Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Is the Smoke Chamber a Smoking Gun?



Originally published in SWEEPING magazine and MASONRY CONSTRUCTION magazine.


By Marge Padgitt and Gene Padgitt, C.F.I.

Smoke chambers are a hot issue-literally as well as figuratively. As a Certified State Fire Investigator, Gene sees quite a few house fires caused by problems in the smoke chamber area. You should be aware of these problems. Most problems occur due to improper construction of the facial wall without correct clearances to combustibles, but many chimney fires start in this area as well.


To address the problem of improper construction, let’s discuss a typical fireplace. The finished firebox, chamber, chimney, flue and facial wall have been built and look fine from the outside and from inside the chimney. Sometimes a block wall has been built between the chamber and the stud wall. Sometimes a block wall is also the front wall of the smoke chamber. Is it filled in with mortar for a solid masonry wall? What is the clearance to the combustible stud wall? We don't know because we can't see this area during a normal Level I or II inspection. In front of the smoke chamber, the wood header and studs are installed and ready for the finishing work. This is where many problems arise. Many builders do NOT follow clearance requirements and place the combustible wood wall right next to the bricks in front of the smoke chamber! And what else might there be in this area? Plywood, pressboard, or insulation? Insulation acts to keep heat in, and will help to keep the heat in this area even better, which is what we don't want!

What about pyrolization of combustible framing or finish work around the chimney? Pyrolization is the chemical change of wood due to exposure of heat over time. Wood may then ignite at 200-225° instead of the normal ignition temperature of 450-500°. It is important to note here that only HEAT is required to ignite the wood, not FLAME. Have you ever placed your hand on a facial wall after the fireplace has been in use for while? Hot, isn't it? And by the way, without X-ray vision or a tiny camera, no one can see behind the brick facial wall that is built in front of the stud wall. It may not be constructed of solid masonry, as many would have you believe. Yes, there are many competent masons and builders who build this area properly, but there are also many who do not. Some older masons have told me, "I've been doing this for 50 years and don't plan to change now." I wonder how many of their 20, 30, and 50-year old houses are in danger of a potentially destructive fire.

I spoke with Genevieve Bures, a State Fire Investigator and operator of Bures Consultants in Rocky River, Ohio, to discuss smoke chambers. She said the smoke chamber is the most vulnerable area of the chimney. Gene and I agree. The chamber must be examined at every inspection and after any damage has occurred to the chimney. In fact, it is our opinion that this is the most important part of the chimney to examine. If you suspect that the chimney has suffered a chimney fire, (note that I said Chimney fire, not Flue fire, because a chimney fire does not always contain itself to the flue) clean the smoke chamber and take a good hard look at it. Is it parged with high-temperature refractory mortar as is required by NFPA 211 and IRC Code? Probably not. How many smoke chambers do you see that are parged? Are there any holes or cracks? There may even be tiny cracks that you can't see. Rembember, even though a masonry chimney looks solid, it is never completely solid.

During a chimney fire, the smoke chamber is a hot oven. This is the area where most of the creosote accumulates, and logically, where fires most often start. So, it burns the hottest. And you can bet that if there is a stove "slammed" into the firebox without a direct connection to the first flue tile or a properly sized liner, there was a lot of highly flammable glazed creosote in this area that burned first, and set the creosote in the flue on fire second. How hot does it get? Testing in our industry shows that chimney fires can reach well over 2100 degrees, and may get as hot as 3000 degrees, as in a test the Midwest Chimney Safety Council did several years ago. And after the fire is out, the chimney continues to heat up!

A house fire originating in this area may not have anything to do with a chimney fire, but may be the result of heat escaping through small holes or cracks in the smoke chamber next to the facial wall or just heat transferring to wood on the otherside without proper clearance. from normal use of the fireplace. After pyrolization, the wood may ignite and can smolder for hours or even days until it can get enough oxygen to burn. As soon as the area burns through to the attic or an upper floor where oxygen is plentiful, it then becomes a free-burning fire. The homeowner may not be aware that there is a problem until it is too late. Smoke alarms may not go off because the smoke is kept inside the walls. We performed an investigation recently where the fire department was called out three times over a 24-hour period because the homeowner smelled smoke, but the source could not be located. Finally, the roof ignited and burned their $300,000 home to the ground.

