Fireplaces provide millions of American homes with a source of coziness and warmth each year. Even though many homeowners with chimneys don’t give much thought to the chimney, it’s a vital feature that require maintenance and annual checks in order to ensure safety and function.
Chimneys are more complex than they seem — but understanding how they work will lead to better care and maintenance habits. This will help keep you and your family safe — and will ensure the best functionality for your fireplace.
What is inside my chimney?
A chimney allows oxygen to reach the flames of the fire while letting the heat escape out. The space right above the flame is called the throat, which then leads up into the smoke chamber. The throat and smoke chamber are separated by the damper, which is closed when the chimney is not being used. Above the smoke chamber is the flue, which serves to keep the smoke out of the room. This truly is a design that has been refined over the course of centuries.
What do chimney specialists check each year?
It’s a well-known fact that when chimneys are not being used, animals like to build nests in them. When nests and other debris builds up, air is prevented from properly venting. Checking for debris and nests is one of the crucial functions of having your chimney looked over and assessed by a professional at least once a year. Not only should the offending material be cleaned out, but underlying structure issues should be addressed to prevent the problem from recurring in the future.
Other things a professional chimney specialist will look over include rusted dampers, cracks, deterioration, and problems with the masonry work itself. A good professional knows all of the common problems — as well as the not-so-common ones.
What could happen if I ignore chimney maintenance?
The top two reasons that you should have your chimney professionally maintained once a year are 1) preventing chimney fires and 2) preventing carbon monoxide from leaking into your home. If flaws such as cracks and holes are preventing proper airflow, you might not be aware of the problem until it’s too late. Creosote is the buildup left by the smoke residue on the inside of the chimney. It’s very flammable and is one of the leading causes for chimney fires. Proper chimney liners and chimney caps help to prevent fires from occurring, but the removal of this residue is essential. Reasons like these are why you should schedule a professional to come out annually and perform a thorough check (and tackle any necessary cleaning/repair work).
Avoiding serious problems
If many years pass between inspections, your chances for serious problems rise greatly. It’s also worth noting that the longer your wait to call for routine chimney inspections and maintenance, the more it’s likely to cost you when those problems can no longer be ignored.
Your chimney is an asset to your home, but it’s easy to forget about it. Annual checks are affordable and simple, and represent a good investment in the long-term safety and security of your home.