The safest fireplaces and chimneys are those that receive regular cleaning, repair and maintenance by certified technicians. If this service is neglected, it won’t take long for your chimney to experience a dangerous buildup of creosote and soot. Smoke-drafting obstructions, a common problem if you use your chimney without a chimney cap, also can lead to dangerous operating conditions.
Here are the primary reasons regular chimney sweep services are so important.
First, can you do the job yourself?
Some homeowners think they can clean their own chimneys, but rarely is this the case. Professional chimney sweeps have special tools like rotating brushes, hand brushes, vacuums, scrapers and powerful cleaning solvents that work together to rid your flue of flammable creosote and soot. It’s unlikely the average homeowner has this equipment or the skill and training to use it.
Creosote is a byproduct of smoke and may appear as a flakey, sticky or solid substance. It’s the cause of the majority of chimney fires in the U.S. each year. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends annual chimney sweeping for chimneys connected to wood-burning appliances, because even less than an inch of this compound is enough to start a potentially fatal chimney fire.
Signs of a chimney fire
Not all chimney fires are obvious. Some are small and extinguish on their own. But even small fires can damage the chimney liner and the interior masonry, which leaves combustible materials of your home vulnerable.
Common signs of a chimney fire include:
- An unusually large amount of smoke pouring from the top of the chimney or flowing into the room
- A ticking or tapping sound
- The sound of rumbling, like a distant train
Removal of obstructions
In addition to removing creosote, chimney sweeps also remove obstructions in the flue caused by an accumulation of leaves, twigs, small-animal nests and the like. These obstructions will make smoke draft improperly and back up into the home, carrying with it deadly carbon monoxide.
You can keep all debris out of your flue by having a quality chimney cap installed. Chimney caps cover the flue opening to prevent water intrusion (and subsequent water damage), and the sides are made of a material that allows smoke to move through them while keeping outside junk outside where it belongs.
What you can do to ensure the safety of your chimney
Where creosote is concerned, the less smoke your fireplace produces, the less creosote buildup you’ll have to deal with. Here’s how to create less smoke:
- Burn only dry (seasoned) wood
- Don’t stack logs tightly together – they need space to gather oxygen
- Ensure sufficient air within the home is getting to the fireplace (crack a window, if necessary)
- Keep your flue clean so smoke can travel up it smoothly
- Make sure your flue opening isn’t too small for the fireplace
- Make sure your chimney is tall enough (minimum 10 feet high and extending at least two feet from the roof)
By you doing your part and letting a certified chimney sweep do his or her part, you can rest easy, knowing your chimney is clean, safe and working at peak performance.
High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, is ready to help with all your chimney cleaning, chimney inspection and chimney repair needs. We’re certified by the CSIA and guarantee workmanship and customer service that’s unmatched in our region. Call (301) 519-3500 today with questions or to schedule an appointment.