You can purchase them from us or look around for others.

Hammocks


Of course, you need somewhere to hang out as you enjoy your fire. I just found these hammocks and have become slightly obsessed with them, so much so that now we’re selling them. Really you can sit anywhere that’s comfortable to you, a rock, a tree stump, a patio chair but look this even has a table for your beer. Hammock Price: $750

To Purchase Call 1-866-244-6489

*Please practice safe fire habits in your new backyard retreat. Do not leave your embers smoldering and go into bed. Pour water over the embers until there is no more hissing noise. Nothing will wreck the start to your Summer like burning down your house, your yard or your neighbor’s house.

Spring Cleaning

Time to open those windows and let the fresh air in. Clean out the cobwebs in the corners and get the winter out. If your chimney is filled with creosote (the toxin created from burning wood) and ash from the winter your home isn’t going to smell spring fresh.

Most chimney companies, including ours, have more availability for cleanings in the Spring so there’s more flexibility in scheduling and almost always a deal. This month we’re offering $25 off cleanings with membership automatically included.

Repairs

We get a lot of calls this time of year because someone was getting their flower beds ready for the Spring and noticed brick pieces in the bed. If you know your chimney is in need of repair or are starting to notice signs like fallen brick, this is the time of year for chimney repair work. Get your outdoor projects started and scheduled now.

Click Here To Book Online

Spring Maintenance

My father always told me an ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure. Once again I guess the old man was right. This Spring, take these steps to make sure your home recovers from the damage of winter and keep the headaches away.

Outside

1. Roof
Prevent leaks by visually checking for harm from snow or ice; you will need to replace any cracked or missing shingles. If you don’t know how, call JP Carroll in West Hartford at 860-586-8857 and they will do it for you – ask them what you should look for next time.

2. Gutters
They are there for a reason, but when they get filled with all the garbage winter collects they don’t work properly. Keep the water out of your home by cleaning those gutters out. Make sure there are no leaks, and the downspouts are facing away from your home. If you don’t want to spend your weekend up on a ladder scooping trash, we are happy to do it for you. Call us at 860-651-0574.

3. Trees
These beauties become the pets of your property, and it’s heartbreaking when they die. Check to see if there’s any sign of rot or injury. Call Precision Tree Experts in East Granby at 860-651-3437 and they will help you out if there’s a problem; they’ll also remove anything dead that may fall on your home or car.

4. Lawn Equipment
Soon the whir of the snow blower will be replaced by the hum of the lawn mower. Save yourself and get your mower and other lawn equipment tuned up now.

5. Walkways and Driveways
All that temperature change and snow and ice can destroy walks and drives. Get those cracks and broken surfaces repaired to keep a safe, level walking ground and prevent greater damage. For walkways call LandTek Landscape Construction in Simsbury at 860-651-7324 or for your driveway try Armorseal in Simsbury at 860-651-9191.

6. Firewood
Move the firewood away from your house. It should be at least 2 feet from your home and at least 18 inches off the ground. Damp wood can be a breeding ground for insects including termites.

Inside

*Photo and decorating idea by songbirdblog.com

1. Fire Extinguishers
Check your fire extinguishers. Do it right now; I’ll wait. Do not wait until you need it to discover it doesn’t work. The pressure gauge should be in the ‘green’ range, and it should look like it’s in good condition with all seals intact. If you don’t have one or if it’s not in the green, go to your local hardware store and buy it right now.

2. Dryers
Clogged dryer vents can not only make your dryer ineffective, but it can also cause a fire. You’ll need a ‘dryer vent cleaning brush kit’ and a vacuum with a hose. Use the brushes and then the vacuum to clean the lint trap and the lint trap housing cavity. Then pull out the dryer and disconnect the duct into sections. Use your brush kit to clean out each piece. Reassemble and return the dryer. If you’d prefer we can do this for you, just give us a call at 860-651-0574 – there’s a discount for this service for our members.

