Chimneys are lifesavers in cold weather, but like anything else, they need maintenance to keep their downfalls at bay. Following a regular chimney, inspection schedule is critical to detect issues before they cause irreversible damage.
So, what are the risks that a faulty chimney can pose? How can periodic inspections help, and when to request them? Let’s find out!
Chimneys can be used for water heaters, cooking range hoods, and wood burining. All of these applications require a clean chimney.
Why Should You Get Your Chimney Inspected?
We’ll begin with some statistics to understand the significance of maintaining a chimney inspection. According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were 53,000 reported home fires in 2011 due to heating equipment.
Fires caused by chimneys accounted for 87% of this estimate! Those figures are eye-opening, especially in light of the emotional and financial devastation caused by the fires.
In a nutshell, the main purpose of these inspections is to determine how safe your chimney is to use. If it’s not, the technicians immediately begin their repairs.
There are four major potential hazards that technicians look for:
Creosote is the black residue that coats the inside of your fireplace or chimney. Simply put, as smoke from burning wood exits the chimney, some of it cools and adheres to the flue lining, forming creosote. It can be sticky or hard, but it’s flammable in either case.
Each time you burn wood, the layer thickness increases, putting you at greater risk of fire. It only takes an eighth of an inch of creosote to ignite and start a fire in your chimney.
Additionally, a fireplace usually burns at temperatures higher than 450°F. However, Creosote can burn starting at 451°F. In other words: creosote buildup is similar to a ticking time bomb!
When parts of your chimney show signs of damage, this indicates a serious problem. A technician looks for several types of wear and tear, including:
-Cracked Flue Liner
The flue liner can break for many reasons, such as constant exposure to heat or harsh weather conditions. For context, the flue liner is the passage that allows harmful fumes to exit your house.
If it’s cracked, dangerous gasses such as carbon monoxide (CO) can leak back into your home. CO is odorless and non-visible, so you won’t notice its presence. Yet, it can accumulate in your bloodstream and cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
The chimney crown is what keeps anything from getting inside your chimney. If it’s compromised, expect snow, rain, and even small animals like birds to pass through.
-Deteriorated Bricks or Mortar Joints
Spalling bricks and punctures in the mortar joints are a bad omen. If you live in a state where temperatures fluctuate and fall below freezing, your masonry is vulnerable to damage.
Because of their porous nature, bricks retain moisture that freezes and expands over the winter. As a result, the brick becomes brittle. Over time, the chimney would be at risk of collapsing.
On a side note, flaws in the mortar joints can sometimes indicate flue line damage. This is because when the flue line cracks, it retains acidic gasses that eat away its surroundings.
We have discussed structural inspections here. They can be essential to determine if a building is structurally sound.
During chimney inspections, technicians look for blockages that could trap dangerous gasses. Strong winds blow around a lot of leaves and debris, which can end up in your chimney. Not to mention the possibility of having birds nesting up there.
This can result in fires and other dangers. The fumes can also make your fire alarm go off.
When there isn’t proper ventilation, fumes and toxic gasses like CO get trapped in your home.
When Should You Have Your Chimney Checked?
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that you hire a professional to clean and check your chimney once a year.
However, if you’re moving into a new home, you should have the chimney inspected right away. You never know how serious the previous owners were about its upkeep.
For emergency inspections, you’ll need to keep an eye out for these signs of potential damage:
-Having difficulty starting a fire
-The fumes don’t ascend the chimney
-Finding creosote after scraping your nail on the fireplace
-Foul odors emanating from the chimney
-Discovering nests or hearing animals from above
Keep in mind that wherever you make any changes to the system, you need to get the whole setup approved by a professional. This includes changing the fuel line or switching to a different fuel type.
Plus, if your area has experienced severe weather, such as hurricanes, tornados, or blizzards, you might also be due for an inspection.
What Are the Levels of Chimney Inspection?
Chimney inspection levels vary depending on the situation, and we’ll go over them all.
The level one inspection is the most fundamental of all. It includes general checks that usually don’t necessitate using any equipment. The inspector primarily checks for the potential hazards mentioned above and informs you if anything needs to be done.
You should request this level if you’re already following your chimney inspection schedule and you’re not facing problems with its performance.
Some people carry out these inspections by themselves. It’s harmless to do so for added safety, but when it’s time for the yearly check, we strongly advise you to hire a professional.
The second level delves a bit deeper than basic visual inspections.
The technician begins by thoroughly inspecting all areas associated with the chimney and fireplace, such as the basement and attic. Then he employs a chimney inspection camera to document the performance of the flue liner and detect any issues.
Level two inspections are ideal for when moving into a new home. They’re also required in case of experiencing severe weather conditions.
This is when the technician summons the big guns! If the inspector notices a major issue during level one or two inspections, he’ll recommend that you schedule a level three inspection.
Level three inspections cover all of the areas tackled in the previous levels, as well as the hidden parts of the chimney. When they find a damaged portion, they may repair it or remove and rebuild it.
As a general rule, the more you care for something, the more you’ll benefit from it.
Don’t take chimney inspection appointments for granted; they’re critical for ensuring your home’s safety. It’s as simple as sticking to the recommended schedule and keeping an eye out for any alarming signs.
Trust us; you’ll enjoy the warmth of a fireplace much more knowing that you’ve eliminated the risk of it harming your family!