How to Keep Your Chimney & Fireplace in Tip-Top Shape
Fireplaces and chimneys are designed to give you heat, comfort and safety. Part of keeping these systems running right is having regular chimney inspections, cleaning and repair work performed. But between service calls, there are some things you can do to maintain the good working condition of your fireplace and chimney.
Burn Only Firewood
Fireplaces are made to burn firewood and nothing else. Never make fires with pieces of furniture, cardboard, packaging materials, magazines, clothing, household garbage or any other items. Non-firewood fires create excess smoke and burn too hot for your system to handle.
Don’t use accelerants
Start your fires with logs, kindling and matches. Don’t try to get a fire going faster with a charcoal starter, lighter fluid, kerosene or any other accelerant. You could cause an explosion and create way too much heat within the system.
Burn dry wood
Dry wood, which has had at least six months to cure, burns far more efficiently than damp wood. Fires will burn more robustly and create much less smoke if you always use dry wood.
Watch for signs of a chimney leak
Chimneys can leak for many reasons including masonry damage and damage to components such as the chimney flashing, chimney cap and chimney crown. Watch for these common leaky chimney signs and report them to your chimney services company:
- Water in the firebox
- White staining (efflorescence) on the exterior bricks
- Strong musty odors in the attic or crawl spaces or coming from the fireplace
- Crumbling mortar on the roof
- Loose or cracked bricks
- Damp areas on the ceiling or walls near the fireplace
Catching chimney leaks early is the key to preventing major damage and major expense
Know how to spot a chimney fire
Big, blazing chimney fires are pretty obvious. But smaller chimney fires can happen without giving off obvious signs. All fires can be destructive to a chimney, so keep an eye (and ear) out for:
- Ticking and tapping sounds (while the fireplace is in use)
- Rumbling sounds like from a faraway train (while in use)
- Excess dark smoke coming from either end of the chimney
- Black stains around the top sections of the exterior chimney
If you believe you’re having a chimney fire, call 911 immediately and extinguish the fire in the fireplace if it’s safe to do so.
Have your chimney professionally cleaned
Most chimney fires are caused by ignited creosote, which forms inside your chimney every time you use your fireplace. Creosote can be sticky, puffy, flakey or solid, and special equipment and training are required to remove it.
Most fire-safety agencies including the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommend having your chimney professionally cleaned once a year. This will significantly reduce the chances of a chimney fire.
Have your chimney and fireplace inspected annually
Annual chimney and fireplace inspections allow you to learn about early signs of damage and malfunction and get them fixed before they turn into major safety or repair issues.
Most chimney services companies offer inspections as well as chimney cleaning and all types of chimney and fireplace repairs. Find a good company, and let them help you with preventative maintenance and all other needs.
For more than 20 years, National Chimney Service has provided all the above-mentioned services to our customers throughout Fairfield County, CT, and Morris County, NJ. Speak with an expert about your chimney and fireplace by calling 800-631-6177.