Your fireplace, the most low-tech piece of equipment in your house, may seem like a simple load-and-light operation, but ignoring annual maintenance can impair its performance, leading to heated air (& dollars) blowing out the chimney, harmful smoke inside, and possibly even a chimney fire.
Over the next couple posts let’s take a look at a few ways to protect your home, family and belongings.
The average number of annual U.S. home fires caused by fireplace, chimney, and chimney connectors between 2003 and 2005 was roughly 25,000, and the average costs for those fires was estimated at $126 million, based on the most recent statistics from the Chimney Safety Institute of America. That’s roughly $5,000 in damage per home. Annual chimney maintenance removes flammable creosote, the major cause of chimney fires, and identifies other performance problems.
Is it worth the $205 fee, two-hour service call, and all that ash possibly blackening your carpet? Here’s what you need to know to decide.
Annual inspections keep flames burning right
Creosote—combustible, tar-like droplets—is a natural byproduct of burning wood. The more wood you burn, the wetter or greener the wood, and the more often you restrict airflow by keeping your fireplace doors closed or your damper barely open, the more creosote is produced.
Soot build-up, while not flammable, can hamper venting. One half-inch of soot can restrict airflow by roughly17% in a masonry chimney and roughly 30% in a factory-built unit, according to the CSIA. Soot is also aggressively acidic and can cause damage to the inside of your chimney.
The more creosote and soot, the more likely you are to see signs of chimney fire—loud popping, dense smoke, or even flames shooting out the top of your chimney into the sky. Chimney fires damage the structure of your chimney and can provide a route for the fire to jump to the frame of your house.
The best way to ensure your chimney isn’t an oil slick waiting to ignite? Get it inspected.