Is Chimney Cleaning Always Necessary?
It’s the end of winter, and as homeowners begin preparing their spring-cleaning list, many often wonder if chimney cleaning is always necessary. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is the leading organization that sets the standards and codes for fire and safety professionals worldwide, including chimney professionals. According to NFPA standards, chimneys, fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected annually with cleaning, maintenance, and repairs, as necessary.
Although chimney cleaning may not always be necessary, an annual chimney inspection IS always necessary to determine whether the chimney and attached heating appliances are structurally sound and safe to operate.
An annual chimney inspection is essential
During the multi-point chimney inspection, the chimney sweep will check for creosote deposits and obstructions. Creosote is a natural by-product of combustion that adheres to the interior masonry walls and components as smoke and fumes are venting up the stack. It hardens into a thick, crusty, and flammable material that is very difficult to remove. Creosote can also obstruct the flue that can cause carbon monoxide gas along with smoke, soot, and ash to back up into your living space. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) states that 1/8” or more of creosote build up is hazardous and should be removed as soon as possible.
Chimney cleaning helps prevent chimney fires
Excessive creosote due to failure to clean the chimney is cited as the primary cause of most house fires, especially during the winter. Each year fire departments in Indianapolis and around the country respond to more than 40,000 heating-related house fires that result in hundreds of injuries and deaths and over $1B in property damage. The Indianapolis Fire Department (IFD) also encourages homeowners to inspect their chimneys every year.
Cleaning gas fireplaces and inserts
Gas fireplaces and inserts are increasingly popular for their energy-efficiency and cleaner-burning features that make them easier to clean and maintain. However, all vented and ventless heating appliances still need to be inspected annually, even if cleaning isn’t always necessary. The gas fireplaces and vents still need to be inspected every year to ensure they are in good operating condition and are free of combustible materials that could cause a fire or exposure to carbon monoxide gas. The technician will check the gas valves and fittings for excessive wear to make sure there are no leaks. The technician will also clean the appliance as necessary and repair or replace any worn or damaged parts, prolonging the heating appliance’s useful life.
Signs you need chimney cleaning
- Foul odors coming from the fireplace
- Soot and creosote in the firebox
- Difficulty starting or poorly burning fires
- Animals in the chimney
If you haven’t done so already, schedule your annual chimney inspection. Chimney inspections are very affordable and can often spot minor damages before they develop into more severe structural issues. If the chimney sweep determines that cleaning is necessary, it can usually be done during
the same visit.