So, what should you write on the inspection report or insurance evaluation in these situations? Here is a sample: "The smoke chamber may have been damaged by the intense heat of the chimney fire, and should be cleaned and parged with high-temperature refractory mortar to seal it. There may be a hidden combustible wall in front of this area, so it is important to repair the smoke chamber." That is a sample only-you will have to word your findings according to what you discover or suspect. However, I ALWAYS recommend parging in order to seal the chamber (we use Chamber Tech 2000) as required by NFPA 211. But if the chamber was not constructed correctly, or is over-sized, under-sized, or not corbelled correctly (take a look at NFPA for the requirements), or if it is badly damaged, we recommend complete tear down and rebuilding of the chimney. That is the only way to correct the problem in some cases. If you don't build chimneys, get together with a good mason and refer jobs to each other or hire him/her out as a subcontractor.

This may require some re-thinking when bidding on a reline due to a chimney fire. It may also require some education of your local insurance adjusters, who may believe you are just trying to get a few more bucks for extra work. Start using the term "Chimney fire" instead of "Flue fire" if you don't already, make sure the homeowner understands the severity of the problem, and list parging as a repair item that needs to be addressed when evaluating chimneys-even if no chimney fire has occurred. Parging offers more heat protection and is a lot less expensive than tearing down the facial wall, rebuilding the interior, and rebuilding the facial wall. It is not the answer to all problems, but parging will help keep heat inside the chamber and provide a smooth passage for smoke and flue gasses
Crack in a smoke chamber

Partially parged chamber











.

















______________________________________________________________

Marge and Gene Padgitt own HearthMasters, Inc. dba Padgitt Chimney & Fireplace in Independence,
Missouri. both are CSIA Certified®, NFI Certified and have several other certifications. Gene is a State Certified Fire Investigator. You may contact them at 816-461-3665 or email mpadgitt@comcast.net

Repair damaged chimneys quickly to avoid additional expense


Masonry chimneys should be repaired immediately following storm or chimney fire damage in order to avoid more costly repairs in the future. 

A lightning strike or tornado can open up a masonry chimney, making it vulnerable to attack by rain.  Once a cement crown or bricks have been blown out or severely cracked, the interior of the chimney is open to the elements.  Rain can wash out mortar joints, cause damage to a fireplace, damper, and any metal or masonry components.  When mixed with creosote, rain forms an acid that eats away at mortar joints and flue tiles.

Water can enter through any interior open areas in the chimney, which may include the attic or other areas of the home. This can cause damage to drywall, wood framing, lighting, or carpet. 

A chimney fire can cause expansion of the masonry, which often forms cracks along mortar joints in exterior bricks, and occasionally through the bricks themselves.  This type of damage usually occurs at or near the top of the chimney, but may happen anywhere.  Expansion breaks sometimes occur when a chimney is rapidly heated during a chimney fire.  Any cracks or breaks in masonry will allow damaging rain water to enter the interior and cause further damage to the structure. 

After a lightning strike, high wind, or chimney fire it is important to have a Level II camera inspection completed by a professional chimney sweep, who will determine if damage has occurred to the internal structure of the chimney.  If this inspection is not adequate, a Level III inspection may be necessary.  This involves demolition of parts of the chimney in order to view the interior.

Manufactured chimneys should be inspected following a chimney fire or storm in order to determine if the metal chimney, fireplace components, or exterior chase, chase top, or cap has been damaged.  Manufactured chimneys are U.L. Listed products and parts must be replaced with parts for the specific model by the manufacturer.  Parts are not interchangeable.  If left un-repaired, a damaged manufactured wood chimney chase or metal components may be further damaged by the elements.


Repairs should be completed by a qualified professional chimney contractor in order to assure that the work is done according to International Residential Code and NFPA 211 Standards.  
__________________________________________________
Marge Padgitt is the publisher of Wood-Fired Magazine, and an industry writer. She has been in the chimney industry since 1985. Websites: www.chimkc.com and www.woodfiredmag.com 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

How to Build an Outdoor Brick Oven Workshop June 15-20, 2017

How to Build an Outdoor Brick Oven Workshop June 15-20, 2017

H
earthMasters, Inc. is presenting an outdoor brick oven workshop the week prior to the MCSC conference at the same location at 1134 S Pearl Street in Independence, MO. Gene Padgitt, an award-winning master mason, will be heading up the workshop.

