A DIY Guide To Cleaning Your Chimney

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Fireplaces bring old charm and cozy warmth to homes. These beautiful additions create a comforting ambiance, but they require a certain level of care—especially the chimney. Cleaning a fireplace is relatively easy, but effectively cleaning your chimney can be a big job.

It’s crucial to stay on top of your chimney’s cleanliness for optimal functioning and to prevent severe fire hazards. To effectively care for your chimney and your home, follow these steps.

Step 1: Determine if You Can DIY

Before you start, you first need to determine if you can clean your chimney without professional help. Chimney cleaning is a tedious task, and it can take professionals anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours to finish the job.

Your goal in chimney cleaning is to rid the chimney shaft of creosote and soot build-up. If the build-up is too large, you need to call a professional to take care of it. However, if you find the build-up is less than 1/8th of an inch deep, you may be able to tackle it on your own. In addition, you’ll need to access your chimney crown, located on your roof, to complete the job. If you’re unable to get to the crown safely, you’ll need to call in a professional to complete the task.

Step 2: Gather the Right Tools

If you determine you can safely access the chimney crown, you’ll need the right tools to get there. These include a ladder, safety harness, safety helmet, and an additional person or persons to supervise. Never attempt to work on your roof without the supervision of another capable individual.

Once on the roof, you’ll need a high-power flashlight, metal bristle brush, and enough rods to handle the height of your chimney. You’ll use these tools to determine the depth of your build-up. Note that each chimney is different, so you’ll need to measure the size of your chimney and its flue to get the right brush size.

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Use your flashlight and a fireplace poker to scratch the smoke chamber and flue to determine the buildup. If the soot has a black matte finish and is 1/8th an inch deep or less, you know you’re okay to clean yourself. If you see a shiny or tar-like appearance or the build-up is more than 1/8th an inch deep, you should call a professional to take on the job.

Step 4: Set Up Your Area

If you are moving ahead with cleaning yourself, your next step is to protect your home’s interior. Lay your canvas tarp over the fireplace and spread it throughout the surrounding room. Secure the tarp over the fireplace opening with tape and insert the shop vac hose through the tarp. Seal everything with duct tape to keep soot from pushing into the room.

After setting up your shop vac outside, connect sections to the hose so it can reach. You’ll run the vacuum while you brush the area, keeping an eye on the filter and replacing or cleaning it when it clogs. Close the windows and doors near your shop vac to prevent any fine soot from reentering your home.

Step 5: Begin Cleaning

Start at your fireplace and ram your cleaning brush up and down several times around the flue section to remove any hardened soot. Use your flashlight to check your work before moving to the next section, ensuring you clean as much soot as possible from the flue area. Once cleared, start your shop vac and move to the roof.

Before cleaning, make sure you are safely equipped with your harness and have supervision from an individual on the ground. Again, you should only clean out your chimney with proper supervision, on a stable rooftop, and with a safety harness and a hard hat. Those without experience working on rooftops should strongly consider hiring a professional.

Once you are secured on the rooftop, add rods to your cleaning brush, moving it down the fireplace till you no longer feel resistance. At this point, you pushed down the soot to the smoke chamber. Climb down from the roof and start to work inside at the firebox. Use a long-handled brush to clean the smoke chamber and a flue brush to remove soot from the smoke shelf. Switch back to the long-handled brush to clean the sides of the firebox.

Vacuum out the firebox and fold up the canvas when you have cleared as much soot and debris as possible. Take the canvas outside and shake out any residue. Fold up the sheets to use again for your next cleaning.

Step 6: Schedule an Inspection

Your fireplace isn’t safe until you’ve scheduled your annual chimney inspection. Even the best DIY job can’t handle creosote build-up, and you need to be sure you didn’t miss any build-up during your cleaning. Have a chimney repair and cleaning professional inspect your chimney once a year to assure you don’t have additional build-up and or repair needs.

