What Gas & Wood-burning Chimneys Have in Common
It’s a misconception that because gas is a clean-burning fuel that the chimneys connected to a gas-burning insert or fireplace need little if any routine maintenance. The fact is, all chimneys need annual inspection and some degree of cleaning.
If you have a gas insert or fireplace
The biggest concern with chimneys that serve gas-driven appliances is structural damage. Even the sturdiest chimney can begin showing signs of wear as years pass. A common way for chimneys to be damaged is by the effects of the “freeze-thaw” cycle. Small cracks in the bricks and mortar allow water to slowly seep inside, where it freezes and expands, creating a larger crack. More water now infiltrates and freezes, and further damage is done.
Once water can freely enter a chimney structure, damage to the masonry as well as the chimney liner is almost sure to happen if left unattended. In addition to coming in through the structure itself, water also can get through warped or otherwise damaged flashing, which skirts the perimeter of the chimney where it meets the roof.
This water will run down into the home on the outside of the chimney and can cause rotting of the home’s building materials in the attic and walls. Compounding the problem is the possible outbreak of mold, which is known to be unhealthy for humans and animals.
No matter what kind of fuel you use, your chimney can become obstructed by all manner of debris such as leaves, twigs and small-animal nests. Certain types of squirrels and birds are unable to get out of chimneys once they get in. All this over time can begin to obstruct the drafting of smoke and toxins, allowing smoke and carbon monoxide to back up into the house. A quality chimney cap and annual inspections and cleaning can prevent obstructions.
If you have a wood-burning fireplace
In addition to the need to inspect for and repair chimney damage caused by water and general old age, if you’re operating a wood-burning fireplace, you must keep creosote and soot inside the flue to a minimum. Creosote is highly flammable and is produced every time a fire is burned.
Certified chimney sweeps are trained technicians who have the equipment and skills to effectively remove even the largest buildup of creosote from your chimney. To ignore regular chimney cleaning is to invite disaster. The majority of chimney fires in the U.S. each year are caused by creosote, which can cause either a small fire that goes out on its own before being noticed or a huge fire that can destroy a home.
Intense heat, extreme weather conditions and old age all can eventually cause damage to a chimney. Arranging for annual inspections and cleaning – no matter what kind of fuel you use in your fireplace or insert – is the best way to protect yourself and your family and avoid expensive repair bills and possible disaster down the line.
Burlington Fireplace & Solar of Burlington, WI, is here to help with professional chimney inspection, chimney cleaning and all levels of chimney repair. Call us at (262) 763-3522 and get the peace of mind that comes from knowing your fireplace and chimney are safe and in top working order.