The cooler weather is fast approaching, and soon homeowners will begin lighting fires to warm their homes and to relax in front of. But, before you light that fire, there are some precautions you should take to make sure your fireplaces and chimneys are safe. Early fall is the perfect time to schedule a chimney cleaning.
Fires in fireplaces, inserts or wood stoves leave a residue, called creosote, that can stick to the lining of your chimney. Creosote — created by soot, smoke, gases and other particles — is flammable, and can be the source of a dangerous chimney fire. Cleaning the chimney involves removing creosote.
Between 2005 and 2008, an average 26,900 fires annually were blamed on fireplaces, chimneys or chimney connectors.
It is recommend that you get a chimney inspection every year by a certified chimney sweep and cleaned if necessary. Cleaning a chimney is not a do-it-yourself project. It’s a dirty job, and it is risky.
Chimney sweeps are trained to determine whether chimneys are structurally sound and whether they need to be cleaned. They also will make sure the chimney is up to code, which is especially important in older houses.
Homeowners should use a certified chimney sweep. To become certified, a sweep must pass two tests: one on the inspection process and tools, and the other on the international residential code, as it applies to chimneys.
Chimney cleaners look to make sure the flue is fully safe, they make sure there are no third-degree burns of creosote on the lining. Chimney sweeps also check to see if there are any birds or animals in the chimney, or anything that would block the flow of smoke. They also check that there’s no water coming in.
When thinking of chimneys most people focus on the one attached to the fireplace. But there is also a chimney attached to your furnace. Whether they burn oil or gas, furnaces vent carbon monoxide outside into the atmosphere, and those chimneys need to be inspected also.
There are steps you can take at home to reduce creosote buildup and the risk of a chimney fire.
Foremost is picking dry wood to burn. Dry wood will appear gray on the surface and have cracks on the end.
Don’t throw pizza boxes or other trash in the fireplace because it causes a thicker smoke, which lowers the temperature in the chimney. The hotter the fire, the better and cleaner it will burn.
While many people use a newspaper to start a fire, she recommends a fire log or fire starter instead.
For more information on chimney cleaning, contact The Fireplace Showplace.