Chimneys play a vital role in maintaining the safety and comfort of your home, but they require regular maintenance and repairs to function correctly. Homeowners frequently have questions about chimney care, such as when to schedule a sweep, how to spot potential problems and the best practices for preventing damage. Explore the most frequently asked questions about chimney services, repairs, and maintenance. If you have a question you don’t see on the list, please message us, and one of our experienced technicians will get back to you as soon as possible.
Commonly Asked Chimney Questions
It is the purpose of a chimney sweep to remove soot, blockages, and the buildup of creosote from your chimney liner, firebox, smoke chamber, and damper. Since creosote is a highly flammable substance that builds up inside the chimney when burning wood, getting the chimney swept will ensure that you will have a safer chimney system. According to Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), there are an estimated 24,000 chimney fires per year, which has cost American families over $31 million in damages. The CSIA and many other national institutions suggest that chimneys should be cleaned at least once a year, depending on how often the chimney is used.
Having your chimney swept at least once a year is recommended to prevent the buildup of creosote and other debris that could cause a chimney fire or obstruct the flow of smoke.
Creosote is a byproduct of burning wood in your fireplace. It’s a highly flammable substance that can build up on the walls of your chimney, posing a risk of a chimney fire if not cleaned regularly.
- Cracked or damaged flue liners
- Damaged masonry or bricks
- Chimney leaks
- Obstructions or blockages
- Creosote buildup
There are six distinct signs that your chimney needs to be repaired:
- Damaged mortar joints – if this problem is not addressed quickly, the chimney will deteriorate and eventually collapse. Tuck-pointing is used to fix this issue.
- Rusted damper or firebox – rust is a sign of moisture and indicates that the chimney is not functioning as intended.
- Damage or missing bricks – this happens when water is absorbed into the bricks, then through freeze-thaw cycles, the surface of the bricks pop or “flake” off. Not repairing brickwork can result in progressive crumbling and complete structural failure. This may require a complete chimney rebuild.
- Damaged or Flaking flue tiles – cracked and flaking flue tiles indicate a serious issue that could cause a house fire. To identify cracked flue liners, you often need a professional chimney inspection.
- Cracked chimney crown – when the crown becomes cracked, water gets in and, through freeze-thaw cycles, causes cracks to get larger, allowing more water.
- Damaged wallpaper – if the wall or wallpaper near the chimney is damaged or peeling, it could result from too much moisture inside the chimney or escaping in areas it shouldn’t.
There are 10 things that you can do to maintain an excellent chimney and prevent hazards:
- Have your chimney and fireplace inspected and cleaned at least once a year – more often if necessary.
- Between inspections and cleanings, monitor your fireplace for problems or concerns
- Regularly inspect your cap and replace it when needed.
- Check the interior of your fireplace and chimney for creosote accumulation. Creosote is a dark colored or black powdery substance that is highly flammable and should be cleaned away with a creosote remover and sweep as quickly as possible.
- Keep an eye out for drip marks in and around the fireplace system. Water is a home’s #1 enemy.
- If you can, burn hardwoods like maple, oak, and ash. They are more expensive than softwoods; however, hardwoods tend to cause less creosote buildup and burn hotter and longer.
- If there is smoke indoors, then you need to examine your chimney and correct any problems you see. If you don’t see any issues, get help from a professional immediately. It is not safe to inhale smoke from a wood burning fire.
- Make sure your liner is functioning properly and meets all current codes.
- Clean the floor of your fireplace regularly. Sweep out or vacuum cold ashes.
- Make sure to always hire a certified technician to install or correct anything that you have no experience with.
We include a 14 point inspection with the purchase of a chimney sweep.
- Height of the chimney
- Chimney Cap/ Spark Arrestor/Animal Guard
- Crown/ Cracking/ or pitting
- Mortar Joints and Brickwork, cracking or shalling
- Flashing and flue collars
- Flue Liner/ tile joints and shifting
- Resistance to Water
- Smoke Chamber
- Firebox/Cracking/ Fire panel
- Ash Container/ Clean Out/Fire Door
- Gas Starter
- Hearth Protection
Excessive smoke could be due to a blocked or partially obstructed chimney, poor ventilation, or burning unseasoned wood. Ensure your chimney is clean and clear of obstructions, and always use dry, seasoned wood in your fireplace.
A leaky chimney can result from various factors, such as a damaged chimney cap, cracked masonry, or a deteriorating chimney crown. If your chimney is experiencing any leaking, it’s essential to address the issue promptly to avoid further damage.
The duration of chimney repair depends on the complexity and extent of the issue. Simple repairs can take a few hours, while more complex projects might take several days.
Chimney repair costs can vary greatly depending on the issue, materials, and labor involved in the repair process. It is essential to have your chimney inspected for damage and receive a quote regarding any repairs that need to be performed.
- Schedule annual inspections and cleanings
- Install a chimney cap to keep out debris and critters
- Regularly check for signs of damage
- Keep your fireplace clean and free of debris
- Burn only dry, seasoned wood
A chimney cap is a protective covering that sits atop your chimney, preventing water, debris, and animals from entering the chimney. It also helps prevent downdrafts and keeps sparks from escaping the chimney and causing a fire.
Signs that your chimney cap needs replacement include:
- Rust or corrosion on the cap
- Visible damage or dents
- Chimney drafts or water leaks
No, it’s not safe to use your fireplace while your chimney is undergoing repairs. Doing so could lead to a fire, smoke damage, or other hazards.
Chimney relining involves replacing or repairing the flue liner inside your chimney, while chimney repair typically refers to fixing the exterior structure, such as the bricks, mortar, or crown. Both are essential for maintaining the safety and functionality of your chimney.
Look for a chimney sweep certified in your area. You should also check for positive reviews, proper licensing, and insurance.
Maintaining Your Chimney
Proper care and maintenance are essential for keeping your home safe and comfortable while utilizing your fireplace. Remember to schedule regular chimney sweeps, be diligent about inspecting your chimney for signs of damage, and seek professional help when necessary to minimize further damages and more costly repairs. With the right knowledge and preventive measures, you can ensure your chimney remains a valuable and safe asset to your home.