Participants will learn everything about an outdoor brick oven from the footing, to the base, oven, insulation, chimney, and finishing work. There is an art and science to building a good oven, and it is not something most people can tackle on their own with out taking at least one class first.

A certificate of completion will be issued to participants who successfully complete the course. A maximum of 10 attendees will be accepted. The cost is normally $1,200 per person but we have a special first-time attendee rate of  $850 per person for this workshop. The price  includes all lunches, handouts, and a film or photos of the project after it is completed. The CSIA has awarded 16 CEU credits for the class. 

Gene Padgitt has 34 years of industry experience. He is a State Certified Private Fire Investigator, CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep, NFI Certified Gas Specialist, Licensed Mechanical Contractor, and holds a degree in HVACR Technology. Padgitt has been an instructor for 20 years and he and his wife, Marge, decided to open a training center in answer to requests from industry professionals.
Future courses will include Introduction to masonry, masonry heaters, and fireplaces.

For more information and to register visit
 www.hearthmasters.net or call 816-461-3665.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Outdoor Cooking Recipes for Tukey

 

Grilled Mediterranean Turkey Burgers 

Ingredients:
·         1 lb ground turkey    1 cup crumbled feta cheese    1/2 cup kalamata olive, chopped (I usually use chopped salad olives)    1 teaspoon dried oregano    1 teaspoon italian seasoning    1 teaspoon dried parsley    1 teaspoon dried basil (optional)    1 teaspoon onion powder    1/2 teaspoon garlic powder    ground black pepper, to taste
Directions:
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl.Form into 4 patties, then grill. Serve this on regular burger buns with tomatoes and mayo, or on pita with tahini, tomatoes and lettuce.


Smoked Turkey in the Outdoor Smoker


Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 12 hrs

Ingredients:
·         2 -3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil    14 -16 lbs turkey, fresh or thawed completely    2 -3 tablespoons lemon and herb seasoning    2 tablespoons garlic granules, salt and freshly ground black pepper    5 -6  wood chunks: hickory, applewood, oak, pecan or other smoking hardwood soaked in water at     least overnight (not chips)    10 -15 lbs good quality charcoal (NOT self-lighting, and DO NOT use charcoal lighter fluid!)
Directions:
(This recipe requires an outdoor water smoker and an UN-stuffed Turkey)
 Wash thawed turkey thoroughly, inside and out.  Pat dry.

Coat turkey with olive oil. Season inside and out with lemon-herb seasoning, granulated garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.
Refrigerate until ready to start smoking.
Soak 5-6 fairly large chunks of hardwood in water for as long as possible. 
12 hours before mealtime, prepare the smoker as follows:
Place 10 pounds charcoal in the fire-pan and conservatively light the charcoal- just enough to keep it burning with a very low flame.
(Use an electric starter, or a butane torch, or place charcoal under your oven broiler just until lit. DO NOT use liquid charcoal lighter unless you want kerosene flavored turkey!) Place 2-3 chunks of wet hardwood on top of the charcoal, place water-pan above fire-pan, and fill with water.
Place turkey on the rack above water-pan and cover smoker.
After about 6 hours, check the smoker.  Stir up the charcoal and add a little more if necessary.
Place remaining soaked hardwood chunks on top of charcoal, add more water if necessary, close the smoker for another 5-6 hours.
It is almost impossible to overcook the turkey using this method, because it is cooking at a very low temperature.
If the weather is freezing or below, add about 2-3 hours to the cooking time.
The turkey is done when the leg can be moved easily or when meat thermometer reading is safe.

