A Mild Winter Doesn’t Mean You Should Skip Your Annual Chimney Cleaning & Inspection
Is a chimney cleaning necessary after a mild winter? This is a question homeowners commonly ask, and fire prevention experts have an answer:
Yes! Mild winters can cause as much of a mess in the chimney as when the fireplace is frequently used. A chimney that is not properly maintained can result in various problems. The most dangerous potential consequence of a dirty chimney is a chimney fire.
Mild winter weather and creosote buildup
What tends to happen during mild winters is that warm days follow chilly days in which the fireplace is used to get the nip out of the air. The fires may not be as hot in moderate weather, as compared to icy conditions. Combustion is less complete in lazy fires that tend to smolder to prevent the home from getting uncomfortably warm. Creosote is a highly flammable tar-like combustion by-product that is always deposited in a chimney to at least some small degree when wood-fueled fires are burned in fireplaces and wood stoves. When green or unseasoned wood is burned, a greater amount of creosote ends up coating the chimney, same as with smoldering fires.
The concern with creosote is that it can be the cause of a dangerous chimney fire. Even if only half the usual creosote is deposited during a mild winter, not cleaning the chimney means the new winter that rolls around starts off with buildup. By mid-winter, your chimney system could have dangerously high levels of creosote.
In addition, if your chimney isn’t inspected and cleaned in spring, all summer long the creosote deposits in your fireplace are drying out into an even more dangerous coating in your chimney liner. When this happens, there is an increased likelihood that the creosote can be ignited in early winter, once fires in the fireplace or stove resume.
Chimney inspections and cleanings prevent chimney fires
Thousands of chimney fires caused by creosote occur in the U.S. every year. A spark or ember ignites the flammable, sooty deposits, creating a blaze in the chimney. According to firefighters, a chimney fire can be hotter than 2000 degrees. These intense blazes can damage the chimney flue and cause a house fire.
Sometimes people aren’t aware that there’s a fire in their chimney, which makes the blaze that much more potentially dangerous. Some signs there may be a fire in your chimney include: a large amount of dense smoke, a rumbling sound like a nearby train or low-flying airplane, popping and cracking noises, and a smell that is intensely hot.
Whether the preceding winter was cold and wild or mild, a chimney inspection and cleaning reduces the chances of a chimney fire when the arctic weather returns and your fireplace or wood stove is back in use.
Other reasons for a chimney cleaning after a mild winter
Damage in many forms can occur to chimneys, chimney liners, and fireplaces during a mild winter as much as during a record-breaking arctic season. A chimney inspection in springtime can reveal the need to fix the following problems and more:
- The chimney liner may have become damaged. Even the smallest crack in the flue is a serious hazard.
- The chimney flashing may need to be replaced or repaired, to prevent a chimney leak that causes roof damage, structural damage, wood rot, and other problems.
- Moisture may have gotten in the chimney system, whether because of cracks in the crown, a damaged chimney cap, damaged masonry, deteriorating mortar, or for other reasons.
- There could be obstructions in the chimney.
By having your chimney cleaned soon after winter is over, you can avoid the smell of smoke from the chimney invading your home during humid days of summer.
It has been known for more than 200 years that carcinogens inside chimneys have consistently and very negatively affected the health of chimney sweeps. By routinely cleaning your chimney, your family is prevented from having to potentially breathe in such toxins.
So now you know just how important an annual chimney inspection is, even following a mild winter. Schedule your chimney inspection and cleaning today.