Chimney Dangers and How to Prevent Them
Fireplaces are much loved for the ambiance and warmth they provide, but there are potential chimney dangers that can be prevented with regular maintenance. Thousands of home fires occur every year because of dirty chimneys. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and other leading fire safety organizations recommend that everyone with a chimney schedule an annual chimney inspection. Preventing chimney hazards is most effectively achieved with routine inspections and cleaning. Information follows on the most common chimney dangers.
Deterioration of the Flue Lining
The chimney flue is arguably the most important component of chimney safety. The chimney flue must be undamaged because, otherwise, using the fireplace is a potentially life-threatening hazard. There are two functions achieved by an intact flue lining, and they are as follows:
- The lining protects combustible materials from exposure to extreme heat. If, for instance, wooden beams inside the home are repeatedly exposed to high temperatures because of a crack in the flue liner, a process of pyrolysis occurs. Pyrolysis means that the basic make-up of the materials changes, and the materials ignite at a much lower temperature. Many devastating house fires have been caused by pyrolysis.
- The flue plays a big part in preventing deadly fumes from entering the home. Although a smoky fireplace is a danger, what makes a damaged flue more of a threat is that the toxic fumes leak into unseen parts of the home and expose occupants to a so-called “Silent Killer.” Carbon monoxide is odorless, invisible, tasteless, and symptomless. Without a working carbon monoxide detector, it can be impossible to safely escape unknown exposure to the fumes.
To eliminate the danger of a damaged chimney flue, schedule annual chimney inspections so that the often-unseen hazard can be discovered. There are three levels of chimney inspections. A Level 2 inspection incorporates the use of a special camera that examines the flue from the top of the chimney down into the fireplace. Contact a qualified chimney sweep who can advise you as to whether your chimney flue warrants a Level 2 inspection.
Wood fires are the best because of the atmosphere they create, but they also create creosote. This highly flammable combustion byproduct is tar-like, and it creates layers of build-up if chimney cleaning is neglected. A burning ember can cause the creosote to ignite, and large amounts of creosote fuel the fire so that a chimney fire can destroy the flue lining and the home.
Another potential side-effect of creosote buildup is obstruction of the chimney flue. An obstructed chimney flue is dangerous because the toxic gases are meant to exit through the chimney and instead, go into the home.
Other Types of Debris
If there is no chimney cap with mesh on the top of the flue pipe, branches, leaves, and other types of debris can enter into the chimney. If the debris continues building up, it can result in an obstruction. A buildup of debris creates the same danger as a chimney obstructed by creosote. Besides the deadly fumes of carbon monoxide that pose a threat, various health issues can result from a smoky fireplace.
To prevent debris from falling into your chimney, have a chimney cap installed. A chimney cap may be referred to as an accessory, but it is essential, considering that moisture is a chimney’s biggest enemy. Chimney caps keep rain, sleet, and snow out as well as debris.
The trained and qualified chimney sweeps at Chimney Specialists Inc. can provide you with quality chimney maintenance services. We care about the safety of your home and family. For chimney inspections, chimney cleaning, masonry repair, fireplace installation, and all of your chimney needs in Highland WI and the surrounding area, contact Chimney Specialists Inc. today at (608) 929-4887. And if you are in the Dubuque IA and surrounding area, please contact our sister store, Dubuque Fireplace & Patio at (563) 582-5156.