More than 30% of homes in the United States have fireplaces. While they provide us with heat and create a welcoming atmosphere in our homes, sometimes even the most well maintained fireplace systems can have chimney fires.
After a chimney fire, many homeowners are unsure of what to do next: will I ever be able to use my fireplace again? Is it safe for my family to stay in our home? Does the chimney need to be torn down?
While dealing with a chimney fire can be a scary experience, they can be preventable. By learning about the causes of chimney fires, how to prevent them, and what to do if they occur, homeowners can feel confident enjoying their fireplaces all winter long.
The primary cause of chimney fires is ignition of creosote buildup. Creosote is a sticky, tarry substance that is created in fuel burning fires; because it is extremely flammable, it is important that creosote is removed during annual chimney sweepings.
Signs of a chimney fire
Chimney fires are not always as dramatic as flames erupting from the top of the chimney; because of this, many homeowners may not even realize they’ve had a smaller chimney fire. Below are some of the signs of a chimney fire.
- Puffy creosote
- Cracked, collapsed, or damaged flue tiles
- Damage or warping of the metal of the damper
- Discolored or damaged chimney cap
- Evidence of smoke or heat damage to the roof
What to do after a chimney fire
If you’ve experienced a chimney fire, it is important to have your chimney inspected by a CSIA certified chimney sweep before attempting to use it again. A certified chimney sweep will be able to assess the damage and make recommendations for necessary repairs.
If the chimney fire was minor, repairs can be as simple as a thorough chimney sweep to remove any additional creosote or replacing any damaged flue tiles. More serious chimney fires, however, many need to have the flue relined or even have the entire chimney rebuilt. Because it involves major construction, rebuilding is typically only recommended when the chimney has compromised structural integrity.
How to prevent chimney fires
Thankfully, there are a number of ways that homeowners can prevent chimney fires. The best way to prevent chimney fire is by having your chimney regularly swept. Because chimney fires are fueled by creosote, an annual chimney sweeping can seriously reduce your risk for chimney fire.
Likewise, it is also possible to reduce the amount of creosote your fireplace produces. Because burning green wood creates more creosote, it is important to only burn seasoned firewood in your fireplace. In addition, homeowners should avoid allowing fires to burn at low temperatures or smolder for long periods of time. Low temperature fires lack the hot air to push the products of combustion up and out of the fireplace, allowing them to accumulate in the chimney and leading to creosote buildup.
Whether you’ve experienced a chimney fire or want to learn more about preventing one from happening in your home, contact Mountain Man Fireplace & Chimney today. Our expert staff can help make sure your fireplace and chimney are safe and ready to be used all winter long.