As winter gets underway, people across the country are stocking up on firewood for those cold nights – at least those of us who have woodstoves or wood-burning fireplaces. There’s nothing quite like a fire to get cozy and settle in for a dark winter evening. It’s pleasant, warming, even romantic – but let’s get serious. Safety is the biggest issue when it comes to wood-burning fires inside the home. That means always making sure that your wood burning stove or chimney are in good working order. Not doing so can bring formidable risks, including the possibility of a fire hazard. Here are three common oversights to know about – and avoid – in order to keep your chimney working properly.
1. Not scheduling regular cleanings
This is a simple oversight – and a very common one. Annual chimney cleaning is generally recommended for safety and functionality, and the cleanings themselves are both efficient and affordable. But let’s be honest – with all the other tasks involved in maintaining a home, it’s easy enough to forget that annual chimney cleaning. Problems will eventually compound over time if the soot and residue is allowed to carry over year after year. Another key function of the annual chimney cleaning is the safety inspection that comes along with it. Skilled chimney maintenance specialists will be able to identify any problems before they
2. Ignoring a damaged chimney cap or crown
The cap and crown of the chimney are extremely important to its functionality, and when something isn’t right with either of those elements, the chimney can develop further problems. Most homeowners never climb up to inspect the parts of the chimney that stand above the roof – and for good reason. Safety is always a serious issue when climbing around on the roof. But a routine safety inspection from a professional might indicate that certain repairs need to be made in order to preserve the functionality of the chimney over the long term. If quality recommendations are ignored (including a damaged chimney cap or crown), the cost and risk could be greater in the long run.
3. Not addressing damaged mortar
Some parts of the chimney are obviously not exposed, and require special skills and equipment to access. But there are areas of your chimney that can be easily seen and assessed, including the area around the fireplace itself and the exterior of the masonry work on the rooftop. When damaged mortar is found in these areas, ignoring it for a prolonged period of time can compromise the safe performance of your chimney. It can also be sign of damaged materials inside the chimney, which could be seriously problematic.
Find your chimney specialist
As wonderful as an indoor fireplace can be, it comes with a certain level of maintenance – and periodic costs. Fortunately, annual chimney cleanings are a very affordable expense. But it’s something that needs to be done safely and correctly; and that’s where chimney contractors start to differ. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to make sure that any contractor you hire is licensed, insured, and has a strong track record of chimney maintenance in the community. It may be tempting to skip the whole task and decide to do it next year, but staying on top of chimney maintenance ensures that you can enjoy your indoor fireplace safely and effectively, all winter long.