My Chimney Liner is Only a Year Old: Do I Really Need a Chimney Sweep?
Older chimneys built entirely of masonry were sturdy and nice-looking, but they did little in the way of protection from the devastating effects of chimney fires once the flames saturated the units’ building material. The advent of metal chimney liners was a great breakthrough in safety as this material is much more resilient than traditional masonry.
Increased resiliency, however, doesn’t negate the need for regular cleaning and inspection. Here’s why.
The age of the liner isn’t the issue
Every time you burn wood in a fireplace, creosote, which is a smoke byproduct, begins adhering to the inside of the chimney liner. Creosote is highly flammable and can be ignited by sparks and intense heat traveling up the chimney when a fire is burning.
Some products purchased for the home normally don’t require maintenance for years (or decades), but a chimney liner isn’t one of them. As soon as creosote begins to build up on the liner, the possibility of a fire becomes very real. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should have a chimney sweep come out and clean your liner every three days during the burning season. An accepted standard among fire safety agencies and fireplace manufacturers is once-a-year cleaning.
Can I clean my own chimney liner?
This is a question some homeowners ask, and the answer is in most cases no. The reason is that homeowners don’t have the tools and equipment necessary to perform a thorough cleaning within a tall liner. Even with the right equipment, it would be impossible to see the extent of the creosote buildup, since there’s no way a person can go down inside the liner. Professionals have visual devices that allow them to see exactly what they’re dealing with at all points within a chimney liner.
And assuming the homeowner had every piece of equipment necessary to do the job, there’s one thing that no homeowner has: the ability to assess damage in its early stages and recommend the correct solutions to fix it. During a cleaning, certified chimney sweeps watch for signs of erosion, rusting, cracking and other problems that could lead to dangerous situations and expensive repairs down the line.
Cleaning as part of a thorough inspection
As noted, chimney sweeps perform not only cleaning but complete inspections, as well. A chimney liner is only one of many components of a fireplace/chimney system that needs to be checked on a regular basis. The chimney cap, flashing, damper, firebox and the materials of the chimney itself all are prone to wear and tear and should be looked at closely on an annual basis.
The main thing to keep in mind is that the age of the system is not a factor in scheduling inspection and maintenance services. Especially where the chimney liner is concerned, yearly inspections are crucial to remove creosote and significantly reduce the possibility of a chimney fire. What you spend on chimney sweep services is a fraction of what it could cost should a chimney fire start and spread to other parts of the home.
Chimney Specialists of Highland, Wis., is ready to help homeowners with expert cleaning, inspection, maintenance and repair of all types of fireplaces and chimneys. We want you to be safe, and we have the experience and tools to make sure you are. Call (608) 929-4887 with questions or to schedule an appointment with our chimney sweeps.