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Basic Chimney Sweep & Repair Blog

Signs You Need a Chimney Inspection

Your fireplace is the focus of family gatherings and a great way to take the chill off during the coldest winter nights.  For many, it is a basic necessity.  It can also be a source of danger to your home and family.  A fireplace that is improperly cared for may start a fire where you don’t want one, namely inside your chimney.  Although you remove them often, ashes indicate energy efficiency, showing that the fire completely consumed the fuel source.  It’s what doesn’t turn into ash that puts your home at risk.  Creosote is nothing more than unburned wood energy that builds up on your chimney’s inner surface.

Preventing Chimney Fires

No one can promise you that you'll never experience a house fire. We can however, minimize potential problems with chimney maintenance.

No one can promise you that you’ll never experience a house fire. We can however, minimize potential problems with chimney maintenance.

According to the NFPA, the second leading cause of house fires is heating equipment, and two out of three heating equipment fires result from heating appliances, which includes fireplaces, chimneys and wood stoves.  Of the fires that start in the chimney or fireplace, most are a direct result of creosote deposits.  Sadly, most are preventable with regular inspections and maintenance.  Prevent your home from becoming part of these statistics by scheduling routine chimney inspections to catch dangerous creosote before it catches you.

Cleaning Your Chimney

Regular chimney cleanings will remove the inevitable buildup of creosote and soot.  Unfortunately, there’s no simple rule of thumb for when to do it.  Don’t rely on the standard advice of having it done once a year or at some other set time.  Clean your chimney when it needs it—when the creosote is thick enough to warrant cleaning.  You’ll never be able to keep your chimney 100% creosote-free, but if left to sit, it will eventually harden into a stubborn glaze that’s even virtually impossible to remove without the proper tools.

Monitoring Your Chimney

Obviously, if you notice smoke flooding into your house, soot covering your furniture, even dark smoke constantly flowing from your chimney, you should suspect creosote issues.  Unfortunately, creosote may not make itself so readily known.  Until you know how much creosote your burning habits creates, check your chimney regularly to monitor the accumulation so you can catch it before it gets out of hand.

Inspecting your chimney is critical to ensuring your house doesn’t join the growing list of house fire statistics.  The chimney is inspected from inside the fireplace and then again from the top of the chimney.  The entire process takes less than an hour or two for even the most cautious and painstaking inspection.  The best course of action is to hire a professional to inspect your chimney prior to the beginning of the heating season and clean or repair as necessary.  The payoff for ensuring that your chimney is in prime working condition is priceless—peace of mind every time you build a fire.

The Science of Combustion

Are you constantly worried about creosote buildup, carbon monoxide poisoning, and house fires? Well, if you know the basics in the combustion process, you wouldn’t have to.

Maximizing the heating potential of your fireplace or heating system can save you energy dollars as well as keep your whole household safe.

Maximizing the heating potential of your fireplace or heating system can save you energy dollars as well as keep your whole household safe.

Creosote Buildup is Dangerous

Creosote is an unavoidable result of fireplace use so, if the fireplace is more than just a decorative feature, creosote will be in the chimney. It can be there in any or all of three forms, or stages, of development, and the sooner it is gone, the better. In addition to being traps for many of those horrible smells that linger in fireplaces, creosote is also extremely corrosive.

Stage 3 Creosote - Baton Rouge LA - Basic Chimney Sweep

Stage 3 Creosote – Image Courtesy of The Mad Hatter Chimney Service in Indianapolis, IN.

Danger in All Three Forms of Creosote

Every time smoke goes up the chimney, it carries what will become creosote with it, which is commonly known as soot. This is the first stage of creosote development, and the easiest for chimney sweeps to deal with. When the fire goes out and the chimney cools, the tars in soot condense on the walls of the flue liner.

Enter stage two, when creosote is a sticky, tar-like, corrosive substance on the chimney walls. This gooey gunk eats away at the flue liner, exposing it to moisture which then completely compromises the chimney’s integrity. The primary danger that creosote poses in spring and summer is the steady corrosion of the flue by the stage two goo dried into porous chunks of gunk.

Stage three unfolds when the gunk solidifies into a hard shiny buildup, known as chimney glaze, which is extremely difficult to remove. Under no circumstances can a fire be lit in a fireplace with stage-three creosote in the chimney, unless you are trying to burn the house down. Indeed, another danger of creosote buildup is a chimney fire, with its loud roar and menacing shake of the structure.

Time to Go

As the seasons change, and we get ready to do our spring cleaning and yard work, it is important to remember to schedule a chimney cleaning and inspection. Not only will our homes smell fresher, but our chimneys will be ready to handle the showers and downpours and steady drumbeats of rain that are coming. With corrosive creosote removed, their dangers are a thing of the past, until the next time the fireplace is used.

By Ronald Caillais on March 6th, 2013 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment
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