Monday, October 20, 2008
A Clean Chimney is a Happy Chimney
I am rerunning this article since we are getting much closer to fireplace season than when I ran the original article. This is not a paid advertisement but more of a public service announcement.
The weather is starting to cool, albeit slowly but more so in the north central states. People are starting to think ahead to turkeys, decorated trees, high holidays and one other thing if they have one. Sitting by a nice warm fire in the fireplace. Sounds nice and cozy doesn't it? It does to me because I have a fireplace. My fireplace is as clean now as when the house was built because I have never had a burned anything in it, mostly because I live in Florida and the fireplace came with the house. If I built the house it would not have had a fireplace. I've heard too many stories from public safety officers in my family about fireplaces and people losing their houses, or worse. For those of you who have one, or a wood burning stove, that you will be using ,the rest of this post is for you.
The number 1 thing you can do to prevent a serious loss of property and/or life is to make sure your chimney is clean. I don't mean dust or dirt, those things aren't the issue. Over the course of time dangerous substances such as creosote build up in the chimney that when in significant concentration can ignite. Anyone who uses oil for their home heating is familiar with the oil man coming to the house in the fall and inspecting the furnace for proper combustion. Well the same needs to be done for your chimney on the fireplace AND wood burning stoves. Not everyone is a seasoned veteran when it comes to using the 'right kind of seasoned wood' in their firebox. In a pinch I have seen people grab fresh pine branches to burn which are full of creosote. Yes, that's right, the same stuff that builds up in the chimney along with ash which begins to cake up in the stack. While at your house, sometimes the technician may encounter birds which nest inside your chimney. These federally protected birds are called chimney swifts. These birds, which look like bats, form nests which can produce dangerous situations that might cause a chimney fire. Flammable elements like soot, creosote, leaves and bird nests can catch fire. The Chimney Safety Institute of America, C.S.I.A. and the National Chimney Sweep Guild, has a wealth of information concerning the importance of fire safety. These sites discuss the venting hazards of carbon monoxide and that leaking smoke above masonry dampers can cause potential fire hazards. This is a great reason for waterproofing your chimney and installing screens or chimney caps*. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of holiday cheer.