If you own a fireplace, chimney maintenance is not optional. Deadly fires, carbon monoxide poisoning, and expensive chimney repairs are only some of the more serious consequences associated with neglected chimney maintenance. Whether you need to know what you can expect with chimney cleaning and inspections or whether you need a more detailed explanation of these potential dangers, if you haven’t had your chimney cleaned in the past year, you need to know the following:
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. Most of the creosote build-up occurs when the fire is first lit. A cold chimney causes much more smoke to condense on the chimney flue. Therefore, a continuous fire will usually foul a chimney slower than many separate fires.
Chimney fires are often so hot that nearby walls and rafters burst into flames. The fire spreads so fast that firefighters often arrive too late to save any of the home. 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, wood stove or furnace. Normally, these deadly fumes vent safely 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, are an important part of preventing chimney fires. Is your chimney or fireplace
Chimney Maintenance Tips
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 chimney maintenance includes cleaning and inspecting the chimney once a year. If you burn green wood, twice-a-year cleaning and inspection may be necessary.
According to data collected from homeowners across the country, comprehensive chimney maintenance that includes both cleaning and inspection from a qualified chimney sweep costs $298. That said, your location, the time of year, and the soot level of your chimney can cause this number to fluctuate significantly. Obviously, most homeowners don’t follow the recommendations from the Chimney Safety Institute. If you hire a chimney sweep consistently each year, the cost shouldn’t be as high as your neighbors’. You should also keep in mind that major chimney repairs, many of which could be prevented through regular cleaning, can cost thousands of dollars.
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When 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 will eat away at the flue.
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 masonry work, where it can freeze and cause permanent damage to your chimney. Many efficient furnaces require chimneys with precisely-sized chimney liners.
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