9 Tips For Sustainable Living

What do you picture when you think of sustainable living? Maybe it’s dramatic changes like ocean conservation work or switching to wind power. While big efforts are important, sustainable living is an aspect of daily life that can be implemented in small ways. You may be surprised at how small of a change you can make for a real improvement in sustainability, especially when that effort is sustained over time. Here are our nine tips for sustainable living.

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Alt text: A sun setting behind windmills and a grass field

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Tip #1: Turn Off the Light

The average annual electricity consumption for a US household in 2018 averaged over 28 kilowatt-hours per day. A kilowatt-hour is equal to one 100-watt light bulb left on for 10 hours. And we’re averaging more than 28 of those a day in our households! Most of this energy usage comes from lights being left on all day.

Turn off your lights when you leave the room. Conserving the light might mean opening the curtains and letting natural light in. Maybe all you need is a small lamp. We tend to overuse electrical lights unnecessarily.

There are also ways to cultivate sustainability in home decor with your lighting options. What are the materials of your light fixtures made from? Take into consideration how your lights are shipped or provided to you. Sustainable packaging can make all the difference. Sources that prioritize sustainability will help you be sustainable too.

Tip #2: Invest in the Reusable Options

A big part of living sustainably is reusing what you can. We have a lot of daily-use items in our lives that are disposable. But, there are also reusable options available like straws, plates, water bottles, towels, and grocery bags. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your reusable materials, and explore all the new items that are being created every week.

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Alt text: A marble kitchen counter with reusable straws and fresh fruit

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Tip #3: Conserve Your Water

Watching your water usage is an oft-repeated eco-friendly measure, but there might be some specific tips you haven’t considered. We’ve all heard about the importance of taking shorter showers, but have you thought about getting a water-saving showerhead or a shower timer? You may not be aware of how much water you’re using or saving until you start to keep track of it.

Tip #4: Rethink Your Commute

Commuting is a necessity for many people, but you can make your commute a part of your sustainability commitment. If you work close to your home, try walking or biking to work. Taking public transportation is better than taking your vehicle. If you have to drive a car, consider getting an electric one, and carpool as much as possible. If you fly on planes frequently, make sure you find an airline that utilizes zero-waste practices.

Your sustainable commuting routine can also be more basic: take the stairs instead of the elevator. It’s the little things like this that add up.

Tip #5: Dress with the Environment in Mind

A sustainable lifestyle includes supporting sustainable fashion. Sustainable shopping isn’t to be confused with thrift shopping — although getting secondhand clothes is more sustainable than buying new ones. When you decide to buy new clothes, it is better to buy “slow” fashion rather than fast fashion — meaning you choose higher quality items that last longer.

Better quality also often means brands are more environmentally conscious. Plus, in addition to choosing the styles that last longer, you can also make your clothes last longer by doing simple repairs yourself.

Tip #6: Take a Closer Look at Your Bedding

A sustainable life looks at the little details, especially for items you use every day. There are plenty of ways to be more sustainable with your bedding.

You want to choose products from a company that utilizes sustainable practices and uses good materials. Bamboo fabric is beneficial for the environment. Sourcing sustainable fabrics is a great way to institute an eco-friendly lifestyle all across your household.

Tip #7: Ditch the Printer

Today’s world is digital. You don’t need a home printer. If you have to print something, you can seek one out. But not having a printer on hand will save you from printing items you don’t need to print. Practice storing files and information digitally to promote a more sustainable lifestyle.

Tell your bank you want electronic statements. Get receipts emailed instead of printed. Take notes on an electronic device instead of on a pad of paper. Go paperless and then encourage your peers to do the same.

Tip #8: Donate Your Belongings

Just because you’re done with something doesn’t mean no one else can use it. When you donate items you don’t use anymore, you help the environment by keeping them out of the landfill. Donate what doesn’t bring you joy and give it to someone who can reuse those items for a win-win!

Tip #9: Save Gift Bags and Wrappings

This is a small tip, but it can have a big impact. Whenever you get gift bags, save them instead of throwing them away. You can do the same with tissue paper or other wrappings that don’t get ripped or damaged when you open the present. This will not only save you some money but it will help the environment.

