Strong winds blow, scattering dried leaves across the ground, and morning frost clouds the windows. Inside, the home is cozy and warm, and you relax comfortably near a crackling fire. Winter is steadily approaching and fireplace season has already arrived. But if your chimney and fireplace has not seen regular maintenance and cleaning for some time, then your soothing fire can quickly become a hazardous condition.
A fireplace and chimney that has not been properly maintained can lead to several problems, with the most frequent being smoke that fills your home rather than being vented through your chimney.
Chimney cleaning and maintenance should be checked and performed at least once a year to ensure safe fireplace conditions. Much of the regular maintenance involved with cleaning a chimney can be performed by yourself, but more intensive repairs and cleaning may require a professional chimney sweep.
Over time, soot can buildup within the chimney, and if a protective rain cap or other guard is not installed at the top of a chimney, then leaves and additional debris can also serve to hamper the flow of air from your fireplace to the outside. This can result in occasional or continuous smoking entering your home. Other factors that need to be addressed if smoking occurs is construction of the chimney itself, proper air flow and temperature, and environmental factors, such as wind and surrounding terrain which can cause the airflow within your chimney to be suddenly reversed. A professional chimney sweep can address these problems if you find that regular chimney maintenance has not solved your smoking problems.
If you have a rain cap or damper installed on top of your chimney, you should examine it thoroughly to ensure it is still in good working order. Additionally, you may need to clean the wire mesh screen that covers your chimney, as it has likely been covered with an accumulation of soot. If you do not have a chimney cap, it is highly recommend that you purchase and install one, as a chimney cap will prevent many problems from occurring, while the absence of one can lead to quicker deterioration of your chimney, often as the result of rain and inclement weather. Also be sure to check the structure of the chimney itself, searching for cracks or crumbling bricks.
A chimney cap is also necessary to keep birds, squirrels, and other animals out of chimney. Birds nests can often be found in chimneys without a protective cap, and can cause chimney fires. A chimney cap also prevents downdrafting and other debris getting into the chimney, an important factor for safety.
Within the chimney itself, a substance called creosote has probably formed and adhered to the walls of the chimney. Creosote is formed from the smoke that travels up your chimney. Too much accumulation of creosote can cause a blockage or reduce airflow. You can use a professional service to have your chimney cleaned or you can use maintenance products such as Duraflame Flue-Renew logs. Burning Flue-Renew logs releases a soot removal ingredient into your chimney that helps loosen and break up the creosote. Flue-Renew logs are recommended for wood-burning fireplaces only.
Intensive cleaning of a chimney and fireplace can be a messy job, and there are many things to consider that a professional chimney sweep will have experience in that you may not think of. During chimney maintenance, cracks, deterioration, airflow and draft control, creosote buildup, and many other things must be checked, cleaned, and considered to ensure a safely working fireplace.
Oil and gas burning fireplaces also require periodic maintenance, but may require different methods of cleaning.
If you choose to have your chimney and fireplace cleaned and inspected by a professional chimney sweep service, you can locate a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep® in your area by calling (800) 536-0118 or visiting www.csia.org