3. Air Conditioners
It’s hard to believe but soon we will be complaining about the heat, and the cold will seem so far away. Make sure your system has been inspected and tuned up. Keep those filters changed regularly, they are there to keep that dirt out of your lungs and can’t do it if they are filthy. Valley Air Conditioning in Simsbury are great – 860-658-0371.

4. Smoke Detectors & Carbon Monoxide Detectors
If you didn’t do this when you set your clocks ahead, do it now. Be sure that the sensors are getting power by pressing and holding the test button until you hear the alarm. If you don’t make a sound, change the batteries or call an electrician if it’s hardwired. You also want to check that they will detect smoke or carbon monoxide. For the smoke detector, you can do this by lighting a few matches near the detector. For the carbon monoxide, you can do this by holding a lit cigarette near the detector, and it should read a higher amount of the gas.

5. Clean and Inspect Your Chimney
If you haven’t had it done yet this year, do it now. Just like an oil change, it needs to be done regularly to keep the system running properly. Schedule your cleaning by calling 860-651-0574 or click here to schedule online.

Chimney Liners

The Key to a Safe Home and Long Lasting Chimney

1. First, what is a chimney liner?

A chimney liner lines the inside of your chimney and are made of either clay, ceramic, or metal.

2. What is the purpose of a chimney liner?

Maintaining your chimney liner is imperative to keeping heat from escaping through your chimney, keeping carbon monoxide out of your home, and extending the life of your chimney.

All of the smoke and gasses created in your fireplace travel out through the liner. When you burn anything – whether in your fireplace or anywhere else, dangerous by-products are created.

In the case of your fireplace, the main by-product is carbon monoxide. Your chimney’s liner serves a vital purpose – to contain the carbon monoxide and direct it outside.

Additionally, the liner serves to protect your chimney’s walls from heat and corrosion. An old or broken liner could put your chimney at risk for corrosion and allow carbon monoxide to enter your home.

3. Why do I need a new liner?

  • You may not have a chimney liner at all. If your home was built before 1940, it may have been built without one.
  • Your existing liner is damaged.
  • You are installing a new heating unit (stove, furnace, etc.) which needs to be vented.

4. How do I know there’s a problem?

The best way to know is to have your chimney cleaned and inspected annually by a licensed chimney professional.

Additionally, you can look inside your chimney for:

  • Excessive buildup on the inside of the chimney
  • Cracks in the flue tiles
  • Damaged or missing flue tiles
  • Missing mortar in the flue tiles

 

Types of Liners

If you do have a liner it will be one of three types:

1. Clay Tile Liner

Some houses were built with a clay tile liner, generally, these are not put in post construction as they are difficult and expensive to install.

Benefits:
1. Tiles themselves are inexpensive
2. Withstand very high temperatures
3. Stand up well against corrosive materials in fireplace
4. Last about 50 years

Drawbacks:
1. Post construction installation is very difficult and costly
2. Repairs and replacements are very difficult and costly
3. Air can get caught between tiles causing draft
4. Tiles can break

2. Cast In Place Liner

If your chimney is in rough shape, this liner can help stabilize and reinforce it while also giving you the benefits of a liner.

Basically, a mortar is pumped into the chimney, creating a liner. The specific mortar mix and method for installing varies, but the overall technique is that the mortar is poured and held in place with a bladder which is then removed once it hardens.

They provide great insulation and can allow greater temperatures to be reached which allows for cleaner fires and less creosote buildup. Like the Clay Tile Liner, these can last up to 50 years.

3. Metal Flue Liner

A common and the simplest fix for a chimney with a missing or damaged liner is the metal flue liner. It may be rigid or flexible depending on the needs of your chimney (chimneys with bends and curves require flexible). They are typically made using a stainless steel alloy and work well to remove by-product from the fireplace. An insulation may be added to the liner if there is a need to hold in more heat and prevent condensation. Ask your professional if they are insulating the liner and why or why not.

These come in various weights and prices vary depending on the need. They can be Heavy, High Performace Light and Light. Ask your chimney professional which type they are installing and why.

Your liner should come with a lifetime warranty – check with your chimney professional to assure yours does.