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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Chimney Cleaning and Safety

Wood-burning fireplace with burning log.

Original Article

Winter is finally fading away, and for those on a survival homestead a new season of maintenance and housekeeping awaits for the coming spring weather. One of the primary concerns of a homesteader, as well as anyone else that may use a wood-burning stove, fireplace or other device that utilizes those grand old chimneys that adorn so many homes is cleaning them out of the seasons soot. A lot of folks prefer to put the chimney sweep act off as long as possible, but I believe it should be done in the springtime, and as early as possible.
Why do I suggest springtime for cleaning your chimney? Because it will still be fresh from use and the buildup of soot and creosote will not have had time to harden up. Most of the pros I’ve talked to say it’s a lot easier for a homeowner to clean their own chimney if the soot is fresh, and preferably warmish. They say that if you have an open chimney you may have a sort of concreting or hardening of the accumulation near the top of the chimney if it gets repeated moistening from the rain. Covered chimneys apparently don’t have that problem.
Cleaning chimneys is a relatively easy task, provided you don’t mind getting dirty and you’re not afraid of heights. It’s a simple matter of obtaining a properly sized and shaped brush for the opening, and sufficient brush extensions to allow you to reach the entire length of the chimney.
Simply climb to the top, insert the brush and work it up and down a few feet at a time until you’ve brushed the entire length. It’s sort of like brushing your teeth before bedtime. To make things easier, if you have a fireplace open to the room indoors, tape a layer of plastic sheeting around the opening to keep the soot inside the fireplace. When you’re done brushing, take a shop vac and suck out all of the soot from the fireplace, the stovepipe, and/or the cleanout chamber at the bottom of the chimney.
Remember that soot is a very fine dust, so make certain you have a very fine filter on your shop vac. If you don’t you will end up blowing a fine cloud of soot all over the house, and believe me, it ain’t a breeze to clean up after that happens.
Check out some of the websites that specialize in this sort of thing, and also some of the chimney brush dealer’s sites. There is a lot of info by way of tips and suggestions that can be found.
While you are cleaning your chimney, check it out for loose masonry, disintegrating mortar and cracked flue linings. If you do this in the springtime, you’ll have all summer to obsess over it before you get it done.
Here are a few old timers’ tips for dealing with your chimney;
Suggestions for Repair Of Old Unlined Chimneys
1. A chimney in any existing building that becomes too hot to hold the hand against comfortably is dangerous if there is woodwork touching it. Have it carefully inspected by a reliable mason, and apply the protection prescribed by this ordinance as far as is possible.
2. The smoke test is strongly recommended as the best method for discovering defects in chimney walls which always indicate danger. If smoke escapes through the chimney walls at any place the chimney should be re-pointed or rebuilt as conditions may warrant.
3. Where soft coal is used it is often necessary to rebuild unlined chimney tops every few years, and all unlined chimneys, irrespective of fuel used, are very liable to become defective through disintegration of the mortar joints. In order to ascertain if chimneys need rebuilding, climb to the top and look inside. If mortar has begun to fall out from between the bricks it will soon do so all the way through the wall. Take an ice pick, a table knife, or other sharp implement and try to push it through the mortar; if you can do so, rebuild at once as follows:
Tear the chimney down to a point where mortar joints are solid, but at least 18 in. below the roof, get fire clay flue lining of the same size as the inside measurement of the chimney, set it in the top of the flue and build up with good brick and Portland cement mortar. This will make a solid chimney through the roof where there is greatest danger, and is the best that can be done unless the chimney is completely torn clown and rebuilt. Preserve a clear space of at least 1 in. between the woodwork of the roof and the chimney wall, and connect the chimney with the roof by metal flashings. Build to a height above the roof sufficient to clear nearby ridgelines and other obstructions.
Cleaning Chimney Flues
For efficient and safe operation of heating apparatus it is extremely important that both the flue and the smoke passages in the heating device be free from soot. When bituminous coal is used for fuel, soot accumulates quite rapidly and frequent cleanings are necessary.
Accumulation of soot in a chimney introduces the risk of a chimney fire with the consequent danger of sparks being thrown upon the roof or penetrating cracks in the chimney walls. This is a very great hazard and is the reason why chimneys should never be purposely burned out to clean them. The burning out of a tile lined flue is liable to crack the lining.
A common and efficient method of cleaning a chimney is to sweep it with a properly weighted bundle of rags or a bush attached to a rope and worked from the top, but because this operation is troublesome, chimney cleaning is frequently neglected.
Other methods of chimney cleaning recommended as simple and efficient are as follows:
1. The U. S. Fuel Administration [no longer exists as such] has strongly advocated the use of salt. The fire should he put in good condition with a substantial body of hot fuel. Well dried common salt is then scattered over the incandescent fuel in quantity depending upon the size of the furnace. For a household furnace, a pound at a time is ample. The- dampers should be kept open to maintain the furnace temperature until the fumes entirely disappear. This usually takes about half an hour. The soot is disintegrated by the action of the salt fumes. Repeat the application as necessary.
This method is highly endorsed for cleaning boiler tubes and furnace passages. It does not interfere with the operation of the plant and neither brickwork nor metal is deteriorated.
It is known that a layer of tarry soot 1/16 in. thick on boiler tubes or furnace passages will decrease their heating efficiency 20 per cent, hence the necessity of keeping them clean. It is claimed that an occasional use of salt as described will keep both heating apparatus and flue free from soot.
2. An ex lire chief recommends firing a revolver loaded with one or two blank cartridges up a chimney flue to remove soot. He asserts it to be very effective and that no injury to the flue results. Precaution should be taken to shut off the flue opening or fireplace with an old blanket or piece of burlap to prevent the soot flying back into the room when it falls following the shot. This method requires that the fires be extinguished before it is applied.
3. Scrap zinc thrown on a hot fire is recommended as a soot remover. The zinc fumes are said to disintegrate the soot.
Zinc compounds are also sold for this purpose, but as several pounds of these zinc materials are recommended to be used at a time, they would be somewhat expensive.
A handful or two of powdered sulphur thrown on a fire is claimed to be effective in extinguishing a soot fire in a chimney. It produces sulphur dioxide which extracts the oxygen from the air supply and so prevents combustion.
A few pounds of salt thrown in the flue at the top is an old and excellent remedy for a soot fire. Even a pail of sand, earth or ashes is helpful. Such materials, however, should be used with much care, if at all, when a fireplace connects with the chimney flue, for they would be liable to scatter the burning soot into the room where the fireplace is located.

