A Homeowner’s Guide to Proper Chimney and Fireplace Care

A homeowner’s guide to proper chimney and fireplace care

What Every Homeowner Needs to Know About Chimney and Fireplace Care

A fireplace can be a great source of comfort, as long as it’s properly maintained. Before you use your fireplace this winter, consider these tips for proper fireplace and chimney care.

Understanding the Risks

According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), fireplaces cause tens of thousands of residential structure fires every year. In addition to financial losses, many of these accidents lead to tragic deaths, which could have been avoided through proper maintenance.

The following Q&A can help you enjoy your fireplace without having to worry about catastrophic outcomes.

How often should I inspect my chimney?

You should have your chimney inspected by a professional chimney sweep every other year before winter.

Why do I need an inspection?

Over time, wood-burning fireplaces create tarry-like deposits on flue walls. Known as creosote, this highly flammable substance can catch fire, burning with a heat as high as 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Without a regular cleaning by a certified professional, creosote deposits can lead to incomplete combustion or serious fires, which can damage flue space and spread to the attic and other parts of your home.

A regular cleaning can also help you sidestep other potential problems, including:

  • Eliminate acidic material that weakens metal and masonry chimneys, causing them to deteriorate prematurely
  • Eliminate birds’ nests, animals, leaves, branches, twigs, pine cones and other debris which can cause obstructions

What will a professional chimney cleaning include?

Even the most ambitious do-it-yourselfer should not attempt a chimney inspection and cleaning. To avoid potential problems, it’s best to hire a CSIA certified chimney sweep. The professional will start by sweeping the fireplace and checking the liners, fireboxes, flue and smoke chamber. He or she will also evaluate the chimney exterior and inspect the appliance for proper clearances. After a thorough evaluation, the specialist will make recommendations for any needed replacements or repairs. You may also be able to request a video inspection to look for hidden dangers that might lead to big problems down the line.

How much will it cost? In most parts of the United States, a chimney inspection costs around $100 to $250. A cleaning will usually cost between $100 and $350; however, this all depends on the chimney and any potential complications, such as critters – living or dead – inside the structure.

Other Considerations

In addition to keeping your fireplace and chimney well-maintained, you should consider installing a rain cap, which can keep both water and animals out. You should also install a properly sized fireplace screen to keep flammable embers where they belong. Finally, it’s important to know that fires can cause carbon monoxide to build up by creating negative pressure in a home. Make sure you protect your family’s safety by installing a reliable carbon monoxide detector.

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