Snow has started falling across many parts of the country, and that means only one thing: winter is on its way. Everyone is rightly concerned about staying warm throughout the upcoming cold months based on the frigid forecast. When stepping outside, staying warm means bundling up – jacket, hat, scarf, gloves, and boots. Although layering could be a solution to staying warm inside, most people prefer to keep their homes warm instead. For some, a warm home includes a toasty fire in the fireplace or stove. Before lighting up this cold season though, fireplace owners should have the annual chimney sweep and inspection done.
Chimney inspections serve a number of purposes, but they all boil down to making sure the chimney functions safely and efficiently. The purpose of a chimney is to vent harmful gases created by the fire out of the home, and the inspection determines any issues that may inhibit this.
The first and most obvious problem a chimney inspector might find is an obstruction in the chimney. An obstruction can range from an animal and its nest to random debris or even soot buildup in the chimney. All of these blockages can severely hinder proper fume ventilation. If the smoke and other gases cannot escape through the chimney, it has no other option except to flow back into the house. This puts everyone in danger of inhaling poisons like carbon monoxide and creosote. On a less dangerous level, an obstruction also decreases the efficiency of the chimney by reducing the air flow or the “draft” through the fireplace. This means paying for more fuel to create less heat. Addressing this issue requires removing the blockage and then preventing it from occurring again by installing a well-fitted chimney cap.
Another common trouble area that inspectors look at is the condition of the flue lining inside the chimney. The flue liner has a few functions, but the main one is to protect the chimney and home from the heat of the fire. If the lining has cracks or holes, the house could potentially start on fire due to the heat and embers of the fire. In fact, one study done by the National Bureau of Standards showed that burning a fire under an unlined chimney could start adjacent woodwork on fire in less than four hours. An inspector can determine if the flue lining is in good repair or if it is even present at all. Then, he or she can advise on the proper steps to take to repair or replace the liner.
Other places inspectors keep an eye on include dampers, chimney crowns, masonry structure, and firebox installation. Each of these plays a vital role in the safe use of a fireplace or stove and need regular check-ups. If you live in the Louisville area and plan to burn a fire this season, contact All American Chimney Service, LLC to set up an inspection.