From the Fire Department Give Your Chimney Some TLC
Original Release: 10/24/2016
When you enjoy sitting in front of a cozy fire or bask in the warmth of your wood stove you likely give very little, if any, thought to the "health" of your chimney. However, if you do not give any thought to the condition of your chimney prior to lighting those warming fires, your enjoyment of them may turn tragic in a hurry.
Dirty chimneys can cause chimney fires, which damage structures, destroy homes and can injury and even kill its occupants, and even firefighters.
Chimney fires can be slow-burning, go undetected and remain contained within the chimney; or they can be more impressive creating loud cracking and popping noises, strong smell of smoke, dense smoke within the structure, and visible flames escaping the top of the chimney. Both can cause significant damage and pose a significant risk. Slow-burning chimney fires do not get enough air or fuel to be dramatic or even visible, but the temperatures they reach are very high and can cause extensive damage and concern.
Fireplaces and wood stoves are designed to safely contain wood-fuel fires that provide heat and comfort for a home. The chimneys that serve them are responsible for expelling the by-products of combustion (the bad stuff) to the outside. These by-products include smoke, water vapor, unburned wood particles, hydrocarbons, tar fog, etc. As these substances make their way up the relatively cooler chimney, condensation occurs. The resulting residue that sticks to the chimneys inner walls is called creosote.
Creosote is black or brown in appearance. It can be crusty and flaky…tar-like, drippy and sticky…or shiny and hardened. Often, all forms will occur in one chimney system. Whatever form it takes, creosote is highly combustible. If it builds up in sufficient quantities - and the internal flue temperature is high enough - the result could be a chimney fire.
In fact, you may have already had a chimney fire and did not know it. Since a chimney, damaged by a chimney fire, can endanger a home and its' occupants and a chimney fire can occur without anyone being aware of them it's important to have your chimney regularly inspected by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep.
Here are the signs that a professional chimney sweep looks for:
"Puffy" or "honey combed" creosote
Warped metal of the damper, metal smoke chamber connector pipe or factory-built metal chimney
Cracked or collapsed flue tiles, or tiles with large chunks missing
Discolored and/or distorted rain cap
Heat-damaged TV antenna attached to the chimney
Creosote flakes and pieces found on the roof or ground
Roofing material damaged from hot creosote
Cracks in exterior masonry
Evidence of smoke escaping through mortar joints of masonry or tile liners
The Lyndhurst Fire Department would rather you enjoy the pleasures of your fireplace and/or wood stove each winter instead of having to call us to extinguish a fire that could have been prevented with proper maintenance.