Repair Your Chimney for Winter Warmth and Safety
With new chances of snow and temperatures dropping here in Connecticut, it’s the perfect time to make use of your fireplace and keep warm beside a crackling fire. Do you know if your fireplace and chimney are winter ready?
Every year in the U.S., around 25,000 house fires are caused by fireplaces or chimneys according to statistics from the Chimney Safety Institute of America. The average damage, per home, is $5,000. Most of these fires could have been prevented if the homeowners had invested in an annual chimney cleaning and inspection.
A house fire isn’t the only risk of using an unsafe fireplace. Around 10,000 people suffer symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning every year. Up to 4,000 people die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a heating system. In many cases, a fireplace and chimney inspection could have saved their lives.
Does your chimney need to be cleaned?
Creosote is the leading cause of chimney related house fires. Creosote is a highly flammable compound that is produced by burning firewood. It builds up in the chimney. A stray ember from the fire or high temperatures in the flue can ignite it. It can burn at extremely high temperatures for long periods of time resulting in a destructive chimney fire that can spread to the rest of your home.
The best way to prevent a house fire is to have creosote cleaned out of the chimney at least once a year. If your chimney wasn’t cleaned out after you used it last winter, it’s a smart idea to give a CSIA-certified chimney sweep a call. The National Fire Protection Association and the Chimney Safety Institute of America recommend an annual chimney cleaning between burning seasons. If you like to burn softwoods, like pine and cedar, it may be wise to schedule two cleanings a year (in the middle and at the end of the burning season). Softwoods produce much more creosote than hardwoods, dramatically increasing the risk of an unexpected fire.
Cleaning out creosote isn’t the only reason to call on a certified chimney sweep for annual maintenance.
Should you have your chimney inspected?
Chimneys are vulnerable to wear and tear like any other appliances that you use regularly. Unlike your dishwasher or garbage disposal, using your chimney when it is beginning to fail could be life threatening. Chimneys are also more susceptible to damage from extreme weather events and obstructions by animals, lawn debris and other objects.
There are many kinds of interior chimney damage and obstructions that can put you at risk: a damper warped by moisture from condensation or a leak; cracks in the flue lining caused by wear-n-tear; a basketball or animal carcass stuck in the chimney; etc. All of these are common problems. Too often, homeowners are unaware of these problems until it is too late. This is why an annual inspection is recommended. A CSIA-certified chimney technician can identify and resolve many common problems during a Level 1 inspection.
A Level 1 inspection is typically included with a chimney cleaning. It is a thorough visual inspection of the inside and outside of the chimney.
If you are moving into a new home with a fireplace or the home you live in has been through extreme weather event within the last year (like a tornado or severe thunderstorm), it is smart to invest in a Level 2 inspection.
A Level 2 inspection includes a thorough visual inspection plus a video inspection of the inside of the chimney. The chimney inspector will also take the time to climb to hard to reach places that the chimney runs through, like a crawl space, attic and roof, to see if there are signs of damage.
If you know that there has been a fire in your chimney, it is a good idea to schedule a Level 3 inspection to inspect and repair the damage. For a Level 3 inspection, part of the chimney will be deconstructed to have full access to the place where there is damage. Then it will be rebuilt.
Don’t take risks with your safety! If you suspect your chimney is damaged or know it hasn’t been cleaned or inspected this year, make it a priority to set an appointment to make sure your fireplace is safe to use this season.