Author – SNEWS
As you look at your chimney from your yard or in your living room, basement or attic, you may wonder whether it is really suitable for the task you are giving it. You can probably see portions of the outside of your chimney. What is it like on the inside?
You expect your chimney to provide a smooth path for smoke and gases from your fireplace, stove or furnace to flow to the atmosphere. The chimney must also effectively shield the rest of your home from the heat and flame. Can it do that? How do you find out?
Chimney Sweep: inspection by a chimney professional
Unless you are comfortable with ladders and heights, hiring a professional to check your chimney may be the easiest solution.
Chimneys, fireplaces and vents shall be inspected at least once a year by a qualified agency according to standards of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
Chimney Sweep: possible chimney problems
Even if your chimney looks solid on the outside, it could be hiding any number of problems on the inside.
Cracked, broken or missing flue tiles, broken or missing bricks, and deteriorating mortar should be replaced. A harmless looking hairline crack in a section of tile flue liner may open up when exposed to high temperatures. Escaping heat or flame could set your house on fire!
Flakes and chunks from deteriorating masonry or rusting metal inside or on top of the chimney may accumulate in a bend or elbow in the flue passageway and block the exhaust of smoke and dangerous gases.
Birds can block the flue with their nests. Animals such as raccoons, squirrels or snakes may be taking shelter in your chimney. Your chimney may need a cap to keep out birds, animals, leaves, rain and snow.
Often a chimney flue is not the appropriate size for the best performance of the fireplace, stove or furnace it is venting. Many chimneys do not have an adequate liner.
A stove or fireplace insert may have been incorrectly installed. Sweeps frequently find that a stove’s clearances to combustible materials are less than the installation instructions or codes specify. Excess heat radiating onto combustible walls or floors from a heating appliance may cause a process known as pyrolysis, which decreases the ignition temperature of those materials.
You know that burning wood, oil or coal leads to a build-up of soot in the flue. When was the last time you had your chimney swept?
Chimney Sweep: trained and equipped
You may think of a chimney sweep as a person who simply brushes soot out of a chimney, and some may perform at that minimal level. However, in addition to providing that essential service, many professional chimney sweeps are trained and equipped to evaluate the suitability of your chimney and suggest and provide appropriate repairs or improvements. Some companies are equipped with video scanning devices that allow you and your chimney professional to actually view details inside your chimney.
Chimney sweep: professional education
Conscientious chimney professionals further their education by reading trade publications such as SNEWS – The Chimney Sweep’s Newsmagazine, and by attending courses provided by organizations such as the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), the National Fireplace Institute (NFI), Fireplace Investigation, Research and Evaluation Service (F.I.R.E.), and Wood Education Technology Transfer (WETT) in Canada. State, regional and provincial chimney sweep and hearth products associations also provide educational opportunities for their members.
Chimney sweep: how do I find a capable chimney professional?
Ask around in your community for a chimney sweep with a good reputation. A well-earned good reputation is the public’s “seal of approval.”
Chimney professionals also demonstrate their competency through certification programs offered by the educational institutions mentioned above. A current list of CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps® is available at www.csia.org.
You can also find a list of chimney professionals at www.chimneys.com.
Chimney Sweep: when should I call a chimney sweep?
There is an old joke among chimney sweeps that customers don’t think to call them until the customer is holding a match, about to light the first fire of the fall season. While that may be an exaggeration, nevertheless many sweeps are dreadfully overworked during the autumn months. They sometimes must turn away customers or put them on hold until late winter or early spring.
NOW is the best time to call a chimney professional.