Chimney care

October 3, 2014

Chimney Tips to Keep Your Family Warm—And Safe

Chimney Tips to Keep Your Family Warm—And Safe

Fall chimney maintenance and proper cleaning are key steps to keeping your family safe and warm as the temperatures drop. Neglected chimneys accumulate creosote, a combustible byproduct of charred wood, along their walls. Add to that a high internal flue temperature and you’ve got a potentially dangerous chimney fire on your hands.

The best way to avoid a house fire caused by the fireplace or chimney is to hire a professional chimney sweep to inspect for cracks and loose bricks. He’ll also clean your chimney. Chimney inspections are typically broken down into three categories.


Level 1 is a standard, annual inspection for chimneys that have no major changes to investigate. The chimney inspector will examine the interior and exterior, as well as the chimney connection. The general soundness of the chimney will be examined, and any obstructions will be noted.

Level 2 is an inspection that follows a change in fuel type or changes to the shape or materials in the flue.

Level 3 is rare. These inspections are conducted when a hazard is suspected. Typically, part of the building or chimney is removed to examine the chimney thoroughly.

Once your chimney gets the all-clear, you should follow some basic safety tactics when it comes to your chimney and the vicinity of the fireplace or woodstove:

• Keep the area in front of the fireplace clear of paper and debris. It can be tempting during the holidays to place decorations close to the fireplace, but keep them at a safe distance.
• If your fireplace doesn’t have a glass door, use a wire mesh screen.
• Use seasoned hardwoods that have been split for six months to a year. “Green” wood creates more creosote. Don’t burn your Christmas tree (pine creates more creosote) or be tempted to throw wrapping paper, boxes, or trash into the fireplace.
• Keep the area near the chimney clear. If you have trees that hang over the house near the chimney, make sure branches and leaves are at least 15 feet away.
• Cap your chimney. A top that has wire mesh along the sides will keep out rain and snow, birds, and other critters that might be running around on the roof.
• Think small. If you try to burn too much wood, the chimney can crack and you run the risk of creosote build-up. Burn wood on a grate placed near the back of the fireplace.

Like fire, carbon monoxide can be a deadly threat. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, invisible toxic gas that kills about 400 people per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and sickens many more.

While carbon monoxide poisoning can result from poorly functioning home appliances and heating systems, it can also come from poorly maintained chimneys. The chimney and chimney connector serve as a furnace’s exhaust system. If debris is blocking the chimney, carbon monoxide can accumulate inside the house.

Perhaps the most important rule of all when it comes to fall chimney maintenance is to install and maintain smoke and carbon monoxide detectors inside and outside of bedrooms. Replace the batteries each season and test the detectors regularly. If the detector is more than 10 years old, replace it.

Dawson Michele (2013 October 17) Chimney Tips to Keep Your Family Warm—And Safe. Retrieved on September 5, 2014 from

January 27, 2014

All You Need To Know About Chimneys

Taking care of chimneys is very important to keep a fireplace burning brightly and cleanly. With an educated eye and regular cleanings, homeowners can avoid the risk of expensive damage from water, animals or fire.

The top of a chimney is covered with a metal chimney cap. The cap keeps out animals and protects the chimney from the weather. The chimney chase is the part of the chimney that shows above the roof. The inside of the chimney, called the chimney flue, is open space, allowing smoke to flow out. The metal lining helps prevent fires.

The damper is a mechanism inside the entrance of the chimney that opens and closes, controlling the flow of smoke. The fireplace faces the inside of the house. It has a mantel, a face made of brick underneath, and a metal plate called a lintel that supports the face and the mantel bricks. The outer hearth and inner hearth form the “floor” of the firebox, where fires are built when the fireplace is in use. The inside of the firebox is made of fireproof brick. Some fireplaces have an ash pit underneath to collect ashes. The ash pit is usually accessible for cleaning from the outside of the house.

Regular chimney cleaning can prevent most fire hazards. Cleaning is recommended at least once every two years. Fires deposit creosote, a flammable black or brown tar, and soot inside the chimney that must be removed by professional chimney sweeps. Creosote is one of the biggest contributors to home fires involving a chimney or fireplace.

Homeowners can make a visual inspection of the outside of the chimney, the area around the chimney in the attic and inside the house to determine if there is visible structural, animal or water damage. Signs of problems include: cracks in the mortar, water stains, leaning of the chimney or house and peeling paint or wallpaper around the chimney.

When a chimney specialist finishes cleaning the chimney, they will examine the interior with a camera to determine if there is damage. These inspections are vital to make sure there are no gaps where fire can enter or animals living in the chimney.

Chimney repair should be an easy process, but to avoid scams always make sure the chimney specialist is certified. Be sure that they can provide real photographic evidence of the problem and explain the repairs needed. Always get multiple estimates on any repairs being considered. Taking these steps should keep the chimney clean and working optimally for many years.

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