Fireplace and Chimney Maintenance
Fireplaces and chimneys need regular maintenance, just like a car. Neglecting to keep up with it can be as dangerous as letting the oil in your engine run out. A blocked, damaged, or dirty chimney could spark a severe house fire or expose you to “the silent killer” carbon monoxide. Follow these 4 simple steps to keep your fireplace and chimney safe.
Clean Out Ashes Frequently & Safely
You shouldn’t have more than 2 inches of ashes at the bottom of your fireplace. It’s a good habit to clean out the ashes before lighting a new fire. Please don’t throw them in the trash right away! That could start a fire in your trashcan since hot embers can burn in ashes for days. Instead, sweep them into a metal container and leave that container outside for at least a week. When you clean out the ashes, you can leave behind about an inch of ash unless you are done burning fires for the season.
A shallow layer of ash at the bottom of the fireplace will help you spark a new fire.
Test the Damper
The damper is the vent inside your fireplace. When it is open, smoke from the fire can vent outside. When it’s closed, it keeps heated/cooled air in your home from escaping. It is also the last defense line to stop critters, debris, or precipitation from getting into the fireplace.
Before lighting up your fireplace this season, test it to make sure that it opens and closes. You shouldn’t feel any air coming through when it is closed. If you can, you should call on a chimney expert to check it out. It may have naturally warped from wear-and-tear. If it’s been warped by moisture, the chimney technician will need to discover how water is getting into your chimney. Water exposure can cause severe damage to your chimney.
Visually Check for Signs of Water Damage or Chimney Leaks
Water can wreak havoc on a chimney! If it has been seeping into bricks and mortar, it can deteriorate the masonry making it structurally weak. It can also corrode metal chimney liners or create a breeding ground for toxic black mold to thrive.
After heavy rainstorms, look inside your fireplace to see if there are signs of moisture. Regularly, look over your chimney exterior for signs of water damage. If you notice large patches of white on the brick or see broken pieces of brick, mortar, or stone around your chimney, reach out to a certified chimney sweep to schedule an inspection! Both are signs that water is getting into the chimney.
If you are comfortable climbing onto your roof, check out these 3 components:
Chimney Cap – The chimney cap sits over the mouth of the chimney. It acts like an umbrella, preventing rain, snow, and sleet from freely running down the chimney. It typically has metal mesh around the sides to stop critters and debris from clogging up the flue. Make sure that your chimney cap is secure and undamaged.
Chimney Crown – The chimney cap is the cement slab around the mouth of the chimney. Since bricks and mortar are porous and prone to absorb water, it sits on top to create a barrier between the masonry and the elements. Look to see if there are any cracks in the crown. If you find them, it is a good idea to fill them to prevent water from slipping through.
Chimney Flashing – Flashing bridges the gap between the fireplace and the chimney. It prevents precipitation from falling through the crack between them into your home. Usually, it is made out of metal. Inspect it to make sure that it isn’t broken or missing.
If you notice any problems, contact a chimney professional! Every chimney is unique. It’s a good idea to speak to an expert even if you plan to repair one of these components yourself to ensure you purchase the correct supplies.
Schedule a Chimney Inspection Once a Year
As the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) says, “Clean chimneys don’t catch fire.” Every time you use a wood-burning chimney, creosote is produced. This flammable substance builds up in chimney flues. Even a small amount of creosote can catch fire and spread to become a severe house fire. While you can find dozens of products for DIY chimney cleanings, none is as effective as professional cleaning. Some even increase the risk of a house fire.
Certified chimney sweeps have the training and equipment to clear all of the creosote out of your chimney efficiently. The National Fire Protection Association recommends annual, professional chimney cleanings because it is the best way to reduce a house fire risk.
Chimney experts, like Burlington, include an inspection with every cleaning. Many chimney problems are tough to see from the outside, especially without a trained eye. That’s why certified chimney sweeps include a level one inspection with every chimney cleaning. While we are cleaning out the chimney, we look inside for signs for damage or wear and tear.
If you want to stay ahead of your fireplace and chimney maintenance, follow these 4 steps! Our service team at Burlington is here to help! The NFI certified chimney technicians on our team offer a wide range of maintenance services from chimney cleanings and inspections to installing new chimney caps or flue liners.