Encourage Working Together

Sustainable living works best when everyone makes the same commitments. It doesn’t do much good if you take short 4-minute showers and everyone else still takes long 30-minute showers.

And it won’t matter as much if you are the only one taking public transport to work. If everyone else in the office drives their car separately try to address the opportunity to increase sustainability. Encourage your coworkers to brainstorm together and try to coordinate carpooling times. Together you can make a much larger positive impact by organizing carpool groups.

The possibilities for sustainability are endless. And when you work together to achieve your sustainable living dreams you can make the world a lot better. All it takes are small meaningful changes to make a world of difference.


5 Common Hot Water Heater Problems

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While it isn’t something you may think about on a daily basis, a hot water heater is one of the most valuable appliances in your home, as it supplies your taps and appliances with hot water every single day. However, if you ignore even the small problems with your water heater, you’ll not only end up with freezing cold water but also with expensive cleanup and repair work. By becoming familiar with these hot water heater issues, you’ll be more competent to adequately identify them and take proper actions to solve them. Here are a few of the most common hot water heater problems to help you know what you should do to get them repaired and to get your hot water back.

Not enough hot water

When the water from your tank takes longer than usual to heat up or when no hot water is showing up at all, then there’s certainly a problem, possibly related to your heat source. For electric water heaters, the heating parts could have failed or their electrical connection could have been damaged. When it comes to gas water heaters, the issue may be related to a bad pilot light or malfunctioning gas connection. In case your pilot light is lit but the gas doesn’t flare up, that could be caused by your burner as a whole, which might be in need of repairing. However, if you have a newer heater that has an electronic ignition system, you should examine your breaker box to determine if the circuit of your water heater has been broken. In that case, you should reset it and you’ll be free of problems when it comes to getting your heater to ignite once more.

Leaking water heater

When noticing a decline in the water temperature, there’s a high chance that there may be a leak in your water heater. That’s why it’s essential you discover the origin and cause of the leak in order to fix it. There are several primary causes of leaks such as their age, low maintenance, the tank’s pressure, bad plumbing installation, and loose drain valve, to name a few. A leak can be very evident from pools of water near the appliance, which could be dripping from the unit or from the pipes connected to it. Don’t underestimate the danger of a leaking water heater, as it can lead to a flood. For example, when looking for professionals to help you in Australia, in particular in the outskirts of Sydney, don’t hesitate to search for experts for hot water maintenance in Wollongong to help you with an emergency repair. 

Smelly and dirty water

Water that’s smelly and dirty might indicate there’s some contamination in the water tank. A solution to this problem may be to flush the tank once or twice a year to manage a healthy water heater. On the other hand, if the water has a cloudy color or is dirty, then the most likely cause would be a build-up of sedimentation and mineralization inside the tank. Any build-up inside the tank can reduce its efficiency, so asking a professional would be the best solution. 

Strange noise coming from the water tank

Hearing unusual noises coming from the water tank can be an indicator of different potential issues, and identifying a specific problem may be challenging to do alone. When it comes to gas water heaters, noises like popping, hissing, and banging can either be a clue that the heating elements of the tank are burning sediment on the inside or it can be that the parts themselves are burning out and need to be replaced. In this case, it’s highly suggested to flush the tank.

Damaged gas control or burner assembly

Another common problem with hot water heaters is a damaged gas control or burner. If the burner is dirty or out of function, a water heater cannot operate adequately. In order to solve this problem, you should replace the damaged gas control or burner assembly, which is also known as a thermocouple. If you want to replace the thermocouple on your own, then you first have to turn off the gas and the water to make sure it wouldn’t lead to further damage.

Hopefully, this article has given you some insight into the most common hot water heater problems to help you know what to do and get your water heater to its best condition. 

Tips For Keeping Your Home Healthy

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If you want to keep your home healthy, your top priority should be to keep your home clean. Here are efficient ways you can maintain your home to create a safe and healthy living environment. 

