Common Chimney Problems

The function of your chimney is to provide an unobstructed path for smoke and volatile gases to escape directly out of your residence. It also plays another important role in that it provides a shield for other parts of your home from the heat and flames. A professional chimney sweep knows what to look for when inspecting a chimney and can see things that a layperson may not recognize as a being a possible breach in the protection that the chimney provides.  Failing to have your chimney properly cleaned on a regular basis can you put yourself and your home at risk for the following dangers:

Creosote

Creosote is essentially created by condensed wood smoke which cools as it rises in the flue or chimney. As it cools it adheres to the walls of the chimney and this continues to build layer upon layer from continuous use, with those layers then becoming creosote.  That build-up in your chimney can restrict air flow in/out of the chimney and can trap dangerous gases within your home. Creosote and soot are derivatives of fossil fuels and, as such, they can contain many volatile aromatic hydrocarbons that can  be released as gases into the atmosphere. Among these gases are benzpyrene, benzene, pinene, naphthalene, all of which are carcinogenic.  Additionally, creosote is acidic and can deteriorate the integrity of metal flue systems, liners, and mortar joints in masonry chimneys and clay flue tile.  Acidic creosote & debris can produce undesirable and foul odors that can permeate the home.  Creosote is also very flammable and can ignite and cause a destructive chimney fire-those resulting chimney fires burn at extremely hot temperatures. Hot enough to crack clay flue tiles, crack bricks or concrete, warp metal liners and damage masonry joints.  If you suspect that you have suffered a chimney fire at some point, do not use your fireplace.  Contact a CSIA-certified technician to conduct a proper inspection to resolve your concerns.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide poisoning is another danger resulting from an uncleaned chimney. Many reports occur annually of occupants who succumb to CO2 gasses, unaware of its presence. And many more cases go unreported.  Given time and lack of sufficient ventilation CO2 gas will displace all oxygen in an enclosed space and create an immediate danger. It is colorless, odorless, tasteless, causing it to be deemed a silent killer. Many municipal building codes (including New York State) now require CO2 detectors to be installed in newly built homes for that reason.  A blocked chimney or flue can prevent carbon monoxide from escaping the home, allowing it to reach hazardous levels.
A fire that burns efficiently and has proper ventilation up through an intact chimney does not typically release dangerous quantities of carbon monoxide into a home, but a faulty venting system or fuel-burning appliance can cause a large amount of CO to build up inside of your living space. Here are some tips for preventing CO poisoning:

  • Always open chimney dampers before starting a fire.
  • Install at least one smoke alarm and a carbon monoxide alarm on each level of your home, near bedrooms.
  • Do not use power generators inside.
  • Only operate space heaters in well-ventilated areas.

Chimney Efficiency 

A clean chimney/flue, void of any buildup of soot or creosote, can increase the efficiency of your fireplace.  It allows the smoke to evacuate without any debris or obstacles in its way. This increased air transfer allows fuels to burn faster, which results in your home being heated more efficiently.  Acidic creosote can destroy metal connections and masonry joints. This can result in water entering the home at these weakened points, which can cause further damage.

  Proper chimney cleaning is the best way to prevent these hazards.  The average homeowner usually has not invested in the proper training, lacks the experience or the appropriate equipment needed to thoroughly clean or inspect their chimney.  Clean Sweeps Chimney Services has made all of these investments in order to best serve your chimney needs.  We arrive promptly, work safely and comprehensively, and conduct a review of our findings with our customers following the inspection.

 Some other common problems that may be effecting your chimney?

  • Flue tiles could be broken, cracked, or missing. A hairline crack in your clay tile flue liner could widen and expose your home to excessive heat. (heat or flames that jet through a cracked chimney tile could cause a house fire)
  • Bricks could be broken or missing, and mortar may have deteriorated and fallen out of the joint.
  • Chunks or flakes of masonry that’s deteriorating (or metal that’s deteriorating) could build up in an elbow of the flue passageway and block the exhaust of gas from combustibles.
  • If you don’t have a steel mesh screen around your chimney cap or if it’s been compromised, animals could be nesting in your chimney. Snakes, raccoons, squirrels, and birds have all been known to nest in chimneys.
  • Sometimes people who have a stove or fireplace insert are in danger because the appliances were installed incorrectly, unbeknownst to that homeowner. If excess heat radiates into walls or floors that are combustible, pyrolysis may occur, which decreases the temperature at which the materials will ignite.
  • Chimney sweeps have the proper equipment to give your chimney a thorough cleaning, to eliminate debris in your flue and chimney system which could ignite and cause damage.