The importance of maintaining the chimney in your home can’t be stressed enough.
A US Consumer Product Safety Commission report on residential structure fires found about 21,200 fires occur annually as a result of fireplaces, chimneys or chimney systems. These fires cause deaths and injuries and an estimated $93.6 million in property loss each year.
Dirty Chimneys Cause Fires
According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, the principle cause of these fires are dirty chimneys. The by-products of combustion are acidic and cause masonry and metal to deteriorate prematurely. As well, a by-product of incomplete combustion called creosote may build up and it is highly flammable.
Some chimney fires burn explosively, shoot flames and smoke out the chimney, and cause the chimney to rumble. However most chimney fires burn slowly and remain undetected.
When the temperature increases, it damages the chimney structure and then burns the adjacent combustible materials in your home causing major damage.
The National Fire Protection Association suggests all chimneys, fireplaces, and vents should be inspected, cleaned, and repaired, if necessary, at least once per year. This includes gas appliances.
Even if you only use these devices occasionally, an inspection can spot obstructions, deterioration, and damage in appliances and chimneys before they become major problems. A professional will also check for proper air flow and test the dampers to prevent odors and a smoky home.
If you use your fireplace or wood burning stove frequently, maintenance should occur when the sooty buildup reaches 1/8”.
Hire a Professional
Cleaning a chimney is dirty, dangerous work. Plus, most people don’t have the experience or knowledge to inspect a chimney properly.
Choose a reputable company and ask for a Level 1 chimney inspection. This follows the standards of the National Fire Protection Association. After the inspection, the inspector will recommend the necessary repairs to equipment or structure for optimal operation.
They will also mechanically sweep the chimney. The Chimney Safety Institute of America believes chemicals aren’t a substitute for elbow grease. Many fireplaces and wood stoves don’t have straight chimneys to the outside and debris dislodged by chemicals stays in the chimney and appliance. Chemicals alone aren’t enough to clean a chimney properly.
The Chimney Safety Institute of America certifies chimney sweeps and you can find one in your area on their website. Check for an active certification, ask for references, review their work guarantee, and verify they have at least $300,000 in liability insurance and an active policy.
As a property owner, you are responsible for repairing wear and tear on the chimney and wood burning appliance so regular inspections are a necessity.
What You Can Do
You can do many things to keep your appliances and chimney in tip-top shape.
Clean out the ashes from the fireplace or wood stove regularly. Only burn dry, seasoned firewood or manufactured logs. Wet, painted, or pressure-treated wood can cause creosote buildup.
Always fully open the damper before you light a fire. Place the largest logs on the bottom topped by smaller logs crosswise. Add newspaper and kindling to the top and light it. This creates a cleaner fire with less smoke.
Talk to Your Agent
Review your homeowners insurance coverage with an independent insurance agency like ours. We can make sure that there aren’t any gaps in your coverage and check to see if there are any money saving discounts available to you.