As the temperatures outside begin to cool off, many homeowners are preparing to use their fireplaces for the first time this season. However, after several months of disuse your chimney may not be safe and completely ready to use. Instead, schedule a chimney inspection to spot potential fire hazards.
Common causes of chimney fires
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are more than 26,000 chimney fires each year in the United States. These fires do much more than cause damage to your chimney; chimney fires cause more than $120 million in losses and property damage. Thankfully, many chimney fires can be prevented through regular maintenance and repairs. The following are two of the most common causes of chimney fires.
The most common cause of chimney fires is creosote buildup. A naturally occurring byproduct of fuel burning fires, creosote is a corrosive, smelly, and sticky residue that can coat the inside of the flue. Because creosote is extremely flammable, it can easily be ignited by any stray sparks or embers from the fireplace. Having your chimney professionally swept at least once a year is the best way to remove creosote buildup.
Whether its small twigs, leaves, or birds’ nests, the presence of debris in the chimney is a major potential fire hazard. Debris in the chimney is dangerous in two ways: first, it can block the flow of hot air, smoke, and gas up the chimney. This can cause these byproducts of combustion to flow back into your home. Likewise, just like creosote debris can be ignited by stray sparks or embers, causing a fire. This is especially true of dry or brittle debris such as leaves and birds’ nests that may ignite and burn quickly.
Signs of a chimney fire
A chimney fire doesn’t always mean flames spouting from the top of a chimney. In fact, it may be difficult to notice the damage caused by a smaller chimney fire; oftentimes, homeowners are shocked when a chimney inspection uncovers signs they’ve had a chimney fire. The following are all signs that your chimney may have recently had a chimney fire.
– “Puffy” or “honey combed” creosote
– Warped metal of the damper, metal smoke chamber connector pipe or factory-built metal chimney
– Cracked or collapsed flue tiles, or tiles with large chunks missing
– Discolored and/or distorted rain cap
– Heat-damaged TV antenna attached to the chimney
– Creosote flakes and pieces found on the roof or ground
– Roofing material damaged from hot creosote
– Cracks in exterior masonry
– Evidence of smoke escaping through mortar joints of masonry or tile liners
Preventing chimney fires
Thankfully, it is possible to prevent chimney fires. Simply put, clean chimneys simply do not catch fire. By having your chimney regularly inspected potential fire hazards can be spotted – and removed – before a chimney fire occurs. To schedule your chimney inspection, contact Mountain Man Fireplace & Chimney today!