Chimney Maintenance

Annual maintenance ensures chimney safety

Chimney maintenance

The safety guidelines set by the National Fire Protection Association call for annual professional inspections of all wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, chimney connectors, and all other solid-fueled heating equipment. Follow up cleaning should be done according to inspection results.

Why chimneys get dirty

Creosote and soot are natural byproducts of burning fuel, deposited on the inside of your chimney or flue pipe as a solid sticky, black layer that is highly flammable. This needs to be regularly cleaned from your chimney or flue pipe. To reduce build up and use fuel efficiently, keep your fires hot, and provide them with plenty of oxygen. Damping fires to keep them burning longer produces more smoke and solid by-products. On average, your chimney needs to be cleaned after every two cords of wood that are burned.

How the chimney is cleaned

Brushes are used to remove creosote and soot from the firebox, smoke shelf, elbows, and connector pipes. This is done from both outside and inside the house. Occasionally there is creosote buildup that cannot be removed by brushing. Professional chimney sweeps use chemicals to alter the composition of the hardened creosote and turn it into a powdery substance that can be easily removed.

Chemical vs. mechanical cleaning

Chemical chimney cleaning products are available for use by homeowners. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) cautions against using these products to replace professional, mechanical cleaning of the chimney. Homeowners should be aware that these products can loosen debris that can fall into hard to reach places in the chimney structure and cause malfunctioning of the chimney. In addition, professional inspection is important because it often reveals hidden problems with the structure of a chimney that would otherwise go unnoticed, and could be potentially hazardous.

Certification

Chimney sweeps can receive national certification through the Chimney Safety Institute of America. In addition, they can be certified at the state level.

Chimney repair

A properly functioning chimney has enough draft to pull smoke out of your home and provide enough oxygen for hot, complete burning of wood to occur. It is important that your chimney is the right type and style for your firebox or stove. In addition, it should be installed properly in your home in compliance with building codes and manufacturer instructions. A well-designed system has the following performance characteristics:

Common repairs

The purpose of your chimney is two-fold. It must remove harmful byproducts created when fuel is burned, and it must carry excessive heat away from combustible items near the fire. Besides being cleaned and inspected each year, your chimney will also need occasional repairs to ensure that it is performing these functions properly. Repairwork can be done by masons or fireplace professionals.

A note on carbon monoxide

A chimney functions to remove the byproducts of burning fuel. Carbon monoxide is one of these byproducts. It is a colorless, odorless gas that is a serious health hazard. It causes illness and death if it is inhaled in large amounts. For the safety of your family and guests is critical to that your chimney is maintained properly so that carbon monoxide and other harmful fuel byproducts do not enter your home. Annual inspections are important. Also, you should have carbon monoxide detectors installed on each floor of your home, as well as in sleeping areas. Carbon monoxide detectors can let you know if there are possible problems with the venting systems of your furnace, gas hot water heater, or gas stove and will keep you from being harmed from prolonged exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide.

Other safety tips


Find a qualified chimney sweep at Next Step Remodeling Small Repairs .

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