Chimney Safety? What Wood Burning Homeowners Should Know

Posted on: 4 December 2018

Many homeowners across the nation have begun to consider adding a wood stove or wood-burning fireplace as a supplemental heat source to their home. For some, the reasoning is to have another way of supplying heat during power outages that prevent their home's HVAC systems from functioning. Others are trying to fight back against the rising costs of propane, natural gas, electricity, and heating oil. 

But using wood to supply heat for your home must be done safely to prevent the risk of a fire. If you have already installed a wood burning stove or fireplace or are planning to do so soon, the following information regarding chimney safety will help you enjoy more worry-free wood heat. 

Why the cleaning process is important for safety

The dark residue that coats the interior surface of your wood stove or fireplace's chimney surface is called creosote. High flammable, creosote builds up over time and can catch fire during the heating season, causing damage to the inside of the flue that the homeowner may not be able to see. If the damage resulted in cracking of the liner, any exposed lumber or materials may ignite without warning and result in a house fire. 

Having the chimney cleaned on a regular basis will accomplish two goals:

  1. regular cleaning will remove the creosote build up, lessening the risk of a flue fire
  2. regular cleaning will allow the chimney sweep to perform timely visual assessments regarding the condition of the flue's interior 

If damage or other issues are noted, the homeowner will be able to have the chimney professionally repaired or replaced before continuing to use the wood stove or fireplace. 

What to expect during a chimney-cleaning appointment

Chimney sweeps today often utilize technology to assist them in their efforts to help their customers use wood heat as safely as possible. Many opt to use video equipment, along with lighting to carefully inspect the interior surfaces of the flue, looking for cracks and creosote buildup that could become a fire hazard. Other actions homeowners should expect include: 

  • checking the firebox and exterior structure of the chimney for missing or damaged mortar or bricks
  • looking for accumulations of creosote
  • inspecting the damper for proper operation and condition
  • removing loose ashes from the clean out or interior of the flue with a brush or shop vac

In addition to regular cleaning, some chimney sweeps are also certified to perform formal chimney inspections. These professionals can help you understand any potential problems with your flue and offer helpful advice on how to safely remedy the problem. 

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