Chimney Inspection: Midyear Self Inspection
An annual chimney inspection is important to ensure proper safety. While these inspections will highlight your biggest problems areas, damage and fire hazards can show up throughout the year. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on these important problem areas throughout the year. If any signs of damage appear, contact your chimney professional for a midyear inspection.
The masonry should be free of excessive cracks and should look sturdy. Cracks and improper sealing can allow for water and ice damage, which will ruin the structural integrity of your chimney.
Poured-in-place or clay tile flues should be free of cracks, chips and improper sealing. A metal liner should be free of rust spots. Even small cracks or patches of rust should be looked at by a professional. These problems can allow combustive gases and sparks into your home.
Creosote and soot deposits should be monitored, as an accumulation of these can lead to chimney fires. Additionally, if you have an old home, inspect how such things as your dryer are vented. If dryers are vented into the bottom of the flue, it is easy for the vent to be blocked by falling debris. Blocked vents are a huge fire hazard.
Missing or damaged chimney caps will need replaced or repaired by a licensed professional. Chimney caps protect your flue from water damage while preventing sparks from landing on your roof or yard. A missing chimney cap is a significant fire hazard.
Metal flashing around your chimney should not be loose or covered in excessive tar or caulking. Loose flashing allows for water damage, whereas an excessive amount of tar or caulking could be a sign of previous water damage. If you notice either of these problems midyear, but haven’t talked to your chimney inspector about it, give them a call and see if they investigated it during their annual inspection. Water damage to your chimney is costly, and can be a fire hazard.
Ensure that cleanout doors are present and working properly. They should easily open and close. Missing or malfunctioning cleanout doors need replaced. Dampers should be free of rust damage, and easily moved.
Vents from previously used equipment such as woodstoves should be securely blocked off if no longer in use.
While looking over your chimney, there are some aspects that will be difficult for you to fully gauge. One of the most important aspects of a properly functioning chimney is the draft. With a weak draft, the combustible gases, creosote, soot and smoke do not leave the chimney easily. Sometimes, these fire byproducts are pushed back into the home. When your chimney is full of smoke and creosote, this might be unpleasant, but if you have an accumulation of carbon monoxide in your home, this problem could be deadly.
If smoke downdrafts into your home, ensure your chimney and fireplace have no missing pieces and that the chimney is not blocked by debris or creosote. If no cause of the downdraft can be found, contact a professional to inspect your chimney’s draft. If problems are present, they will be able to suggest ways to increase the draft.
This basic overview of problem areas in your chimney is meant to help you maintain a safe fireplace and chimney in between annual inspections. It is not exhaustive enough to cover all the potential problems that could occur throughout the year. If you find any of the above problems, or come across something not mentioned here, please contact a trusted professional to ensure your home is a safe, healthy place for you and your family.