Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Your Chimney…

Fireplace

When was the last time you had a professional look at your chimney or fireplace?

Blocked chimneys can cause chimney fires or carbon monoxide to build up in your home – so it’s not one of those maintenance tasks that you should put to the bottom of the to-do list and subsequently forget about.

The experts say that chimneys should be cleaned at least once a year but I’m willing to bet that for a lot of us it’s been a while since ours had a check-up – if ever, for others.

In our Autumn Home Maintenance Checklist we mentioned the importance of having a professional chimneysweep maintain your chimney and fireplace. Now that winter has reared it’s ugly head and our fireplaces are getting a good workout, let’s take a closer look at what needs to be done.

Chimney experts Complete Chimney Care answer our burning questions (sorry)…

Why do I need my chimney cleaned?

The chimney flue is essentially a household exhaust pipe – funneling away soot, hot ashes, smoke and gases from your home. An annual inspection and clean should be done at least once a year to check for cracks, holes or faults and to remove soot, creosote, birds nests and other blockages.
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Will my house insurance cover chimney fires?

Most insurance companies won’t pay out on claims caused by chimney fires unless the chimney has been swept by a professional chimneysweep and been inspected on an annual basis.

My fire is not drawing properly…

This is usually the result of a cold or obstructed flue or insufficient height relative to the ridge of the roof or an adjacent building. Large unnecessary voids at the base of your chimney may also stop the fire drawing properly. Or if you have double glazing or very efficient draught excluders around doors, it may prevent an adequate flow of air for the fire to work correctly.

My fire creates excessive soot…

This can be the result of a lazy and inefficient flue. Your flue may not be the right diameter for the fire or stove, or it may not be properly insulated, meaning fumes do not rise fast enough and soot deposits are created. Excessive soot and tar can be a real fire hazard, particularly if the chimney structure has deteriorated.

I’ve got mortar falling into my fireplace…

Bits of brick or mortar falling down the flue indicate a serious deterioration in the chimney structure. This deterioration normally occurs from the inside of the flue but it might also indicate weakness on the outside of the chimney.

My chimney breast feels hot…

This means that the chimney has deteriorated and may be dangerous. If stains also appear on the chimney breast this is a sign that tar or acids have condensed and are eating into the chimney mortar and brickwork.

I want my chimney removed. Should I do it myself?

Removing chimneys is dangerous work, so the simple answer is no.  A small chimney can weigh around half a tonne, whilst bigger ones can weigh up to eight tonnes. Chimneys built before 1900 are made with lime mortar much of which has now degraded to dust.  Weight is the only thing holding them together. Brick structures are expected to last for 50 years so any buildings older than the 1960’s should be inspected by a professional to make sure they’re safe.

Have you had any problems with your chimney? Did you know the importance of annual checkups or the dangers of a blocked chimney?
Let us know in the comments below or on our NZ and AU Facebook pages.
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How To Keep Your Home Pest-Free

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Are pesky pests bugging you and your family? Then read on to help banish any creepy critters from your home!

Pest control agency Rentokil helps rid frustrated homeowners of everything from crawling insects and flying pests to rats and mice.

We had a chat with expert bug eradicator Jon Thompson (AKA Rentokil’s Head of Operations) about why bed bugs are invading more and more homes and why it’s ok to step on a cockroach – in fact, he outright encourages you to do so.

What advice can you give to help keep pests at bay?

  • Keep a clean, dry, well-ventilated house.
  • Be vigilant for early signs of pests.
  • Have well-sealed doors and windows.
  • Carefully cover grass clippings and compost.
  • Dispose of pet droppings regularly.
  • Get a reputable pest control company with qualified staff in should you need the extra help.

Describe the worst pest problem you’ve ever had to deal with…

A home in a rural town where I had to move my service vehicle from their driveway onto the street after I started to spray – the cockroaches were streaming out the door towards it!

Sadly, there were dozens of cockroaches in the bedding in the babies cot. It was a nice feeling to be able to remedy this situation.

rat kitchenRats and mice are winter’s biggest pest issue.

What’s the biggest problem during winter?

Rats and mice – they enter homes at the onset of cooler, wetter weather to seek shelter and warmth.

Insulated walls and ceiling voids provide ideal harbourage for them and it is extremely difficult to rodent proof a house – mice can enter a hole the size that a pencil can fit into!

Are there going to be any particularly bad pest problems for people this year?

Warmer summers always produce greater numbers of flies, fleas and ants – the past summer was no exception.

What are the hardest pests to get rid of?

1. Flies – because you basically can’t get rid of them! – they will always be with us!

2. Bed bugs – because of their ability to lay ‘dormant’ for longs periods of time and withstand harsh conditions.

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Flies are the toughest pests to banish.

Are there any pests that you’re seeing more and more of?

Bed bugs have proliferated over the past decade or so – this is generally attributed to increased tourism and budget travel. Bed bugs are great hitch-hikers and can survive up to a year without a blood meal.

