Basic Chimney Chores Homeowners Shouldn’t Forget
Spring is almost here. We all know what that means: it’s spring cleaning season.
Taking the time to wash away the grim that has built up over the winter months and sweep up the dust bunnies that have collected in hard to reach places helps to make our homes healthier and more relaxing. According to Advocate Health Care’s eNews, cleaning your home not only gets rid of nasty germs, dirt and dust, it can also lower your stress, reduce your allergy or asthma symptoms, and make your home more safe.
Adding a few chimney maintenance chores to your spring cleaning list is an important way to ensure that your home is a safe environment for you and your loved ones. Many homeowners don’t realize that a chimney can pose a serious health risk to themselves and their pets (and become a costly expense) if it is not properly taken care of.
Important Chimney Chores
1. Emptying the Firebox
To get the most out of a fire, you should regularly remove extra ash and soot from the firebox. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends that you only leave about 1 inch of ash at the bottom of the firebox when you are regularly using your fireplace, fireplace insert or wood burning stove. At the end of fireplace season, you should remove all soot and ashes. Leaving soot and ashes in your firebox over the spring and summer can cause rust and corrosion. Since spring is also allergy season, removing ashes and soot from the firebox, along with dust that settles there, can reduce your allergy symptoms.
2. Checking for Signs of Water & Chips of Masonry
When you clean out the firebox, be sure to look for water marks, dampness and chips of masonry. Water marks or dampness in the firebox can be an indicator of a cracked chimney cap. Chips of mortar or bricks in the firebox may indicate that the flue liner needs to be replaced. Noticing these issues earlier can reduce the cost of repairs. If repairs are needed, it is best to take care of them in the spring and summer so that you are free to use your fireplace when fall and winter come back around.
3. Looking for Obstructions
While you’re already looking around in the firebox, take a glance up and check to see if anything is obstructing the top of the chimney. Even with a chimney cap on the top of the flue, you should be able to see a little bit of the sky. If you cannot see the sky, it is likely that your chimney is blocked. It is important to have it cleaned before you use it again. Lighting a fire on a chilly spring evening in a fireplace with a blocked chimney is very dangerous. If carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas that is produced from burning fuels like wood, cannot properly vent through the chimney, it will flow back down into your house. Every year, around 10,000 people suffer symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning due to heating appliance that aren’t venting properly. Around 200 people each year lose their lives to this tasteless and odorless gas.
4. Scheduling an Annual Inspection & Professional Cleaning
No matter how much of a DIY master you are, some things must be left to the professionals. Cleaning and thoroughly inspecting your chimney is one of those things. Cleaning a chimney isn’t just dirty work, it can also be dangerous without the right equipment and knowledge. The main reason a chimney needs to be cleaned annually is because of creosote. Like soot, creosote is a byproduct of burning wood that builds up along the flue walls. Unlike soot, it is highly combustible. A stray spark or too much heat from the fireplace can ignite creosote. A chimney fire caused by creosote can reach extremely high temperatures and be incredibly destructive. Along with being highly flammable, creosote is unhealthy to breathe in and may require harsh chemicals to remove.
A certified chimney sweep technician not only has the tools to safely and effectively clean your chimney, he also knows what to look for to ensure that your chimney liner and chimney cap are doing their jobs. A chimney cap plays an important role in protecting the structural integrity of your home. A cracked chimney cap can allow water to seep into the masonry of your home resulting in costly structural damage. The flue liner plays an important role in preventing house fires because it insulates the combustible materials in your home (walls, ceilings, insulation, etc) from the extremely hot temperatures that travel up the flue. Without the right equipment and training, you might not notice damage to the flue liner that could make your home at risk of a fire.
If you live in the Atlanta area, give us a call for more chimney maintenance tips or to set up your annual cleaning and inspection! We have been helping homeowners from Cartersville and Woodstock to Suwanee and Fayetteville keep their homes safe for nearly two decades. You can reach us by phone at (770) 691-6707.