By Jennifer Noonan
As days get shorter and weather gets colder, we retreat indoors to the warmth of our homes and hearths. If you have a fireplace, fall is a great time to make sure the chimney and flue are in good working order. If your assessment uncovers any issues that gives you pause, call in a chimney professional to diagnose the problem before it gets big, expensive, and potentially dangerous.
Visually assess the chimney from the outside. Is it leaning? Are there any chipped bricks or masonry joints? Do you see any cracks or holes? If your chimney is factory-built metal, look for any corrosion, stains, or loose sections. If your chimney is exposed to your attic, make sure to check there, as well. Look for any signs indicating that repairs are necessary.
A good cap can reduce damage caused to a chimney by water and wildlife. Rain and snow can enter an uncapped chimney and subsequently freeze and thaw, causing expansion damage. Small wildlife can nest in chimneys, clogging them and potentially introducing fleas, ticks, worms and other disease-causing pests into the home. A chimney cap with screen mesh will keep animals out, while shielding your roof from embers and sparks.
Leaks and Stains
Inside the house, check the area around your chimney for any stains or dampness. These could be caused by faulty flashing around the chimney at the roof line, or by a damaged flue liner. If you see signs of water around your chimney, call a chimney professional right away.
Open the clean-out door from the base of the flue, located either in your basement or outside the house. Using a small mirror and flashlight to see up the flue, look for buildup of soot and also any cracks, holes, or separations. If in doubt, give your chimney professional a call for a good checkup and cleaning.
Check the brickwork in your fireplace for wear. Check the damper, as well—it should open and close easily. Look into the smoke chamber above the damper to see if it has a buildup of soot. Again, call your chimney professional for service if you see any of those telltale signs.
Chimney safety should be a high priority for every homeowner. With regular maintenance, your fireplace and chimney can give you years of wonderful service. A chimney professional can spot things that even a diligent homeowner could miss. Call on a pro to do regular cleanings and safety checks as a part of your home maintenance routine. Then throw another log on the fire, sit back, and enjoy.