Audio Podcast: Episode-625- Keeping Your Wits When Others are Losing Their’s

Today we will talk at least a little bit about the current disasters in Japan but only as a frame of reference.  For instance right now people are rushing to buy Geiger counters and potassium iodide supplements and many are paying a premium to get them NOW before they can’t get one at all. Such [...]

Eight Common TEOTWAWKI Misconceptions

*Edited by Christopher Young

Misconception Number One: You are going to bug
out by car, truck or recreational vehicle (RV).

Wrong, it takes only one careless driver to shut
down the road. On a normal day an overturned
truck closes the road for half a day. With no
wrecker service, the road will be closed forever.
With everyone attempting  to flee for the hills
the roads will be gridlock. There are no secret
roads, if you know about them so do others.

You have plans of leaving "before".

Wrong. You have no way to know ahead of time
when the crisis happens. What if you are wrong?
How many "Chicken Little" events will your employer
tolerate? Generally speaking, there are a cascade
of small, inconspicuous events leading to the need
to bug out or get home. Once you are sure, you can
count on walking or maybe biking, because the
masses will be in one huge traffic jam.

Misconception Number Two: You are fit enough to
walk, carrying the stuff you think you need.

Wrong. Your bug out refuge is miles away, or you
are miles from home. You will be in for a rude
awakening. Most Americans are so badly out of
shape that walking any distance is impossible.
Get off the couch and go for a walk, and do so
often. Maybe even carry your get home bag?
And what will you say to the hundreds of hungry
people who are standing next to their gridlocked
cars? They will see that you have a bug out bag,
and they will want you to share all that food
and water that you are "hoarding".

Misconception Number Three:  Your can carry your
Bug Out Bag.

Wrong. Once you start walking with a heavy pack
you will begin discarding things, the two pound
stove, the ten pound tent, the five pound coffee
maker, the camp pad, the cute little
folding shovel, two pounds, three pound Rambo knife,large rope, extra clothes and so on.  How do we
know? Because that is what you see along the
uphill section of the Appalachian Trail.  It
looks like a yard  sale. What is not seen are
matches, small knifes, water filters, light
weight tarps, and freeze dried foods, and other
things that are either essential or are both
light weight and have multiple uses.

Consider using a shopping cart, if any are left,
or pulling a child's wagon. Are you in shape to
do that? How do you know? Put on that pack and
give it a test.

Misconception Number Four:  Roving criminal hordes
will come from the city to your Bug Out Location

Wrong. Criminals, are lazy.  And many are on drugs.
Yes, a few will have a specific refuge in mind,
the uncle with the farm, but most will not leave
their familiar comfortable environment.

