Rest assured though, you can absolutely have the whole crackling fire experience in your own house with just a little care and planning. After all, a DIRTY flue is a DEADLY flue.
Now the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Proper Flue Care
Owning a fireplace is a like owning an expensive sports car. It’s nice to look at, you might use it now and again, but most owners really don’t know how to properly care for them. But that’s ok, that’s why we’re are here. If you’re eyeballing that firebox right about now, make sure your flue is totally safe and ready to go with these easy and simple five tips:
- Check that all the bricks are secured and are not falling apart. Please don’t even think about firing up the fireplace until you’ve thoroughly inspected the brick on the outside. You see, as fireplaces age, the bricks experience a condition known as spalling, where the faces of the bricks literally fall off due to that repeated exposure to the environment. Bricks that are spalling must be repaired or replaced, otherwise your brick flue may not be able to tolerate that heat from your cozy fire. Plus, they can also randomly fall and injure people below.
- Hire someone to do a chimney Inspection. Did you have your chimney inspected? Ever? If not, NOW is the time. Many chimney fires go undetected because they are slow burning and occur in the upper portion of the flue. These are often minor fires, over time, the wear to the chimney is real and can cause much more serious problems like heat damage to your attic, damage to your roof or destruction of your chimney liner which can then lead to carbon monoxide leaking into the house. You can inspect the lower part of your flue fairly easily, but you will need a pro for the upper portion, so you might as well let them take a look from top to bottom.
- CLEAN that chimney. If your inspection determined that there was some sort of issue or significant creosote build-up, you want to have your chimney professionally cleaned before using it. Again, this is not something you can really do yourself and skipping it is putting you at serious risk of a flue fire, which is not something you want to wake up to at 2 am. Your chimney inspector is likely also a chimney sweep, just ask them to do the work while they’re there and you’ll save a seperate trip charge.
- “Legally” remove any unwanted visitors. Your flue might be totally clean, but you’re still not necessarily in the clear. There are a number of animals that tend to take up residence inside unguarded flues. Do you ever hear strange noises or scratching coming from the inside of the flue? Don’t let your TV imagination get to you. It could be all sorts of critters, from chimney swallows to bats and even raccoons. Adding that special chimney cap allows the pest out after their young have been raised (check your local laws because some of these animals are considered protected species) and will keep them from coming back again.
- Install a new liner. Older brick chimneys are notorious for leaking dangerous gasses and smoke into homes because the aged clay liners crack and tend to break down over time. It’s not that you can’t use them, but you’ll still need to replace the interior lining first. Chimney pros can generally install a new clay, metal or cast-in-place cement-like liners in almost no time and with little-to-no stress to you. In fact, you’ll find that you can rest a lot easier knowing that your flue liner is all brand new and with proper care, can last a very long time.
It’s hard to stress enough that major flue care is not a do-it-yourself project. Even if your local building codes allow you to make changes to your flue without a permit, don’t do it. This is a recipe for a house fire. Instead, always call a chimney pro to ensure that all is well. A yearly chimney inspection is a good idea if you intend to use your fireplace a lot. Having a wood-burning fireplace insert installed is another way to help reduce the risk of unwanted fires.
Remember… Before You Buy Those Chestnuts to Roast…
.. check in with your HomeKeepr community for a chimney sweep you can count on. Your real estate agent has already recommended their favorite home pros, so you don’t even have to look far to find a great provider. Whether you need a chimney inspection, a sweep, some pests evicted or just a fancy new chimney cap installed, you’ll find the pro perfect for the job through HomeKeepr.