If you own a
is important to get your
cleaned at least once a year. Proper chimney and fireplace
maintenance will prevent dangers like fires or carbon monoxide
poisoning and keep you home and your family safe.
As fires burn, smoke goes up
the chimney. Some of that smoke condenses in creosote on the flue --
the inner surface of the chimney.
Creosote, a hard tar-like
substance, builds up over time. When a thick coat of creosote
catches fire, you get a chimney fire, a powerful and frightening
inferno that can be as loud as a low flying jet.
Chimney fires are often so hot
that nearby walls and rafters burst into flame. The fire spreads so
fast that firefighters often arrive too late to save any of the
Not all chimney fires
are loud roaring events, but quiet ones can be just as dangerous.
The extremely high temperatures associated with chimney fires cause
cracks to form in the flue and chimney. Carbon monoxide is generated
anywhere fuel is burned, including your fireplace, woodstove or
furnace. Normally, these deadly fumes
up the chimney. But if the chimney starts to leak, the fumes may be
drawn back into the home.
Proper chimney maintenance and
care, including routine chimney sweeps, will an important part of
preventing chimney fires.
Carbon monoxide is a sneaky
poison. The odorless colorless gas can be lethal. The human body
treats it as if it were oxygen. Quickly distributed throughout the
body, the poison has the biggest effect on the brain. Children can
sustain brain damage with low levels of exposure. Symptoms mimic the
common cold, so most people are unaware they are being poisoned.
More extensive exposure leads to vomiting, nausea and, eventually,
The good news is that your
fireplace can continue to be a source of safe pleasure if you stick
to a simple maintenance schedule. Have your chimney cleaned
regularly and inspected by a chimney sweep trained in chimney
How Often Should
Chimney Sweeps Occur?
The Chimney Safety Institute
recommends that if you light fires in your fireplace or woodstove
three or more times a week during the
season, proper maintenance would include
cleaning and inspecting the chimney
once a year.
If you burn unseasoned wood
(wood that is still a bit wet or green), twice-a-year cleaning and
inspection may be necessary.
If I Keep a Small
Fire Regularly, Should I Have Chimney Sweeps More Often?
Most of the creosote build-up occurs when the fire is first lit. A
cold chimney causes much more of the smoke to condense on the
chimney flue. Therefore, a continuous fire will usually foul a
chimney more slowly than many separate fires.
How Much Does a
Chimney Sweep and Inspection Cost?
Typically, a chimney inspection
will run about $30-$50. A chimney sweep goes for about $60 to $130,
depending on the difficulty level.
However, major chimney repairs
can cost thousands of dollars. Most major chimney problems can be
prevented with regular preventive care.
What Is a Chimney
Nearly all new chimneys have chimney liners. Chimney liners may be
made of metal, tile or cement and create a smooth, airtight path up
your chimney. By increasing the distance between heat and
combustible surfaces like rafters, chimney liners can provide an
extra level of protection from chimney fires. They also help prevent
water from getting into the
where it can freeze and cause permanent damage to your chimney.
Many efficient furnaces
require chimneys with precisely sized chimney liners.
Do I Need to Clean My
Yes. Whenever you have your chimney cleaned, have the furnace flue
cleaned at the same time. While furnace flues are typically less
susceptible to creosote build-up, they do get fouled with sulfur and
chlorine. Allowed to accumulate, these chemicals combine to form a
powerful acid that eats away at the flue.