Repair Your Chimney for Winter Warmth and Safety
It’s that time of year when you can look forward to coming home to relax besides a gently roaring fire in the fireplace. Unfortunately, it is also the time of year when household fires increase. Every winter, thousands of homes in the U.S. go up in flames because of poor chimney maintenance or bad fireplace practices. Repairing your chimney and following best practices for safety can save your life and home.
To keep your home warm and safe during the winter, follow these 6 best practices.
1. Schedule an annual chimney cleaning and inspection.
Creosote is a highly flammable natural byproduct of burning wood. It builds up along the walls of the chimney restricting airflow. Soot also builds up on chimney walls. Even though it is not flammable, it also restricts airflow and is aggressively acidic. It can damage the lining of your chimney. Buildup of soot and creosote in your chimney increase the risk of a dangerous chimney fire that could spread to your home. Maintain your chimney by hiring a professional chimney sweep to clean and inspect it once a year. This precaution will dramatically decrease the risk of a chimney fire.
2. Take action if your chimney needs repaired.
During your annual cleaning, a professional chimney sweep will do a visual inspection of your fireplace and chimney. In the process, they may discover damage such as a broken chimney liner, deteriorating masonry, missing flashing or a damaged chimney cap. You can also spot problems with your chimney by making a habit of looking over the outside of your chimney. If you notice that it is leaning, has white residue on the outside or is missing a chimney cap or flashing, give a professional chimney sweep a call for a more thorough inspection!
If chimney damage is discovered, do not wait until the spring to act. Using your fireplace when it has a problem increases the risk of a house fire. Chimney problems also tend to get worse during the winter if they are not resolved. Waiting to repair your chimney could increase the cost exponentially.
3. Check your fireplace’s functionality regularly.
Every time you plan to light a fire in your fireplace, you should test the damper to make sure it can open and close. It is also a good idea to test the airflow by lighting a rolled-up piece of paper and holding it up in the firebox to make sure that the smoke rises up instead of dissipating into the room. These simple tests will indicate whether or not your fireplace is functioning properly. If the damper is stuck closed or the smoke doesn’t go up the chimney, call on a chimney sweep to solve these problems so that you can safely use your fireplace. Otherwise, you risk carbon monoxide exposure and breathing problems by using a fireplace that cannot vent properly.
4. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of burning wood, pellets or gas. Since it is odorless and colorless, without a carbon monoxide detector, it is impossible to detect before getting symptoms from exposure. This is why it is important to have a carbon monoxide detector installed by your fireplace and test it at least once a year to make sure that it is working. If your carbon monoxide detector goes off, you should open the windows to let the toxic gas escape and contact a chimney professional to setup an inspection to determine why your fireplace is venting carbon monoxide into your home. It is equally important to have smoked detectors installed and test them at least once a year.
5. Only burn seasoned wood.
The kind of wood you burn might not seem like a safety problem, but it can be. Unseasoned or green firewood produces more creosote, increasing the risk of a dangerous chimney fire. That is why you should only burn seasoned fire wood. Wood is considered seasoned if it has been cut and dried for at least 6 months. The reason this time is needed is because freshly cut wood has a high moisture content. If you burn it before it has adequately dried out, it will create lots of smoke because it cannot burn completely. This is bad for your chimney and for your lungs.
6. Don’t overload the fireplace.
When you build a fire in your fireplace, start off with a foundation of kindling and only a few logs stacked on top of each other with space in between for air to flow. You should never overload your fire with a large stack of wood packed closely together. Instead, build the fire slowly and only add wood as needed when it heats up. This will prevent the fire from getting out of control. It will also make your fireplace burn more efficiently which will produce more heat and less smoke.
Don’t risk your safety! Take care of your fireplace and chimney by following these 6 tips. If you need to set up a cleaning or inspection, give Chimney Solutions a call! We are known as the best chimney sweeps in Atlanta.