Summer Chimney Maintenance

All chimneys need maintenance and summer is the best time to do these tasks before the busy fall season arrives. Many problems can be avoided or mitigated before they become serious and expensive repair issues.  Here’s some of the most common issues to look for.

Bricks or stones spalling or flaking off. Masonry chimney exteriors take a beating during the winter months by exposure to harsh weather, and can have noticeable damage by springtime. Rain year-round does not help the issue. If you see spalling or flaking bricks, or find pieces of brick on your roof or yard, this is an indication that the bricks have been saturated with water, and subjected to freeze/thaw cycles. Soft type bricks, which are commonly used by masons are more susceptible to water penetration than hard type bricks and may show significant damage in just a few years. Deteriorated or missing mortar joints also need to be addressed in order to prevent water from entering the inside of the chimney where it can cause further damage.

Sooty smell or bad odors coming from the fireplace. Have the chimney cleaned by a professional chimney sweep to remove smelly, flammable creosote. Spring is the best time to get a sweep out quickly. Note: if you suspect that there are dead animals in the chimney call an animal removal expert first, and then call a chimney sweep. The sweep may also offer a deodorizer for the chimney.

Leaking inside the house around the chimney, or walls and ceilings near the chimney. This is usually a flashing problem that can be corrected by installing new J and Counter flashing around the chimney and/or sealing it with silicone, however, sometimes cracks or holes in mortar can cause leaking as well.

Rusting, metal crown on prefabricated chimney, water inside the chimney chase or firebox rusting. Have a new metal crown made with breaks in the corners to the center to encourage water runoff. These are all custom-made and measurements must be taken first. Make sure the proper flashing and ran cap are installed. Do not use different manufacturer parts – to do so can be a fire hazard.

Masonry chimney crowns crack, deteriorate, and lift from the top row of bricks due to exposure to weather, expansion from heat, or improper installation. The cement crown is the primary part of the chimney that keeps water out of the flue, firebox, and damper where moisture can cause mortar joints to deteriorate and dampers and metal fireboxes to rust.

For more information, visit our website at Biowashing.com

Grilling Safety Tips

With another holiday here, there will be hundreds of thousands enjoying an outdoor cookout.  Here are a few safety tips to make sure you avoid any disaster while grilling.

General grilling tips

  • Propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors.
  • The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill area.
  • Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.
  • Never leave your grill unattended.

Propane grills
Before you use your grill for the first time each year, be sure it’s in working order and ready to use. A few simple guidelines can help:

  • Check the major connection points between the gas (propane) tank hose and the regulator and cylinder, and where the hose connects to the burners. Tighten if loose.
  • Check the gas (propane) tank hose for the potential (gas) leaks. To do that:
  • Turn the propane tank on. Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose using a brush or spray bottle. If there is a gas leak, the propane will release bubbles around the hose (big enough to see).
  • Once you’ve determined your grill has a gas leak by smell or by administering the soapy bubble test and there is no flame, turn off the gas tank and burners. If the leak stops at that point, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again. If the leak doesn’t stop, call the fire department immediately.
  • If you smell gas while cooking, move away from the grill and call the fire department immediately. Do not move the grill.

Charcoal grills

  • There are several ways to get the charcoal ready to use. Charcoal chimney starters allow you to start the charcoal using newspaper as a fuel.
  • If you use a starter fluid, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire.
  • Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.
  • There are also electric charcoal starters, which do not use fire. Be sure to use an extension cord for outdoor use.
  • When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container.

Smoke Damage in Penn Valley PA

DSCN2116A customer in Penn Valley Pennsylvania purchased a new oven from a big box store and had them install it.  The delivery men installed the oven, and then proceeded to turn it on while instructing the home owner to allow the oven to run for a half hour prior to turning it off.  As she signed all of the papers and watched them leave her house, smoke began to fill her kitchen.  She immediately turned off the oven and noticed that the men who installed it, never took out the plastic out from the inside.  This caused the home not only to be filled with smoke, but also have a strong odor of burnt plastic.  In the photo,the cabinet looks clean and without any damage, but as the dry sponge shows, the a thin residue was built up on the cabinets and surrounding walls.

Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar – Part 1

Apple cider vinegar is said to be a natural remedy for many ailments. In 400 B.C.E Hippocrates (the father of modern medicine) knew about apple cider vinegar’s antibiotic properties and recommended it to his patients for its healing properties. Since then it’s been valued by many cultures right up to modern times.

Apple cider vinegar has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. Among the ailments it’s said to cure are allergies, acne, high cholesterol, joint pain, weight loss, rheumatism, arthritis, gout, dandruff, chronic fatique, candida, sore throat, gum infection, sinus infection, flu, acid reflux, leg cramps and ear infections. It’s also used to help dissolve kidney stones, lower high blood pressure, and it’s also been shown to help with type 2 diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity.

Even though vinegar is acidic, when we take apple cider vinegar it has an alkaline effect in our bodies. The fact that apple cider vinegar causes our pH levels to become more alkaline could play a large part in it’s curative properties. It also reacts to some toxins in our bodies, converting them into less toxic substances. Our bodies need a slightly alkaline pH balance to be healthy. The typical Western diet creates an acidic pH in our bodies, and many health problems are attributed to this. Taking a tonic containing apple cider vinegar can help restore alkalinity, and therefore assist the body in getting rid of some of the health problems listed above.

Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar – Part 2

In researching the health benefits of apple cider vinegar I’ve found a lot of anecdotal evidence – stories from people of the beneficial effects of taking apple cider vinegar. There isn’t scientific evidence to back up all of these claims, but of course unless the studies have been done there won’t be. Lack of scientific evidence doesn’t imply that it doesn’t work.

There was at least one study done on the effects of apple cider vinegar which used acetic acid – the acid component of vinegars. Now, I’d argue that apple cider vinegar is more than just acetic acid. In fact, apple cider vinegar consists of both malic acid and acetic acid. Being made from apples it would also contain pectin, as well as potassium, which promotes cell and tissue growth. Apple cider vinegar also contains almost all the minerals, vitamins and trace elements that our bodies need. Which leads me to suspect that some of the studies that are being done are fairly worthless exercises in determining the value of apple cider vinegar if they aren’t actually using apple cider vinegar in the study.

Because science allows us to break things down into their component parts in order to understand how things work, I think too often scientists only see things as their component parts, missing the whole concept of the synergy found in nature. Everything has the potential to be more than the sum of its parts.

Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar – Part 3

The health benefits of apple cider vinegar will vary depending on the ingredients and process used in making it. Commercial production can use wood shavings, and other vinegars as the base (speeding fermentation), changing the makeup of the end product. You’ll get the greatest health benefits from apple cider vinegar that is made from organic apples, fermented using traditional methods, raw (unpasteurised) and unfiltered. If you can’t find good quality apple cider vinegar you could try making your own. This apple cider vinegar recipe has recipes for two methods of production. The one which uses whole apples will be of better quality for medicinal purposes, the one using scraps is quicker to make. You could make both so that you have something to use sooner while you wait for the whole apple batch to ferment.

Be sure to avoid taking apple cider vinegar neat (undiluted) as it eats away at tooth enamel and can cause burns to the sensitive tissues in your mouth and throat. There have also been reports of apple cider vinegar supplements (in capsule form) causing permanent tissue damage of the esophagus. So use apple cider vinegar in liquid form, diluted with water.

A simple tonic can be made from 1-2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon honey in a cup of warm water.

For more information, visit our website at Biowashing.com