Important Areas of Your Chimney and Fireplace
Maintaining your home’s fireplace and chimney can be a daunting task, especially with all the physical—and dirty—work that come with it. There are some tasks you can do on your own; however, most of the time, you will be in need of professional services to properly clean and maintain your chimney.
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To check for creosote yourself, first make sure there’s no downdraft from the chimney. If you feel an airflow, open a door or window on the same floor as the fireplace until the downdraft stops or reverses and air flows up (tape tissue to the fireplace opening and watch its movement). Then, while wearing goggles and a basic disposable dust mask, take a strong flashlight and your fireplace poker and scratch the black surface above the damper (smoke chamber). If the groove you scratch in the creosote is paper thin, no cleaning is needed. If it’s 1/8 in. thick, schedule a cleaning soon. If you have 1/4 in. of creosote, do not use the fireplace again until it is cleaned—a chimney fire could occur at any time.
To check for creosote, shine the light near the top of the firebox, in the smoke chamber and around the damper. And check the flue, too, especially on exterior chimneys, where creosote builds faster than on interior chimneys because of lower outside temperatures.
The easiest creosote to remove is the feather-light dull gray, brown or black soot. The next form is a black granular accumulation, removed fairly easily with a stiff chimney brush. The third type of creosote is a road tar–like coating that is much harder to remove even with stiff chimney brushes, scrapers or power rotary whips. The final (and most deadly) is a shiny, glaze-like coating on the flue that is virtually impossible to remove.
You could try to remove creosote yourself, but for a thorough job, call a chimney sweep who’s certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. Make sure the sweep you hire ($150 to $200) does more than push a brush. A chimney sweep needs to be knowledgeable about building codes, trained to recognize deterioration or venting problems and able to advise you regarding the chimney’s condition. And the National Fire Protection Association recommends that chimneys, fireplaces and vents be inspected at least once per year.
Here we summarize the above mentioned on how to clean your chimney and when to call chimney expert professionals to clean your chimneys!
- Watch out for rust. Rust can start from just one streak, to solidifying its presence in your chimney. Keep an eye on it, from your chimney’s exterior especially on its cap and flashing, to the chimney flu and firebox, and accessories. If you spot any sort of rust, no matter how small, call your trusted fireplace and chimney company.
- Constantly check for a creosote buildup. Creosote is a blackish-brown, tar-like substance that naturally builds up in your chimney due to exposure to moisture. Especially applicable during the winter season, moisture builds up in your chimney as a result of a push-and-pull with the cold temperature outside and the warm temperature inside. If not checked properly, creosote can eventually cause fires with the pressure and heat that got built up through the months and even years.
- Check for masonry damage. Chimneys are made with bricks so they last longer. Although sturdier, the problem is they absorb more moisture that eventually causes the bricks to crack or chip. It is important to check for any crack or chip, however small, for they can grow bigger in time.
- Check for any leaks. Any type of leak is not good for any fireplace and chimney. These leaks open up your chimney to vulnerabilities from the changes of weather outside. Once you hear sounds of dripping water, see signs of moisture in your firebox, or feel warm air coming out of your chimney, call a specialist as soon as possible.
Aside from the aforementioned, make sure you keep watch of things to be burned in your fireplace. Whatever you put in your fireplace also contributes to the overall maintenance of your chimney and fireplace.
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Along with unseasoned wood, there is also a pretty substantial list of other things you should never burn in your fireplace. While some of these items might seem obvious, you might be surprised by some of the things we find in the fireplaces we service.
While it might be tempting to toss an odd piece of treated lumber or plywood in your fireplace, pressure treated wood is infused with dangerous chemicals like arsenic and chromium. Releasing those toxins into your home can cause serious side effects to both humans and animals.
Like pressure treated wood, cardboard is manufactured with chemicals, glues and inks. The gases that are released in the burning of cardboard can be similar to those used for huffing. Inhaling such chemicals can cause brain and respiratory damage.
Many of us may head to the recycling bin when we’re looking to get a fire started. However, most paper used in advertising and magazines is manufactured with its own set of toxic chemicals. If you’re in need of kindling, save dried out twigs from your yard and use uncoated newspaper to get your fire started.
Dryer lint is also a common accelerant. But just like all of the previous sources, it is filled with the chemicals that are used in the manufacture of your clothing, towels and sheets. While keeping your dryer free of lint is essential to safely drying your laundry, it has no place in your fireplace or wood-burning stove.
Every Christmas many of us end up with what we may think is 6 to 10 feet of prime fireplace wood. Not so! When burned, the sap from fresh Christmas trees can cause dangerous resins to deposit in your chimney system. These resins can easily trigger a chimney fire.
One of the very last things you’d ever want in your fireplace or wood-burning stove is plastic. Plastic is manufactured with 100 percent synthetic materials and chemicals. Burning plastic in your home is a recipe for filling your home with the most toxic of gases.
Liquid fire accelerants
Liquid fire starters like kerosene, lighter fluid or gasoline can ignite a fire that can easily get out of control in your home. Such accelerants also cause your fire to burn at a temperature that is not safe for your fireplace.
Doing an annual cleaning on your fireplace and chimney is very beneficial for it addresses current problems, as well as problems you might have overlooked in the past.
Check for cleaning companies with certified chimney staff. The website should always be updated with their staff’s names and areas of jurisdiction. With a research well done, you can end up saving time and energy with Chicagoland Fireplace and Chimney Restoration Co. specialists doing the technical and hard work for you.