Fried Turkey in Sweet Hot Brine


Prep Time: 1 hr

Cook Time: 36 hrs

Ingredients:
·         3 cups packed light brown sugar    1 1/2 cups Dijon mustard    1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus    2 tablespoons cayenne pepper    2 gallons cold water    1 bunch thyme    1 head garlic, separated into cloves and crushed    1 (12 lb) whole turkey    peanut oil (about 4-5 gallons depending on your fryer) or vegetable oil (about 4-5 gallons          
    depending on your fryer)
Directions:
In a whole turkey-size stockpot, whisk, brown sugar, mustard, salt and cayenne.
Gradually whisk in water, and then add thyme and garlic.
Add turkey, cover and brine in refrigerator or cooler filled with ice (be sure to keep ice filled) for 35 hours.
Bring oil to 375° in your turkey fryer - this may take up to an hour. **Take extra care with the hot oil - Any hotter than 375F can create a fire risk.
 Remove turkey from brine and pat it dry inside and out with paper towels.
For less salt, wash the turkey thoroughly then pat until it is dry as you can get it with paper towels.
Place turkey to a frying basket, breast side up.
Very carefully lower into oil and fry for 3 minutes per pound, 36 minutes, in this case.
Carefully lift the basket out of the fryer and drain the turkey on a rack set over a rimmed baking sheet or pan for about 15 minutes.

Carve and serve.

Open Campfire Safety Rules




Monday, January 23, 2017

HearthMasters to Open a Masonry School June 2017

Press Release 

HearthMasters is opening a masonry training school in Independence, Missouri in June in answer to requests for masonry skills courses in the Midwest region. Gene Padgitt, an award-winning master mason, will be heading up the workshops.

Kansas City, Missouri January 23, 2017

The first course offering is Introduction to Masonry. This hands—on workshop is geared towards chimney professionals who want to learn how to do basic masonry repairs that are commonly needed when doing chimney relining, minor masonry repair, and repairing or rebuilding a firebox, however, anyone wanting to learn basic masonry is welcome to attend.

Participants will attend classroom courses and get hands-on experience learning how to grind and point brick masonry joints, how to repair a firebox, how to build cement caps/crowns, how to cut out and replace a section of bricks to access a smoke chamber, how to repair a smoke chamber, and rebuild several courses of brick on an exterior chimney. We will also discuss block and stone chimneys, stucco application, and other forms of masonry fireplace restoration using pre-cast kits.


A certificate of completion will be issued to participants who successfully complete the course. A maximum of 10 attendees will be accepted. The cost is $800 per person and includes all lunches, handouts, and a film of the project after it is completed. CEUs for CSIA, NFI, and MHA will be applied for.

Gene Padgitt has 34 years of industry experience. He is a State Certified Private Fire Investigator, CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep, NFI Certified Gas Specialist, Licensed Mechanical Contractor, and holds a degree in HVACR Technology. Padgitt has been an instructor for 20 years and he and his wife, Marge, author of The Chimney and Hearth Pro’s Resource Book, decided to open a training center in answer to requests from industry professionals. HearthMasters will offer more classes in the future.

Future classes will include Brick Oven Building, Masonry Heater Construction, business building, marketing, and technical training.

For more information visit
 www.hearthmasters.net or call 816-461-3665.




Friday, January 20, 2017

Best Wood-Fired Restaurants in Kansas City


To the wood-fired connoisseur, there is nothing that can compare to food – any food -- cooked in a wood-fired oven. This is because the taste imparted to the food from the wood is something that can’t be obtained from gas or electric ovens.

A team of taste testers was sent to each of these restaurants – on multiple occasions -- over the past year in order to sample some of their wonderful dishes. The results were unanimous: Eat wood-fired whenever possible.

Rock & Run Brewery and Pub, 110 E Kansas St., Liberty, Missouri offers an exotic brew pub menu which includes appetizers such as deviled eggs, mini bruschetta, and house-made meatballs, salads, soups, sandwiches, pastas, and of course, pizza. Rock & Run’s specialty pizzas include a white pizza with chicken, bacon, white garlic sauce, and mozzarella & provolone cheeses, a pulled pork pizza, Reuben pizza, and a super-hot diablo pizza.  Of course, Rock & Run offers an extensive wine and beer list since the restaurant brews their own beer on site.  A must for any visit is to top the meal off with campfire s’mores cooked in the wood-fired oven which are to die for. www.rockandrunbrewery.com

