How to Properly Clean Out a Fireplace in Your Piedmont Home

A nice fire going in a home fireplace.

Curling up in front of a wood burning fireplace is one way to stay cozy when the weather turns cold in the Piedmont Triad. If you are lucky enough to own a wood burning fireplace, you know that the comfort and warmth it provides requires a bit of maintenance from time to time. The National Fire Protection Association recommends both your chimney and fireplace be inspected for safety and cleaned annually. Creosote, which is an oily wood-tar by-product that can cling to chimney walls, can cause fires to flare out of control. If you are searching for a potential new property in the Piedmont Triad, be sure to ask for details about recent chimney inspections and cleanings. 

In addition to the annual heavy duty cleaning of the chimney, you will want to regularly clean out your fireplace to keep it looking tidy and keep it burning cleanly. These steps can take it from filthy to flawless!

  1. Wait at least 12 hours after your last fire before attempting to clean a fireplace in order to give all of the ashes and embers a chance to fully cool down.
  2. Wear old clothes or an apron because this can be a messy task. Also, it is a good idea to put on gloves, a face mask, and protective eyewear to keep the soot from irritating your lungs and skin.
  3. Lay a plastic tarp or old sheet in front of the fireplace to catch the mess.
  4. Using a handheld broom, sweep any soot and ash from the floor and walls of your fireplace and collect it into a dustpan. Dump the ash into a heavy duty paper or plastic bag as you work. Do this gently to keep as much dust as possible from flying around. Pro tip: Sprinkle a handful of used coffee grounds on the ashes to minimize flyaways.
  5. For good measure, you may want to vacuum the area to catch any remaining dust. But don’t forget to clean the vacuum brush attachment afterwards – you don’t want to spread soot around the rest of your home!
  6. Now it is time to scrub! Water and hearth cleaner work well for the brick and iron parts of your fireplace. But if you have brick front or facing that’s more than 50 years old, just use water with a light scouring. Old brick is more susceptible to crumbling. For marble and stone, scrub with water and dishwashing detergent. Use old rags to wipe each area after scrubbing.
  7. If you fireplace features glass doors, they can be cleaned with a 50-50 solution of water and vinegar. You can also put the discarded ashes to good use by sprinkling some onto the towel to act as a light, natural abrasive.

Once everything is clean and back in its place, you will need to decide what to do with your ashes. If you would prefer a professional clean your chimney, make sure they are a certified specialist before hiring them. You can find a certified chimney sweep technician near you by visiting the Chimney Safety Institute of America’s website and search for a pro today, as well as get other helpful tips.

If you’re looking for a place to dispose of your ashes and your Piedmont Triad home has a garden, we recommend spreading them there. Ashes are a great source of calcium, potassium, and other nutrients for plants and they also repel some garden pests! If you are making plans on moving to a home in the Piedmont Triad area that has a nice fireplace to curl up by, then give Zippy Shell of the Piedmont Triad a call! We would love to make you moving and storage needs simple!

Prevent Frozen Pipe Problems this Winter with These 7 Tips

Kitchen faucet running in a home

One of the most important things you can do as a homeowner is to winterize your pipes to prevent them from freezing. When water freezes in pipes, volume expands and puts pressure on pipes from the inside. The result of this pressure will cause the pipes to crack or rupture entirely, causing expensive damage to your home.

Here are 7 tips to help you avoid a frozen pipe issue this winter.

  1. Pipe Insulation: Pipes located in unheated areas such as garages, attics and crawl spaces need insulation. Pipe insulation can be found at most home improvement stores for very little cost. It comes in long strips that can be cut to size with a utility knife. You can also consider heat tape for a few dollars more.
  2. Seal Cracks: Look for cracks or openings that might let cold air in on pipes that run from inside to outside the home (i.e. dryer vents, water pipes). Seal these cracks or openings with caulk.
  3. Outdoor Spigots: Turn off the outside water supply, disconnect garden hoses from spigots, and drain any water from the pipes. For optimum protection, purchase an inexpensive insulated faucet cover to be placed around each outdoor spigot.
  4. Garage: If water supply lines are in the garage, be sure and keep the doors closed. If you park your vehicle in the garage, minimize the length of time the garage doors are open to help keep water supply lines warmer.
  5. Kitchen & Bathroom: Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the pipes.
  6. Faucets: Let your faucets drip to keep water moving through the water system. This will reduce the water pressure and help prevent frozen pipes. If a pipe does freeze, it is less likely to rupture due to the lower water pressure.
  7. Vacation: Prevent frozen pipes by setting your thermostat to 60 degrees or above while away on vacation. Ask a neighbor to check inside and outside your home to ensure your pipes have not frozen and ruptured.

