Lighting a fire on a cold night or turning on the furnace is a great way to stay warm. And, although these appliances can provide ambiance and relaxation, you may not be thinking about how your home’s chimney can expose you to the risks of carbon monoxide buildup and fire. To combat the risk of fire or inhalation of dangerous carbon monoxide (CO) gas, it is important for you to make chimney maintenance part of your home loss prevention plan.
Without regular maintenance, your chimneys can become damaged or obstructed by a buildup of creosote—an oily, black residue that is highly combustible and can block ventilation. Your chimneys should be inspected every year, preferably before winter sets in.
Both metal and masonry chimneys require maintenance so that smoke and flue gases are ventilated properly. At the very least, you should have your chimney inspected annually before each heating season. In addition:
Make sure that your appliances are connected to separate flues or ducts to prevent a buildup of carbon monoxide.
Ensure that the interior metal liners of chimneys are in good condition and don’t have any cracks that could release carbon monoxide into your living areas. Replace cracked or damaged liners, as they will allow creosote to accumulate and heat to escape.
Inspect the upper openings of your chimneys, if possible. Make sure that the openings are clear of debris, such as leaves and nests.
- Contact a certified specialist to repair, replace and clean your chimneys. If chimneys aren’t maintained properly, they could become an even larger threat to your home. When hiring someone to reline your chimney, only allow the contractor to use a product that has been tested and listed by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.
There are two types of chimneys that require specific maintenance to minimize the dangers in your home.
- Fireplace inserts (hearth stoves): Vent should be connected to the flue of the chimney.
- Factory-built metal chimneys: Do not use natural gas, fuel oil vents, well casing, stovepipe or other material in the chimney, as they cannot withstand the heat in the wood burner.
Chimneys might seem like a low-tech aspect of your home, but ignoring chimney maintenance can cause catastrophic damage. Be safe and take the time to inspect your chimney this fall, before the chill of winter sets in.