Declutter your Space

So, the first and most important thing you need to do in order to keep your house clean and healthy is to declutter your space. You have to start with bigger stuff to get to the finer cleaning tasks like dusting and vacuuming.

Efficiently done decluttering process will free up a lot of space. Clothes that are lying around for no reason will only make you trip every time you try to walk around. That kind of clutter will only limit your space for movement and it will make you stressed and anxious whenever you look at it.

On top of all of that, having dirty clothes and wet towels lie around just about anywhere is very bad for your health. This kind of clutter creates perfect conditions for bacteria to grow and spread around. So, take your time to properly declutter, do your laundry and maybe go through your wardrobe and see if there are any clothes you no longer wear. You can either donate it or get it recycled. 

Keep the Kitchen Clean

Kitchen should be one of your top priorities. This is the space in which you prepare your food and eat. The last thing you want is to have all sorts of bacteria and infections running around freely where your food is. So, take your time and be very thorough when it comes to cleaning your kitchen.

Firstly, make sure to clean your kitchen sink regularly. Unclog the pipes, switch to new sponges regularly and wash everything off. The kitchen sink can get stinky if you don’t maintain it. Make sure to clean out your fridge every once in a while and don’t forget to clean your stove since stains can dry out and cause a whole mess that is hard to get rid of. 

Don’t Forget the Bathroom

The bathroom is tricky because this is where you take care of your hygiene. It needs to be clean and sanitised. That means to wet towels lying around to collect bacteria. Change your towels regularly and make sure to wipe off any excess water off the surfaces in the bathroom. 

The wet and moist environment is the best for bacteria. That is why you need to take extra care of your bathroom and prevent mould from developing on the walls. Making sure to ventilate or let enough air in is very important.

Let the Fresh Air In

Speaking of which, if you want to live in a healthy environment you need to let some fresh air in. make sure to open your windows in the morning when you wake up and let the fresh breeze inside. The fresh air will help clear your mind and breathe with your whole lungs. It’s good both for your physical and mental health.

Get some Houseplants

Another great way to get some fresh air is to simply get some houseplants for your home. Firstly, they look amazing ad can create a whole new aesthetics in your home. Secondly, they will quite literally bring life into your living space. They will produce more quality air for you and make a better living condition for you and your family. Just make sure to take care of them well. Water them as much as they need and let them sunbathe. 

Take care of Pest Control

In order to prevent infection growth and spread, you need to take care of pest control. If you haven’t already, you need to consult experts and get them to check your home to see if there’s any need for pest control. In case you live in a flat, in a bigger city, chances are that you sometimes might have cockroach outbreaks in the pipes. In that case, getting professional cockroach pest control services is simply a necessity if you want to keep your home clean, safe and healthy.  

Sanitize your Home

This goes together with the previous statement. Keeping your home sanitised will prevent all sorts of bacteria and infections from spreading around. You are also less likely to get any pest-related issues in the apartment if you clean and sanitise everything correctly and thoroughly enough. Just make sure there are no wet spots around the house that will attract the pests.

Use a Doormat

Lastly, if you want to maintain your home and keep it clean with almost zero effort so that you don’t have to vacuum every day, use a doormat at the entrance. It will make sure that most of the dirt, dust, debris and water stay outside; or you can start wearing slippers around the house. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, keeping your house healthy means you have to keep it clean and sanitised. Hopefully these tips were enough to help you organise your cleaning check list. 

Child Proof Cabinets With Zip Ties

Becoming a grand parent brings up some problems around the house. The biggest being that our house is not child proof. Haven’t had to worry about that in many many years. I want our home to be safe when they come for a visit but at the same time they are not here all the time so I don’t want to invest a lot of money or install anything permanent. That’s where I found the best idea. Using a zip tie to tie two handles together. It can keep the babies out of cabinets with breakables or cabinets filled with dangerous chemicals. A simple a cheap fix that can be eliminated when they leave.