Although you can’t wrap your house in bubble wrap, these preventative measures can help you prevent a costly disaster this winter. If you discover frozen pipes, call a professional plumber immediately. The team at Zippy Shell hopes you don’t encounter a frozen pipe disaster, but if you need to store your belongings, consider Zippy Shell for any short or long-term storage needs you might have!

How to Boost Your Curb Appeal During the Winter

Winter can be tough on your home, but that’s not an excuse to let your curb appeal go. There are some quick things you can do in the Winter to keep your home looking great all season long. Here are our favorite tips and tricks to boosting your curb appeal in the Winter.

Fresh paint

Stay up to date with the exterior of your home. Repaint your front door, as well as your shutters when necessary to give your home a fresh new look. Choose a nice color to make your home stand out in the darkness of winter.

Keep Snow Cleared

Keep your sidewalks, driveway, and front porch clear from snow to prevent any damage to the pavers underneath and accidents that could cause injury. Clearing the snow off will help keep your walkways and driveway looking their best.

Clean up Debris

Clear out all of the leaves from your gutters that have accumulated from the fall, and additionally, always make sure there is no debris in your yard, such as leaves or fallen branches. Clean gutters will stop water from overflowing the gutters and running down the side of your house spreading dirt and mud all over the exterior of your home.

Feed the birds

Install a bird feeder in your front yard; any size will do. Attracting birds to your yard will make your yard a more inviting place.

Illuminate your home with a warm glow

The winter cold can give a harsh white color to the world. Make sure the lights in your front yard are a soft yellow color to give your home a warm appearance.

Add some greenery

Although it is hard for most plants to thrive in the winter weather, adding just a little bit of life to your front yard will make your home look less lifeless. Add something like a mini pine tree that can withstand the cold.

Once your home has been purchased, have Zippy Shell help you safely move your items to your new home. Get a quote here today!

How to Prepare for Winter

As winter is beginning it is important to make sure you are prepared to weather the storm.

Insurance

First and foremost, make sure your home is insured, that way if you happen to have a home emergency involving a plumbing leak or a roof caving in from snow, you will not have an immense cost to worry about. It is also important to make sure your car is insured as well to avoid any damages caused by icy or snowy roads.

Thermostat

Slowly lower your thermostat during the day, and night as well, to prevent your wallet from taking a beating in the cold winter months. Bringing the temperature down by one degree a week can make a huge difference. If this is too difficult you can always layer up to make the adjustment easier.

Prep your car

Your car will go through a lot during winter weather. To make your drive more pleasant, throw an extra blanket and sweatshirt in your car for the drive while your car is still heating up. Make sure you also have a little shovel, salt, and window scrappers to avoid any problems resulting from snow.

Stock up

Stock your house with extra food and water in case you happen to get snowed in for an extended period of time. Keep extra shovels and snow salt in your garage to avoid having your car snowed in and having no way of getting out onto the road. Make sure you also have extra firewood if you have a wood fireplace, or have an extra gas insert if you have a gas fireplace. Candles, flashlights, and batteries should be easily accessible in case of a power outage.

Visit your doctor

Get an annual check-up to make sure you are healthy going into the cold winter season. Get a flu shot to avoid being bedridden for up to a week. Always remember to wash your hands and avoid sharing food or drinks with sick people. Check that your prescriptions are up to date as well.

Six Ways To Make Your Home Sparkle During The Holidays

Do you ever feel like the holidays become too busy to even really enjoy them? Sometimes it is easy to get so consumed with the chaos of the holidays that we forget about the things that truly matter. The holidays should be about spending time with the people we love most. A big part of this is having friends and family over to enjoy food, fun, and festivities! Here are six simple and creative ways to make your home more inviting this holiday season. There are definitely more where these came from but hopefully these few will create some inspiration for your holidays!
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How to Sell Your Home During the Holidays

Just because you are selling your home during the holidays doesn’t mean you need to completely change the way you celebrate. While you will have to make some changes, it doesn’t have to be anything that destroys the holiday for you and your family! This time of year can sometimes be stressful enough without worrying about open houses and whether home buyers are going to appreciate your holiday décor!
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Fun Fall Activities To Get Involved In This Year

Leaves have changed color and the weather is getting cooler. Fall has officially arrived and it is time for us to embrace this perfect weather. The colorful leaves and crisp air give fall a beauty unlike any other season. With fall comes opportunity for so many fun activities outside. Here are some of our favorite activities for this year’s fall season!
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