Pizza Bella, 18th & Baltimore, Kansas City, Missouri offers a menu which features gourmet pizza designed by the owner/chef. Pizzas featured are Margherita, prosciutto, mushroom, leek, potato, egg, and others that are not found in standard pizza joint. The appetizers and desserts feature brussels sprouts, olives and olive oils, mussels, and a charcuteirie plate with assorted cheeses, mustards, and baguette. All of the breads and doughs are made on site. A true gourmet food experience can be found here. Ask the bartender to suggest a wine or beer with your meal.  www.pizzabellakc.com

Blue Grotto, Brookside Plaza at 63rd & Wornall, Kansas City , Missouri serves antipasta, soups, salads, entrees, and wood-fired pizza featuring Funghi and Salsiccia, and a Quattro Stagnioni pizza with artichokes, criminis, olives, peppers, and fontina cheese. The cast iron apple cobbler is a fitting finish to a delicious meal. The Blue Grotto has more good reviews online than most restaurants in town so it is worth the trip. www.bluegrottobrookside.com


Providence Pizza, Hwy 71 and Main Street, Grandview, Missouri specializes in pizza but also serves great calzones, sandwiches, appetizers, salads, and desserts. The restaurant offers the customer a choice of thin or thick crust, and an extensive list of toppings, cheeses, and sauces. Pizza is cooked in their large copper-clad wood-fired oven at the front of the restaurant. www.providencepizza.com

Keep Your Fireplace in Tip Top Shape for Winter

Keep Your Fireplace in Tip Top Shape for Winter 

By Marge Padgitt, President of HearthMasters, Inc.

The following are some tips for keeping your fireplace in good order for the winter: 


  •    Have all chimneys inspected annually by a professional chimney sweep to be sure they are in good working order. The sweep will inspect the interior with a chimney camera and the entire exterior wood or masonry structure visually.  He will look for cracks, gaps, or missing mortar joints in the flue, check for proper flue size, check the smoke chamber and fireplace condition, flashing, crown, and chimney cover.
  •   Have flues serving wood-burning appliances swept annually or bi-annually to remove flammable creosote and reduce the risk of chimney fire. All wood creates creosote - even dry hardwoods. 
  •   Have the furnace or water heater flue inspected annually by a professional to be sure it is not a Carbon Monoxide risk. Blockages or flues in poor condition can be a CO risk. Even a CO detector does not register all levels of CO. 
  •   Have gas direct vent fireplaces or stoves tuned up and serviced annually to assure proper performance. Dirt, dust, and spiders clog orifices and can make the unit inoperable. Annual service is required by the manufacturer for warranty coverage on all brands.
  •   Have a chimney cover installed to keep damaging rain and animals out of the flue. A cover should be installed on each flue or a custom-cover can be made to cover all flues and the cement crown.
  •   Masonry problems such as cracked mortar or bricks, deteriorating mortar or spalling bricks should be repaired in the spring and summer months to allow for proper curing so plan accordingly.
  •   Have an elastomeric sealant applied to the cement crown to protect it from weather damage. 

Get a Wood Stove Now


Everyone needs a wood-burning stove in their home for emergency heating and here's why:

  •  Wood-burning stoves work without the use of electricity or fans (unlike gas furnaces or pellet stoves).
  •  Wood stoves and inserts produce TWICE the amount of heat (BTU's) than gas stoves or inserts!
  •  Fuel is readily available either by using your own trees on site or purchasing through a firewood dealer.
  •  No electricity is needed for a wood stove or insert to work! In case of emergency when the power is out you'll be able to stay in your home instead of going to stay with friends or family or going to a hotel.
  •  With a freestanding stove you can cook on the top if needed.

Use a wood-burning stove during fall and winter as a supplemental heating source to save money and provide a more comfortable, even heat. Radiant heat from a wood stove or masonry heater has more health benefits than a gas furnace or electric baseboard heaters.

Good quality wood stoves aren't inexpensive - but they are worth the investment. A good stove will last many years. Note: beware of box store wood stoves that have no warranty and may burn out after a few seasons. 

