Signs Your Chimney or Fireplace Needs Servicing
Did you know that there are over 48,000 chimney fires every year across the country? These chimney fires result in more than $1B in property damage, over 1,300 injuries, and 500 deaths, according to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) statistics. In the majority of incidents, failure to clean the chimney was the primary reason.
When you are using the fireplace during the cold winter months, soot, creosote, and debris build up inside the chimney and fireplace. Creosote is of particular concern because if it is not removed, it will harden into a dark, tarry, and flammable substance, increasing fire risk. Also, small animals, nests, leaves, and twigs can block the flue restricting the venting of harmful gases, which could put your family at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
To help ensure your chimney or fireplace is safe to operate, the NFPA recommends all homeowners have an annual chimney inspection and clean the chimney when necessary. If you notice one or more of the following signs, schedule a service call with a professional chimney sweep as soon as possible.
Hearing animal noises in the chimney
The chimney’s location perched above the roof makes it an attractive resting spot for small animals like birds and squirrels. An exposed flue due to a missing or damaged chimney cap is like an open door into the chimney where they can build nests and hide from predators. These nests can also cause a flue obstruction that prevents smoke and fumes from exiting the chimney reducing indoor air quality. It can also attract rodents and other pests. If you hear animal noises in the chimney, schedule a service call with a professional chimney sweep right away.
Fire is burning poorly
Having difficulty lighting or maintaining a fire in the fireplace is a sign that the chimney needs servicing. As soot and debris accumulate in the flue, it also restricts the airflow diminishing the oxygen supply necessary to maintain the fire. You may notice that the fire burns poorly, goes out quickly, and is more difficult to light.
Smoke is backing up into your home
Fires producing a lot of smoke or smoke coming out of the fireplace is another sign that your chimney needs to be serviced. A flue obstruction, sooty deposits, creosote build-up, and other debris around the chimney cap or inside the chimney can block the escape of smoke, forcing it back down the chimney and into your living space. The cloud of smoke also contains soot, ash, carbon monoxide, and other particulates that can be hazardous to your health.
Oily or tarry build-up on damper
The chimney damper regulates airflow in the chimney. An open damper lets smoke and harmful fumes rise to the top of the flue and exit the chimney. When the fireplace isn’t in use, closing the damper increases energy efficiency. Like other chimney components, creosote can build up on the damper, interfering with its operation. It’s also a sign that there is creosote build-up in other areas of the chimney. If you notice oily stains or dark tar-like material on the damper, an inspection of your chimney and fireplace could indicate the need for servicing.