Is Your Chimney Ready for Cold Weather?
A house fire is reported every 85 seconds in America! That is an alarming statistic from the National Fire Protection Association. However, you can reduce your risk of suffering a chimney fire by making sure that your fireplace and chimney are ready for cold weather.
We know a thing or two about fireplaces and chimneys here at Burlington Fireplace and Solar. For over 30 years, we have been the premier Custom Fireplace and Chimney Sweep Service in Southeast Wisconsin. Our chimney service crews have been trained and certified by the National Fireplace Institute (NFI). So when our customers ask us what they need to do to prepare their fireplace for cold weather, we share these three tips.
Top 3 Tips to Prepare Your Fireplace & Chimney for Winter
#1. Schedule a Chimney Cleaning & Inspection
If you follow just one tip on this list, do this: schedule a professional chimney cleaning and inspection. This is our top piece of advice for homeowners with gas fireplaces and wood-burning fireplaces. The National Fire Protection Association and Chimney Safety Institute of America also recommend an annual chimney inspection and cleaning for anyone with a fireplace.
For wood-burning fireplaces, cleaning out creosote buildup is critical. When you use your fireplace, creosote—a highly flammable combustion byproduct—builds up in the chimney. It is the leading cause of chimney fires. Unfortunately, DIY creosote cleaning solutions are rarely effective. Instead, your chimney needs a professional chimney sweep to remove this hazardous chemical compound. A certified chimney service provider will also inspect the fireplace and chimney to ensure it is free of obstructions or damage that could put you and your home at risk.
For gas fireplaces, cleaning may not be needed, but an inspection could save your life. An explosive fire from a gas leak and carbon monoxide poisoning are serious risks. Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas produced by burning fuel. It is the leading cause of poisoning deaths in America. Fires from gas leaks are less common but can be incredibly dangerous.
A professional technician will ensure all your fireplace’s components are functioning correctly during a gas fireplace inspection, not leaking gas or carbon monoxide. In addition, they will test the blower to make sure your fireplace burns efficiently.
#2. Install a Chimney Cap (if you don’t have one)
While creosote is the leading cause of chimney fires, moisture is the leading cause of chimney leaks and other structural problems. Most newer homes have a chimney cap or chase top cover that prevents rain, sleet, and snow from falling down the chimney. Without this barrier, moisture may corrode the chimney damper, damage the flue liner, and cause water damage to nearby structural beams, drywall, and flooring. Also, it can turn your chimney into a breeding ground for toxic mold.
Along with preventing water damage, a chimney cap keeps critters, leaves, and other common obstructions that can cause carbon monoxide poisoning out of your chimney.
If you notice that your chimney doesn’t have a metal cap on top, call on a chimney service to install a new chimney cap. This small investment can prevent expensive future repairs and reduce your risk of breathing in deadly carbon monoxide.
#3. Test the Damper
Before you ignite a fire in the hearth, test the damper! Move the lever either up and down or back and forth to make sure it opens and closes.
The damper controls airflow in and out of your chimney. Whenever you light a fire, you should always open the damper beforehand so smoke can escape and fresh, outside air can feed the fire. The damper should be closed once the fire is out to prevent drafts and stop heated/air-conditioned air from escaping.
If your chimney damper is stuck, call on a chimney service to repair it. If the damper is stuck in the closed position, do not use your fireplace until it is fixed! Otherwise, you risk carbon monoxide poisoning, harming your family and pets.
These three steps will prepare your fireplace and chimney for winter. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, remember to also stock up on seasoned hardwood! Avoid burning softwoods, like pine, and unseasoned wood that hasn’t sufficiently dried out. Both softwoods and unseasoned firewood produce more chimney creosote.
We hope these tips help you safely enjoy your fireplace this season. Give the chimney service team at Burlington Fireplace a call if you need to schedule a chimney cleaning, inspection, or repairs!