Autumn begins when the sun crosses the celestial equator, which always occurs around September 22, about three weeks after Labor Day weekend. In no time, the nights begin to get cooler, the autumn leaves begin to turn, and fireplaces and wood stoves are needed as a heat source again. But have you thought about whether your chimney is safe to use? Damage could have occurred last winter or in the months since. Labor Day is an ideal time to get your chimney inspected because if it turns out repairs are needed, our chimney experts can still get them done for you before cold temperatures blow in.
A yearly chimney inspection and cleaning is recommended by both the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). Both organizations back up their recommendations with research that shows annual chimney inspections are important safety measures.
The primary function of a chimney is to serve as an outlet for combustion gases and smoke that are produced in the wood stove or fireplace. There are two critical questions to be answered in an inspection and both affect whether a chimney is a hazard because it is hindered from working the way it is designed to:
- Is there a dangerous buildup of creosote and soot?
- Is the chimney system operating properly, so that there is no threat of carbon monoxide poisoning?
How Much Creosote is Too Much?
Every time you light a fire in your fireplace, creosote and soot are deposited on the chimney lining. Both of these substances are highly flammable. With as little as 1/8” to 1/4” of creosote, it becomes possible for a hot spark from the fire to ignite it and cause a chimney fire. A chimney fire is extremely hazardous and can reach explosively high temperatures. If it is a large chimney fire, it can melt mortar and the flue can be damaged, exposing combustible parts of the structure to intense heat which leads to a house fire. Because of the intensity of a chimney fire, if a home catches fire because of it, the blaze sometimes spreads too rapidly for people in the household to escape, even if smoke alarms are working.
A clean chimney doesn’t catch fire. When our chimney sweeps do an inspection, we determine whether a chimney can be dubbed “clean” or whether there is enough or nearly enough creosote to cause a chimney fire.
What Can Prevent a Chimney from Working Properly?
When a chimney doesn’t perform the job of channeling toxic gases outside, there is the possibility that carbon monoxide will be released into the home. Carbon monoxide is called the “silent killer” because it is odorless, tasteless, and deadly. The main issue which causes a dangerous backdraft is obstruction of the chimney, by whatever means. Chimneys are built to certain specifications which are designed to ensure that there is an adequate draft for combustible materials to go up the chimney. Obstructions alter the flue so that it doesn’t work as it should. Some causes of an obstructed chimney are:
- A serious buildup of creosote.
- Birds’ nests and other animal nests.
- Debris in the chimney caused by damaged flue tiles, broken masonry, cracked mortar, leaves, and various other objects.
Remember that a clean chimney doesn’t catch fire, and a chimney in good working condition will release toxic gases into the outside atmosphere the way it should. You can’t know for sure whether your chimney is clean and safe until a chimney professional has inspected it. Contact us today for your annual inspection; around Labor Day is a perfect time.
Northeastern Chimney, Inc.
formerly Nayaug Chimney Services, LLC
37 Cody Street, West Hartford, CT 06110