UPDATE 2/28/2018 The crackling wood and warm embers of a fire make for a perfect winter evening. While you’re probably not thinking about the safety of the fireplace while you’re relaxing and staying warm, chimney fires are a real concern. That’s why it’s important to have your chimney inspected and cleaned at least once a year.
Fires are a great way to stay comfortable during the winter. However, they’re dangerous if you don’t maintain your fireplace.
On average, 22-thousand chimney fires happen every year according to the latest data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
It’s all preventable with a chimney inspection and cleaning. “Clean chimneys don’t catch fire,” according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America. That pretty much says it all!
Safety groups recommend an annual inspection. If you use your fireplace often, you may require more frequent cleanings. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends a cleaning when there’s 1/8” of soot.
If you haven’t used your fireplace in years, consider an inspection before you use it. Here’s why. The flue or the “exhaust pipe” carries emissions through the chimney and out of the house. Over time, it can become blocked, break down, or become a habitat for any number of nest-building animals. If you light a fire before an inspection, you may unknowingly create an extremely unsafe environment for you and your loved ones. When there’s a blockage, dangerous gases build-up in your home.
During a chimney inspection, the sweep looks for safety hazards like carbon monoxide and signs of a previous chimney fire.
You can have a chimney fire and not even know it. They’re more common than you think, especially if you don’t regularly clean your fireplace.
So, what causes chimney fires? Creosote. It’s a build-up of residue on the chimney walls. The Chimney Safety Institute of America describes the creosote as a crusty, flaky, tar-like black or brown residue. It’s possible for creosote to catch on fire because it’s incredibly flammable.
Creosote forms when you burn wood. Obviously, that’s part of having a fireplace. That’s why yearly cleaning is important. Different types of wood produce different amounts of the substance. Plus, creosote builds up if you burn garbage or wood that is wet, moldy, and/or treated with chemicals.
Soot, animals, and other debris are also a concern.
When you have your chimney inspected, the sweep looks for signs of a chimney fire. That gives the sweep clues about the condition of your chimney so he can make recommendations.
Soot and creosote are not only safety issues; they reduce the efficiency of a fireplace. It’s the last thing you want since a fireplace is already not that efficient.
Although there are a variety of DIY kits that can show you how to clean your chimney, we usually suggest that you hire a professional.
While cleaning is important, an inspection is just as critical. A trained chimney sweep knows how to spot signs of trouble. While fires are beautiful and keep you comfortable, there are many dangers. Poor ventilation, chimney cracks, and blockages are all a concern.
To guarantee that you maintain the integrity of your fireplace and chimney, and keep your family safe, hire a trained chimney sweep. Choose a company that has certification from the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA).
Finally, install a carbon monoxide detector near your fireplace. It alerts you to dangerous levels of CO2, an odorless and colorless gas that can and does kill!
How long ago did you have your fireplace cleaned?