A few criminals do stay in shape. Some walk every
where, because the don't have cars. Others are
"Power pile" weight lifters, especially ones who
have recently got out of prison. But, do they
travel far from home? I doubt it.

Even if they have a vehicle, it is likely to be
low on fuel, particularly these days.  They will
burn up what little fuel they have driving around
their usual haunts, to the liquor and drug stores,
then to the convenience or grocery store like they
did before the event until their tank is empty.

Many travel by city bus, and the city bus service
will probably be shut down.

There will be rare exceptions. Some will turn
into roving gangs, similar to the African war lords
with jeeps and AK-47s.

When booze, junk food, and the aid from gov't
response is exhausted they will repeatedly call
their social worker, and DEMAND more aid. They
may take to protests in the streets, demanding
welfare aid.

Burning and looting will increase until they get
the welfare aid "owed" to them. Or until there
is nothing left to burn or steal.  When food and
clean bedding all run out they are not likely to
walk out of town any more then than before. They
are weaker, hungry, going through DT and nic fits,
and as out of shape as most of us. Some travel by
walking (those too poor to have a car). Most travel
by bus, cab, and vehicle.  They have rarely walked
any distance at all in their adult lives and are
unlikely to start now.

The biggest reason, they are brainwashed, to wait
for rescue and will stay in town. They are
conditioned that it is somebody else's respons-
ibility to take care of them. You are not going to
see welfare bums at your BOL. If they move at all,
they will head for another urban area rumored to
be better, particularly, if they are being trucked
there by the National Guard or government.

(Another reader comments: Think about what is taking
place in many Third World countries like Somalia. You
see local warlords carving out a territory and trying
to expand it constantly. You see pirate groups
organizing to prey on shipping etc. I think that
relatively early in time roving criminals and criminal
gangs will be a problem, I would say within non more
than a month after the government is sufficiently
disorganized. Another fact that supports this is the
observation that the more unemployment rises the more
the crime against property rises.  There is already a
core of criminals who are organized and will naturally
become roving predatory gangs, street gangs, outlaw
bikers to name just two.

Misconception Number Five: You can live off the land.

Wrong. There are thousands of people who will
suddenly decide to blow the dust off Grandpa
Elmer's old rifle, and take to the woods. Any
animals will be quickly consumed, from deer down
to the neighbor's dog and cat, just after they
eat the pet food. If you do manage to hunt a deer,
the other hungry hunters may try to take it from
you. Remember, they are armed with rifles.  Ditto
for fire wood. The USA is overpopulated and thus
soon stripped of everything nearby.

The heirloom seeds you have will be priceless
and stored food more so. You would be wise to have
some gardening tools, and hand tools at home. So
you can grow food, and repair or rebuild your home.

When the people in the woods run out of food, many
will turn into highwaymen, looters, and sneak thieves
who prey on other woods dwellers. The marijuana
farmers, and border criminals will have plenty of
practice sneaking around, and plenty of skills of
preying on the honest.

Misconception Number Six:  You can defend
your castle.

Wrong. You have to sleep some time. City people
will become land pirates. If you have food then
you are a potential victim. You need to stay out
of sight, and keep your supplies secret. The
fight you avoid, is the fight you win.

It may be possible to defend your castle, if
you have enough people to take shifts of watch and
Misconception Number Seven: Your assault weapon
and 1,000 rounds of ammo are your most important

Wrong. other things will prove to be more
important, such as a water well, water filter,
or home storage of food and water.

Misconception Number Eight: The government is
here to help.

Wrong. The authorities will have their own agenda
which will not be the same as yours. Even if the
government "just wants to help", that help could
destroy your plan. You want to stay home. The
squad of guys with M-16 rifles who just arrived
have orders to search all houses and confiscate
guns, and then load everyone onto trucks to go to
refugee camps. The government is not your friend.
Sadly, they have organization, the force of law
(or at least they think they are acting legally)
and they usually have a lot of guns.

For some people, Crisis changes how we handle
matters. There is a rapid learning phase. Plan
on doing things you have never done and plan on
other people having a totally different agenda
than yours.

First example, you plan to grow crops. But as
soon as there are tender greens, others agenda
is to eat everything green and tender.

Second example, you plan to stay home, stay out
of sight with your stored food and water. Your
neighbors agenda is to go from house to house,
and steal anything of value.

Third example. You plan to stay home, but the
government armed thugs agenda is to load every
one on trucks and take every one to refugee
camps. The government armed thugs agenda is to
confiscate anything of value and redistribute
it to those who did not prepare.