Fire Safety: Readying Your Chimney for Winter

Sweeping cleaning a chimney.As the cold weather starts creeping into New England, we start thinking about the warmth and cheer of a good fire. But before you get started with laying down logs, this is a good time for an inspection of your fireplace and chimney. By spending a little time now, you can avoid potential damage to your chimney and stop thousands of dollars of smoke and fire damage to your home due to a chimney disaster. Let’s go over the basics of readying your chimney for winter.

Inspecting Your Own Chimney

While bringing in an inspector is a great option for a thorough inspection of your chimney, you can do much of the inspection yourself – even if it’s only to discover the assistance you’ll need. There are three major places to check: the chimney cap, the inside of the chimney, and the chimney itself.

Looking at the Chimney Cap

Many modern chimneys have chimney caps: metal-mesh barriers designed to keep out the elements, as well as small critters from entering your chimney and home. However, it’s important to inspect them for signs of damage or habitation. The last thing you want is a bird’s nest clogging your cap.

Inspecting Inside for Creosote Buildup

Creosote is the incomplete combustion of the oils in wood as they burn. As they enter the chimney, the tarry smoke condenses to a residue, thickening layers that can not only venting issues, but also a significant fire hazard, as creosote is flammable. Many heating and residential fires each year are due to built-up creosote catching fire and breaking loose of the chimney.

Sounding Out Chimney Damage

A chimney has three major materials: the stonework (usually brick), the mortar that holds the stonework together, and a chimney liner. In older buildings, the liner – usually made of ceramic or metal and designed to prevent corrosion to the chimney – may be absent. Making sure all of these are intact is a vital part of the health of your chimney and home.

When to Call in the Chimney Professionals

When you encounter a broken chimney cap, creosote buildup, or damage to your chimney, it’s time to call in the professionals.

  • Hiring a Chimney Sweep: A good start is to contact a chimney sweep: they can inspect the chimney, clean out creosote, and let you know if need to call in someone for repairs. You can find a certified sweep through the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
  • Hiring a Chimney Repairman: Some chimney sweeps will also be able to handle repairs to your chimney or refer you to a stonemason who can perform the work. As these repairs tend to be expensive, it’s often worth getting several quotes before starting the work.

Of course, another part of fire safety is Homeowner’s Insurance. Not only can it help pay for repairs for sudden damage to your chimney such as a chimney fire or lightning strike, it also helps by providing coverage to your home and possessions in the event of fire damage. To learn more about fire safety and homeowners’ insurance, contact the TJ Woods Insurance Agency.