New wood-burning stoves and inserts are 75%+ efficient which means that most of the heat is staying in your house rather than going up the flue as with a standard open fireplace. 

Call us to discuss upgrading your inefficient open fireplace to a high-efficiency wood-burning insert or if no fireplace is available we can install a freestanding wood stove for you along with a Class A chimney or chimney liner. 

Note: Regency is offering a great deal on their products with $100 - $600 off wood stoves until February 20, 2017. An on-site inspection is required first so call now for an appointment. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Carbon Monoxide Risk from Gas Chimneys Worse in Winter

By Marge Padgitt, CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep, NFI Certified Wood-burning Specialist
President, HearthMasters, Inc.

Homeowners need to be aware of the risks of Carbon Monoxide hazards with chimneys serving gas appliances. This can be a real issue when getting a home ready for rent or sale. Chimneys are the LAST thing anyone investigates, and are often overlooked when it comes to budgeting a remodel or restoration project.

 © Kheng Guan Toh

Chimneys and their flue liners and connecting pipes are designed to get toxic heated flue gasses out of the house. If a chimney is in poor condition or blocked it cannot perform its intended function, putting the occupants at risk. It is interesting to note that even with installation of CO detectors, low levels of CO (less than 9 ppm) which do not register on a detector. can cause long term health problems and even irreversible brain damage. Visit www.coheadquarters.com for more information on Carbon Monoxide symptoms, hazards, and more.

When inspecting a chimney what professional chimney sweeps look for are items that can be risks to the occupants. Among these are:
  • §   Damaged or deteriorated flue liner
  • §   Missing mortar joints between tile flue liner sections
  • §   No flue liner installed as required by IRC code
  • §   An abandoned water heater (new furnace installed, water heater is left to vent alone)
  • §   Flue liner too large for the appliances to vent properly
  • §   Flue liner too small for the appliances to vent properly
  • §   Connecting pipes installed incorrectly
  • §   No chimney cover installed to keep damaging rain, birds, and animals out of flues
  • §   Debris (sand, mortar, twigs, bird nests) clogging the flue
  • §   Masonry chimney in poor condition, missing mortar joints
  • §   Cement crown deteriorated, cracked, or missing, allowing rain water to enter the chimney

Carbon Monoxide is odorless, tasteless, and colorless. 

During winter months when houses are closed tightly, the problem with CO becomes much worse. There is often inadequate dilution air provided so CO and other toxic gasses from off-gassing of carpet, woodwork, furniture, etc. increase in volume, making the indoor air quality worse than the rest of the year.  As a result, the occupants can experience unexplained headaches, nausea, dizziness, fainting, or death. 

If the house is under negative pressure this can exacerbate the problem. A whole house ventilator may be needed in addition to chimney repair to bringing the chimney to code and working order.

The most commont problem with chimneys serving gas appliances is rain. Rain water entering a chimney from the top through the flue or gaps in the cement crown cause mortar joints to wash out of the flue liner. Typical clay tile flue liners have mortar joints between each two-foot tile section.  Excessive condensation of flue gasses is also a major cause of missing mortar joints. This occurs when the flue liner is sized too large for the appliances and this is extremely common.

Methods of repair: There are different methods for relining, lining, or repair available. Your chimney professional is the best qualified person to address these issues and offer recommendations.

Licensing: Note that a Master Mechanical Contractor License is required to do chimney flue relining or repair in the greater Kansas City area. Check with the Johnson County Contractor Licensing website at www.jocogov.org /dept/planning-and-codes/cls/home to find a licensed contractor. 


Finding a Professional: The Chimney Safety Institute of America offers training for professional chimney technicians. The CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep designation is a minimum requirement to look for when hiring a chimney pro. Certified Chimney Sweeps know the Codes and Standards and correct methods for repair. Visit www.csia.org for more information. Additionally, request proof of liability and workers comp insurance and contractor licensing. Make sure the contractor pulls a permit for the work and it is inspected by the building inspector. Also check Angie's List for reviews. Unfortunately, there are a lot of untrained and unqualified chimney companies in existence so due diligence will pay off in the end. A mistake in this area can be deadly for occupants so it isn’t worth going the cheap or DIY route.