The Long-term Costs of Skipping a Fireplace, Stove or Chimney Inspection
Homeowners who neglect to have their chimneys inspected are often unaware of the hazardous conditions that could eventually cost them their health or their home. Using a fireplace or stove when the chimney is clogged by the buildup of soot and creosote, blocked by broken masonry or yard debris or in disrepair from the wear and tear of time could lead to expensive home repairs or costly hospital bills.
Most of us know that if we don’t have the oil and filter changed in our car every 3,000 – 5,000 miles, we will eventually end up damaging or destroying our engine. If you are a homeowner with a fireplace, stove or fireplace insert, having your chimney annually inspected is equally important. Similar to skipping your oil change, deciding to forgo your annual chimney inspection could result in long term costs for you and your family.
Two Big Risks to Your Health & Home
The biggest reason that you should have your chimney inspected every year is to reduce the risk of chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.
1. Chimney Fires
Whenever you use your fireplace or stove deposits of soot and creosote (a highly flammable tar-like substance) buildups along the walls of your chimney. Just one winter’s worth of buildup could become ignited by a stray ember or an extremely hot fire and cause a chimney fire. A chimney fire in a well-maintained chimney—that is free of debris and has only small amounts of soot and creosote—will usually be contained to the chimney without doing a significant amount of damage. If there are large amounts of soot, creosote or debris (such as leaves, sticks, and animal nests) to fuel the fire, it can quickly spread from the chimney to the rest of your home.
In 2011, there were over 22,000 residential fires that were caused by fireplaces and chimneys that resulted in over 110 million dollars in property damage. Many of these fires could have been avoided if the homeowners had made sure to have their fireplace or stove’s ventilation system annually inspected.
2. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
All burning fuels, including wood, release carbon monoxide (CO). CO is a poisonous gas that prevents your body from properly absorbing oxygen which can eventually lead to brain damage, organ damage and death. An obstructed chimney—whether it is clogged by combustion by-products, debris or blocked by broken pieces of masonry—can prevent carbon monoxide from properly venting and allow it to accumulate in your home. The best way to prevent you or your loved ones from suffering from CO exposure or poisoning is to properly maintain all fuel-burning appliances, including your fireplace or stove, in addition to having a functioning carbon monoxide detector located near your fireplace or stove.
Additional Benefits of an Annual Chimney Inspection
Along with cleaning out soot, creosote and debris, professional chimney sweeps assess the condition of a fireplace or stove’s ventilation system. If there is a missing chimney cap, damage to the masonry, a cracked flue or a damaged chimney liner, your chimney professional will let you know and present you with options to remedy these problems. Usually, the earlier a problem is caught, the more affordable the repairs will be.
As you can see, following the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommendation to have your chimney inspected annually is the surest way to protect your home and health. It is as important as getting a regularly oil change for your car. This year, before you build a fire in your wood burning stove, fireplace or fireplace insert, be sure to have your chimney professionally inspected and cleaned! Our experts at Burlington recommend scheduling an appointment before the harsh wintry months arrive so that you can safely make use of your fireplace on the first bitterly cold night this year.