During the winter season, we are all tempted to enjoy a nice beverage or book in front of a warm fire. It is the perfect picturesque escape from the bitter cold outdoors. Actually, most people would say that the fireplace is really the heart of their home and where most memories are made through the years. However, there’s much more to maintaining a fireplace than you probably realized. Avoiding fire hazards and Chimney Fires can be easy if you spend a few minutes educating yourself on Fireplace safety.
Home may be the place people feel safest from fires, but it’s actually the place of greatest risk. Here’s a few statistics.
Approximately 80% of all U.S. fire deaths occur in the home; an average of seven people perish in home fires every day. (NFPA) National Fire Protection Agency reports that today’s homes burn faster than ever. Experts say you may have a little as two minutes to safely escape a typical home fire from the time the smoke alarm sounds.
Last year alone, there were over 25,000 reported Chimney Fires in the United States. Reading these statistics can be frightening but it’s important to act and learn how to keep your Chimney safe and clean.
Let’s start with Creosote
What is it? Creosote can have a few different forms, but generally it is either flaky, sticky or hard and glass like depending on how long it’s been building up. It builds inside the flu because it is a chemical byproduct caused by traditional wood burning in the fireplace.
The most important thing you should know is that creosote is extremely combustible. If it builds up in large quantities and the internal flue gets hot, it could result in a chimney fire. So, if you recently moved into a new home or you don’t know if it was cleaned, you should get it checked immediately!
Signs of a Chimney Fire
Sometimes a Chimney Fire will be loud and obvious, while at other times it can be less apparent. Most chimney fires are quiet and slow burning. The only sign is the damage left behind. Here are some common signs of a chimney fire.
- Pieces of creosote that look puffy or like honey comb
- 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
- Roofing material damaged from hot creosote
- Cracks in exterior masonry
- Evidence of smoke escaping through mortar joints of masonry or tile liners
If you notice any of these signs, you should reach out to a certified chimney specialist to have your chimney professionally inspected. A CSIA certified technician, like ours at Fireplace and Chimney Authority, will use special equipment to get a close look at your chimney to determine the extent of the damage and let you know the best course of action for repairs.
Annual Chimney Inspection
To be sure that all your systems are in working order and operating properly an annual chimney cleaning and inspection is recommended, especially if you use the fireplace on a regular basis. The job of the chimney cleaning and inspection is to remove soot, blockages and built-up creosote from your chimney liner, firebox, smoke chamber and damper. The Exterior will be inspected from flashing, crown, brick, and siding, to ensure safety and look for cracks or water damage. They will also inspect the crown and cap also to prevent animals like birds from getting inside and making nests.
Don’t take chimney cleaning lightly. Ignoring inspections or assuming things are fine can lead to serious consequences. Remember that a chimney fire can cause damage or the complete loss of your home. If you haven’t had your fireplace cleaned and inspected by a professional chimney sweep yet since last winter, it is NOT too late! Consider getting an annual inspection to ease your mind and keep your family and home safe all year round.