Prepare your fireplace for the holidays

San Diego is known for having a pleasant, temperate climate, but even Southern Californians need an indoor heat source during the cooler winter months.

Many homes have fire pits and chimneys that are lit during the holidays, and for homes in the mountains where it snows or for those without central heating, fireplaces are a necessity.

Since fireplaces and chimneys are so rarely used, homeowners often don’t think about the maintenance needs of these utilities. Julian Margo, executive director of Chimney Sweeps Inc., wants homeowners to include safety inspections and cleaning services on their home renovation checklist before winter arrives.

According to Margo, about 40% of homes in San Diego have fireplaces and chimneys. Every year there are about two to four chimney fires in the area.

The main reason most chimneys catch fire is from a buildup of creosote, although that’s not always the case with the chimneys here. Although classic fireplaces are often constructed with brick, many San Diego fireplaces are prefabricated metal boxes surrounded by wooden frames. “The contractors who build these chimneys make mistakes quite often, and maybe not in the first year or four, but over time these chimneys turn into fire hazards,” Margo said. “Half of chimney fires are not caused by creosote ignition, but by the structural malformation that caused the system to overheat and ignite the wooden frame that surrounds the fireplace.”

Also, many fireplaces are now gas powered, which can lead to carbon monoxide leakage. Margo noted that carbon monoxide is odorless and tasteless, and can be quite deadly.

San Diego Gas & Electric and the National Fire Protection Association recommend annual chimney and fireplace inspections.

If the maintenance of a chimney or fireplace is postponed, its repair or replacement can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

“In San Diego, we like to take care of our homes because they are one of our greatest assets,” Margo said. “The chimney is often a weak and exposed point that is overlooked.”

Chimney Sweeps Inc. offers chimney sweeping services as well as inspection, repair, relining and rebuilding services.

Every year, Chimney Sweeps is inundated with calls for service during the holidays when people start lighting their fireplaces and using their fireplaces for family gatherings and chilly nights. It is only then that many homeowners find a problem with their fireplace or chimney.

Margo suggests owners call the company well in advance for service, and now is the perfect time.

Chimney Sweeps Inc. also has great specials to entice homeowners.

Right now, a full chimney cleaning and inspection costs $99 instead of the usual $199, and an inspection service is currently only $59.

“Make sure the chimney and hearth are on your list of inspected and maintained must-haves,” Margo said. “It’s really important — we want to have a chimney-free winter this year.

Call Chimney Sweeps Inc. at 619-593-4020 or visit www.chimneysweepsinc.com to schedule service.

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