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COMMON CHIMNEY PROBLEMS

Avoid common problems by having your chimney inspected yearly.

CHIMNEY FIRES

 

Chimney fires are often so small you don’t realize they have happened at all until the next time someone inspects the chimney. 


Why do chimney fires occur? When you use the fireplace, byproducts from the fire mix with the cooler air in the chimney and create a highly acidic residue called creosote. Creosote sticks to the walls inside the chimney, and the resulting residue builds up over time.

 

There is more than one kind of creosote. Color can vary from brown to black. It might be flaky and light, or it might be sticky like tar. It can also be hard, shiny and smooth. The most advanced kind of creosote is called hard creosote. If you don’t remove it, it can damage the chimney and might even cause the chimney to be blocked. 


Creosote is highly combustible. That means it won’t ignite at average temperatures, but it will ignite at higher than average temperatures. Unfortunately, building a fire inside a chimney fireplace produces precisely that, higher temperatures, so if you don’t remove the creosote regularly, you will get a chimney fire

If the licensed chimney sweep finds heavy creosote buildup during the annual cleanup, consider having the chimney cleaned more frequently. 

BLOCKAGES CAUSED BY BUILDUP AND DEBRIS

Blockages can be caused by an accumulation of creosote or soot, bird and animal nests, and other debris within your chimney. If you fail to have your chimney cleaned professionally, the blockages might block airflow, cause a chimney fire or even cause a potentially fatal house fire.

 

Why is correct airflow important? The following heat-producing machines can cause life-threatening pollutants and byproducts: 

· Wood, gas and oil fireplaces

· Furnaces

· Stoves


A chimney that is functioning as designed removes toxic air pollutants and combustion byproducts from your home. These include: 

· Acidic water vapor

· Carbon Dioxide

· Hydrocarbons

· Nitrogen dioxide

· Smoke

· Soot

· Tar fog


Poisonous gases that can’t get out of your house can build up, putting you and your family at risk for dangerous problems such as carbon monoxide poisoning. 


A regular cleaning schedule for your chimney keeps your home healthy and safe by preventing chimney blockages. 

BAD SMELLS

Dirty chimneys can produce a bad smell that is caused by excessive buildup of residues such as creosote and soot. The chimney may smell bad even when you aren’t using it. 


By having the buildup removed at the end of the winter burning season, you can reduce the bad smells you would otherwise get during the spring and summer. Also, the increased airflow after the cleaning will improve the overall quality of the air you breathe. 

PHYSICAL CHIMNEY DAMAGE

Chimneys can be physically damaged. The liner might crack, the damper might warp, flue tiles might be damaged or broken, and inconsistencies can develop inside and outside your chimney. Any of these problems prevent your chimney from working correctly, and if they are severe enough, they can cause a house fire. 


As a professional inspects and cleans your chimney, they can identify any problems that are affecting the performance of your chimney. That gives you several months to have the problems fixed before the fireplace is back in regular use again. 

PREVENTION IS PROACTIVE

The easiest time of year to find a professional chimney sweep is during the spring. Chimney sweeps are not as busy as they will be in the fall, which means they can take care of your chimney at a convenient time for you. The opposite is true in the fall. 


By having your fireplace and chimney cleaned and (if necessary) repaired in the spring, you won’t have to stress about getting the work done before the bad weather arrives, and you will also be keeping your home and family safe from the problems described in this article. When the spring and summer are over, and temperatures drop in the fall, you will then be ready to enjoy the first fire of the year, and you will know that the fireplace is working exactly the way it should.