What pests bother people the most?

Probably flies and mosquitoes. The best way to manage their annoyance is to physically exclude them – which is often hard to do.

Are there any misconceptions about pests that you’d like to clear up?

There is a common misconception that if you stand on a cockroach you can spread the problem – not so! – step away!!


Any pests driving you up the wall? Have you got some good solutions for keeping them at bay? Let us know in the comments below or on our NZ and AU Facebook page.

7 Tricks To Sell Your Home This Winter

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Selling your house this winter?

We all know the old adage that spring is the best time to put your property on the market, but in the real world that’s not always possible.

Here are seven simple tricks to get your property looking its best when the weather’s at its worst.


1. Wash down the outside of your home

1457744_851298364904018_111069934829042365_nMake the outside of your home gleam like this house.

Kick mould, grime and moss to the kerb and give it an easy and cheap facelift.


2. Let there be light!

Turn on any outdoor lights to brighten up your property and make the house look inviting from the driveway.

If the outside is still looking a bit dull, then adding some extra solar-powered lights to line pathways and brighten up other features can be a quick fix.


3. Cut back any trees, bushes and shrubs that are stealing light from your home

c4ff839328928e41ca402471abca824ebd63f369There’s no shortage of light in this Wellington home – but check if any trees or shrubs are blocking light from any rooms in your house.

During winter you really need to try to get as much natural light into your house as possible. If there are any dark rooms or spaces, it might only take a few minutes with the secateurs to allow more light to flood in.


4. Show off outside spaces

Demonstrate how the outdoors – whether it’s the garden, deck, courtyard or porch – can be used in summer and during colder months.

This might mean uncovering outside furniture and showing off features like built-in barbecues, pizza ovens, pools and ponds for open homes and viewings.

It doesn’t matter if you’re not using these spaces yourself at the moment – it just allows buyers to get a better picture of the property and start to imagine living there.


5. Make sure your home is warm

A warm house projects a cosy, homely feel for prospective buyers as soon as they step in the front door.

Get the fireplace or wood-burner roaring or crank up the heaters before buyers are due for a viewing. Now is not the time to try to save on power bills – no one wants to look around a freezing cold house, let alone live in one.


6. Clear ALL paths of fallen leaves or snow

Don’t just clear the main path and driveway. If your property has pathways leading around the garden then you should be showing them off. A quick sweep of these, along with the deck and any steps, is paramount.


7. Spruce up neglected flowerbeds and pots

11069486_610429452390899_7838415046546435704_nTake some inspiration from this home and plant up the outside of your property with shrubs that will last through winter.

Add a few winter-flowering or evergreen plants to forgotten flowerbeds and plant pots. Even if you’re not the most green-fingered of homeowners – you only really need to keep them alive until you make that sale…


Have you got any other tips to help your house sell in winter? Share them with us in the comments below or on our Facebook pages in New Zealand and Australia.

Autumn Home Maintenance Checklist

 

Winter is coming.

Game of Thrones fans rejoice – this means the HBO show will soon be back on our screens.

But for everyone else, autumn just signals the beginning of grey, chilly days.

To distract yourself from the impending winter blues, we have compiled a to-do list of all the things to tackle around your home before a cold snap strikes.

 

1. Check your roof

Look out for any cracks, loose or missing shingles, rust – it’s better to spot these early to avoid any serious damage to your home. Call in an expert to give it the once-over and make any necessary repairs.


2. Clean your chimney

Who else just runs their wood-burner or fireplace mercilessly for a few months, forgets about it for the rest of the year, and then fires it up again next winter without a second thought? Well apparently we should be taking more care. Chimneys should be cleaned at least once a year to check for cracks, holes or faults and to remove soot, creosote, birds nests and other blockages. Book yours in for a check-up with a chimney sweep!


3. Check for draughts

Blocking draughts is a cheap and effective way to keep your home warm during winter. Check all doors and windows and install draught excluders or use draught “snakes”. You can make your own by stuffing rugby socks or tights with newspaper or cushion filling.


4. Clean up outside furniture and BBQs

Before you store them away or cover them up, it’s a good idea to give them a clean! I know it’s tempting just to shove a cover over them and think you’ll deal with it next summer, but you’ll thank me when you’re not trying to scrape off year-old grease during that first warm weekend.


5. Clean out and repair gutters

Clean out your gutters to remove, leaves and other gunk that ends up there and make sure they’re not sagging or trapping water. If they look like they’re in need of repair – get it done early before winter hits!


6. Trim trees and remove dead branches

Do you have any trees on your property with branches that look like they’re on their last legs? Get an expert in to remove them ahead of nasty weather so those branches don’t end up doing any damage. Trim back trees or bushes so that nothing is touching the house.


7. Check your smoke alarms

While you’re at it, test and change the batteries in your smoke alarms.