Now that winter is safely over, it’s a good time to think about your chimney. You’ve probably been enjoying cozy fires during the cold months, but every chimney needs maintenance in order to prevent fire, carbon monoxide, and other risks. In order to stay on top of things, it’s useful to know about some of the most common chimney issues to look out for.
It’s common for a chimney to be blocked, and there are a lot of different ways it can happen. Anything from leaves and debris to animal nests can find their way into a chimney (not to mention creosote, which we’ll mention next). That’s with the National Fire Protection Association has set forth a recommendation for annual chimney inspections. This is how blockages are found and cleared before they become a real problem.
This is a fancy word for the tar (whether brown or black) that gets released when wood is burned in a fireplace. Creosote is sometimes said to be distinct from soot, which is actually a powder made of carbon that rises up with smoke. However, when chimney specialists talk about creosote, they’re usually talking about a combination of soot and creosote.
This is an especially dangerous blockages, for the simple reason that creosote is highly flammable. The number of chimney fires caused by creosote every year is in the thousands, and most of these fires would be easily preventable with annual cleanings.
Another danger of creosote (in addition to fire) is that it can prevent a chimney from venting properly. When this happens, a dangerous situation can develop in which carbon monoxide enters the home.
- Flaws in the brickwork
Masonry plays a huge part in the quality and performance of a chimney, but when masonry breaks down (whether because of age, bad materials, or poor workmanship) the appearance of moisture can generate serious problems with the mortar. This can lead to blockages and other performance issues that can only be solved by professionally repairing or replacing the damaged brickwork.
- A cracked flue
The flue refers to the interior lining of the chimney, which is usually made of clay or steel. Steel is more durable and a better performer, but also costs more. Clay lining frequently cracks under the stress of the heat, which can expose flammable parts of the home to heat and smoke.
The one thing you should do for your chimney
All of these common issues and risks make one very important point: Chimney maintenance is crucial. The general recommendation is a thorough cleaning and inspection once a year, but if you use your chimney frequently, or if you notice warning signs, you’ll want to get in touch with a reputable specialist sooner rather than later. Make sure you only contact experience and reputable chimney experts who have a proven reputation in the community and years of experience in the field. Chimney maintenance is not expensive or time-consuming – but it is vitally important. Our best advice is to stay on top of your chimney maintenance this year, and every year!