Having a home with a wood-burning fireplace tops many homeowners wish lists. They picture themselves snuggled up in front of the fireplace on cold winter nights enjoying the crackling flames. What most people don't realize, though, is that owning a home with a wood-burning fireplace comes with the responsibility to care for it. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that 14 percent of all home fires are caused by improperly cleaned and maintained chimneys.
What causes a chimney fire?
When you use a wood-burning fireplace, creosote, a thick, tar-like substance, builds up on the interior walls of your chimney. As it builds up , the space in your chimney's flue for smoke to escape through narrows. Not only can this allow more dangerous smoke to enter your home, but creosote is also a highly flammable substance. When enough builds up, a stray spark can cause it to ignite.
How do I know if my chimney is safe to use?
The short answer is that you don't know. You cannot tell by simply looking at a chimney of it is safe to use. The Chimney Safety Institute of America, (CSIA), states that the best way to prevent a chimney fire and keep your family safe is to have a certified chimney sweep perform a safety inspection annually.
Is a chimney inspection necessary?
The CSIA puts it best when they say, "Clean chimneys don't catch fire." Having your chimney inspected and cleaned, when recommended, is important to preventing a chimney fire. An annual inspection can also be helpful in identifying other issues with your chimney, like the lack of chimney caps or the need for brick repair.
What is a chimney cap?
Chimney caps, sometimes called chimney flue covers, are metal coverings that allow smoke to escape your chimney while keeping leaves, debris, and critters out. Raccoons in particular are prone to removing chimney caps and entering your chimney, which is not safe for either the raccoon or you.
What is repointing?
When a chimney inspection mentions the need for brick repair, they are referring to brick repointing. This is simply the word professional masons use when referring to the process of replacing the mortar between bricks. As homes age, the contact point between the brick and the cement can become loose. Repointing is a slow process that involves removing the original mortar by hand, applying fresh mortar, and re-installing each brick. There is not to be confused with tuckpointing, which is for cosmetic purposes.
Chimney repairs and chimney cleanings are the responsibility of the homeowner, but proper maintenance can help prevent a chimney fire. For more information on chimney safety, contact a company like Allstate Chimney Service.