The stockings are hung by the chimney with care

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    The stockings are hung by the chimney with care...
    But if you have not properly maintained your chimney Santa may be in for a surprise.

    Do you know what Santa will find when he comes down your chimney this year? If you have been roasting chestnuts on the fire he is likely to find hazardous chemicals you probably aren't aware exist in your house. Most homeowners consider their chimney an indestructible part of their home that requires little or no attention. However, the lack of understanding proper chimney maintenance causes a substantial number of preventable deaths and injuries each year. HomeAdvisor, Inc., (, the nation's leading online service that connects consumers with prescreened and customer-rated chimney sweeps and other home service professionals, offers the following chimney maintenance information to ensure you can enjoy the warmth of a safe winter fire this season.

    Two Common Chimney Hazards
    Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: By now most of us know that carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas. But did you know that hundreds of lives are claimed each year due to carbon monoxide poisoning, many of which are due to poorly maintained chimneys. With chimneys and fireplaces, most carbon monoxide problems occur due to improper exhausting of fumes. These problems are almost entirely avoidable through regular professional chimney inspection.

    Chimney Fires: When you light a fire in your fireplace this winter, you may not realize what is taking place in your chimney. As the smoke rises, it comes into contact with the cooler interior of the chimney (the flue), causing condensation, which results in a hazardous substance called creosote. In appearance, creosote is black or brown and can be crusty and flaky, tar-like, drippy and sticky or shiny and hardened. Regardless of its appearance, it is important to know that build up of creosote is dangerous and can cause minor to devastating fires.

    Cleaning / Maintenance

    The Chimney Safety Institute recommends that if you light fires in your fireplace or woodstove three or more times a week during the heating season, proper maintenance would include cleaning and inspecting the chimney once a year. Twice a year may be necessary if you burn unseasoned wood (wet or still green). It is also recommended to have your chimney inspected by a professional each year to ensure debris is removed, such as bird?s nests and leaves that can easily catch fire.

    Hiring a Chimney Sweep
    The chimney service trade is not regulated and most states do not require a license, which can result in working with fraudulent businesses. Before hiring any type of home service professional it is always recommend to check for licensing and insurance and with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for complaints, as well as with customer references. You can also utilize online services like HomeAdvisor ( that prescreen businesses for state licensing (if required by the state), insurance and checks with the BBB. HomeAdvisor also shares previous customer feedback and provides a customer guarantee if any problems arise with the contractor you select through its service.